Wandering Writer: Chris Kalman

Growing up in the suburbs of northern Virginia, Chris Kalman was exposed to academia and team sports from a young age.  But by the time he reached high school, he discovered rock climbing, and was instantly hooked.  Always a deep thinker, the solitary process of combining fitness with problem solving appealed to him.  

But it wasn’t until Kalman moved out west after college, to work trail crew at Rocky Mountain National Park, that a new world of adventure and self-discovery emerged.

Since that time, Kalman has forged an adventurous, almost Kerouac-style path thru life. This quest has taken him from the technical granite test pieces of Index, WA, to the sweeping big walls of Cochamo in southern Chile.  But Chris’s search isn’t just about climbing. Rather, it’s a pursuit of self-examination, meaningful relationships with others, and a journey toward a deeper understanding of life.


Music

Evan Phillips


Links

Chris Kalman
Evan Phillips
Patreon

Sponsors

Alaska Rock Gym
Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria
The Hoarding Marmot
Behind The Sun Therapeutics

 

Full Circle: Jon Waterman

When I think back to my formative time as a young Alaskan climber, I’m often filled with memories and nostalgia that are overwhelming.  The wonder I felt when I first roped up to cross a boundless icefield, littered with crevasses, and dotted with sabre-like nunataks. My first uneasy solo climb up a 2,000 foot ice face in the western Chugach.  Seeing my life flash before my eyes when a river crossing went bad, sending me thru a turbulent cauldron of boulders and snags, only to walk away unscathed.  And the first time I felt the cold finality of death, when my 19 year old friend was buried under 15 feet of snow in Hatcher Pass.

Like many young alpinists, my early experiences in and out of the mountains were defined by a succession of monumental highs tempered with desperate lows.  Maybe that’s why Jonathan Waterman’s book, In The Shadow Of Denali – made such an indelible mark on me. The collection of short stories, which is a a mountaineering classic, followed Waterman’s years as an alpinist and mountaineering ranger on Denali in the 1970’s and 80’.  As a neophyte Alaskan climber, just out of high school – it affected me deeply.

Although I was fascinated with the climbing stories Waterman penned, I was equally entranced by the characters he described.  Tales of legendary figures like Mugs Stump and Ray Genet kept me turning the pages at a frantic pace. But it was the stories of the people living their lives in the shadow of the mountain, that hit me the hardest.  The descriptions of the hard drinking Herb Atwater, and the ill-fated journey of Gretta Berglund – painted a brutally honest picture of a darker side of Alaska.

Needless to say, the book left a lasting impression on me, and I can honestly say In The Shadow Of Denali is the most influential climbing-related book I’ve ever read.

That’s why I was excited to get a chance to interview Jon Waterman this last week.  We talked about everything – from his bitter 1982 winter ascent of The Cassin Ridge, to a 2,000 mile paddle trip across the northwest passage, as well as his new book ‘Chasing Denali’.  


Music

• Lonely Mountain / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Fbx 1975 / Evan Phillips /  Unreleased (2017)
• Learning To Climb /Evan Phillips /  Unreleased (2017)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Holding On / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Silhouettes / Evan Phillips /  Silhouettes (2015)
• Hard Times / Evan Phillips / Cabin Vibes (2018)


Links

Jon Waterman (Website)
Chasing Denali (2018)
In The Shadow Of Denali (1993)
High Alaska (1988)
Surviving Denali (1983)
Evan Phillips
Patreon

Sponsors

Alaska Rock Gym
Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria
The Hoarding Marmot
Behind The Sun Therapeutics

Mount Robson’s Emperor Face

The Canadian Rockies are home to some of the most iconic alpine peaks in North America.  Mountains like Alberta, Columbia, Edith Cavell and North Twin (to name a few) are synonymous with classic rockies alpine climbing: variable rock quality ranging from total choss, to flint hard quartzite – hanging glaciers and double cornices, veins of pristine alpine and water ice – and the classic sandbag grade of 5.9 A2.  

But if there’s one mountain that stands out from the rest (Literally) – it’s Mount Robson.  Topping out at nearly 13,000’ in height, and with huge relief on all sides, Robson is truly a sight to behold.  It’s massive south face rises nearly 10,000’ from the Yellowhead Hwy – luring tourists, hikers and climbers for a closer look.

But it’s the northern side of Robson that speaks the language of the true alpinist.  In 1913, mountain guide Conrad Kain led a group of clients to the summit after navigating the crevasse-laden Robson Glacier, and chopping steps up the northeast face and on the the summit.  This ultra-classic line, aptly named the Kain Face – was in some ways ahead of it’s time – and is still a serious route.

The ante was upped in 1963 when Pat Callis and Dan Davis ascended the intimidating apron of 60 to 70 degree blue ice and steep snow, known as the north face.

But it wasn’t until 1978, that the biggest face of all – The Emperor Face – was finally climbed by Mugs Stump and Jamie Logan.  The duo spent four days on the route – a line that more or less takes the central rib that splits the 8,000’ face – and with that, established one of the most committing Grade VI lines in the rockies.

Another line on the face was climbed in 1981, by the legendary Dave Cheesmond and Tony Dick.  

And finally in 2002, after multiple attempts over many years – Barry Blanchard, Phillipe Pellet and Eric Dumerac climbed “Infinite Patience” – a classic line following couloirs, ice runnels and interesting mixed pitches up the right side of the Emperor Face.

Although Infinite Patience has now been climbed multiple times (and even soloed by the late Marc Andre LeClerc), it is still one of the most serious lines in the Canadian Rockies – and like other classic rockies routes – an ascent is largely based on finding the face in perfect conditions.  

That’s why I was excited to hear about the line getting repeated again in September of this year by the Canadian / Dutch team of Jas Fauteux and Maarten Von Haren.

I recently got a chance to talk with Jas about his experience on Robson – what it felt like to find that face in perfect conditions – and what it means to have climbed such an iconic line on the emperor of the rockies.


Music

• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Trails / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Corn Flakes / Andrew Tholberg /  Unreleased (2016)
• Lucillia / Easton Stagger Phillips / Resolution Road (2014)


Links

Mount Robson Emperor Face 1st Ascent – AAJ 1978
Evan Phillips
Patreon

Sponsors

Alaska Rock Gym
Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria
The Hoarding Marmot
Behind The Sun Therapeutics


Shades Of The North Cascades: Nikki Frumkin

Narrative

If you’ve ever spent time flying over, or travelling through the pacific northwest, you’ve most-likely been taken by the monolithic glacier-capped volcanoes that dot the horizon line.  Giants like Mount Rainier, Hood and Adams hold court over some of the most beautiful terrain in north america – and in doing so – form an inspiring backdrop for hikers, climbers and even artists – like Nikki Frumkin.

From an early age, Nikki always had an outdoorsy and creative side, blending a love for animals and playing in the woods, with a deep rooted passion for drawing, sketching and painting.  But it wasn’t until Nikki finished college and headed out west, that her love for art and creativity, would merge with her passion for mountains and the wilderness.

Since that time, Nikki has immersed herself in her craft – forging a lifestyle that revolves around creating art in beautiful places – most notably – the North Cascades of the pacific northwest.

I recently got a chance to sit down with Nikki, to talk about her passion for adventuring in the mountains, her creative business ‘Drawn To High Places’, and the triumphs and challenges she faces making a living as a full-time artist.


Music

• The Fox / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Learning To Climb / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• I Come Alive / Evan Phillips /  Cabin Vibes Volume One (2018)
• Silhouettes /Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Old Dirt Road / Evan Phillips /  Cabin Vibes Volume One (2018)
• Goodbye Blues / Evan Phillips /  Lonely Mountain (2017)


Links

Drawn To High Places
Evan Phillips
Support The Firn Line
Jeremy Collins
Rachel Pohl
Semi-Rad

Sponsors

Alaska Rock Gym
Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria
The Hoarding Marmot
Behind The Sun Therapeutics

Backcountry Master: Noah Howell

On today’s episode of The Firn Line, we’ll get to know legendary backcountry skier, Noah Howell.

In an epic career spanning over 20 years, Howell has established himself as one of North America’s most prolific and enduring backcountry masters.  From early life-changing experiences in the Alps, thru a decade-long run of creativity at the helm of the infamous Powderwhore Productions, to a span of big mountain descents in Alaska, culminating in a recent ski decent of Mount Hunter’s west ridge and Ramen Couloir, Howell continues to push the limits of what’s possible in the mountains.

I recently got a chance to sit down with Howell, for an engaging conversation about his life in and out of the mountains.  We started our conversation by talking about his roots in Utah, and how that led to his first experiences skiing in the Wasatch, and eventually to the bigger mountains of Alaska.


Music

• Space Walker / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Elmore James / Tim Easton /  Paco & The Melodic Polaroids (2018)
• Tired & Hungery / Tim Easton / Not Cool (2013)
• Not Cool / Tim Easton / Not Cool (2013)
• Never Punch The Clock Again /Tim Easton /  Paco & The Melodic Polaroids (2018)
• Knock Out Roses (For Levon) / Tim Easton / Not Cool (2013)


Links

Noah Howell
Tim Easton
Evan Phillips
Support The Firn Line

Sponsors

Alaska Rock Gym
Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria
The Hoarding Marmot
Behind The Sun Therapeutics