Larger Than Life: Daryl Miller

You know that saying – “they just don’t make em’ the way they used to”.  I guess you could call it a quintessential American expression.  In the climbing world, It conjures up icons like Lynn Hill, Jim Bridwell, Catherine Freer, and Royal Robbins – just to name a few.

You know you have someone like that in your life.  It’s someone who’s tough.  They have a determination and resolve that’s made of granite.  There’s something about them – maybe you can’t quite put it into words – but they just have an aura or presence around them – that’s larger than life.  

When you meet these people, they leave an indelible mark on you.  And that’s exactly how I felt this last spring, after spending a few days with a guy named Daryl Miller.  

If you spent any time climbing on or around Denali back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s – surely you came across Daryl – or at the very least, you knew who he was.  Back then, Daryl was the Chief Climbing Ranger on Denali – and even then, he was larger than life.  His aura was equal parts military, mountaineer, and Marlboro Man – a steely gaze with a perpetual squint in his eyes from too much glacier sun.  

But Daryl wasn’t just known for his daring mountain rescues.  In February 1995, he and his partner Mark Stasik walked out of Downtown Talkeetna, and embarked on one of the wildest expeditions in Denali Park history.  When the grizzled and emaciated duo returned 45 days later, they had become the first party to circumnavigate Denali National Park in winter – a rugged 350 mile journey that has never been repeated.

But Daryl’s life journey didn’t end with Denali.  In 1997, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease – a condition that ultimately forced him to shift gears in his career, and eventually retire from the Park Service in 2008.


These days, Daryl lives a simpler life in Anchorage with his wife Judy and their two dogs, Raven and Jago.  When I came to visit Daryl for the first time in March, he led me to a back room where we would conduct the first of our three interviews.  The room is adorned with relics of a life well lived: photos of climbing expeditions near and far.  Military medals, black and white stills of a young Rodeo clown.  And a young man, barely out of high school, in combat fatigues in Vietnam, circa 1965.  

I quickly realized that I didn’t know much about Daryl.  But what I did know is that he’d probably lived 9 lives.  The only question was where to start.

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Cover Photo:  Daryl after a 30 hour search for a patrol member above 15,000 feet on Denali, May,1994

Special Thanks to Daryl Miller

Written and produced by Evan Phillips
Edited and mixed by Pod Peak
Music by Evan Phillips and Tim Easton

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The Northwest Face of Kichatna Spire

Today we head into the Kichatna Spires – a compact subrange of monolithic granite towers located just south of Denali.

In early June, North American climbers Graham Zimmerman, Dave Allfrey and Whit Magro, headed into the Kichatna’s – their sites set on a new line up the beautiful northwest face of the ranges namesake – Kitchatna Spire.

Although many parties attempting lines in the Kichatna’s get hammered by bad weather and poor conditions, the trio was blessed by the mountain gods – which allowed them to make a first ascent in an enjoyable and safe manner.

The climb, which the team named ‘The Pace of Comfort’ – takes a steep line left of the 1979 Embick and Bridwell route, and goes at Grade VI  5.10, A3+, M6, 70° snow.

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Notes

Special thanks to Graham Zimmerman

More info about ‘The Pace Of Comfort’ on Kichatna Spire:
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Climbing

Produced by Evan Phillips
Editing & Sound Design by Pod Peak

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Trip Report: The East Face of Golgotha

This month’s trip report takes place in one of Alaska’s most remote and mythical mountain ranges: The Revelations.  First explored in the late 60’s by David Roberts and friends, The Revelations hold a mystique, and reputation, that has continued to grow over the years.  The range, which is nestled between the southwest tip of The Alaska Range, and the north and western aspects of the Aleaution, Neacola and the Tordrillo Mountains, is as remote, as it is fierce.  The jagged peaks, which average between 7 and 9 thousand feet in height, are an alpine climbers dream, with sweeping granite buttresses, firm gullies of neve snow, and ribbons and shafts of bulletproof ice.  

But for every day of good conditions and weather, there’s at least 3 days of worse weather.  And by bad I mean never ending rain and snow storms,  fog and soupy cloud cover, and relentless,  vicious, hurricane-force winds.  If that’s not enough, just getting in and out of the range requires multiple bush plane flights, sometimes costing thousands of dollars.  That is if you can even find a pilot willing to fly in there (more on that, at the end of this episode).  Let’s just say that being a Revelations climber requires a different kind of commitment.  

And this was certainly the case for North American alpinists Clint Helander and Andres Marin, who flew into the Revelations this March to attempt the east Face of Golgotha – an unclimbed, 4,000 foot granite face, laced with snow, and pierced by sinister shafts of ice. 

The mountain, which clocks in at just under 9,000’, was first climbed in 2012 by Helander and Ben Trocki, when they attempted the east face, but ultimately opted for an easier route up the southeast face.  Helander returned in 2016 with Marin, making a tricky landing directly under the face on the aptly named ‘Misfit’ Glacier.  But after a day, the snow and wind came, and the duo was nearly killed when a gargantuan avalanche destroyed their camp, forcing them to quiver behind a large, glacial erratic for days until their pilot extracted them to safety.

The duo returned in 2017 – this time with a third – Leon Davis.  That year, they made it multiple pitches up the route, finding a massive bivy cave.  They also got a look at what appeared to be the crux pitch.  An overhanging prow of rock with ice daggers hanging off the top like tentacles of an octopus.  But unfortunately, a broken crampon led to an early retreat.  

Again, Helander and Marin returned in 2018, but the conditions and vibe weren’t right.  They decided to fly out.

Finally, in March of this year, Helander and Marin returned for a fourth trip, landing on the more spacious Revelation Glacier, where they made a basecamp.  The duo then traveled over a col, and rappeled onto the Misfit Glacier, where they were able to recon the east face.  This time, the route looked to be in impeccable condition, with a decent weather window to boot.  

Here’s Clint and Andres’s account of the first ascent of the east face of Golgotha – a route they aptly named ‘The Shaft of The Abyss’.

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Notes

Special thanks to Clint Helander & Andres Marin

Produced by Evan Phillips
Editing & Sound Design by Pod Peak
Original Music by Evan Phillips

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Vertical Quest: Topher Donahue

It was the summer of 1996.  At the time, I was 21 years old, living in a primitive cabin in the small fishing village of Ninilchik, Alaska.  That summer, I’d landed a job working as a park ranger assistant for Alaska State Parks, and although I’d like to say I was doing something cool like building trails, the reality is that I was cleaning gnarly outhouses, packing up bags of garbage, and picking up fish guts off the beaches.  Although I was far away from any climbing, I was often mesmerized by the Aleutian and Neacola Ranges, 50 miles across the water.

So I was excited when I received a stash of beloved issues of Climbing Magazine in the mail.  As I poured through each issue, I was stopped in my tracks when I stumbled onto a story about 2 climbers who’d just attempted the North Face of Mount Neacola, the highest mountain in the Neacola Range.  The climbers, Topher Donahue and Kennan Harvey, had spent 5 days attempting a route they dubbed the Medusa Face. The photos were inspiring, and terrifying to say the least: a near vertical dark wall bigger than The Nose on El Cap.  Black rock laced with snow and ice, with no obvious crack systems to follow.  A mixture of free, aid and ice climbing, while being pummeled by relentless wind, spindrift and bitter cold.  This was wild stuff.

Although the duo didn’t reach the summit, it was an adventure  that resonated with me, and captured my imagination.  I never forgot about the Medusa Face on Mount Neacola.

That’s why I was intrigued 25 years later, when I heard about the trio of Ryan Driscoll, Justin Guarino, and Nick Aiello-Popeo, making the first complete ascent of the face.  It was stunning to me to hear about a new generation of climbers returning to a climb that had filled me with so much intrigue and inspiration over the years.  It also got me thinking about reaching out to Topher Donahue.

Luckily I did get in touch with Topher, and we recently had an engaging conversation about his life in the mountains.  We talked about a lot of things, including his attempt on Neacola.  But like a lot of climbers I talk with, it turns out there was a lot more to Topher’s life, than one trip to a remote Alaskan mountain in 1995.

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Notes

Special thanks to Topher Donahue // Cover Photo: Kennan Harvey

Written & Produced by Evan Phillips
Editing & Sound Design by Pod Peak
Original Music by Evan Phillips

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A Conversation with Miranda Oakley


On today’s episode of The Firn Line, we’ll get to know rock climber, big-wall soloist and AMGA certified rock climbing guide, Miranda Oakley

Growing up in Maryland, Miranda learned from a young age the values of compassion, teaching, and working with others. Born to a Palestinian mother, and an American father, Miranda grew in a family that cared deeply about social justice issues, whether it was participating in peaceful anti-war rallies, or attending meetings of the Palestine Aid Society with her mother.

Later, in her teens, Miranda started rock climbing at the local gym – and it was during that time, she discovered the calling that would begin to shape her life. In college, she started a climbing club and began making her first road trips with friends. But it wasn’t until she headed west in 2006, to the big walls of Yosemite Valley, that her life’s vision truly came into focus.

Since that time, Miranda has become a force in the climbing world. With the support of her longtime sponsor, Mountain Hardware, She’s established herself as a seasoned guide with the Yosemite Mountaineering School, while simultaneously becoming one of the most prolific female trad climbers in the United States. Some of her remarkable ascents include linking Half Dome and El Cap in a day, as well as becoming the first female to rope-solo The Nose on El Cap in under 24 hours.

I recently caught up with Miranda, to talk about her remarkable life journey. Our conversation begins during Miranda’s college years – the formative time when her passion for climbing became the driving force in her life.


Learn more about Miranda Oakley

Written & Produced by Evan Phillips
Editing & Sound Design by Pod Peak
Original Music by Evan Phillips

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Trip Report: Oberon (Valdez, Alaska)

When people think of ice climbing in North America, the first places that might come to mind are Ouray, Colorado, Hyalite Canyon outside Bozeman, Montana – or the vast alpine region of the Canadian Rockies, just to name a few.  But perhaps the ultimate mecca for pure frozen waterfall climbing, is in and around Valdez, Alaska.  This temperate region, which encompasses the shared traditional land of the Ahtna, Athabaskan, Alutiq and Eyak cultures, averages around 300 inches of snow each year, making it a perfect environment for forming fat, blue ice routes

There’s a rich climbing history in Valdez, starting when Jeff Lowe and John Weiland made the first ascent of the ultra-classic Keystone Greensteps in 1975.  Then, in the late 70’s, a couple of young hotspot climbers from Fairbanks, Carl Tobin and Roman Dial, started ticking of dozens of first ascents, raising the standard of what was being done at the time.  In the 80’s, climber’s like Andy Embick, Chuck Comstock and Brian Teale, all Valdez locals, continued the tradition, establishing hundreds of classic first ascents.  And the old school merged with the new, when In February 1987, Steve Garvey and Jim Sweeney climbed Sans Amis, a grade 6 snow and rock line on the Keystone Wall – ushering in modern mixed climbing techniques to the Valdez area.  

Although Valdez has remained popular over the years, it’s continued to somehow stay under the radar to the mainstream climbing world.  But that hasn’t stopped a new generation of Alaskans from continuing the tradition of adventure, exploration, and first ascents in the magnificent arena.  

One of these ascents happened in Feb, 2021, during the annual Valdez Ice Festival, when Sam Volk, Ryan Sims, August Franzen, and Sam Johnson, headed back toward the remote Wartmanns Glacier.  Assisted by snow machines, and a boot pack put in a few day before by Sims and Johnson, the 200 meter, WI 6 climb was an instant classic.  Here’s Sam Volk’s trip report of that memorable outing.

This Trip Report is made possible with the gracious support of The Firn Line Patreon backers. To learn more about how you can become a Patreon subscriber, go to The Firn Line Patreon.

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Notes

Written & Produced by Evan Phillips
Editing & Sound Design by Pod Peak
Original Music by Evan Phillips 

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Life Lived Wild: Rick Ridgeway

On today’s episode of The Firn Line, we’ll get to know legendary mountaineer, outdoor adventurer, author and conservationist, Rick Ridgeway.  I first learned about Rick back in the early 90’s, when I read his mountaineering classic, The Last Step, which details the 1978 first American ascent of K2.  Rick was an early hero of mine, as I admired his tenacity, grit and determination in the mountains.  But it turns out, the world’s high peaks we’re just one chapter in Rick’s life: a life that’s been filled with adventure, catastrophe, enduring love, and heart-wrenching loss.  

A few months ago, I caught wind of Rick’s new memoir,  Life Lived Wild, which came out via Patagonia Books on October 26th.  The book describes the many adventures in Rick’s life –  everything from a gripping stay in a vicious Panamanian jail at 24 years old, to one of his closest companions dying in his arms on a remote Chinese mountain, to traverses in remote regions of Tibet and Borneo, to the windswept and frigid summits of Antarctica.  After finishing the book, I finally understood why Rolling Stone magazine once dubbed Rick, ‘the real Indiana Jones’.  

This last fall, I was fortunate to catch up with Rick when we talked for almost 3 hours over the course of two separate interviews.  It would be impossible to cover Rick’s whole life in such a short amount of time, so we talked mostly about his early years.  At the end of it, I was left mesmerized by Rick’s stories – but more importantly, I was touched by his honesty, his humor, his grace, and his enduring wisdom. 



Notes

Written & Produced by Evan Phillips
Editing & Sound Design by Pod Peak
Original Music by Evan Phillips & Tim Easton

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Deep Knowledge: Jon Walsh

The mountain ranges of North America are beautiful and diverse.  From the prominent glacier cones that dominate the skylines of the Pacific Northwest, to the rugged granite plutons of Yosemite Valley, and the sawtooth razor points of the Tetons, the mountains of North America are a veritable playground for mountaineers.

But for climbers and alpinists looking to put their physical, mental and psychological fortitude to the test- perhaps no range is better suited, than the Canadian Rockies.

Although the Rockies offer opportunities for mountaineers of all abilities, it’s the giant peaks, with their menacing and fearsome north walls, that have cemented the Candian Rockies as one of the world’s most storied alpine arenas. 

And today, I’m chatting with one of the rockies most accomplished, and enduring alpinists of his generation, Jon Walsh.

Jon’s alpine resume is uniquely impressive – with dozens and dozens of first ascents ranging from Patagonia, The Karakoram and The Bugaboos.  But it’s his climbs in the Canadian Rockies, particularly his routes on the legendary peaks like Alberta, North Twin, and Robson, that stand out the most (at least to me).  

I recently got a chance to speak with Jon about his career in the Rockies, and in some ways, this conversation was special.  In the next hour, you’ll hear deep wisdom, and unmatched experience.  For aspiring alpinists, and folks who are interested specifically in the Candian Rockies – you’ll want to pay extra attention.  It’s not so often you get to hear first hand accounts, from true masters of the craft.

This conversation is focused primarily on Jon’s experiences on the North walls of Mount Alberta, Robson, and North Twin – but like a lot of conversations on The Firn Line, we started by talking about Jon’s early years, and how he got into climbing in the first place.

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Challenge Of The Western Chugach

Today’s episode is a story about adventure.  It’s a story about getting scared.   It’s a story of friendship and love.  It’s a story about self-discovery and learning from your mistakes.  But the learning in this story doesn’t take place in a formal classroom, or an online forum.  Rather, It takes place in the mountains – in a small sub-range of striking peaks and glaciers, just outside of Anchorage, Alaska. 

It was in these peaks, known as the Western Chugach, where Brendon Lee’s life changed – in more ways than one.  And like a lot of folks who end up in the north, Brendan’s journey to Alaska started very far away – on an Air Force base, in Texas…

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Persistence: Steve Swenson

On today’s episode of The Firn Line, we’ll get to know legendary North American alpinist, Steve Swenson.  

Over the course of a climbing career that has spanned a remarkable 50 years, Steve has left a lasting imprint on the world stage of alpinism, from his roots in the Pacific Northwest, all the way to the 7 and 8,000 meter giants of the Himalaya, and the Pakistani Karakoram.

His early climbs in the Canadian Rockies, which included an astounding list of classic north faces in the 1970’s, set the stage for other first ascents in Alaska and beyond.

But it was Steve’s love for the greater ranges, specifically the Karakoram, that became the biggest alpine pull in his life.  Starting with a number of attempts in the early 80’s on Gasherbrum IV, Steve continually refined his style, and partnerships, to make ascents of giants like K2, Everest, and most-recently, one of the highest unclimbed mountains in the world – Link Sar.

I recently got a chance to speak with Steve about his enduring alpine career.  We talked about his early climbs as a youngster growing up in the Pacific Northwest, as well as his new book, Karakoram: Climbing Through The Kashmir Conflict, which was released in 2017 by Mountaineers Books.  


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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.


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Evan Phillips


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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)
• {“type”:”block”,”srcIndex”:1,”srcClientId”:”fcca7cdd-2aab-4b41-b0a5-9b3ba5627be2″,”srcRootClientId”:””}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
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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
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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)


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Drawn To High Places
Evan Phillips
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A Conversation With David Lama

 

On today’s episode of The Firn Line, we’ll get to know world-renowned and visionary alpinist, David Lama.

The son of Nepalese and Austrian parents, David was was born with an affinity for movement over natural terrain, and a deep reverence for the high places. As a youngster, Lama excelled at indoor and sport climbing, dominating the competition circuit, and honing his rock climbing skills to the highest standards.
But eventually, a natural progression to the mountains occurred – which has culminated in a multitude of ground-breaking ascents in Patagonia, The Himalaya and beyond.

I recently got a chance to sit down with David in Anchorage, Alaska – to have a candid conversation about his life as a climber, and the vision he follows as an alpinist. We talked about everything, from his early days as a competition climber, to a life-changing experience on the southeast ridge of Cerro Torre, to his meaningful relationship with fellow climber and friend Conrad Anker, to the limitless ideas and projects that lie ahead.

We started our conversation by talking about David’s natural inclination to climb as a youngster, and how a fateful meeting with famous Austrian mountaineer, Peter Habeler, helped steer the trajectory of David’s life – from the confines of rock gyms, to the limitless arena of the mountains.


Music

• Lonely Mountain / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• I Come Alive / Evan Phillips / Cabin Vibes • Volume One (2018)
• Hard Times / Evan Phillips /Cabin Vibes • Volume One (2018)


Links

David Lama
Evan Phillips
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Sponsors

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

The Revelator: Eric Parsons

 

Every mountaineer has a favorite mountain range, a place that for whatever reason centers them, gives them a piece of mind, creates a sense of belonging.  For some, it might be a well-known place like the Sierras: an area of impeccably clean granite towers, speckled with pristine, aqua-colored alpine lakes and a constant supply of near perfect weather.  For others, it might be the Swiss Alps, a range steeped in mountain history and culture, with a list of bold and ultra-classic lines too innumerable to count. And for others, like Alaskan climber and mountain adventurer Eric Parsons, it’s the more obscure areas, like the western ramparts of Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, that define their lives.

Growing up in New York, Eric spent summers camping and taking cross-country road trips with his family to places like the Canadian Rockies, and the desert southwest.  These early experiences created an adventurous mindset that would follow him to college at Colorado State University, and ultimately, the vast expanses of Alaska.

Since that time, Eric has created a unique lifestyle for himself that centers around his family and close-knit group of friends, his bike-packing gear company Revelate Designs, and of course, a constant effusion of adventures in the western Chugach Mountains.

Last summer, I was fortunate to sit down with Eric to talk about his love for the mountains, the passion and creative drive that led him to start Revelate Designs, as well as the meaningful partnerships and friendships he’s developed through climbing and other outdoor pursuits.


Music

• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Something To Believe In / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• I Come Alive / Evan Phillips / Camp Vibes, Vol. 01 (2018)
• Guess I Was Just Young / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Begin / Easton Stagger Phillips / Resolution Road (2014)
• Ode To Easton / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Traveller / Evan Phillips / Lonely Mountain (2017)


Links

Eric Parsons
Revelate Designs
Little A Triathalon
Bellicose Peak
Baleful Peak
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

The Spaces Between: Ryan Johnson

 

Narrative

Sometime in the days after March 5 2018, Ryan Johnson and his partner, the brilliant Marc Andre Leclerc, lost their lives after completing the stunning first ascent of the north face of the Main Tower in The Mendenhall’s, just outside of Juneau, Alaska.

The route, which was a dream line of Ryan’s, epitomized what he looked for in alpinism: Elements of the unknown, physical and mental challenges, as well as an aesthetic, direct and pure line.  One can only imagine what it must have felt like for Ryan to be on that summit after what had surely been one his best experiences in the mountains.

Although I had never met Ryan, we’d corresponded in the months before his passing, and had planned on sitting down for an interview this April.  So in a way of honoring Ryan, I decided to talk with some of his best friends and partners, to talk about their memories, experiences, and the ups and downs they shared in and out of the mountains.  


Music

• Hard Times  / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Silhouettes / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• The Search / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Something To Believe In / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Pick Yourself Up / Evan Phillips / Lonely Mountain (2017)
• Guess I Was Just Young / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Her Glorious Morning  / Evan Phillips / Goodnight My Dearest Stranger (2012)
• Hard Times  / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)

Links

GoFundMe

Sponsors

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