Open Book: Kathy Karlo

If you’re a climber, who consumes climbing related media like writing, video and podcasts – well, chances are, you’ve heard of Kathy Karlo.

Kathy is the creative force behind For The Love Of Climbing, an entertaining and insightful blog that combines honest, to the point writing about life on and off the walls, mixed with a good dose of self-deprecating humor.

I had heard of Kathy’s blog probably sometime in 2017. Although I perused thru some of her stories and photos, I have to admit, I never really took the time to sit down and actually delve into her work. But when I heard she was starting a new podcast, I eagerly awaited her first episode. Let’s just say, I was not let down.

For me, listening to Kathy’s podcast for the first time was an emotional gut punch that had me laughing one minute, crying the next and at the end of it all – feeling astonished at the level of creativity and production quality. A true lesson in the power of audio.

That’s why I was stoked to connect with Kathy a few months ago when she came thru Alaska on assignment with her job with the No Man’s Land Film Festival. We got to sit down for an engaging conversation about the ups and downs of life on the road, how she first started writing a blog, and how that eventually led to her starting a podcast.


Music

• Lonely Mountain / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Going To The Gunks / Evan Phillips /  Unreleased (2018)
• Space Song / Evan & Molly /  Evan & Molly (2012)
• Baby Come Home / Easton Stagger Phillips / Overseas (2014)
• She Was Gone /Easton Stagger Phillips / One For The Ditch (2009)
• Falling Down / Evan Phillips /  Silhouettes (2015)
• Close To Me / Evan Phillips / Cabin Vibes (2018)


Links

For The Love Of Climbing
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


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

Alaska Vibes: Conrad Anker

Narrative

Over the course of an distinguished 30+ year career, Conrad Anker’s adventures have taken him from the bigwalls of Yosemite, to the icy flanks of The Alaska Range, The Himalaya and Antarctica.  Although Anker is probably best-known for discovering Mallory’s remains on the north side of Everest in 1999 (and his stunning climb on Meru), it’s his earlier adventures in Alaska that I’ve always been fascinated with. That’s why I was excited to sit down with Conrad this past February, to talk about his formative experiences in the mountains, the friends and partners that meant the most to him, as well as his efforts in environmental activism.  


Music

• I Come Alive / Evan Phillips / Cabin Vibes, Vol. 01 (2018)
• Lucillia / Easton Stagger Phillips / Resolution Road (2014)
• Lonely Mountain / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• The Talkeetnas / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• I Come Alive / Evan Phillips / Cabin Vibes, Vol. 01 (2018)

Links

Conrad Anker
Mugs Stump
Seth Shaw
Gurney Peak  – SE Face
Middle Triple Peak – East Buttress
Mount Hunter – Rattle & Hum
Khumbu Climbing Center
Support The Firn Line
Evan Phillips

Sponsors

Alaska Rock Gym
Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzaria
The Hoarding Marmot

Desert Delusions: Friendship and Failure on The Thunderbird Wall

Narrative

In March 1999 I found myself wedged in a sandy chimney, fully-gripped and trembling, five hundred feet off the deck.

Me and my partner Scott were attempting to climb The Thunderbird Wall, a grade VI backcountry behemoth in Zion National Park’s Kolab Canyon.  The face, which is among the highest sandstone walls in the world, had only been climbed twice since Jeff Lowe and Cactus Bryan made the first attempt in 1971.  Scott had been to Zion once before.  I had never stood in a pair of aiders.  In hindsight, I can only blame the ignorance of youth for leading me to believe I had any business being on The Thunderbird Wall.


Music

• Always Came Back To You  / Easton Stagger Phillips / Resolution Road (2014)
• Stay /Easton Stagger Phillips / Resolution Road (2014)
• Lost Again / Evan Phillips / Goodnight My Dearest Stranger (2012)
• Thru The Clouds / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Lonely Mountain / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Stormy / Easton Stagger Phillips / One For The Ditch (2009)
• Denali Dreams /Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Infinite Spur / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Waterman / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Fairbanks 1975 / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Red Bandana / Easton Stagger Phillips / One For The Ditch (2009)
• The Fox / Evan Phillips /Silhouettes (2015)


Links

Support The Firn Line
Evan Phillips
The Alaska Rock Gym
The Hoarding Marmot

Episode 16 // Short Ropes: Committed On The Cassin

Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
Andy Tholberg


Narrative

In June 2017, Aaron Kurland and Sam Novey planned to attempt the formidable and rarely-climbed Father and Sons wall on Denali, but when they found the face to be out of condition, they quickly turned their attention elsewhere.

The duo settled on the ultra-classic Cassin Ridge, a 9,000 foot spine of ice, snow and granite that snakes it’s way directly up the center of the south face. With a big storm scheduled to hit within the week, the duo planned a 3 day alpine-style ascent. Little did they know, they would soon be at the mercy of Denali’s weather, totally exposed, and fully committed on the Cassin.


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Sexy Violence / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Quad Laser / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Sci Fly / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Slow Motion Seq / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased(2017)
• Save My Soul / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Can’t Bleed Thru A Microphone / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Clad Frog / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Posted Up / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)

 

Episode 14 // Short Ropes: Ashley Saupe

Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
The Sharp End Podcast


Narrative

A few weeks ago I got to sit down with outdoor educator and host of the excellent ‘Sharp End’ podcast, Ashley Saupe. We talked about her upbringing in Alaska, her experiences teaching as an Outward Bound instructor as well as discussing what it takes to produce a monthly podcast about accidents in North American climbing.


Music

• Space Song // Evan & Molly // ‘Evan & Molly’ (2012)
• Augusta // Evan Phillips // unreleased (2017)
• Sharp End // Evan Phillips // unreleased (2017)
• Traveller // Evan Phillips (written by Leeroy Stagger) // ‘Lonely Mountain’ (2017)


 

 

 

Episode 13 // Mindful Mountaineer: Sam Johnson

On today’s episode, we’ll get to know Alaskan alpinist Sam Johnson.  Growing up in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains, Sam was exposed to the outdoors and mountain environments at a young age.  But it wasn’t until his teenage years that he discovered a newfound focus and direction thru climbing.

Since that time, Johnson has climbed extensively Alaska, Canada, Europe and even the far reaches of the Karakoram.  His quiet first ascents in Alaska’s Hayes Range, including a bold solo on the South East Face of Mount Hayes in 2013, highlight the spirit of adventure and self discovery that Sam seeks in climbing, and in life.

I recently sat down with Sam to talk about his trajectory as an alpinist, as well as the things that inspire him on a day to day basis.


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Instrumental #1 / Evan Phillips / Songs From Lake Irene (2007)
• Hwy 395 / Easton Stagger Phillips / One For The Ditch (2008)
• Hell Of A Life / Easton Stagger Phillips / One For The Ditch (2008)
• Red Bandana / Easton Stagger Phillips / One For The Ditch (2008)
• Weight Of Changing Everything / Easton Stagger Phillips / Overseas (2014)
• Block Me Out / Easton Stagger Phillips / Overseas (2014)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
Sam Johnson

 

Episode 12 // Short Ropes: Tobin’s Tales

On this episode of Short Ropes, we revisit my conversation with legendary Alaskan alpinist Carl Tobin (See episode 11).  Tobin’s climbs in Alaska’s remote Hayes Range raised the bar for hard alpine climbing in North America in the late 70’s and early 80’s. His climb up the Valdez test piece “Wowie Zowie” is an honest grade 6 ice climb, and was way ahead of it’s time when he made the first ascent in 1981 with the late Andy Embick. In this episode, Carl and I talk about the early days in Fairbanks, his relationship with the enigmatic alpinist Johnny Waterman as well as surviving a deadly avalanche in the Hayes Range in 1984.


Music

Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
Fairbanks 75′ / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
Waterman / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
Avalanche / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
Ode To Easton / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips

Episode 11 // Mountain Memories: Carl Tobin

On today’s episode, we’ll get to know legendary Alaskan alpinist Carl Tobin. With an alpine career that has spanned over 40 years, Tobin continues to be a force in Alaska’s climbing community to this day.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Tobin and a small group of committed partners, pioneered a number of first ascents in Alaska’s Hayes Range including the east face of Hess Mountain, the northeast face of peak 10,910′ and the historic east ridge of Mount Deborah. These climbs set the standard for hard alpine climbing in Alaska, and in doing so, inspired generations of climbers that would follow.

This last spring, I sat down with Carl at his home in Anchorage, to talk about his early days in Fairbanks, and the whirlwind years in the mountains that followed. Carl seemed wistful that day, as he recounted his years spent climbing in Alaska, the Canadian Rockies and the Himalaya. But it wasn’t just the climbing that had him thinking. It was also the important relationships he’d forged along the way.


Music

Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
Ode To Easton / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips

Episode 10 // Short Ropes: Mixed Master Vol. 1

I first came up with the idea to do The Firn Line in September 2016 – really not that long ago when you think about it.  I think the truth is that i’d always wanted to somehow combine my love for the mountains with my creative pursuits.  I just wasn’t sure how to do it.  I guess you could say I had a light bulb moment when I realized that I could combine my passion for storytelling, the mountains, and music all into one creative outlet.  Nine months and ten episodes in, I guess you could say I haven’t looked back.


My goal from the get-go was to create a podcast that I would have wanted to listen to back when climbing was the only thing that mattered to me.  I’ve thought back to all the endless nights sitting around campfires with friends, all the soggy drives to go ice climbing in Valdez, and all the storm days I whittled away in tents, counting the squares in the ripstop fabric.  Back then, I would have loved to have had a podcast like the firn line to listen to.

So as I look back today at the beginning stages of this podcast, or rather, this community, I wanted to share “mixtape” from The Firn Line episodes.  Some of these moments are light-hearted, while others are pretty heavy.  But like every Firn Line episode you hear, all the clips are genuine, in the moment, and real.


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• The Fox / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Silhouettes (w/ Courtney Marie Andrews) / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Lonely Mountain (w/ Courtney Marie Andrews) / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Unnamed / A. Tholberg / Unreleased (2016)
• Kenny Blackwell / Grand Couloir / Unreleased (2017)
• The Talkeetnas / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Falling Down / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• The Search / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Block Me Out / Easton Stagger Phillips / Overseas (2008)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
Courtney Marie Andrews
Easton Stagger Phillips

 

Episode 03 // Life Revelations: Clint Helander

Finding truth in the Revelation Mountains

Clint Helander left home at 18 years old, hoping to escape a tense relationship with his mother, and to start finding his own way thru life.  When he came to Alaska a year later to attend college, a chance encounter with a new group of friends would expose Clint to the outdoors, and eventually lead him to the mythical Revelation Mountains.  Little did he know that along the way, he’d learn more about the importance of relationships with his friends, and ultimately his mother, than he ever could have imagined.


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Stars / Giorgioff – Phillips / Unreleased (2014)
• Tackle / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Her Glorious Morning / Evan Phillips / Goodnight My Dearest Stranger (2012)
• Thru The Clouds / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Goodbye Blues / Evan Phillips /Goodnight My Dearest Stranger (2012)
• Lonely Mountain / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
Clint Helander