Following the Footsteps of Giants - September 2023
Standing proud at the head of Waterton Lake lies the 4,000' North Face of Mount Cleveland, a sight sure to send shivers down the spines of even the most hardcore alpinist, that is unless you climbed it first. Terry Kennedy, seen right, made the first ascent of this monumental face, quietly known as the largest precipitous face in the lower 48, back in 1976, many years before the invention of the modern 'friends camalot'. The feat was a monumental accomplishment that has only seen one repeat in over forty-five years!
Flash forward to present-day Waterton Valley where Terry and I sit aboard the International, a nearly 100-year-old ferry with headed for the international border where Mount Cleveland stands motionless just a few miles South of the Canadian Border in Glacier Park. Drawing the lines of their ascent up the monumental face I sit in sheer awe and admiration for the commitment to a truly larger-than-life accomplishment.
Just Another Day Mountains - August 2023
Awaking to obnoxious traffic I don't remember falling asleep to I groggily roll out of my Toyota Corolla's back seat eager to start the day. The orange sunrise greeted me as I casually strolled down the trail, a pack full of gear and snacks in tote as I began to stretch my limbs and finally feel the anticipation of the day coursing through my bloodstream.
I remind myself not to get my hopes up as a summit is truly meaningless if you can't do so safely and in reverence to the beauty of the incredible nature surrounding you. I begin working my way up the boulder while field thanking the knee-high krummholz for strengthening my legs via ample the deep cuts and gashes they provided. Standing below the daunting prize I had laid eyes on many years before my heart dropped as the vertical faces guarding its summit showed no clear path. Maybe on a different day it might go I think to myself, tail tucked between my legs I began descending back to the trail. But like any climb in the park, a small traverse ledge appeared as I was making my way down that gave me hope I might be able to finish the climb, and before I knew it my dancing shoes were on and I was ready to rock and roll.
Consistent breathing, I remind myself, as my heart tries beating out of my shirt now pressed against a corner of solid rock halfway up the great spire I find myself fortunate enough to be climbing. After a few moves to gain a small ledge that granted ample rest and time for thought I was able to regain my heart rate and asses the final crux section looming above. Only if it feels right I tell myself, moving carefully through steep yet solid holds while being so focused and connected felt perfect, and before I knew it, I stood above all other rocks and I was on top.
A safe and thankfully uneventful descent had me bathing in the deep waterfall pools back on the trail while taking a good look at the beautiful mountains surrounding me. Making it back to the car at lunch felt oddly satisfying as I laid eyes on the great Spire high above the valley I stood on less than a few hours ago. I take a seat in my car and am promptly greeted by the hordes of other tourists awaiting the parking spot I currently occupied, so after a short time appreciating what this day in the park had given me I began winding down Going-To-The-Sun-Road with music blasting, windows down, and a hot summer breeze making its way through my Rolla'. Another incredible day in the mountains behind me, no different than any other.
Backyard Beautiful - July 2023
Scrambling to the tops of jagged mountains often grants the satisfying panoramic views we work to accomplish, but it seems that moments of clarity rarely manifest while on top. Often the mind is filled with thoughts of getting down since accidents are more likely on the descent rather than the ascent, so one keeps themselves together and maintains focus. Rather, it seems that great bursts of mindfulness and appreciation for life seem to click later on once the brain can wrap itself around the beauty it previously witnessed.
The stillness of the crunchy trail, not seen for days, and the simplicity of sitting eating a sweet snack against a tree, completely satisfied at the end of a recent trip, brought my ever-moving mind to a calm standstill. This must be what being at peace feels like, I think to myself, as a great appreciation begins to wash over me as I gazed out at the Garden Wall in all its glory, many miles away. This is home, this is where one can find true peace and answer the questions one patiently awaits answers for.
It's Good to be Home - June 2023
I grab a deep breath of fresh mountain air as the familiar multi-colored red, yellow, and orange sedimentary Glacier rock flashes by while I motor my way up the crumbly face en route to another fantastic Glacier Peak with never-before-seen views sure to dazzle and inspire. On the summit, I pause and grab a salty snack while my partners fill their water bottles as we all take in the panoramic view we now stood above. The familiar distant peaks dotted the bluebird skyline while unfamiliar ones dominated our immediate view, all boasting spectacular Glacially carved faces soaring into the sky, it seemed all was right.
That's when two thoughts popped into my head: it's good to be home, and it's time to get to work.
Snake Dike at First Light - May 2023
The red 09' Corolla we called home while visiting Yosemite Valley for the month of May was spewing with stoke as me and Lane, one of my good climbing partners from the 406, made our way back into the valley in the dead of night, eyes locked on the illuminated face of Half Dome we aimed to stand atop. The time was 12:25 pm and instead of getting some sleep like typical folks, we decided it was as good a time as ever to pack the bags and start our climb on the western side of Half Dome and one of its most classic moderate routes, the Snake Dike. So with a rope, rack, and light packs, we made our way into the darkness heading up the popular Mist Trail, which thanks to California's historic winter, made it the Downpour Trail causing us both to be the most drenched either of us had ever been in the mountains at now 3 am in the morning. Trudging our way through a marshy wetland we decided it was time to cut our losses and start a fire in an attempt to dry ourselves and boost morale, which at this point has now been severely waterlogged.
Sitting by the fire we awaited the sun until it began illuminating the once-dark sky as we were finally able to make out the massive spectacle that was Half Dome. Shifting a sense of morale we quickly repacked and hiked to the base with only one party far below us, still bushwhacking through the trees. We quickly geared up and dispatched a few short squeaky pitches of runout slab trickery before grabbing some water and a snack. Taking in the incredible views that lay before us we took a deep breath and traversed our way onto the infamous featured Dike that would lead us to the top of Half Dome.
Though nearly unprotectable for hundreds of feet the Snake Dike provided incredible foot and handholds through some of the most unique climbing I have ever been fortunate to ascend! Moving quickly and efficiently up the Dike we found ourselves in a rhythmic dance as we finessed our way up the slick slabs one glorious pitch after another. Finally unroping once we felt confident enough we made our way up the last thousand feet of slab and finally crested over the great dome that made up the large summit within two and a half hours of leaving the ground. Enjoying a lonely Half Dome summit we ran barefoot through a seasonal snow patch before exploring the great overhangs of the Visor and Half Dome's true summit, appreciating a rare moment of peace on top before tourists began ascending the cables from the opposite side.
Rejoicing and celebrating with new friends on top made everything perfect, and as I stood out on the Visor alone with nothing but fresh Sierra air to breathe I took a deep breath in and felt true peace. Before making our way down the cables and back to Curry Village and a warm pepperoni pizza for our effort, I gazed out, taking one last look, to really appreciate seeing a new view for the first time.
March 2023 - In Search of Balance
I find myself brushing ferociously against Kalispell's finest sedimentary rock, laden with numerous species of mosses and lichen as my window-brush turned scraper attempts to clear the limestone clean. Dark soil coats every inch of my face and torso as I scrub on without a care in the world while my belayer fights to stay awake throughout my drawn-out ascent and cleaning of the potential route.
Then a thought dawns on me: Who am I to alter this fragile landscape and remove these countless species of multicolored mosses, trample new trails, and chuck loose rock from this craggy face?
As a climber and frequent outdoor user, I hope to minimize the impact I have on these wild places yet I hang here negatively altering them in search of a perfect route, so is this exploration justified, or have my egotistical ambitions clouded my ideals to preserve the earth?
The landscape around me seemed to teem with life as birds called, critters scuffled about below, and water poured out from every crevice in the colored rock I hung from. I pause and go to take a deep breath in when an 18-wheeler lays on its horn as it passes a station wagon on the highway far below, so much for peace and quiet. What a world it would be without man here to trample its beauty and pave through its forests. Then I take a step back and realize my own actions on this once-untouched cliff don't seem far off from the paved seventy-mile-per-hour highway below.
So what does a balance of this beautiful place look like for proper care and equal utilization so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come? I empty the dirt from my helmet and dust off my face before calling it a day and returning back to the ground, with a fresh perspective and drive to find a balance between climbing and lichen.
"Early on, we recognized that we humans we're destroying our home planet, and that each of us, in our own way, was responsible to protect and restore the wild nature that we loved" -Arne Naess
February 2023 - Canadian Yosemite, an Ice climbing Paradise
Peering through the morning light from the back of the excitement-filled 95' Subaru our climbing team rode through the quiet morning as the first views of Canadian ice demanded our attention out the front windshield. There it was, 1000 feet of ice pouring from the cliffside that seemed to be nearly running down to the road. Gearing up we got a better view of the flow and realized it had been severely melted, likely making it unsafe, thankfully there are endless flows here in Canada and we had no trouble finding a new objective that was equally as enticing.
As the sun burned bright hues of pinks and oranges into the sky we began our calf workout of a pitch to start the climb. With nearly two-hundred feet of ice already below us, we were ecstatic to see more of the route as it gleamed bright green high above us in the gully ahead. Picking our way through rambling ice and snow brought us to a few moderate pitches through a choke in the gully to reach the best-looking pitch of the whole climb. Glorious hero-sticks up the wet blue ice brought us to the top of the wall where we were able to relax a moment and get a view of the incredible Canadian Rockies that stood tall all around us. The sun burned bright on our faces as we rappelled safely back to our bags where we sat and took in the beautiful place we are lucky enough to find ourselves in before heading to the next climb.
The endless possibilities for ice climbing and mountaineering in the grand peaks of Canada are truly mind-boggling. After this short weekend trip to get a taste of the Canadian Rockies, it's assured a fire has been lit from within our group to hone our craft and return to explore these incredible peaks and places.
January 2023 - Hunting for Ice in Glacier Park
Taking a mountain of gear and splitting it between two expedition sleds kept me and my climbing partner occupied as we geared up at the local diner, the only place out of the howling wind, preparing for a journey into one of the most special and personally dear places to me on this planet, Glacier Park. Although the tourist-clad gift shops and lavish hotels now looked like a desolate ghost town as we lugged a potential weeks-worth of gear on our backs and behind us in sleds as we made our way through the again, wind-whipped backcountry en route to basecamp. The walls poured countless flows of blue ice in every direction as we plodded out a basecamp below familiar peaks and trails I had only seen in the summer months.
Choking down a freeze-dried soup while sitting in our meal tent we took turns peering out at the ice and our potential climb set for the morning. The lines drawn on paper previous to seeing the wall in person now took a more menacing aura as the walls echoed mother natures horrible cry whipping snow and ice down the canyon throughout the afternoon. We prepped gear in silence and hunkered down once everything was ready for the morning. Attempting to sleep through the hurricane winds was an added bonus to prepare us for the morning's battle.
Moving cautiously through windswept terrain we arrived at our potential first ice of the day a short distance from camp which I gladly attempted to lead. Though more than halfway up the gully I realized the ice was completely rotten and dangerous to ascend resulting in a drawn-out down climb plopping me back at the belay ledge now mostly covered in spindrift without even putting a dent into this line. Thankfully a short memory had us charging onward as we found a steep snow gully that snuck us through to the next step and an amphitheater of ice flows which we swapped gear for and set up for round two against. A short-lived lead up the fattest flow had us bailing off an A-thread thanks to friable ice back down to the base of the amphitheater. We moved quickly as temps seemed to be dropping–ascending neighboring moderate ice lines we finally arrived at the base of the money pitches we had been waiting all day for. Taking the screws I rambled my way up moderate steep ice for nearly a rope length before gaining a ledge where I belayed my partner up.
Stepping over the glacially carved terrain and examining an incredible landscape I had seen many times, but never in winter, now gleamed white and blue with streaks of ice and rime-covered summits towering above. Though a few deep breaths later we were on our way down as the winds still threatened to blow us off our feet if we lost focus, thankfully we descended without incident and sat back at camp still shivering from the wind-whipped day we experienced. Frostbitten toes and undesirable ice conditions prompted us to leave a few days later as the weather pushed us and our heavy sleds out of the backcountry and back to civilization none the wiser.
It wasn't until days later when my mind and toes finally thawed that I was able to reflect and truly appreciate the journey we had into Glacier during winter, likely having the entire park to ourselves and the few critters that scampered throughout the night was a truly special feeling that won't be forgotten. I look forward to future trips with close partners to build strong bonds in the fantastic mountains of Glacier and the challenges that we seek from them.
January 2023 - A Breath of fresh Alpine Air
Driving East along Glacier NP this fall I almost crashed my car trying to pull over and get my eyes through a pair of binoculars up to what looked like a stellar vertical ice line jutting from a prominent gully on a large South Face. Swearing to return to climb the line it taunted me as I awaited conditions and a strong partner to share the rope with me.
Finally returning at the dawn of the New Year with a partner it was as if the mountain was accepting our attempt to scale its vertical flanks as the sun shone brightly against the gleaming blue ice we geared up beneath. Starting up the vertical ice I couldn't help but enjoy the spring-like conditions as I swung and kicked my way up. Reaching the top of the first pitch I found a bomber anchor and belayed my partner up, and as he crested over the lip I couldn't help but smile at the fact that we were really giving this thing a go! I hung at an awkward stance as the warming sun continually threatened us as chunks of ice and snow flew past while I hung perched in my hanging belay. Enduring the firing chamber I finally heard the shouts from my partner above signaling my departure and I left my perch to meet him above the ice pitches. Elated to no longer be in the main drainage we gained a rocky ridgeline that we then followed through steps of snowy and icy sedimentary Glacier rock en route to the summit.
As we approached the summit block it was as if the mountain had awoken from its peaceful slumber as the winds now howled against our frostbitten faces while we worked our way up the rime-covered gully leading us to the summit block. Threatening to blow us off her face we crested through the final rock-band crux and gained the summit ridge where we howled into the wind at the journey through the belly of the beast we had endured.
Turning around as fast as we got to the top we carefully picked our way down through large avalanche gullies until we reached our skis just as the sun was beginning to set on the great peak we had just survived. Skiing away I couldn't help but look back and smile at the adventure we shared in Glaciers' unforgiving winter backcountry. From scoping the line to standing atop it I am truly thankful to explore such incredible Mountains with seemingly endless possibilities to challenge and frighten the hopeful alpinist.
December 2022 - The Possibilities 2023 Holds
A healing snowpack, growing icefalls, and cold temps on the horizon signal that the New Year is going to be promising. The high peaks are calling with their wintry-grip and the stars are beginning to align for accessing their rhime-coated summits. Looking forward to a new year full of bitter cold, frozen hands, and chilled mornings, I greet 2023 with open arms. Gritting our teeth and keeping to the grindstone we remember to enjoy the incredible company and environments nature provides, with its endless challenges and inspirations calling to us.
The heart of winter provides the most challenging yet rewarding time to be a climber. Winter summits prove most difficult thanks to their snow covered flanks dissuading even the hearty adventurist though simultaneously calling those who live for screaming barfies and frozen faces. With ambitions bubbling over in my crowded mind I bid cheers 2022, while salivating at what 23' holds.
Tracing lines - November 2022
Seeing with my own eyes an entire basin filled with frozen waterfalls cascading from every nook and cranny of its blocky-overhanging walls had my mind reeling at the possibilities of the climbs that this dream-like area holds. The feeling of exploring somewhere new truly rejuvenates the mind and alpine ambitions that burn deep within any gung-ho climber. Ascending beautiful lines up large mountainous faces is it. And this one won't soon be forgotten, though it may not be this season, or the next, someday I hope to paint a beautiful line up this glorious face.
Tracing dotted lines across a printed-out photo scanning for potentially overlooked routes I imagine the endless amount of climbs that rarely see ascents in this basin and are more adventurous in nature, calling to those who think they are bold enough. I look forward to asking the inner questions that float around my mind that this face will likely have the answers for.
As I descend the snowy trail I look back and stare at the face one final time as its icy and unrelenting aura silently beckons for me to return someday.
Facing your fears at Sunrise - October 2022
In this world, there are mountains that send shivers down the spines of even the boldest alpinists, Mount Merritt's south-east face is one of those mythical objectives that is whispered among circles of choss-climbing-renegades who salivate at the thought of ascending this prize. The face has danced among my dreams and nightmares since I laid eyes on it, equally dreading and looking forward to the day when I embark up its sea of endless Glacier-choss.
Bivying overnight at 9,000' proved restless and bone-chilling though watching the sun rise from atop one of Glacier Park's most beautiful vistas was truly sobering. Peering across the Glacial-carved cirque that separated me from my wildest dreams I tried to imagine what it would be like to climb this monolithic face and its endless ocean of rotten sedimentary rock. Sitting with a front-row seat my eyes hopelessly scanned the face for a sign of weakness, but no obvious line stood out. Attempting to wrap my head around climbing this face I began to get overwhelmed at the thought of questing off into the unknown in the heart of Glacier Park. Merritt stood motionless though it felt as if the face was staring into my soul and I couldn't rip my eyes away from its apocalyptic beauty, so I stared back and faced what likely scares and inspires me most in this world. My eyes make their way from the bottom of the face to the top, shuttering when they reach the final summit pyramid of complex vertical rock that will truly be the final test to crest over the 3,000'+ wall.
The steep face and scattered pinnacles of this part of Glacier began dotting the skyline with an orange alpine glow as the sun made its way higher and higher into the morning sky, thawing the morning dew on the summit cairn I sat against. I knew then and there that I must face this gut-wrenching face in the future and prove myself to the mountains that inspire me the most.
Life Under a Rock - Fall 2022
Life is easy, you wake up, eat and prepare yourself for a day of climbing. Your only worry is how many feet above your last piece of gear you are, and how far of a fall that means if you blow it. But at that moment you take a deep breath and punch through the crux and holler as you climb to a bomber anchor location, life is simple. Days like these are the ones we appreciate most when life is broken down to its simplest form; survival. We insert ourselves into these moments knowingly going against all instincts of safety against an opponent of cold igneous rock with no signs of defeat. In these enriching moments of pushing past what we thought to be impossible and reaching heights only earned through diligence and grace, we remember that must tread lightly and walk the line. Managing fear is real when you are halfway up a nearly vertical quarter-mile of rock gripped to the bone but focused on what matters most; the singular moment at hand. But that's what climbers live for, or at least a taste of that every so often; a reminder of our morality to put us in our place and bring us as close to nature as we can afford. A climber mentor of mine once told me a resounding quote he and fellow hard-men lived by back in the day; "You may love the mountains... but the mountains don't love you back." Simple as that. Respect and remember that life is short and a mountain can make it shorter, so while enjoying these epic adventures we remember that life is best lived simply, one step at a time.
We respectfully honor and remember those who came before us, not only the pioneers of the climbing established in our backyards but those Native Americans whose families lived for countless generations on the lands we recreate in today. Honoring these special places we know we must tread lightly and minimize our impacts and maximize our appreciation while outside.
As I doze to the crickets and hoo's of a nearby owl I take a deep breath and smile as I think of those past who spent many nights sleeping in these same boulder fields we now lay in. Admiring the views of the twinkling stars that those who came before me enjoyed just the same I marvel at how beautiful and humbling life is under a rock as I close my eyes and dream the night away.
You don't have to feel 100% all the Time - Irene's Arete, Grand Teton National Park - September 2022
Sleeping in the bed of my climbing partners red 05' Tacoma awaiting sunrise and warmer temps from the Lupine Meadows trailhead in Grand Teton National Park, I couldn't help but shake the fact that I felt like ass. And I was right, as we started preparing gear for Irene's Arete, a GTNP classic, I couldn't help but shake the weakness and inner feelings of illness. Though I couldn't let myself miss an opportunity to climb on hard, compact, Teton rock, so I pushed on. Setting a blistering pace Adam moved us briskly through the shady switchbacks leading to Garnet canyon, and eventually we turned a corner and views of the Middle and South Teton stood before us like monolithic chess pieces, guarding the western skyline. Scrambling our way to the base of Disappointment Peak we racked up and Adam quested off, working his way through a slightly runout slab face that ended on a great belay platform. "Well he made that look easy, now its my turn" I tell myself as I grunt my way up from the other end of the rope and crux through multiple steep sections on rock I haven't quite gotten a feel for yet in the day. "Oof, that was ugly, I'm climbing like shit and I feel weak as all hell", not quite the comment your partner wants to hear but I had to be honest. But after a few minutes of deliberation of bailing back down or continuing on I decided if I was going to feel sick anywhere It might as well be in the mountains. Decision made, gear racked I made my way up my first lead of the day on a glassy quartz face high off the deck which I made a big fuss out of because I felt so weak, but a bit of prodding from my belayer below eventually coaxed me onwards. One move at a time I tell myself, and as I caterpillar my way up the pitch I try to keep the feelings of sickness out of my head and work my way up, up, up. Trading off leads Adam led a heroic block (out of pity for my state of being) through one of the harder pitches of traversing cracks with no feet and plenty of exposure below, though he cruised through and had me on belay in no time. Following the pitch I got to a overhanging roof that I had to pull out of and as I worked my way across the compact face I came to realize my only good foot that would allow me to pull the roof would be a lego block of a 1"x1" quartz cube perfectly portruding from the smooth face, putting all my weight onto it I carefully stood up and pulled the roof, Adam awaiting me in a comfortable belay seat above. Then finally my last lead of the day came and a foot traverse, with unlimited exposure under your heels, had me manually breathing as I pulled a heroic roof to access the knife-edge arete that the route so famously follows where I was able to scramble to a good recess and belay Adam. The climbing continually got more enjoyable as we worked our way through runout and exposed sections of great face and crack climbing up to the final summit ridge where we rejoiced and took in the spectacular views that the top of Dissapointment Peak provided. Sitting in the summer sun I reflected on how I felt and how the day had gone and I couldn't be more happy that I was able to push past illness and get my butt-kicked by an ultra-classic route worthy of repeating. Then I thought: "Wow, I didn't think I could do this because I wasn't 100% but look at me, I'm on top!" This gave me a great sense of commitment and idealism that mountain climbing breeds from within. You always want to sell yourself short but if you follow that inner fire to do the things you are passionate about then nothing can stand in your way, not even $20 of gas station corn-dogs and candy bars.
West Face, The Little Matterhorn - August 2022
Leaving the trailhead before morning light baked the western side of Glacier Park me and my climbing partner, Adam, knew we were in for an adventure when we finally got everything in place to make an ascent of the West Face of The Little Matterhorn. The ominous face stood at the head of the basin as we made our way past a sizable Grizzly who we shared the trail with throughout the morning. We then bushwhacked past the lakes and up to the headwall where we scrambled our way to the base of the climb. Right from the beginning, the Jack Beard Memorial Route was a climber's dream come true. Varied climbing with great rock and decent protection made this route a fantastic rock climb in Glacier. The early pitches seemed to go smoothly as we jammed our way up and through the crux which we were able to protect with small gear. As the rock changed so did the style of climbing, from overhanging corners and deep parallel cracks to slabby face climbing with quartz jugs, the face kept us on our toes. Feeling the shift in momentum to our side we finally crested over the summit ridge after 6 varied pitches. The ridge top revealed the captivating views of Glacier Park's interior, Avalanche Lake far below, its users unaware of the adventure we had endured high above them. Reaching the summit we were ecstatic as we took in the fresh air and open scenery around us. We were more than appreciative of the beta and route development it took to pioneer such a great route and can't thank the first ascensionists enough for their establishment of a fantastic route. We also appreciate Jack Beard, a great leader in the community who pondered the idea of the route up the Face, may the J.B.M.R route serve as a memorial to his vision and excitement for the potential in Glacier.
It's not always about reaching the Top - July 2022
From the Glacier fields of Mount Rainier
Exploring new places and practicing techniques for Glacier travel and bigger mountain objectives is always more than enough to get me and my climbing partner, Frank, on the road. This time the goal was Washington's highpoint, Mount Rainier. Gearing up and crossing the lower Glacier we made our way to the upper flanks of the mountain. Though we had the stamina and equipment necessary for a summit our planning skills prevented us from safely being able to cross under a serac that stood between us and the famed ice chute–subsequently the summit of Rainier as well. Pulling the plug we began taking in the glorious views that surrounded us as we set up camp at 11 thousand feet. Thankfully we decided to bail as watched a bus-sized chunk of Glacier snow and ice rip down the chute, not even a half hour after we made the decision to not ascend further, phew. The views and sheer enjoyment of the simple life awaiting night (and freeze-dried dinner) made the hours fly by on the Glacier as we took in the beautiful mountain we had the pleasure of being on and didn't even care to worry about not summiting. Because it's not always about reaching the summit. We know we'll be back, smarter, and more prepared for the mountains that inspire us.
Climbing El Capitan - May 2022
You only get one first big wall climb on Yosemite’s El Capitan, one of the world's most beautiful and well-known vertical rock monoliths, and it’s safe to say mine was nothing short of incredible. When I got the invite from my two aid climbing zen masters during the spring to scale this beast I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity. Nervous thoughts dominated my headspace in the months leading up to the trip, even after numerous hometown crag days practicing techniques simulating a big wall climb, I was scared shitless. Fast forward to May, I find myself driving 17 hours across 4 states to climb in the place many refer to as the Mecca of American rock climbing. It is safe to say I am nothing short of awestruck when I finally get a view into Yosemite valley and lay my eyes on El Cap and Half Dome, pulling over immediately I recall whooping and howling at the view that captivated my vision and had me shuttering at the thought of climbing up its world of pure verticality. Ferrying up my first load of supplies to the base of El Cap I was dripping in sweat before 8 am, just what the doctor ordered. Once I caught up with my partners who had been sleeping in the boulders below we began our final day of preparation, gathering all the last-minute gear, water, and permits needed to quest off onto El Cap. Once we had our gear sorted and our wits about us we began what would be my most miserable, yet memorable, trudge of a hike in my life to get our gear up to the base. Though only a short distance away, the 170-liter pack I carried, filled with a week's worth of food, gear, and water was nothing short of soul-crushing–but volunteering to be the team haul-dog I pushed on. Partners alongside me we hauled the rest of our gear and portaledges up the boulder field to the base. We fixed our ropes and gear two pitches up the wall for the next day's launch, but as we rappelled down I couldn’t help but feel extremely uneasy at the undertaking that tomorrow had in store for us.
Descending to our cars and last warm meals for god knows how long we all shared the mutual feelings of anticipation and excitement for the week of vertical camping before us. Tossing and turning I got less than an hour of sleep that night, but that was the least of my worries. Lying in bed I combed my brain for any last-minute excuses I could make to opt-out of the climb because tell you the truth–I was scared to the bone, worried I may have bitten off more than I could chew. Thankfully no valid excuses made their way into my head.
Launching off and saying goodbye to the horizontal world as we knew it, we ascended our fixed lines and made our way up to the cached gear which hung awaiting our arrival on the wall. As the sun shined down on the incredibly comfortable ledge belay I sat down and took in the beauty that was right in front of my face. The sun shined on the golden granite wall that seemed to welcome us.
As the jug line that I would ascend jutted farther and farther from the overhanging wall I gulped and realized this was going to be the most comfortable part of the next five days. Saying goodbye to our last ledge on the entirely overhanging route we have now embarked upon, I was lowered into free hanging space, where I hung 30 feet from the wall and 250 feet from the ground, ascending what would be the second of the eighteen pitches ahead of us. It was at this point that the reality of how much work we really had in store for ourselves began to set in. Turtle-like progress slowed our team as our first big wall mission together needed a few kinks to be worked out before we were running smoothly. The first of the kinks was setting up our portaledges under a roof the size of a city block that rained down on us from the waterfall above. It was safe to say our first night was wet and miserable.
Opening our eyes at the first light of morning we were alarmed to hear a helicopter making its way up through the valley, surely just a training exercise we thought, but the chopper was on its way to short-haul rescue a team off the Middle Cathedral, the formation a stone's throw across the valley from us, frightening our team. As we packed up and readied for our journey ahead I couldn’t help but heed the ominous start to our morning, a subtle reminder of the dangerous games we play out here in the mountains. As our progress continued, efficiency issues continually plagued our efforts, brewing anger and doubts from within the team. Several small mistakes cost us precious time and we just couldn’t seem to keep everything running smoothly. Setting up ledges in the dark I finally got to lay down but as I sat awake unable to fall asleep I watched the stars twinkle high above while thoughts of retreat and failure raced through my mind. Were we really up to the crux pitches that my partners would lead come morning? Would we be fast enough or would we run out of water and food, stranded on the wall? These and other vicious thoughts tormented me as I tossed and turned throughout the night awaiting daybreak. This seemed to be the theme for the first couple of days and it was a scary thought wondering if we were really up to the challenge.
And then we flipped a switch. The sunrise on the great Cathedral Peaks and Merced river winding through the valley far below seemed different on our fourth day on the wall, and that’s when I heard it. Like a jet engine throttling past I saw him, a wingsuiter had jumped off the top of El Cap and was rocketing past us across the SE face like it was nothing. All at once we sat up on our portaledges, eyes wide as we saw the next jumper flap his wings from the top and drop, first came silence followed by the familiar jet engine sound that ripped past us as he followed the first jumper's path almost eye level with us about 1,750’ off the ground. Gliding like a bird the wingsuiter unknowingly flipped a switch in our team's unified head. We moved quickly that morning and had an incredibly efficient day moving through the crux pitches like butter, my partners were on it. We came together and the engine finally began running smoothly, on a fast track bound for the top of El Cap.
The rest of that day went swimmingly as we had our most efficient day yet. Working through the most challenging pitches on the route, the momentum shift we felt was palpable in the hot California air. Gathering our thoughts and taking in our last night on the portaledges we sat and ate as the summer sun curled itself behind the Nose of El Cap, it was truly an incredible sight to take in. The week's worth of hard work to get to this point seemed like a hiccup of a moment, but as I peered over the edge of my ledge I reassured myself we were far from where we started, nothing but 2,000’ of air between us and the ground. The journey was far from over but that night as we ate our dehydrated meals we couldn’t help but feel accomplished to not only do battle with one of the greatest walls on earth but to hold on while the roller coaster of a week took its incredible ups and downs. Through it all we counted on each other to work together and focus on the daunting goal at hand, making me realize that these incredible experiences in nature are truly best enjoyed with your best friends. This experience would be nothing without them sharing the hardships and glories of battling El Cap.
The final steepening headwall loomed like an ocean wave crashing down high above us as my partner geared up and shot off like a gun, T.N.T by AC/DC blasting from his harness speaker, attacking the wall head-on. After losing sight of him as he crested over the great headwall we couldn’t help but sit in hysterical excitement for the following glory pitches to the summit. The length of rope made its way slowly up, and finally we heard it: the whoops and ape grunts from above signaled our brother-in-arms had finished the pitch and it was time for us to spring to action. Returning the calls I run up the vertical rope, and then I see it, the summit of El Cap stands proudly above us, we hang only a few hundred feet from its great lip. This is when we began to get excited, we had endured five days of foul food, harness pinching madness, and death-defying exposure that all seemed to melt away as we sat like school children giggling at the thought that we seemed to just pull a fast one on Mother Nature, slipping through her grasp while shaking the hand of fear itself. Three pitches to go, we got this, two pitches, holy smokes we can see the summit tree, one pitch left, we can barely sit still we are so excited. Taking the rack for myself I finally get a pitch of free climbing among all the aid thus far and start up the glorified slab that brought me to the summit, and then just like that, it was over. I hugged the summit tree and fixed our ropes to the anchor and thanked it before lying down on the moon-like summit of El Cap I now found myself alone on. I’ve never breathed such a heavy sigh of relief as I took in the mind-boggling Yosemite valley view I now had a birds-eye view of, exhaling as we now had survived one of its greatest challenges. Embracing my partners as they made their way to the summit we sat together and laughed, trying to comprehend the journey the last 6 days consisted of.
While the sun set on that beautiful summer night we laid among a mountain of gear while satisfaction coursed through our blood thanks to the 2,500’ of overhanging granite we had battled, now safely below us. An orange sunset pierced the northwest face of Half Dome as we lay in our sleeping bags among the boulders slowly drifting into a calm sleep in the sand. Deep thoughts turned into dreams as the stars danced their way into the calm night, my mind wrestling with the fact we actually climbed El Cap. (But all I could think was: if this was possible, what isn’t?) To think a few months ago I’d never even jugged a fixed rope and to now find myself standing on El Cap’s summit felt surreal.
I was content with the undertaking we had endured but I couldn’t help but feel extremely hungry for what was next. These wild outdoor places have you eager to come back for more every time you are fortunate enough to walk away safely from them. Sitting on top of that big rock in the middle of California may not seem like a lot, but to us it felt like we were at the center of the universe and the gods were kind enough to let us pass through its gates to see the other side, I just hope we can visit again someday.
Skiing the Grand Teton - May 2022
They say a worthwhile mountain is one that takes more than one try to reach its summit... I guess you could say we were relying on that mentality while my climbing partner and I started our third attempt of the season to summit the Grand Teton in Grand Teton National Park. Previous attempts were thwarted by injuries and bad weather, one hurricane-like storm even forcing us into a snow cave to wait out a window to descend. Something was different this time though. We moved swiftly through the morning and took little time to pause for mistakes and before we knew it we were below the Teepee Col as the sun crested through the sliver notch on the east ridge of the Grand. Then the sleep deprivation, altitude, and 1L of water we elected to ration on the summit push caught up to us. Before crossing the steep and exposed snowfield, committing to the technical route ahead to the summit we bonked, we had to take a quick nap to sleep it off, and then somehow we felt great! It was time to charge! Roping up after a number of short ice steps we pitched out the intermittent rambling ice bulges and found ourselves below the final 1,500' Ford Snowfield. The Middle Teton stared intently at us, now from below as we carefully boot-packed our way past the deceiving false summits to reach the true top. Taking in the epic panorama and celebrating the ascent we still knew our day was far from over. Though the snow was perfect for climbing, it was bulletproof ice for skiing. Linking three-hop turns in a row was as epic as the steep skiing off the summit went, side-slipping most of the sketchy couloir we made it back to the rappels just in time to miss all the soft snow on the other aspect of the mountain as well, but we could care less. We had cached water and our other supplies below and once we had rehydrated and refueled we looked back and grinned at the view of that incredible summit knowing the hardest part was over. The sun-set and we eventually bumbled our way back to the car which was the last one left in the lot, first in last out is cooler than an FKT anyway.
Prescribed Wilderness - April 2022
Although time spent outside is often viewed as worthwhile, it is seldom viewed as vital. Counselors and mental health professionals alike have begun turning to the great outdoors where they have discovered an incredibly effective and versatile form of self-help counseling in nature, coining it wilderness therapy. Wilderness therapy has been around for nearly four decades and since its creation, hundreds of thoroughly researched scientific studies have been conducted analyzing how people can recognize and work through their deepest personal issues with the help of mental health professionals in an outdoor setting. Wilderness therapy strips away the typical conformity of doctors, offices, and motivational waiting room posters, replacing them with fresh air, sunshine, and physical challenges to strengthen the mind and body. The basis of a Wilderness Therapy experience revolves around participants traveling to a scenic destination for four to six weeks in the backcountry where the outdoors provide the perfect learning environment for turning inward to observe and appreciate the things that make us who we are. There are no distractions or amenities like wifi, air conditioning, or running water throughout the entirety of the experience which creates a unique atmosphere to instill meaningful change.
Full Article Coming Soon in Print!
Thank You, Winter... Now Bring on Summer! - March 2022
Sun and above freezing temperatures in the forecast result in a chain reaction effect. The first being incredible excitement followed by scrambling throughout the house as I dig through my closet to find layers that haven’t seen light since summertime–that's when you know spring is here in Montana. With Spring comes a noticeable buzz in the air around town, the thawing tundra has a direct effect on people's moods because everyone knows, summertime is the best time here in Montana. Lakes begin to thaw, flowers begin to bloom courageous colors across hillsides, and animals begin to stretch their limbs and awake from their winter slumbers. The transition from winter to spring is beautiful, that is as long as you don’t blink and miss it!
At the Mercy of the Mountains - February 2022
Why do we climb mountains? Is anything gained from standing atop a wind-chilled summit while the only thought going through your head is freezing your butt off? Questions like these often linger in the minds of climbers as they find themselves in a continual pursuit of the world’s most captivating and challenging natural wonders. Facing an unbeatable enemy, (that enemy being mountains of vertical rock and snow) humans know they cannot win, they can survive in these harsh environments but these larger than life monoliths can never truly be conquered. In pursuit of self exploration and a view, the mountains call to these individuals who wish to endure the struggles of ascension in an unforgiving world. But in reality when you find yourself slipping backwards on a skin track and end up falling ass-over-teakettle backwards you curse the very moment you thought hiking up a mountain would be easy. Climbing mountains isn’t easy, it's sheer mental perseverance that pushes one to override the brain when every thought inside is telling you it’s time to quit because you’ve had enough. The mountains could care less if you are 12-pitches up a sheer granite wall, if you get caught in a storm and can’t go on you still have to get down and get off. I have witnessed some of the most intense and humbling moments in my life while out exploring these unwelcoming places tucked high in the mountains.
Though danger-ridden climbing may seem, many mountaineers aren’t the adrenaline junkies that Hollywood portrays them as. In contrast, most driven climbers feel at peace while climbing as it calms the mind, bringing them into a mindset of extreme focus through these difficult moments. Professional high-alpine mountaineer Benedikt Böhm once said while climbing the massive Nepalese mountain, Dhulagiri VII (7,246 meters), that: “Time has a different meaning (in the mountains) when you are leaving behind the comfort zone, it is hard, until it becomes liberating because you are forced to live in that very moment”. Maybe Benedikt is right, maybe the reason we desire these incredible moments in these spectacular places is because they demand our full focus on that one singular moment we are lucky enough to find ourselves in.
Life has a funny way of always surprising you, just when you think you’ve got all your bases covered life decides to see what you're really made of. I found myself caught with my guard down this past weekend in Grand Teton National Park when a ski tour to The Grand Teton’s Teepee Glacier took a turn for the worst when a member of our group suffered an unexpected injury during the descent. Four miles and some 4,000 vertical feet stood between us and the safety of the car far below when the accident rendered one of our strongest group members badly injured and unable to move the limbs on his left-hand side without deep shooting pains. Rushing to assess the damage we huddled around our comrade as he lay in writhing pain while winds whipped from every direction in the great basin. Alive but injured he lay in anguish as we were able to diagnose the source of pain he suffered during the fall. Before fear and uncertainty could begin to brew within the group we acted quickly and remedied the situation best we could, though we still had to get down to the base. It was at that moment we realized we were at the mercy of the mountains. Acting together we devised an escape plan on how to evacuate our injured friend to safety. Shivering and exhausted from a 2am start I knew my personal excuses needed to take a back seat to the task at hand because someone else needed me. The slow descent went smoothly thanks to our competent and strong team. We were able to reach safety at the lake below, hours since our day took an unexpected turn far above. Drained from the monotonous ski back to safety the group couldn’t be happier to take a deep breath as the toughest challenges of the day were now behind us. Slowly skinning back through the rolling hillsides we pondered at how thankful we were that the situation hadn’t been any worse. We were met with realizations on what it meant to have a good day in the mountains–an up-and-coming mountaineer once said: “A great day in the mountains ends with the same amount of people it started with.” This couldn’t be more true, as the situation in the Teton mountains provided an extremely valuable reminder to why we climb and what a good day in the mountains really looks like. To me a good day is enjoying an adventure with friends while being continually humbled by the rich experiences of our natural world, regardless of objective completion, being alive at the end of the day is most important. Our previous goals were now long forgotten as the palpable accomplishment of arriving safely back at the car nine hours after leaving it was far more rewarding. Arriving safely overrode all previous ambitions that we had started with earlier that day, reminding us that reaching the top isn’t what success looks like in the mountains.
Days like that one in the Tetons really wake the soul and evoke the questions that us mountain lovers wrestle with so frequently. Why climb? Why put yourself at risk? These questions and others dance throughout my brain as I try to corral them and understand that I may never be able to answer them fully. On one hand my dreams to reach these temporal places of freedom burn deep from within, urging me onward to experience the spectacular moments I yearn so strongly for–yet on the other hand I must remember that the mountains can take everything away at any given moment. The balance and humility one must carry with them while adventuring in the mountains is a delicate one. These passionate moments of life burn bright while living so close to the edge, as one small slip causes the entire game to come crashing down. “In the end we live only once and that means both, to be very careful about your life and on the other hand, to take the maximum of this one life” -Böhm. Maybe someday the age-old question of “why do you climb?” will be answered, but until then the answer is of far less importance than the question. Climbing is simple, you go up, you must come down, what goes on in-between is the essence of living in the moment, experiencing this beautiful life to the fullest.
All the way to the Top - February 2022
Toting heavy technical climbing gear to the base of any climb during winter can be a mission on its own. But with hopes of a summit bid to one of Bozeman's most classic Peaks we endured a speedy approach and found ourselves ascending the great gully that would lead us to its summit cap in no time. Whipping winds and snow blowing from every direction possible made this scramble to the summit one to remember. Every movement had to be smooth and specific, the centimeters of metal attached to our hands and feet securing us to the mountainside were carefully placed on each hold up the gully of loose rock and snow. Before we knew it we stood atop the wind-whipped summit, embracing each other and noting the quality and variety of climbing en-route. After familiarizing ourselves with the nearby peaks and ranges we said goodbye to our temporal place of accomplishment and descended carefully back down the warming gully. Returning to our skis at the base of the climb we were ecstatic to ski down the great couloir we booted up on the way to our successful summit bid. Skiing back to the car with the great peak in our rearview we couldn't help but smile at the great company, skiing and climbing we experienced throughout the day.
Everything in One - January 2022
Some ski lines are just different, whether that be the access, difficulty, or technicality in order to stand atop these great lines. This line, tucked in a basin guarded by a massive frozen waterfall was as exciting of a day in the backcountry you could have. Starting in the dark and ascending the 125' ice flow we topped out just as the skies began to clear and reveal us the beautiful Hyalite Canyon in all her glory. A speedy skin granted us access to the edge of the basin where our line lay hidden, tucked deep within a beveled notch of mountainous rocky choss. We decided to attack this line top down, as the large wind loaded slopes below posed a greater danger, so we gained the nearby ridge line that would take us to the summit. Watching Adam, pictured right, descend the steep slope and brave the first few jump turns we both knew that the snow was in perfect condition. Linking turns in the great couloir was a dream come true, and as we safely exited the chute into the great apron I couldn't help but look back and smile at the amazing opportunities nature provides for us in our own backyard.
Not taking yourself to seriously – November 2021
The seriousness of outdoor sports nowadays is a glaring and ever increasing sign of climbers, skiers, and mountaineers taking themselves too seriously. I mean this in the lightest of ways, as these activities are truly dangerous and could be deadly if not taken seriously. What I am confronting is the egotistical self-centered view of oneself in the outdoors that many athletes are choosing to portray these days. Reflecting this toxic behavior outwards and going as far as basing another persons worth on the number of flips and spins they can do off a ski jump is a sickening and ever increasing norm in outdoor sports. The true freedom and appreciation for the natural world seems to be lost in the pursuit of sport, grade/difficulty, and self glory while playing in these outdoor spaces. Maybe all I am trying to say is don't forget why you go out and enjoy these activities in nature and don't forget the humility it takes to truly take a step back and enjoy these beautiful places and the amazing memories you make journeying into them.
Fall and Global Warming – November 2021
Once temperatures begin dropping here in Montana eager climbers begin the waiting game of conditions aligning to freeze waterfalls, and therefore get some early season ice climbing in before the true winter ramps up. But with the affects of our warming planet staring us blankly in the face we are noticing these irregularities more frequently–typically ice has formed by November, but with temperatures 2-5 degrees warmer than average the flows haven't had the chance to freeze. The global climate crisis is here and now, and it's up to us to live our everyday lives more concisely with our planet in mind. These changes are happening now and they are happening in our very own backyard, with warming temperatures and seasonal irregularities becoming the norm, I fear for our planet as it is crying out begging for us to listen.
Winter uploading...... – November 2021
Seeking out early winter snow in the Absaroka Mountain Range, me and my climbing partner ventured high into the rocky hills for some of Montanas deepest snow (at the moment). The climb meandered past multiple ice flows beginning to form along with an incredible lake with a few inches of clear ice along its shores. Then the fun began; we began crossing over minefields of boulders that the snow precariously covered just enough to make the route finding slow and difficult. Once across the boulder fields we ascended a fantastic ridge that offered exposed scrambling in a beautiful setting high above the alpine lake. A short down climb through a small gully brought us to the base of the snowfield on the southern shoulder of our summit objective. With tiresome post-holing in waste deep snow up the slope we noticed the the sun beginning to sit low in the sky and we new our time was dwindling. Passing a gendarme along the summit ridge gave us access to the final summit dome and views into the great wilderness of the Beartooth/Absarokas, along with clear views of Bozeman's 5 major mountain ranges. With the sun beginning to set we knew we had to move fast to descend the great peak and not get lost in the dark, so we opted for a different descent route down a ridge leading south and were delighted to be back at the boulder field much sooner than anticipated. A few minor exposed traverses later and we were at the foot of the lake right as night fell. Once back at the car relief and happiness rushed through us as a long and rewarding day in the mountains is always capped off with life and limb safely back at the trailhead.
The Calm Before the Storm – October 2021
Ushering in a changing of seasons here in Northwestern Montana evokes a number of different emotions. The fall colors create jaw-dropping landscapes, but one can't forget the ever daunting truth that winter is near. Lurking behind these golden larches in Glacier National Park lies the truth, snow is beginning to fall in the mountains and climbers, skiers, and winter enthusiasts alike eagerly await our mountainous landscapes transition to white. For now, the colors continually captivate and remind us that our natural world is so incredibly beautiful and full of changes and surprises around every bend.
26 Hours in Glacier – September 2021
Beginning from a trailhead with ambitions of a 24+ hour effort is incredibly daunting, much-less when it includes; creek fordings, a haenous bushwack, 20+ difficult miles, and a technical climb up a sedimentary beast of a mountain. Yet when me and my climbing partner, Adam Cazell departed for a full-fledged adventure to one of Glacier Parks hardest and most picturesque summits, Mount Saint Nicholas, deep in the heart of the Park we couldn't even see the damn thing, it was the middle of the night. Starting our climb at 11pm we managed to cover all our trail miles and creek crossings before pre-dawn, a huge accomplishment as we were hauling-ass through the darkness (probably due to the large beasts it shrouded). Standing far below the great basin of Nick we knew our work was cut out for us as a 'enlightening' bushwhack through a burn path and fire swamp stood between us and the great talus slopes of the peak. Finding ourselves somehow unscathed on the upper end the schwack' we began up the moonlit slope of talus (due to a dead headlamp) that would lead us to the great ridge of the mountain, and as we inched closer and eventually crested the great ridge a heroic sunrise greeted us. The sunrise burned passionately in shades of red, orange, and magenta contrasting the jutting summits towards the seldom-visited eastern bend of Glacier Park. 12 hours in, with the silly-ness of the bushwhack and creek crossings behind us we finally would begin climbing the spectacular peak; and with the howl of the Great Notch dropping our internal temps we racked up rock-protection for what lay above us, 1,000 of technical sedimentary rock, ready to break at any moment to the wrong pull of an unfortunate chalked hand. With the overhanging crux of the climb beginning out of the Notch the only true difficulty was cruised by both Adam on lead, and me in tote behind. With a handful of intermittently difficult moves along the way the climbing eased as we angled eastwardly, moving up the north-east ridge, battling the rope drag of the ledgy route. As I climbed the last pitch a great pilot whipped a small farm-plane around the great face of Nick, curving along its great fin, and along the way, passing us en-route. Unroping for the final hundred feet we scrambled our way to victory and rejoiced with deep whoops and hollars into the great empty basin below as we stood atop Mount Saint Nicholas. A moving moment as the fall wind whipped against my cheeks and me and my friend, Adam stood atop something we dreamed of climbing for decades, alone in the Glacier wilderness, exactly how it was suppose to be.
The sobering thought began creeping into our minds as we signed and perused the summit register, housing the names and notes of the past years sumitters; and then Adam said it aloud:
"Were only half way there"
As the goal of this objective was to bypass the typical 2-3 day climb of the peak and push the entire climb out in one effort. And as we spotted our vehicles, almost out of sight, at the other end of the forested valley, we knew our work had just begun. Carefully rapelling off the great Nick we were fortunate to not have any issues with ropes getting stuck and were back at the Great Notch, 4 hours from when we started up it. 16 hours into the climb, our descent down the slopes of St. Nick began, and with each step painfully reminding us that our feet and quads were not in favor of going down, we marched and traversed our way to the base of the treacherous bushwhack a few hours left before the sky would once again turn to night. Sweat poured into the rims of my glasses, blinding my efforts through the overhead bush and downfall of the fire path that seemed much more pleasant at night when we ascended through it. I pushed, hopped, backtracked, and thrashed my way back to the creek, ten pounds of pine needles now in any open pocket.
"There's 26 hours in a day right?"
Laughed Adam, as we grunted our way through the blackened trail, spooked by the slightest movement around us, our goal of climbing Saint Nick in under 24 hours now slipping away–yet the teamwork for such an effort along with the beautiful experience we pushed ourselves through was more important than goals set before the epic adventure we now had almost completed. Not worrying about time or anything but getting back to our cars we put our heads down and hurt––but the slower we moved through the night the more dangerous, for the grizzlies of Glacier don't rest when the sun does. Finally reaching the final fording of the Middle Fork we were relieved to be wading through thigh-deep icy cold water, for this meant our cars were on the other side of the train tracks. Hour 26, we arrive back at our vehicles, tired, dehydrated, and flat out beat–yet something was different than when we first left, we were now carrying the joy of having summited the great Mount Saint Nicholas, and in one push; it was safe to say we were satisfied. Yet only one thought occupied my mind, what's next? With the triumph of the climb my mind raced with what's next, what's bigger, and what can't we do in the great mountains around us?
Into the Desert We Go! – September 2021
The allure of Utah's southwestern desert draws climbers to its magnificent and plentiful sandstone walls that provide the spectacular color palette of the orange and red desert landscape. Numerous areas attracted me and my climbing partner Zach as we approached the town of Moab (a hub for climbers, and adventurers alike) first of which being the spectacular Fisher Towers, seen right. The area compromised the most stand-alone mud-encircled I have ever seen with my own eyes, it was truly a spectacular sight as a 4x4 mile area was home to a lifetime of sandstone tower climbing. Adjusting to the soft and somewhat frightening climbing of the hard-pressed mud that comprised this tower was an incredible experience, chock full of ran-out, gearless climbing topped off with an overhung crux with the desert floor far below your heels as you traversed below the mushroom head of the tower. I let out an incredible and shrill yell as I topped out the great tower, that to my disbelief I now stood atop of. The incredible moments experienced at the Towers, along with the rest of the adventure throughout Utah were incredible and will be another great memory of friends, fast times, and of course great climbing.
Golden hour on top of Glacier Park – August 2021
Pushing personal boundaries in Glacier National Park while climbing up it's spectacular high peaks usually leads to epic moments. This one in particular was a sunset summit that me and my climbing partner, Andrew, topped out to conclude our three-summit day––and not a second too soon as these beautiful mountain goats 'posed' for a moment, took in the view, and headed on there way. Gazing into the golden rays of the setting sun we said goodbye to our temporal wild setting atop one of Glaciers most scenic summits and as ran down its ridge line we continually rejoiced and took in the moment as the sun set on the winding trail leading back to our cars.
The places that make us feel whole – July 2021
Few wild places feel like they welcome you with open arms––to me, Glacier Park is one of these places. The summit-spotted skyline of Glacier National Park is as spectacular as the first time I explored the Park more than two decades prior. Sharing this beautiful place with good friends is one of the most heart-warming feelings especially when exploring with first-timers! As I reminisce on the first time I saw the spectacular lakes, trails, waterfalls, and mountains of the areas we explored I could only wonder what my friends thought of the magnificent splendor that was a small taste of Glacier Park. The deep green of the forested valleys contrasting the Glaciated slopes of the high peaks makes Glacier one of the most memorable places I have personally explored. Calling this Park home comes with a high level of expectation for how the beautiful area should be treated by oneself–as someone who cares so deeply about Glacier I hope to set a good standard for how to treat and respect Glacier so that we can enjoy The Park for generations to come. Leave no trace principals, along with general respect for all that Glacier is requires constant remembrance of being a guest in the wild that is The Park. So get out and explore something beautiful today, responsibly :)
Beartooth Mountain Range Ski – June 2021
As the great Beartooth Mountain range came closer and closer into view, the energy from within my Toyota Corolla became amplified as me and my friends prepare for the best skiing the summer has to offer! The Beartooth Basin summer ski resort would be our final destination, and as we geared up in our t-shirts and shorts we knew it was about to be an amazing day. Gingerly stepping atop the massive cornice that guards the basin I prepared myself for the magic to happen, and with camera in hand, that's exactly what ensued. Chris Bodine, pictured right, takes no time to warm up as he throws a huge backflip to get things started! An amazing place with even more amazing people made this trip to the Beartooth's one to remember.
From the Summit of Mount Hood at Sunrise – May 2021
To some, a departure time of 12 o’clock midnight to begin climbing a mountain may seem completely bonkers but to an eager mountaineer with aspirations for a summit sunrise it seems absolutely perfect. Standing alone, the trailhead became illuminated by the stars and the great Mount Hood beckoned for my ascent. I geared up and began the assault up the frozen snow slopes, leaving the comfort and safety of the trailhead behind. As the night began to turn to morning a full moon began to illuminate the southern slopes of the great volcano lending a great deal of light to its steep upper ridges as I climbed through the night. As the climb began to steepen I traversed the great Hogsback and began climbing the prominent snow covered arete toward the bergschrund crossing that would be the crux of the climb. Cold, unwelcoming, and unforgiving are the few words a climber can come up with to describe looking down a Glacial crevasse. Once safely across the bergschrund the final snow and ice gully through the Pearly Gates came into view, opting to take the left variation I ascended the moderate ice gully packed with crystalline névé snow forming on either side to comprise an especially aesthetic climb to reach the crater rim. Emotions began flooding inside of me as the final summit crest was impeccably beautiful. Views of great Cascade mountains such as Adams, Jefferson, and St. Helens dominated the mostly flat plateau of Oregon and Washington. After 30 minutes the Western skies began burning hues of fiery reds and oranges and the first sight of sunrise began to shine on the great Columbia River, then to the incredible glaciated Northern side of Mount Hood. The 360 degree views were almost unbearably beautiful as the first light cast the most incredible shadow of the great pyramid that is Mount Hood on its eastern flanks. As I sat and admired the beautiful glaciated scenery around me I felt as if me and the mountain were one as it allowed me safe passage to it’s summit and greeted me with open arms to share this beautiful place. The incomparable feeling of sunrise atop a great cascade volcano is one of those moments in life where words truly can’t comprehend the pure feelings felt in that moment, so I won’t bother trying to explain it here, rather my photos can explain what words cannot.
Loving the Mountains – May 2021
I fell in love with the mountains, they stand as a gatekeeper between dreams and reality, a roadblock that with persistence, unknown outcomes far from what we thought possible can be achieved.
Not everyone has the access or capability to summit 8,000-meter peaks or run ultra marathons yet everyone truly can climb their own mountains and immerse themselves into a world of the unknown, a world where we can achieve what we thought to be impossible. No matter how small or your insignificant personal goals may seem to others-it’s a known fact we all have our own levels of doubt and fear that we can push through to become stronger individuals. This is how you can find yourself, this is how I found myself, thankful to be awestruck by the power and sheer beauty of the mountains.
We can't get enough of this spring Weather! – May 2021
When spring really sets in, and I mean really sets in, like full on green everywhere with blooming plants everywhere and birds chirping, you really can't appreciate the small window of the spring season here in Montana, and so we did exactly what any other member of the Southwest climbing community would do, we climbed! And we had an absolute blast doing it, pictured right is Brock Rugg, enjoying the final pitch of one of the best moderate multi-pitch trad climbs Montana has to offer. The temps finally rose to above 75 and we couldn't get enough of it!
Spring powder cannot be passed Up – April 2021
April powder must be taken advantage of. No if, ands, or buts! Rumors of 6+ inches of cold smoke powder near Big Sky had me and my friends geared up and ready to rock and roll the night before the storm. The next day, the view from the cracked windshield of the snow-covered peaks we were planning on skiing took our collective breath away. The skin in flew by as we found ourselves choosing from an array of spectacular chutes, cliffs, faces, and most of all untracked snow once we reached the basin. We couldn't help ourselves and took multiple lines before heading back to the car, and as me and my friends smiled and marveled at the great day we appreciated the increasing stability in the snowpack after a deadly year. Hi-fiving with everyone you left with at the beginning of the day is the best part about being out in the mountains!
Scratching that early-season rock climbing Itch – March 2021
Luckily for anxious climbers, South-facing walls exposed to spring sunshine are dry enough for pre-season crag days. Blake Bergerhoff, pictured right, can't get enough of this beautiful crack in Pipestone climbing area near Butte, Montana. As a group we climbed multiple routes, and explored the area for future projects! The excitement was in the air as all climbers topped out four different routes and shook the dust off, preparing for a great summer climbing season ahead. As the sun began to shade our precious wall we had to call it quits and as we took in the last of the views we couldn't help but appreciate the first sunny spring day here in Montana.
A day in the Glorious Backcountry – February 2021
Few things can truly satisfy a skier like a day touring through the beautiful mountains of Montanas backcountry. Hans Schulze, (pictured right) and I set out into Hyalite canyon on a morning fueled by a thick snowstorm that began clearing up once we entered the mountainous basin. The ski day consisted of low-angle terrain as the avalanche danger was heightened and we wanted to play it safe. The recent snow and bluebird conditions granted us an amazing day in some deep powder--the solitude of the mountains was appreciated and welcoming as we found ourselves basking in the glory of countless snow covered peaks.
Backcountry Ski Jump Session – January 2021
Whenever you get a large group of people barbecuing and hitting a ski booter in the same place, you know your in for a great day! That's exactly what me and my friends did as we took advantage of the beautiful sunny January day in the Montana Backcountry. Backflips, frontflips, sideflips, corks, spins, butters, grabs, and a plentiful amount of crashes made this session a 110% success in my book. As we all smiled watching the sun set, we couldn't help but laugh at the battlefield carnage of bomb-holes below the jump left from the great day of sending here in Montana!
Late season or early season Rock Climbing? December 2020
When temps don't drop low enough for ice to freeze, or winter weather storms seemingly pass up your home mountains, the only thing a climber could think to do to pass a beautiful Saturday was climb our local crag, Practice Rock, here in Montana. The ledges, snowy, the cracks, cold, our spirits... higher than ever! Frank Dean, pictured right, leads a classic route up the North face of some of Southwest Montanas finest granite rock. The day started and ended quicker than anticipated, due to shorter amounts of daylight, and as we left for the hike down we couldn't help but wonder if the winter season was ever on its way!
California Roadtrip Forever! – November 2020
Peering through the darkened night, we questioned whether the great Yosemite valley would be viewable at such a late hour—our answer came from the darkness in the form of a resounding ‘holy shit’. Once passing through an everlasting tunnel we were met by the incomprehensible sights of the high and mighty El Capitan-and the rest of the Yosemite Valley. The stars shone bright, and with time we adjusted to the darkness and could make out the distinct formations within the Yosemite Valley such as the stunning Cathedrals, and everyones favorite; Half Dome. As if living in a dream, we prepared our camp to the East of the Valley and tried to catch some unwarranted shut-eye, as the next days adventure included climbing in Yosemite which was at the forefront of our minds. Closing our eyes for what seemed like a second we awoke suddenly before the sunrise and began our morning at the base of El Capitan, having breakfast with nothing but sheer granite to sit back and admire. As we journeyed to the face of the El Capitan wall we knew we had to scramble up the world renown route- “The Nose” and experience what all the climbing legends had before us. After beginning the base of the route I understood how much of a feat the great climb would be and vowed to be back someday to finish it.
Red Rocks Rock Climbing – October 2020
Climbing in the Nevada desert had to be on of the most different experiences in climbing comparative to my background of climbing in the West. The sand stone proved spectacular as we warmed up with more mellow multi-pitch trad routes and worked our way up to climbing the monstrous Black Velvet peak at 13 pitches of roped up climbing. After battling with the crux chimneys of the climb we topped out and couldn't be more proud of the undertaking we pushed through out in the dry Nevada desert.
The Grand Teton – September 2021
Nothing really brings home celebrating another year around the earth than by climbing one of the US's most beautiful mountains, the Grand Teton. As we left for a monstrous single day of hiking to the Grand Teton saddle and then climbing 6-8 roped up pitches of technical rock climbing I knew it was going to be a big day. The entire day lived up to the glory that The Grand deserves. After a grueling 16-hour push we were greeted with numerous stacks of pizza and beer to wash down the serenity the beautiful climb that the Grand had taught us.
Wind River Range, Cirque of the Towers – August 2020
Day 2 - Climb Pingora
I woke up to two separate alarms, both reading 6:00 AM; it was time to get after it. The striking view of Warbonnet Peak along with the large faces of Warrior 1 and 2 were captivating. I was frozen in place studying their faces, while the the kiss of the morning sunrise warmed the icy mountain tops
A class 3 scramble to reach the base of the great peak would go smoothly as gear dangled from every loop on our harnesses, the jingling was the only sounds heard at 10,000’ feet in the waking moments of the morning. After navigating through the lower shelf we moved to the loose gully that would lead us to accessing the ridge line of the Southern Buttress of the great Pingora Peak, stands almost 12 thousand feet above sea levevl. The massive granite slab acting as a red carpet stood between us and the base of the left facing Dihedral to the beginning of the climb. The great crack system resulted in some great stemming and hand/foot jams to advance through the first 80’ pitch of the climb. The next pitch would be our last stop before the beautiful K Cracks, the stunning crack system viewable from our camp. Moving through the wide gully that reached the base of the cracks went very smoothly. I began pondering wanting to lead the Crux Pitch of the K cracks, but before I could say anything, Blake, one of my partners assured me that I would be able to send the climb and that it was mine to lead. Before I could syke myself out I answered with a confident, “Yes.” Nerves raced through every inch of my body as the massive wall stood between me and my goal, with nothing but a crack in the massive granite face to advance myself to the top. Mind racing, heart pounding I touched the crystalline wall and everything became clear; my mind left the negative thoughts below–climbing as if I was one with the mountain. Blood oozed from my knuckles from a cut in my hand as I maneuvered up the leaning crack, using friction as a foothold for the leg that wasn’t lodged in the granite. My hands moved smoothly, swimming up the granite, placing protection in sections that would be possible to hold a fall if I was to make a mistake. Once reaching the top of the pitch I looked away from the wall to the stunning landscape that captivated all 360 degrees laid out around me. A glacial tarn sat smoothly below the jagged ridgeline separating Pingora Peak from the Watchtower. it took my breath away as I stood atop the great pitch that was sent.
Once my climbing partners met me at the top of the pitch, we rejoiced with enthusiasm as we moved up the side of the mountain to scramble the last 100’ to the summit. The summit atop the broken granite blocks that make up the top of the great Pingora Peak stamding at an impressive 11,884 feet. It created a great moment of clarity as the Views of the Cirque and it’s beautiful summits, guarded by vertical faces of granite, coupled with glassy lakes sitting high alone in the alpine at the bases of these peaks standing before me, the moment felt like a dream. A sense of happiness and sadness always overwhelms me while atop mountains, on one hand the views and experience are captivated by the dramatic landscape from above, and on the other hand, the temporal feelings only can last for so long, as the goodbye retreat from the summit is always the hardest goodbye, yet the rejoice of only having the feeling and views from a summit are singular-only lastingfor a moment-possibly what makes them so special.
ROPE!! Yelled Blake, as the blue strands flew down the vertical wall in order to begin our descent off the mountain, making three long rappels to reach the base of the granite saddle that brought us to the base of the great peak we started up much earlier in the day. Once reaching camp safely we laid in the soft grass and admired the great summit we stood atop earlier in the morning.
Day 3 Climb Wolfs Head
Awakened by a cool breath of wind grazing past my face, I took in the scenery and blinked continuously until the outlines of the Cirques summits stood clear, standing above me. Our objective was the Wolf's Head, lying at the north end of the Cirque, guarded by a broken ridge line that would entail multiple “no fall” scenarios. The route was home to many dangerous points that would result in serious consequences if a mistake were to occur. We began moving through the morning dew to reach the base of Tiger Tower, a pit stop on the way to the Wolfs Head, we began our scramble up a western facing gully dividing Pingora and Tiger Tower. Loose rock and exposure woke us up immediately as I found myself traversing across a extremely exposed slab with no hand or feet holds, relying only on the friction of my hiking shoes and the rock, imminent death sitting at bay below me as the mountain face would likely claim me if a fall would occur. Moving through the hairy section we regained the gully, picking and choosing our route carefully as we traversed the face and reached the summit of Tiger Tower as the sun began to ignite the ridge line of Wolfs Head. Rappelling off Tiger tower and following the connected ridgeline we racked up and switched to the climbing shoes before climbing the majestic vertical shooting ridgeline. To gain the base of the mountain, a pizza-box-wide ramp at 30 degrees must be passed, nothing but exposure on each of our sides while crossing (the ground sat 1,000’+ below). Rhythmic breathing took hold as the ramp was passed. Pitch one and two gained the large NE ridgeline as we moved through two beautiful crack systems to reach the top of the ridge line and the real climb–Maneuvering up, over, and through the massive granite tower blocks between us and the Summit of Wolfs Head. Exposed climbing would be an understatement to describe this route, as we found ourselves on many delicate hand and foot traverses along the ridge. Pitch three was an exposed down climb to a ledge that would lead to a massive offwidthy’ break in the mountain, only pleasant if you were skinny! - As sideways was the only way you could even think of fitting through the route, as I grunted through the claustrophobic crack in the granite, I began feeling as if I was rebirthed by the earth once I was crawling out of the tight squeeze. The next three pitches were the best varied climbing terrain an adventurer could dream of. Starting with a crack spanning 50’ across a blank face with no hand holds, only a toe-deep crack that you must shimmy across, depending only on the tips of your toes. Halfway across the line in the granite I felt the intense exposure of the vertical face above and below me but didn’t dare look down. Instead I inched my way across the face and reached the ledge leading to the next pitch. The pitch started with a unique layback against a crack, followed by the opposite of the previous pitch-a hand traverse with no footholds, moving around a bulge in the ridgeline (with the same amount of exposure). With all the hard climbing behind us we took in the less-seen views of the completely vertical north side of wolfs head as we led a final ledged traverse pitch. The “crown” of a summit block was the final scramble to the incredible summit of Wolfs Head, standing proudly at 12,165 Feet. Sitting atop its windy summit with only jaw dropping views to occupy our minds as we sat in silence. A sense of clarity is felt atop a beautiful summit, carrying the feelings of appreciation to have been lucky enough to have rejoiced atop such a spectacular high point.
Rappelling off the backside of the mountain, we embraced the whipping wind as we moved smoothly over the extreme terrain–after 6 separate rappels we reached the top of the col separating the neighboring Overhanging Tower, and the tail of Wolfs Head. Moving through the loose terrain and living-room-sized boulders we eventually descended past the lake and made our way back to our camp in the meadow below. Continually taking in the views of the spectacular mountain summits we had the privilege to sit atop. As we celebrated with dates, pineapple, and couscous we sat under the stars, falling into a deep sleep below the summers best meteor shower. Life doesn’t get any better than enjoying the sights of mountains you have stood atop, illuminated by the stars-simplicity in its finest form, just the way I like it.
Absaroka Range – July 2020
Bracing the 5 am Absaroka Mountain Range Alpine chill we emerged from our tent, currently sitting high atop a cliff with the beautiful Elbow Lake sitting below–we observed the great granite spire of Mount Cowen we would be attempting to climb this morning. As we headed North towards the base of the summit we hopped through the large boulder field and infinite stream crossings to reach the substantial granite scree field that would take us to the basin below Mount Cowen. Once in the basin, two majestically laid tarns sat high above the alpine granite cliffs surrounding them. As the cirque became illuminated with morning light, the jagged granite points lit up as the magnificence of Mount Cowen showed in the shadows illuminating the opposing peaks we looked across and admired. The scramble up the South face felt as though me and my partner, Frank, moved as one; flowing up the steep face, electing to take the most aesthetic line possible to reach the beginning of the technical climbing. Once attached at both ends to the blue rope that would protect our lives we began choosing our way up the broken granite blocks that encompassed the ridgeline of Mount Cowen, placing gear but relying mostly on the confidence in ourselves as we navigated the exposed face. Once the summit ridge was reached a number of false summit ‘fins’ were navigated to reach the crux of the climb-a layback dihedral that would grant us access to the majestic summit block. The climbing went smoothly and the summit of the spectacular Mount Cowen (11,206’) was breathtaking as me and my climbing partner rejoiced with energetic enthusiasm to be in such a breathtaking moment! High jagged peaks stood near as tooth-like spires stood in the distance, while the beautiful tarns and Elbow Lake lay solemnly below the base of the granite masterpiece we stood atop. The moment seemed only to last an instant, but as I took my last 360 degree view of the summit and said goodbye to the beautiful instant we were in I embraced it and grinned as I rappelled off summit to reach more manageable terrain below. As we descended the loose gully back to the snow and shimmering tarns we looked back to take in the views of the amazing summit we stood atop hours before, thankful to the mountain for safe passage and an incredible experience. Returning to camp and packing up we took in the last views of the striking area we had the privilege to explore-as we descended the trail the weight on our backs seemed miniscule, as the accomplishment of completing our objective made us feel weightless in the afternoon heat.
Glacier National Park – July 2020
The heat was hot enough to smell as the igneous shale rock clambered beneath us as we moved through the Glacial Snow and rock field in our ski boots. We had set out earlier in the day, skis clinging to our backpacks, in search of summer ski turns. Traveling through Glacier National Park, our hidden ski lines were harbored deep within the Parks backcountry, our secret destination for summer corn snow. Massive jutting peaks stood guard, towering over us as we set up base camp in a Glacial Cirque with a gentle pond at its base. Taking in the 360 views of awe-inspiring mountains throughout Glacier Park we began picking and choosing of the snow filled lines that sat above us on cliff bands-guarded from the summer sun. Once the sun began to turn golden we took turns throwing backflips off a perfectly constructed jump-With each leap of faith we found ourselves totally lost in the moments of peace and focus as we enjoyed the setting sun over our dream of a jump. As the sun set on a spectacular day full of smiles and gratitude, we took in the snow covered peaks that surrounded us, almost closterphobicly, as they stood at every angle around us.
Lost River Range – May 2020
Attempting my first ever snow-capped 12,000’ Summit in the Lost River Range was the Memorial Day weekend objective. Steel butterflies moved loosely from within my stomach as we approached, and finally got our first look at Mount Donaldson-a massive rock amphitheater, with a summit block that loomed over us from far below the snow-covered cirque we sat below. The level of uncertainty and nervousness built from within as we trudged forward through the day. The uncertainty of pushing through my limits scared me, yet simultaneously propelled me forward throughout the climb, pushing myself to my absolute boundaries of what I thought possible. Upon reaching the summit my mind raced, my boundaries had been pushed to their limits, I had achieved the unachievable, taking what I thought was possible for myself and crushing the uncertainty that started up the mountain with me earlier that day.
Glacier National Park – June 2020
From the beginning, my love of the mountains has always been centered around Glacier National Park, and how could it not? Rolling valleys cut by rushing streams, to the highest reaches of shale summits guarded by walls up to 3,000' high, Glacier is a climbers paradise. I am constantly reminded of how every summit has a different meaning and beauty. As I set out from Marias Pass, an area I hadn't previously explored, my ambitions were high as I eyed the East face of the summit that sat before me. Traveling through the beautifully cut Continental Divide Trail, I reached a point where I had to say goodbye to the trail and hello to the dense brush separating me from the base of the 8,600'+ Mountain. Upon reaching the scree tongue, I tied my laces tight to traverse and ascend the shale face. Stemming, moving, and grooving up the walls I fell into a melodic groove making my way up the face. After a somewhat dicey traverse to the Ridgeline and I began moving quickly towards the summit cairn which was finally in view. As I took in the Bob Ross-type painting that lay before my eyes, I appreciated the solidarity and hard work it took to reach this point. As my eyes fell east, the Ridgeline from the bottom of the saddle cut perfectly up to a second Summit that would focus the remaining energy I had left. Cutting below large faces and steep exposures, I made my way through multiple false summits before reaching the summit of Summit Mountain-- a clever name, right? The summit views completely took my breath away, in an effort to try and see as much as possible, I made myself comfortable and enjoyed a long lunch break atop the astounding peak. It was such a moving landscape that felt close enough that you could touch it, even when the nearest mountain was at least 10 miles away. Saying goodbye is always the hardest part. Dismal weather headed in my direction and forced me off the summit, down the scree field, and ultimately back to the trail where I finally looked back North and admired the majestic summits I had stoop atop earlier in the day.
Lake Koocanusa – June 2020
Traveling towards Canada from Northwest Montana there lies a stunning reservoir, stretching for tens of miles through the alpine beauty of Montana. On this picturesque lake holds a local crag, sporting some of the best single pitch, sport, and trad climbing for hundreds of miles. Upon reaching the area, the number of routes astonished me; I felt like a kid in a candy store picking and choosing the first route to advance. Wonderfully bolted routes atop a high platform would take our focus for the morning, as we stemmed and crimped our way up the granite walls. Moving towards some smooth crack climbing, we found ourselves greeted by our worst enemy-- rain. We climbed as long as it made sense before we retreated from the downpour to regroup. A water break and lunch would prove to be the perfect amount of time before the sun would come back and dry all the walls to perfect condition. We eyed the classic route from the area, “A Room With a View” and set out to enter this room and enjoy the beautifully overhanging 40’ route right above the reservoir. Multiple car-sized overhangs stood between me and the top chains, as the movements began linking perfectly together I flowed up the beautiful route until I reached the bedroom-sized rock block where the route became very exciting. Taking in the views and gaining my breath I reached with all my might to catch the corner overhanging the route, and with a deep breath I was in the unknown completely exposed with nothing below me for 40 feet, I readjusted my feet and knew I had just completed the hardest part of the beautiful route. Followed by my close friends we were ecstatic to all have sent the wonderful route. So we did what any other climber would do and hit the rope swing on the way out, and enjoyed the warm summer water greeting our likeminded happiness for the days sends.
Tobacco Root Mountains – May 2020
If you have ever traveled to Yellowstone National Park there is a chance you have seen the beautiful Tobacco Root Mountains, and the small town sign of “Pony, MT”-- both I would come to find out, are a great hidden gem in the Southwest Montana Region of the Rockies. Traveling through Pony we were greeted by a picturesque mountain meadow, which would serve as the trailhead for our approach to a summit Ski of the range highpoint of Hollowtop Mountain, or so we thought. As we traveled upwards to the base of the Mountain a crystal clear alpine lake with a dark shade of blue greeted us as we finally had a view of the beautiful 10,000’ Peaks in the area. With inclement weather on the horizon, we had to make a choice, force the summit and abandon hopes of skiing, or ski a more southwardly high point that looked extremely promising. So we went with option B, as we had carried our skis all the way to the lake already. Armed with tenacity for type 2 fun, we bushwhacked our way through the downed forest until we finally reached the snowpack and began the skinning portion of our day. A massive rock cirque surrounded us, chock-full of summer lines begging to be skied. We picked the most hourglass-shaped chute and began the boot pack towards the top. As we crested over the ridgeline the surrounding drainages came into view-and they literally took my breath away, that and the 30 mph winds. Now the fun part would begin-- we strapped our boots tight and began to make the steep descent through the chute and began opening up our turns once the apron was reached, as we skied back to our shoes nothing but happiness and smiles occupied our minds as we made our way back to the alpine lake. The soft summer afternoon proved to be a delightful walk back to the trailhead. A wonderful gem of an adventure capped off with a Beer at the world-famous Pony Bar made this adventure perfect.