NEPAL

I've posted a large collection of photos below from a five-week solo trip I took to Nepal in fall 2016. This trip was all about covering ground, literally, but also internally. The intention I set for this trip was two-part: plan as little as possible and pursue the virtue of kindness. The physical style was definitely "fastpacking," with exceptions—meaning, I did walk pretty fast and pretty far each day, but not always, and my pack was really light.

My friend Andy Wellman inspired me to pursue this kind of trip over various conversations—instead of the climbing expedition I'd been planning. Since he's finishing his own walk from Lukla to Tumlingtar this week, I felt inspired to post briefly about it. Maybe the photos will inspire another friend in my life. Good things have circularity.

[Click on an image and it will open an un-cropped slideshow.] The progression of the photos goes like this: After flying from Colorado to Kathmandu through China, I flew up to Lukla in a Twin Otter. I first walked a high-elevation circuit around the Khumbu region, completing what is known as the Three Passes. Then, from Lukla, I walked east through the lush, mountainous, and remote hile region to the jungle outpost of Tumlingtar. From Tumlingtar, I continued walking east toward India, passing through the Makalu and Kanchenjunga regions, coming to within a few miles of West Bengal, India, outside of Taplejung. From Taplejung, I traveled by bus south via Ilam and then back west to Kathmandu and onto Pokhara. Lastly, outside of Pokhara, I spent a week at a yoga shala and then a day in Kathmandu. For the walking portion, I was 21 consecutive days on-trail without taking rest days, making about half the "expected" time for a walk like this.

UPHILL ATHLETE

I recently composed a number of interview-based stories about mountain athletes for Steve House and Scott Johnston's new online training and coaching portal www.uphillathlete.com. The stories come from inspiring indviduals and the new website is definitely worth checking out!


THE RESTLESS UPWARD WAVE

When I was 18, I visited Peru's most famous mountain range, the Cordillera Blanca, to test my mettle on its tall and difficult peaks. Six years later, that place still occupies my mind, like a restless upward wave. The following photos are from my first two days in the country. This particular journey was on foot, from the streets of Huaraz to the toe of Nevado Churup's ice slopes and back. While the goal was acclimatization, the walk itself—which is not short—became far more rewarding. I believe this roll of film was shot on cheap Kodak bought in the market. 

NORTH COUNTRY

Much of the world seems to migrate toward the equator during the shortest days of the year. Beaches and the excess of the holidays provide respite from the cold and dark. 

I tend to point the compass in the other direction this time of year. Something tells me the winter equinox is best spent in the very places it alters the most. This time, that place is the 51st parallel. Amazingly, the temperature is just as many degrees below zero. 

The north country is big country. Hours pass like miles from one town to the next. The roads are quiet and coated icy-white. This time of year the sun is only shy and half-awake. At its apogee it rarely crests above the high peaks for long.   

Most days are just another day. All you have to do is stay afloat. Get out of bed, eat, work, eat, sleep—repeat. In the north country, the difference is ever-present: you acutely know when a day will start and when it will end. The little daylight there is seems to cause a stir deep within: There's no time to waste. 

ON THE ROAD

My job at the American Alpine Club has taken me out of the office and on the road—a longtime dream realized. First stop: the Southwest. Next stop: the North. Get in touch if you have any wild plans.

Bouldering in Box Canyon, NM. Photo by Aly Nicklas

Bouldering in Box Canyon, NM. Photo by Aly Nicklas

STALKER

Time spent exploring the Indian Peaks paid off last week when JD Merritt and I were able to complete a long new ice climb on Peak 12,878’, which we called Stalker (1,100’, WI4 M5). It's not a very sustained climb overall but with some absolutely classic pitches and nearly a thousand feet of continuous ice it's a really special climb for Colorado's dry high peaks. I wrote a full account of the climb for the AAJ here

JD leading one of the money pitches. 

JD leading one of the money pitches. 

On the summit of Peak 12,878’

On the summit of Peak 12,878’

Phil Wortmann had hiked in with me to do the line on October 2. But due to an intense storm on the Divide we never geared up. 

Phil Wortmann had hiked in with me to do the line on October 2. But due to an intense storm on the Divide we never geared up. 


INDIAN PEAKS

I've spent the last month running, hiking, and doing easy climbs in the Indian Peaks to get fit for winter climbing season and scope out new climbs. The big draw lies in few people, ample remoteness, and getting to know a new—and outrageously overlooked—mountain zone. I wish I could take the camera every time out.  

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ANNAPURNA

This was one of my favorite AAJ feature stories to collaborate on and design for the 2014 book. We finally got around to sharing it online this week: http://on.fb.me/ZgipNa

At first, I felt my fair share of doubt about Steck's ascent and giving him the top feature space in the AAJ. Mostly, I think my irking came from concern that the huge onslaught of media attention was overshadowing all the groundbreaking "night naked" and solo alpine-style ascents that had occurred prior—a path, I felt, Steck was merely following in, not inventing. And, call me a purist, but I just don't like when climbs are held up on a podium to be judged against others'. Fuck that—right?

Needless to say, Dougald, Lindsay, and I all put months of thought into how to do this right, and, I have to say, this feature does an incredible job of addressing my concerns. So, I couldn't be more happy with the final outcome. Just imagine being alone amongst the white tentacles of Annapurna's sprawling south face...Is there anything more pure in climbing? Is there an act any more sublime?

SNOW'S A COMIN'

Cold temperatures and a lot of precipitation predicted for the coming week. Hoping it gives the mountains just "enough" to produce ephemeral masterpieces like this:

Erlk Wellborn coming up the first part of Tunnel Vision, RMNP, CO in May 2014. 

Erlk Wellborn coming up the first part of Tunnel Vision, RMNP, CO in May 2014. 

HIGH COUNTRY

The simplicity of the Colorado high country is unmatched in summer. I spend a lot of time in these mountains, but it's been great to take the focus off just climbing—running, backpacking, and traveling by foot with dog and girlfriend to new places and to discover new things.