Saturday, April 14, 2012


The trip didn't started auspiciously. We arrived in Talkeetna during a storm cycle. After waiting for the weather to improve we realized there was too much snow in the Tok for the plane to land and were forced to make new plans. Internet research found some alternatives; we decided to climb Mt. Johnson. As luck would have it the night before we left I picked up an Alpinist at TAT and on the last page was a picture of Jim Sweeny at Providence Hospital. Intrigued I read the article. It was entitled "Full Value" and told a story of survival. While attempting Mt Johnson he took a fall badly injuring himself. His femur is dislocated.  It started to avalanche, pummeling the crippled climbers. For eight days he survived while his partner dragged him towards safety. Avalanche after avalanche buried them. The gear was swept away. The were both dumped into a crevasse. Frozen, continually getting buried and with only one wet sleeping bag Jim laid on the glacier dying. His partner screamed in his face asking him if he wanted to die. If he didn't he had to fight for his life. The story ends by stating Jim was still climbing and still had no medical insurance. The next morning we flew out, however the story will stay with me.

A few days later it was my turn. Endless spindrift was funneling down the route. Rock and ice falling all around, exploding as they smashed into the wall. For hours we hid under a rock face unable to continue or retreat. As the sun moved the wall above us started to release. Avalanches arced over our head, thundering into the couloir we had just ascended.

Again the question is why? Why would someone chose this time and time again? The answer is different for everyone. Perhaps some don't have an answer. Your life simplified, finding stillness in chaos. The beauty of the simple things in life. Food, sleep, shelter; nothing else matters. The feeling of being truly alive, the satisfaction of pushing yourself to your limits, returning shattered and yet rejuvenated.  Some find this in religion, some in creating music or art, some in mediation, each in their individual way. Most of the world never finds this, living their life cluttered by their thoughts and emotions. Never finding their release. As my Australian friend once told me, "95% of the world never has a experienced a 'near life' situation." Perhaps someday I can find fulfillment in a less dangerous, less selfish way. Until then, I too will be climbing.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ptarmagain - Ski Tracks

At long last I was able to climb Ski Tracks on Saturday with Amos. I had been wanting to climb this route for a long time but had been denied twice so I was stoked to finally get it done. 

On my first ill fated attempt I went up with Marco in February 2011 but not knowing where to start we ended up way left of Ski Tracks on Catatonia. Unable to continue and with the temperature around zero we returned. 

Marco starting up - by John Giraldo

On rappel, if you follow the ropes you can just
see Marco - by John Giraldo

Frostbite! - by John Giraldo

My second attempt was with Jeff in October 2011 during a snowstorm. We managed to make it past 60 moose on the walk in while getting soaked by wet early season snow. After trundling a block on my chest I made it to the first anchor thoroughly soaked, it was here that we turned around. 

A very snowy P1 - by Jeff Wagner

Finally I headed back up, this time with Amos. The ski in was less than ideal, it was hard packed and at an angle but we managed to make it and posthole up to the start of the route. After about 8 hours of shredding we topped out in beautiful weather and then made exhilarating high speed glissades back to the skis. Great route and a fun day out!

The first snowfield - by John Giraldo

Sending - by John Giraldo

Simul climbing - by John Giraldo

The ginger and his granola - by John Giraldo

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ptarmagain - Three Headed Bitch 3-17-12

Headed up to Ptarmagain once again with the boys to do some cragging. Deep snow made upward progress tiring but soon enough we made it to the traverse ledge and were off.

Carl and Carl skinning to the ridge - by John Giraldo

Amos making the traverse - by Eddie Phay
With the objective of climbing Carl's Chockstone we rapped into the wall and I started up P3 (if coming up Mixed Inhibitions) to the base of the chockstone. Here we found an enormous snow mushroom had formed under the feature and decided it would be too dangerous to try to climb around it. 

Me starting up - by Eddie Phay

-by Eddie Phay

Eddie following on the crux section - by John Giraldo

After rapping back down to the ledge we looked around and Amos decided to give the left "splitter crack" variation(M8) of the Three Headed Bitch a try.

Amos, 3 years in the game and still relevant - by John Giraldo

Eddie on record mode - by John Giraldo

Myself, flailing upward - by Eddie Phay

After the reverse traverse we were back at the skis where we made various downward efforts dependent on our skill level. I could tell the snow was perfect as I slid and tumbled my way to the bottom.

The wall I have spent most my winter on - by Eddie Phay
Look at all that snow - by John Giraldo

He joined my in the tumbling effort - by John Giraldo

If you got time on your hands check out Eddies video. 6 mins in shows the skiers shredding, 7 mins in shows Eddie and I raiding Amos food bag and 27 mins in shows a very pumped John being shown how to top out. Good stuff

Vimeo Spring Day on Ptarmagain