Saturday, November 24, 2012

The First Chapter/A New Chapter

This is the first year that I have focused on mountaineering and its various children of related activities. I ran for 10 years at a some-what competitive level and, although I still run and race, I am really moving on to a new chapter. This chapter has to do with spending time in the mountains and generally making myself look really good when no one is around to see me (yes, that was a joke).
I'm bib 185 in this race. Photo by Keith Lemay.
As a kid I spent lots of time outside. As young as two I was going for hikes in the English country-side with my Dad. At the age of six I moved to Reno, Nevada at the base of the Sierras. By the time I was eight I was doing 10 mile hikes in summer and skiing in winter. At the age of 10 I climbed my first 13,000 ft peak and was comfortable on black diamond ski runs. In high school I got sucked into distance running. I got comfortable covering long distances quickly and being by myself in the hills. I managed to get out to the mountains a few times. A backcountry ski descent of Mt. Lassen in Northern California, hiking up California's Mt. Whitney, and backpacking in Nevada's Ruby Mountains all kept me interested in alpine sports. Ultimately running won out and these activities got put on hold.
In the Brooks Range, AK
It wasn't until after graduating from Western Washington University that I realized I wanted to spend more time in the mountains again. A summer in Alaska blew my mind open and made me realize what I was missing. An attempt on Mt. Baker with the outdoor program made me interested in climbing ice clad mountains. Right after graduating I went to Patagonia for 3 months. My intention was to skip North America's winter and run in the summer weather. I just ended up hiking and scrambling a lot in some of the most beautiful and iconic parts of Argentina and Chile. After a couple years living back in Reno I moved to Bend, Oregon with my girlfriend and decided to mountaineer and ski tour regularly.

Cerro Fitz Roy during my travels in Patagonia.
Goals started off fairly modestly... I wanted to climb every summit over 10,000 feet in the Cascades. I wasn't concerned with the route. I just wanted to spend time in the alpine, get comfortable on snow and glaciers, and enjoy a good view. Well, maybe I wanted to see how my running fitness translated to climbing and let out some competitive energy too. Ultimately I thought it would be fun to climb Mt. Sanford and Mt. Blackburn in the Wrangells of Alaska.
Sawtooth Ridge, Sierra Nevada, my favorite part of the range.
As I started doing more, and looking for people to go with, I got drawn into rock climbing. I started looking at more interesting technical routes on the mountains I wanted to climb. Now my peak bagging and hiking todo list has sections for technical rock and ice climbs. The mountains I am considering are much harder and the routes longer. It's going to be an exciting chapter regardless of what happens. I just know I want to go for it and see what happens. In the words of famous climber Alex Lowe, "the best climber in the world is the one that has the most fun." I want to be the best that I can be.
Leading Sky Ridge at Smith Rock, some random guy from Seattle snapped this and emailed it to Ian.

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