I Summited Rainier

4 Sep
Summit of Rainier - August 12, 2014

Summit of Rainier – August 12, 2014

“14,000 ft!”

My friend, Mick called back to us as we crossed the upper reaches of the mountain.

This was it. This was the moment I’d been waiting over two years for.

It was 7:45 AM, we’d been climbing since 12:30, having rustled out of our tents under gray skies at 11:30 the night before.

My crampons dug into the snow, while my calves were trying and failing to bear the weight of my exhausted body. Every part screamed to stop and catch breath, as the summit ridge lay smothered in thick clouds. I was now at the highest elevation that I’d ever climbed, and the altitude made itself known, sucking out breath and energy as we walked by crevasses that fell into abyss-like depths. My pack, which was light, considering we had taken out the tents and cooking gear, felt like a ton-weight on my shoulders, bearing down on me with every step. I looked over my shoulder and in the break of the clouds, I could see the face of the mountain, bathed in a golden light from a partially obscured rising sun. I’d seen the sunrise on Rainier once before, but this time it was different. While in 2012, the sunrise over thick clouds was a forewarning of the storm we were about to run into, this time, it was hopeful and joyous, making us turn off our headlamps, and guiding to the long-awaited summit.

We climbed up a final steep snowbank, the spikes under our boots digging just millimeters into the thin ice and reached a plateau under a stony field of talus, that lead to the true summit. My companions forged ahead while I took an extra moment to regain my strength for the last 50-feet. Mick stayed with me and treaded behind as I began the exhausting climb up the ridge, my ice axe digging into the soft stones, as clouds enveloped the trail. I looked over to my left and in the break, I could make out the crater of this semi-active volcano, while the snow swirled all around us, coating my blue puffy jacket. As I got closer, I could see misty figures on the plateau, arms raised, cheering, beckoning me, and my eyes began to well. I heard the calls “C’mon Mike!”, “You got this!” and I stepped across onto the flat surface. My companions were cheering around me, I clutched my axe and felt a hand comfortably pat my back.

Then I began to cry.

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I’m A North Face Ambassador!

8 Aug


It started off with a mysterious e-mail.

I had been chosen between a handful of excellent bloggers as being an outdoor influencer. Someone who has an important voice in the community and lives an outdoor lifestyle that inspires exploration and challenge. The company that was seeking me to represent them is The North Face, one of the most respected brands in the outdoor industry, and the one that I have always admired, not only for their equipment, but for their expeditions, their films, and their athlete team.

I get to represent the company by writing reviews, trying gear, going to special events as a VIP Guest, holding contests, and continuing my work to inspire people to explore and go beyond limits. I get to be part of a team of runners, climbers, triathletes, and hikers as we document adventures through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more.

This is a significant moment in my writing career, as it’s a partner to my brand that I couldn’t be prouder to represent. I get to inspire a wider audience, I get to work with some great industry professionals, and I get to represent a brand that doesn’t only emphasize great outdoor-wear but the want to use it per their motto: Never Stop Exploring.

So I need to thank The North Face for this extraordinary opportunity and it’s time to get outside, starting with my trip back to Rainier this weekend.


Forbidden Remains Forbidden – But I Got To Climb Something Just As Spectacular

15 Jul
Forbidden Peak above the Boston Basin

Forbidden Peak above the Boston Basin

Where the hell is my ice axe?

That was my first reaction when I saw the empty slot on my pack. It was two AM, we had just come running down the glacier, past a treacherous snowfield of boulders and ice ready to let loose, and we were preparing to make our way up the couloir towards Forbidden Peak and in the moonlight making the ice glisten, I berated myself. The fact that I had failed to latch it properly had now condemned our summit attempt to not happening, and now we had a 2,000-foot climb back up the glacier to look for it. It was an amateur mistake and a tough lesson, especially considering that up until that moment, we had moved fast and efficiently. As we searched for options so that the trip wouldn’t be a total loss, our guide turned to an icy tower that loomed over the Quien Sabe Glacier, a hulking monolithic 1,000-foot granite wall called Sharkfin Tower.

It would turn out to be one of the best climbs I’d ever done.

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Breaking The Forbidden Ridge

12 Jul
Forbidden Peak - West Ridge is the entire left side

Forbidden Peak – West Ridge is the entire left side

Today I’m launching into the second part of my four-peak project. Forbidden Peak is one of the crown jewels of North Cascades National Park. An 8,000+ foot wall of ice and stone piercing the sky above the Boston Glacier. It’s everything that a great alpine ascent should be: a glacial approach, a moderate grade but wildly exposed rock climb, and one of the most dramatic summits in the entire state. If there was one mountain that I was excited to climb this year, this is it. Forbidden Peak differs from Rainier and Hood because it’s alpine rock over hiking up steep glaciers. It’s the kind of climb that I’d always imagined: wearing rock shoes instead of mountaineering boots, clawing my way across a thin knife ridge to a breathtaking summit, and doing so with the skills and lessons that I’d learned from years in the rock gym.

So why am I so stoked about this?

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My Love Affair With Type II Fun

24 Jun
Pushing up the Elliot Glacier on Mt. Hood

Pushing up the Elliot Glacier on Mt. Hood

The fun scale is a measurement of enjoyment during any adventure. For most adventurers, fun is broken into three types: Type I, Type II and Type III. It’s how much suffering that you feel before, during, or after the climb, run, or long range trek. The moment that when back at the house, winding down over beers, you look at your partner and say “That was the best day ever.” or “I hate you so much right now.”

The “Fun Scale”

  • Type I – Perfect weather, cruising up a gorgeous hand-crack, crushing that perfect boulder problem, hitting all the right waves, it’s the enjoyment in the moment that it’s happening. It’s all smiles and laughter from here.
  • Type II – Why the hell did we choose this line? It’s snowing, it’s cold, we’re out of Clif Bars, we have 500 feet to go for the summit, every muscle in my body is aching and we’re pulling over the final lip. Once we get to the summit we’re sipping from Nalgene bottles, melting snow to make a small pot of coffee and the sun is setting over the mountains in the distance. You know what? In retrospect that was actually enjoyable. In fact, I can already see the next peak I want to climb.
  • Type III – Why are we even out today?! We’re passing through an open field, I can see the lightning moving in on us, it’s too windy to pitch the tent, the food is soggy, and the route is a chossy, unclimbable mess of flakey rock. Yeah, this was your idea and it’s your fault we’re here. No fun whatsoever.

I get asked sometimes why I put up with the suffering, whether it’s on a peak, an exceptionally hard route, or recently, my newly  found interest in trail running. While we’ve all been through Type III, I’ve found that a majority of my excursions have fallen under Type II, where I’ll curse relentlessly and then look back and think “Maybe that actually wasn’t so bad.”

So how did I end up here?

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Reuniting Family In the National Parks

20 Jun


My parents and I at North Cascades National Park

My parents and I at North Cascades National Park

Admittedly, as a child, I had very little personal interest in the outdoors. It’s shocking to look back on but growing up, I was very much an introvert and a homebody. Until I was 11 years old, I was so used to creature comforts like electricity, hot food, and a warm bed. Looking back today it’s something that I cringe at and I’ve made it a personal goal that my children don’t grow up the same way. My parents though, were the ones who brought me out of my shell. From the time that I was less than a year old, they took us on a year-long road trip that brought us to the edge of the Grand Canyon, and the sandstone spires of Monument Valley. Although I was too young to understand, the outdoors has always been a huge influence on my upbringing. This past month I had the pleasure of having my parents visit me in Seattle. Among the culinary and cultural highlights of having them here, one of the best days was last Friday when I took them on a drive through the North Cascades. This is where I’ve grown up as a climber and an outdoorsman, so I was naturally excited to show them the very reason I moved to the Northwest. During that drive, as we drove through snowy passes, waterfalls, and soaring mountains, we were reminded first hand what a trip like this means to our family.

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Mt. Hood Trip Report: A Tough Lesson On Decisions

16 May
North face of Mt. Hood

North face of Mt. Hood

I wish that I could start the first post of my Four Peak Project on a triumphant note. While our time on the Elliot Glacier was beyond successful, and the education that we received there invaluable, there’s unfortunately been a tragic footnote to our story. About two days into our climb, our guides informed us that the temperature had increased to a level that the upper slopes were virtually unclimbable. We decided to stay in the lower Elliot glacier, practice rope maneuvers and ice climb frozen ice floes on the edge of the Cooper Spur. We left Mt. Hood on Monday afternoon and drove back to Seattle, only to learn that a climber from New Jersey had tragically fallen the next day. The accident has been described as having been under the same conditions that we were warned against: Too hot, slushy ice, and significant avalanche danger. In light of this event, while I will be covering the time that we spent there, I’d like to talk for a moment about one of the most significant aspects of climbing. Judgement and good decision making.

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