September 1984: At Kleine Scheidegg after the foehn destroyed our camp. We found the tents about 400 yards from where they had been pitched and tied down to heavy logs. A dozen eggs were no longer in their shells but coated everything in my tent. At least the breakfast was intact.
October 1988: Above 8000m on the north side of Everest. Barry Blanchard and I were on our 3rd attempt of a new route that would have exited in the Pinnacles on the northeast ridge. Shortly after the photo was taken Barry began exhibiting symptoms of cerebral edema and we finished the day in a very tough fight to save his life.
January 1991: Retreating off the south face of Khan-Tengri in the heat of the sun and under the gun. Absolutely terrifying.
January 1991: Tchouky and I left our tent at 7pm. The full moon allowed us to move without headlamps. Ace and John waited in the tent listening to the walkie-talkie. By 2am we stood half way up the face. We had climbed above the windbreak provided by the southwest ridge. The upper face was exposed to the jet stream. It was –17°F in Ace and John's tent 5000' below. We’d nearly been killed by two different serac avalanches. It was time to go down.
Spring 1989 or ’90: When Ace Kvale, Mike Powers and I woke to sucking gray clouds in the Fourche bivouac hut we decided to bail back to the cable car. We had gone up to shoot pictures and although I thought the trip a waste it netted a Rock & Ice cover, and later the cover of Desnivel. Not this shot, of course, which depicts frivolous risk …
April 1985: Many pitches up the Colton-Leach route on the north buttress of the Rooster Comb in Alaska. We climbed 16 pitches the first day, had a splendid bivouac during which we were treated to an intense northern lights show. The second day didn’t go so well.
January 1992: I was visiting Utah for and discovered the waterfall climbing in Provo Canyon. Alex Lowe had climbed “Post Nasal Drip” in what would have been “unformed” conditions, meaning the pillar was still a stalactite. He renamed the modern version “Snotty-Nosed Brat”, told me how good it was so I went to have a look.
January 1992: Climbing on free-hanging icicles wasn’t yet the norm when Bill Belcourt and I went to look at “Snotty-Nosed Brat”. With one bolt and a couple of cams in the rock for protection and the climbing not that hard, the whole affair seemed quite reasonable.
January 1991: To acclimatize for our attempt on the south face of Khan-Tengri, Michel Fauquet and I took a crack at the north face of Trident Peak. With temperatures well below zero (F), no sun on the face ever and really short days, the attempt was doomed from the outset. We quickly ran up the lower apron, ran into a few pitches of tough mixed climbing and with spotting advice radioed to us from below decided that discretion was the better part of saving our toes and fingers.
May 2008: I’ve seen a lot of things that made me scratch my head in the mountains but watching this overloaded fellow struggle up the headwall on the West Buttress of Denali made me scratch harder than usual. Contrasted to the little pack the leader carried when we climbed the Slovak Direct on the same mountain the mega-load is even more perplexing. On the Slovak Direct, three of us shared a total of 55 pounds in our packs when we started and 18 of those pounds were water. I would argue that the pack this guy is carrying weighs at least 80 pounds, which is crushing at any altitude.
July 1990: We met two guys at the Moskvina Glacier base camp in the Pamirs who were into paragliding. One had made his paragliders at home. He loaned one to a friend, explained the basics of take-off, which went fine, flight, which went OK and landing, which did not go well at all. I ran the motor-drive on my F3 as the guy stalled his wing above the LZ and burned in from about 80 feet, breaking both of his legs. The helicopter flew him out the next day but I doubt he ever walked the same after that.
Autumn 1987: New England isn’t prime paragliding terrain but we were into it and forced the issue and sometimes had to fight for it as happened here, on top of Mount Webster in New Hampshire. The pilot is one of Titoune Meunier’s nephews from France. Rick Wilcox is on the right. Dave Walters is keeping hold on the left. Andy Tibbets aka "Captain Adrenalin" is in the red coat further left, noted on this day for having forgotten his harness and flown the site using some 1" webbing tied into an 8 for his legs and a waistbelt. Ballsy.
April 1985: John Stoddard high on the Colton-Leach route on the north buttress of the Rooster Comb in Alaska, gunning for a bivouac site 16 pitches up.
April 1985: John Stoddard leading the 17th pitch of the Colton-Leach route on the Rooster Comb, which was graded 5.9 A2 or thereabouts. A little higher than he is in the photo John was aiding off an RP nut and when it ripped he fell. It was only a short distance but caught a frontpoint in the sling of a tied-off Lost Arrow below, which snapped his ankle. After 15 or 16 rappels we reached the glacier. John crawled behind me as I post-holed and widened the trail. The next two days – trying to make contact with the outside world to organize a rescue - were memorable.
March 1996: Tad Linn scouting terrain between the Matterhorn and the Eiger during the preparation to link the three great north faces using bikes and skis. Getting from one face to the next wasn't obvious so we had to rehearse. On this day we began in Blatten, skied up to the Kanderfirn, through a pass separating the Gspaltenhorn from the Breithorn and down into Stechelberg at the head of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. It was so cold and windy Tad suggested it was, "good conditions for drying meat."
February 1991: After we failed on the south face of Khan-Tengri, Tchouky, Ace, John Falkiner and I joined the Shustrov brothers to attempt the normal route. After one night in a snowcave we managed to reach 6300m before the wind drove us down. I’d been cold for so long and the fire of motivation I’d had when we arrived wasn’t warm enough to push me any higher.
Late-90s: I was in Santaquin Canyon, Utah with Geoff Weigand and Tiffany Levine to shoot some pictures. Geoff had been working on a route he named “Drinking Gasoline” and he thought he could send it for the camera that day. He was in a period when he wouldn’t rate the first ascents he made, so I still have no clue how hard the climb was. Mid-5.13 maybe. Anyway, I shot this on a warm-up route while we waited for the sun to heat the air enough for him to get on the real thing.
Ace Kvale in the maze below Peak Korjenyevska in the Pamirs. After a complicated approach and a great bivouac bad weather turned us back - while our tough Russian companions continued up the nearby Romanov Pillar.
Alan Bradley in the Exit Cracks on the north face of the Eiger. The belay anchor was crap and the cracks above bottomed-out or were worn round by centuries of flowing water. A long way above us, well run-out Eric and I heard him mumble, "I'd kill for a pizza right now," which made some sense since we had run out of food. It also made us think Alan was a total hardcase. Later when we asked him about it, over pizza he admitted, "No. I said, 'I'd kill for a piece of pro right now'" and that made even more sense given the circumstances.
Alan Bradley approaching the north face of the Grandes Jorasses in August 1985. It was too warm to try The Shroud but it was what we wanted to do (I'd done the Walker Spur earlier in the summer). We had a false start and chopped a ledge to wait for the rockfall to slow down but it never froze hard enough for the stones to stop falling so we bailed.
June 2000: Looking down the ice ramp Scott Backes, Steve House and I used to bypass the headwall during our 60-hour single push ascent of the Slovak Direct. It's close to midnight, 18 hours into the first "day".
July 1988: Kevin Doyle and Barry Blanchard trying to find snow deep enough to dig a cave high in the Merkl Gully on the Rupal Face. We were about 1200' below the summit of Nanga Parbat, thus 13,000' up the biggest face in the world. We couldn't get a cave, which is for the best because the storm lasted 12 days. Although we ran out of food that night we had a full tank of luck and spent every drop surviving.
While Jon Krakauer and I were retreating from the north face of the Eiger in 1984 we crossed paths with Christophe Profit and Sylviane Tavernier. It was the first time I ever saw anyone short-roping. It looked dangerous. I had no idea that it was one key to swift movement in the mountains. The pair were absolutely blazing up the face. They retreated in the face of the same conditions that forced us down and on the deck at a Kleine Scheidegg café Profit told me about Chamonix, and that I should go there. I took his advice and it changed me forever.
July 1985: Eric Perlman and Alan Bradley below the Ramp on the Eigerwand. We began climbing as a Spanish team was being rescued from high on the 1938 route, having been caught in a three-day storm that plastered the face with snow and ice. We wore crampons for virtually every pitch and halfway down the west face.
Steve House early during the first day on the Slovak Direct. The route sneaks up the ice runnel on the left of the tower. We were moving well and had already passed the Slovak team's first bivouac site after about two hours of climbing. It was a glorious weather window that opened long enough for us to blast up the face in 60 hours.
Steve House approaching the summit of Denali in June 2000 during the acclimatization trip we made to the top before launching on the Slovak Direct. It's always amazing to see how little gear one needs, and how little clothing when operating well within his threshold of competence and experience. As I have often said, "What if?" weighs a lot more than "Why not?"
June 2000: Steve House traversing above “The Shield” on the Slovak Direct. We were trying to connect the dots on the south face of Denali, and the exposure at this point, 5000’ up the face, was exceptional.
June 2000: Steve House getting down to the business, certainly the technical crux of the Slovak Direct on Denali: solid grade 6 ice. The real crus though came later …
May 1986: Jeff Lowe approaching one of the steeper rock bands on day four of our pre-monsoon attempt on the south pillar of Nuptse. I aided half of a rope length on KBs, small wires, and a RURP or two (we called it old A4). We bypassed the aid on ice when we tried the route in winter. A few years later another party added a bolt to this pitch ... which is what you get when you "carry courage in your rucksack."
Jeff Lowe leading the opening pitch of the headwall on the northwest ridge of Kangtega. I had never seen anything like it and felt quite over my head for a while.
May 1986: Jeff Lowe rappelling back to retrieve the heavy packs during the sixth day of our pre-monsoon attempt on the south pillar of Nuptse. What we thought would be an inconsequential afternoon thunderstorm turned into nagging precipitation that eventually caused us to retreat.
May 1986: Jeff Lowe climbing during the sixth day of our pre-monsoon attempt on the south pillar of Nuptse. The following day a storm shut us down, which preceded an entertaining exercise in gear conservation as it took 48 rappels to reach the base of the pillar.
July 1988: Kevin Doyle enjoying a four year-old Cadbury Fruit & Nut bar recovered from a tattered haul bag we found clipped to a piton at 22,000 feet. Barry cut it open without expectation. 60 pitons spilled out, followed by a dozen ice screws, chocolate bars, and at the bottom, two brand new 50 meter ropes. The bag was cached by Tsuneo Hasegawa in 1984. Three of his partners disappeared during a summit bid. And prior to returning to Japan, his team stashed the gear necessary to survive at the top of the Welzenbach Couloir; a chokepoint they’d have to pass if descending the face. Instead of saving them, it saved us.
July 1988: Kevin Doyle in the Welzenbach Couloir on the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat ... not exactly the safest place in the world, though an expedient line.
October 1984: Jon Krakauer in the "Ice Hose" that connects the First and Second Icefields on the north face of the Eiger in autumn 1984. Higher, we realized there was too much snow on the face so we bailed out. It had been the wettest September since 1864 and conditions didn't come good on the face for a month or so. When they did, Christophe Profit who turned back the same day we did, returned with Bruno Cormier to recon the face for Profit's 10-hour solo ascent of the 1938 route in March 1985.
June 1981: As the final exam during a Mountain Instructor Training Course offered by Exum (instructors included Chuck Pratt, Yvon Chouinard, Dave Carman, Kim Schmitz, Peter Lev and Harry Frishman), different teams of students were assigned routes to complete. I roped up with Les Lloyd and we followed Yvon who was leading Dave Kahn and a gal named Polly up steep ice runnels on the upper west face of the Grand Teton. Les had far more experience than I so led every pitch. The exposure was daunting to my young mind. Despite the top-rope, it was a fantastic, eye-opening experience that pushed me toward the greater ranges.
November 1984: looking down the north face of the Grands Charmoz from the Heckmair-Kroner finish. My experience on this route and the subsequent descent (described in the first chapter of Kiss or Kill) sent me packing after a couple of good weeks in Chamonix.
April 1998: Francois Marsigny in the "Poop Chute" on the south face of the Aiguille du Midi. I was in Chamonix to shoot some pictures for a catalog client and to test my Nikon F5 with a f2.8 20-35mm zoom against a Leica M6 with 28mm lens. This one was shot with the Nikon. The Leica won - by a long shot.
October 1993: On the 2nd or 3rd pitch of Birthright. The ice was not really ice and quite thin but there was always just enough to coax us higher. The route offered some "memorable" climbing, specifically in the big corner where Scott could only place three pieces of protection on the entire 60-meter pitch.
December 1989: I was posing in front of Mark Shapiro's camera for an ad commissioned by Asolo. Posing always gets one in trouble. What appeared to be casual was, of course difficult and scary -- an awful lot like the real thing. Except the mind isn't in the mood for the real thing. And I can't think of a guy who deserves it more.
October 1995: Charly Oliver, Cathy Beloeil and I hiked into the cirque below the Diamond on Longs Peak after a huge autumn storm. No one had ever seen or heard of ice forming in this location on the lower east face but it comes in more frequently now. I couldn't finish it this day. It was later climbed and named "Crazy Train".
July 1985: Following the crack above the Brittle Ledges on the north face of the Eiger. To quote Dougal Haston, "nothing harder than 5.7 says the man who has never been there." It seemed hard at the time but both the pack and my discomfort (aka fear) were heavy. Eric Perlman snapped the picture.
October 1988: After our attempt on Nanga Parbat Barry Blanchard and I took a month off and then made three attempts on a new route up Everest. We tried it without O2, ropes, hardware, or bivy gear at first then added a tent on our 3rd go. Finally, on the 4th try we took a tent, shared a sleeping bag and still got skunked at 27,500'.
May 1994: Leading the steep ice pitch through the 4th rock band during the first ascent of “Deprivation” on Mount Hunter. It was genuinely hard. We called it grade 6. I ran out of screws. The belay anchor sucked. Hauling both packs was “fun.” We climbed through the night to reach the summit of the North Buttress at sunrise where we finally were able to stop and brew up before continuing up, over, and down the West Ridge to reach base camp after 43 hours on the move.
April 1986: Day 10, I think. Alison Hargreaves and I had reached the summit of Kangtega the day before. Arrived in the late afternoon in perfect weather, where we watched a magnificent sunset that meant a long descent into a long night. We ran out of anchors. I taught myself to chop bollards on the fly. In the dark, batteries in the headlamp barely hanging on. She frostbit her toes. I warmed them against my bare stomach back in the snow cave. After a few hours of bad sleep suddenly it was day 10 and we were rappelling down, and down, 43 total if memory serves. Down to warmth. Back to safety.
September 1989: I was posing in front of Rene Robert's camera on the Aiguille du Midi. It always looks easier than it is and there's always a rush to get the shot. I'm surprised I didn't get hurt on one of the many photo and film shoots I did over the years. It would have been ignominious and, some would venture, appropriate.
April 1998: Nancy Feagin and I went to Chamonix with photographer Jim Martin to shoot the instructional pictures that illustrate the book, Extreme Alpinism. Desnivel magazine used this one on the cover of the issue announcing the book's publication in Spanish.
June 1991: Soloing on one of the scariest seracs I have ever climbed. It was steep but the climbing relatively easy. However, due to the heat the exit was soft, slushy, and insecure and despite having a (film) safety crew waiting to toss me a loop of rope the pit remained in my stomach both times I climbed it. Although it's not obvious the exposure is huge: about 3000' to the glacier below. The serac is above and west of the Gouter Hut on the normal route up Mont Blanc.
January 1991: Leading on the north face of Trident Peak in the Tien Shan. Stupid really, since it was so bitter cold and the face never got sun. I think we got about nine pitches up before pulling the pin. We wouldn't have topped out before dark and it was no place to be doing the "night naked" thing since the pitches were taking a while to lead. Accustomed to a diet of Chamonix granite, my partner wasn't dialed on the whole notion of loose rock and bad pro - or tied-off ice screws.
February 1988: Randy Rackcliff approaching The Reality Bath during our successful visit. I think I was too scared during the first attempt to break out the camera - we were running and shitting ourselves at the same time, especially after the seracs calved and we were rappelling for our lives. A few people comment to me after seeing the route up close, commonly suggesting we must not have wanted to live. And it may have been true. Or we may have been truly tuned-in to the cosmos. Or we were over-the-top arrogant and believed we could get away with it. The route awaits a second ascent nearly three decades later.
February 1987: Thierry Renault - who held the speed record on The Nose for a while - during the first ascent of "Sueur Froide" across from Les Houches. He brought modern sport climbing movement, developed on limestone by he and Edlinger and Berhault to frozen waterfalls. He used plastic boots made by Trappeur that blended a plastic lower shell with a flexible leather ankle cuff much like what is presented as “modern” today.
July 1988: Ward Robinson in the Merkl Gully on Nanga Parbat. He wasn't well-acclimated when we began climbing so the higher we climbed the sicker he got. On this day -- the 5th -- we got as close to the top as we would but the storm, his illness, and a very strong desire to live drove us down. The descent left an indelible mark on us all.
July 1988: Ward Robinson leading in the Merkl Gully on Nanga Parbat. The storm that nearly killed us was apparent in every photo taken on the fifth day but none of us recognized it for what it was at the time, or we were way too invested in our effort to take heed. We should have started down long before the avalanches began because the terrain trap we climbed ourselves into was vicious indeed.
May 2016: Jason Momoa bouldering at The Castle in London. His enthusiasm for climbing, and overall lust for life are infectious. I used to hate the rock gym. Thanks to him I learned to embrace it, and take it as it is. I love having rediscovered the movement, and the sharpening of the mind. He's a force who reconnected me with The Force.