September 1984: Jon Krakauer considers our retreat from the north face of the Eiger, an epic he skillfully described for Outside Magazine. We sat out three weeks of the wettest September since 1864 hoping the weather would improve. Eventually, we got on the route but snow conditions convinced us to descend from the base of the Second Icefield.
February 1985: John Stoddard at the top of Polar Circus in the Canadian Rockies. We climbed it with Monte Westlund in seven hours, despite the thermometer at the Rampart Creek Hostel reading –42 degrees C when we got in the car (which actually started) to drive to the route. It was an incredible day, and my first big ice route in the area. John died 8/15/05.
April 1985: John Stoddard below the 8th pitch of the Ham and Eggs couloir on the Moose’s Tooth in the Ruth Gorge. He’d just been hit in the face with a rock. We couldn’t tell how bad it was but decided to bail in case something was broken. We spent five days near the Mountain House before deeming the injury healed enough to attempt the Colton-Leach route on the Rooster Comb. There, we climbed 16 pitches, bivouacked, then John broke his ankle in an fall from the 17th (A2) pitch. The retreat was epic.
Summer 1985: Jonny Blitz on the tracks below the Index Lower Town Wall, where most of us either learned to climb or became climbers. Blitz was part of a crew that included Jon Nelson and Russell Erickson who left a mark on the area. They loved punk rock and rock climbing, and epic rope swings were popular with Russell in particular.
August 1985: Alan Bradley and I hiked up to the Leschaux Hut and tried to climb The Shroud. We started up too early, before it froze so we cowered under a sheltering rock for a while to see if temperatures improved. They didn’t and we scurried away. A few days later Alan soloed the north face of the Requin, saw God, and headed for home.
May 1986: Alison Hargreaves at Kangtega base camp in the Khumbu. After she died on K2 in 1995 our experience together reaching the summit of Kangtega was my strongest memory of her. Others found her too ambitious but this was a trait I knew well and encouraged. She was incredibly strong, and delightful to be around in the mountains.
February 1987: Jean-Michel Asselin (left) and Gian-Carlo Grassi discussing the day at the Premieres Journees de Glace in Gavarnie in the Pyrenees. It was the first ice climbing festival, and quite a success. A lot of heavy hitters turned up: Grassi, Renault, Noel-Roche, Bohigas and Lucas (who gave a slideshow about their new route on the south face of Annapurna), etc. Amazing. And a long drive from Chamonix. Grassi died in 1991.
February 1987: Bernard Domenech and Dominique Julien during the Premieres Journees de Glace at Gavarnie in the Pyrenees. Bernard was a supporter and friend who kept records of ascents all over the world for the Groupe de la Haute Montagne. Dominique organized the first ice festival and climbed the hardest routes of the era in Gavarnie (“Thanatos” and “Overdose”), both grade 6. Bernard died in 2008.
February 1987: I stopped in Chamonix on the way back from a winter attempt on the south pillar of Nuptse. The staff at Vertical Magazine suggested I attend the first ever ice climbing festival, the “Premieres Journées de Glaces” in the Cirque de Gavarnie. It was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. I rode with Jean-Noel Roche, his son Zebulon, Xavier Murillo in a full-size Toyota Land Cruiser. The event was crazy, wet, too warm for ice climbing but our energy was too high to be denied. When the Press asked me if soloing was too risky (I’d run up a WI5 and down-climbed a WI4) I replied as usual … “Not for me.”
Unfortunately, Xavier Murillo died July 1, 2011.
1987: During this period I worked at Wild Things in North Conway, New Hampshire. John Bouchard mentored me through some tough times and decisions, introduced me to paragliding and got me motivated to go back to the Himalayas. His eye for design was sharp, and his design genius unparalleled. I wanted to actually test the Altitude Suit in the meat locker – it being summer and all – but the butchers wouldn’t let us so we snapped a few pics and went on our way.
1987: John Bouchard (in the driver’s seat), Jimmy Surette, Scott Franklin, myself and Randy Rackcliff, aka the Wild Things Climbing Team. I have no idea how the grappling hook got in the picture.
June 1988: is when the photo was shot during the Giro d’Italia. Andy Hampsten is riding into cycling legend. He was prepared. His team was prepared and although he didn't win the stage he took over the race lead and held onto it to win the Giro. La Gazzetta dello Sport called the stage "The Day the Big Men Cried." And the hard men prevailed.
July 1988: Kevin Doyle in our base camp below Nanga Parbat. From “I Hurt Therefore I Am”: Some people chase pain harder than others, consciously or subconsciously. Some use it to inflate their sense of self-importance. Others test their will by working through it. Each of us has a threshold someplace short of serious harm. Kevin's different. His definition of pain is more highly evolved than ours. He's willing to hurt himself permanently to get what he wants. In a conversation about calories he told me that there is always something left to burn, “even if it's brain matter.” Kevin is, without question, the best I've ever seen.
July 1988: Ward Robinson in Karimabad during an acclimatization trip prior to our attempt on Nanga Parbat. We hiked into the Ultar Valley to look at the Boblimotin, aka Lady Finger with no intention of climbing it, and hoped to glimpse the scary-looking Ultar peaks.
September 1988: Snack break during the drive from Chengdu to Everest base camp. Looks like hard boiled eggs, dry bread, and cottonmouth.
September 1988: Below the north side of Everest. Escoffier model Julbo sunglasses and the original “Never Quit” ball cap, which I believe I made using a Sharpie in Nanga Parbat base camp earlier that season.
October 1988: Barry Blanchard in the “parking” camp on the north side of Everest where one may drive a truck to 15,800’. This was between attempts and the night before in the Wyoming Cowboys base camp featured beer (they were sponsored by Coors) and electric clippers.
October 1988: At Everest base camp in Tibet. It was the morning after an incredible party thrown by the “Cowboys on Everest” team. Too drunk to know better, someone broke out the electric clippers and a variety of haircuts were volunteered for and given.
October 1988: We picked up Susan in Everest base camp and gave her a ride back to Chengdu. On the way one of the truck drivers stuffed our ride into the ditch. There ensued quite the comedy to retrieve it. During our wait Susan showed the locals the tool we use to capture someone’s soul.
July 1989: Philippe Mohr cracking a beer at the Argentiere Hut. The next day we climbed the north face of the Col de la Verte to check out potential mixed lines on the northwest face of Les Droites and rehearse the descent route. I put this reconnaissance to good use a year later when Barry Blanchard and I made the first ascent of the “Richard Cranium Memorial” and had to descend in the dark. Philippe died on the Aiguille Sans Nom in January 1990.