Biography III grew up in a middle class American family. Money wasn’t too scarce; I could work when I wanted. I could have gone to college. My parents split up when I was ten and I didn’t see dad much for the next 15 years. Still, this wasn’t unusual, and I should have been happy with my future, as most of my peers were. Instead I rebelled because I hated the recipe. I could not stand the idea of doing what was expected of myself and every other middle class kid in the USA. I started a punk band to imitate the bands that inspired me. We sucked, but the bassist was good and later played in Guns and Roses. I started climbing because I’d grown up in the mountains and it was about as weird a lifestyle as could be found in America. I discovered a discipline in which my individualism did not count against me, as it did in every other aspect of middle class American expectations. Suddenly my future was up to me. I could hold on, or let go at any time. True autonomy. I learned, like all those punks who couldn’t play an instrument, to reinvent myself. DIY. My body no longer belonged to the State. Ok, it’s a bit dramatic, but it’s how I felt back then. I felt truly free, which is what America is all about isn’t it? Well, freedom, and then duty.
A FEW MOUNTAIN EXPERIENCES I CONSIDER PERSONALLY IMPORTANT:
Trofeo Renato Chabod ski mountaineering race up and down the Grand Paradiso. Total elevation gain (shortened course) 7100' to an altitude over 13,000' and 15km (+/-). Matteo Giglio and I placed 43rd in a time of 3hrs 51min ... a "mere" 1hr 11min behind the winners.
Trofeo Mezzalama (the world’s oldest ski mountaineering race). Total elevation gain during the event is 9,389’, with descent totaling 10,318’, across 27 miles of horizontal distance reaching a maximum altitude of 13,864’. Matteo Giglio, Dylan Freed and I crossed the line in 96th place after 7 hours 55 minutes. “I was happy to have finished.”
The Rebuffat-Terray on the north face of the Aiguille des Pelerins. This route is right next to “Beyond Good and Evil”, which tested me sorely 12 years earlier. Manu Ibarra and I ran up Rebuffat’s line in 2004 like we were out for a jog. It’s amazing what years of experience and gear development will do.
Czech Direct aka the Slovak Route on Denali, Alaska, with Steve House and Scott Backes in a 60-hour non-stop push.
“The Gift That Keeps on Giving” on Mount Bradley, Alaska, first ascent, with Steve House and Jonny Blitz. We climbed the the 3000’ route over 3 days in March 1998 - real Alaskan winter - with temperatures dipping to -30-degrees F. It was my first route with House, and the first successful one with Blitz in a long time.
"Deprivation" on Mount Hunter, Alaska first ascent, in 72 hours roundtrip, (43 hours non-stop), Scott Backes and I halved the previous fastest time for any route on the North Buttress. We really did cut it close for the time period, these days I might go lighter. This was a gateway ascent, although we did not know it at the time (1994) our example was the basis for many other great “lightweight” climbs in the Alaska Range.
"There Goes the Neighborhood" on the northwest face of the Aiguille Sans Nom with Scott Backes, probably the best route I did in Chamonix (ED+, 5.9, A3, 90 degrees+). It has been repeated twice, its 3rd ascent was made by Marko Prezelj and Stephen Koch. Marko thought it "very nice climbing" though Backes and I were stretched a bit thin by it.
"Beyond Good and Evil" north face of the Aiguille des Pelerins. We called it ED+, 5.9, A3, 90 degrees in the conditions we had but it's a trade route now, and bolted by those without ethics. Andy Parkin and I had an amazing time there, finally succeeding on our third attempt.
"Czech Route" on Peak Communism (24,600’), Pamirs. The first solo ascent and likely the route's second ascent, 10,000 feet up and down in 24 hours.
“The Reality Bath”, the world’s first Grade VII frozen waterfall. Heralded as “the most difficult in the world” at the time. Later labeled “the most dangerous", the route is still unrepeated.
"Slipstream" on the east face of Snowdome in the Canadian Rockies. I was super fit and it was a good day when I ran up the 925 meter-high route in 2:04, Randy Rackliff crossed the bergschrund with me but probably wasn't as scared so he cruised it in 3:20 and I don't think either time has been beaten.
High Altitude Rescue from 19,300' on the West Rib of Denali. Scott Backes, Alex Lowe and I were flown to the Football Field in a CH-47 (the highest operational landing of the machine at the time and I don't know whether it has been exceeded) and we descended to rescue the two surviving Spaniards of a trio who had been on the route for many days. One was suffering from horrible frostbite and later had all fingers amputated. Both were dehydrated, altitude sick, and out of control. Not far from dying, which their friend had already done, having tripped on the bivy ledge and fallen several thousand feet. We dragged them back the LZ. Alex carried one some distance. Then flew directly to Talkeetna, losing 20,000 feet in less than 30 minutes. Amazing contrast: from life-threatening to warm, flat, safe ground in an instant, and very difficult for the mind to comprehend.
“Extreme Alpinism : Climbing Light, Fast and High” My first book published in 1999, it won the National Outdoor Book Award and influenced a generation of alpine climbers and soldiers.
“Kiss or Kill – Confessions of a Serial Climber” My second book published in 2001, it won the Mountain Literature category at the Banff International Mountain Book Festival. It has been translated in to Spanish, Italian, German, Polish, and Slovenian.