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.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Notes

Special thanks to Graham Zimmerman

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

Produced by Evan Phillips
Editing & Sound Design by Pod Peak

Support The Firn Line

Patreon
PayPal
Merch

Sponsors

Alaska Rock Gym
The Hoarding Marmot

Rumble In The Chugach

The western Chugach – the mountains surrounding Anchorage and the Mat-su valley to the east, are a veritable playground for hikers and climbers.  Although the rock is predominantly poor in quality, the peaks are striking, sometimes rising 5,000 from the valley floor, with a variety of snow and ice lines penetrating their faces.  Historically, these peaks have been scaled by mountaineers of all skill levels.  But in recent years, skiers have started exploring some of the larger objectives – and one of the most sought after lines, is the north couloir of Mount Rumble.

Resembling a lower-elevation K2, Mount Rumble rises nearly 5,000 out of the headwaters of Peter’s Creek Valley – it’s symmetrical walls forming an almost perfect pyramid.  The North Couloir nakes it’s way up the mountain, and is consistently 40-50 degrees for almost 4,500’.  Suffice to say – it’s an epic climbing or ski line – depending on conditions of course.

In April, local Anchorage skiers and endurance athletes, Brian Harder and Lars Flora, skied the line – but the did it incredible style – making the 26 mile round trip, with over 14,000’ of elevation gain, in 13 hours round trip.

I recently caught up with Brian to hear about the experience, what he learned along the way, and some future objectives that he might explore.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Notes

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

Support The Firn Line

Patreon
PayPal
Merch

Sponsors

Alaska Rock Gym
The Hoarding Marmot

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’.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Notes

Special thanks to Clint Helander & Andres Marin

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

Support The Firn Line

Patreon
PayPal
Merch

Sponsors

Alaska Rock Gym
The Hoarding Marmot


A Conversation with Vasu Sojitra

On today’s episode of The Firn Line, we’ll get to know backcountry skier, advocate and adaptive athlete, Vasu Sojitra.  When Vasu was just 9 months old, his right leg was amputated due to a blood infection called Septicemia.  Although his life was forever changed, it didn’t stop him from pursuing his passions through childhood, which included skateboarding, soccer and skiing.  But things changed in college, when Vasu discovered the joy of backcountry skiing – which opened a whole new world of exploration of the natural world, and himself.  

Since that time, Vasu has immersed himself into the life of backcountry skiing, while simultaneously pursuing work as an advocate for people living with disabilities.  For Vasu,  the goal is to expand the definition of backcountry skiing to the adaptive community.  And maybe this was best exemplified in the summer of 2021, when Vasu and his teammates skied off the summit of Denali, making the first disabled ski descent of the mountain.

I recently got a chance to talk with Vasu about his extraordinary life, ranging from his challenges as a kid, to his self-customized ski outriggers, and his incredible ski descent of Denali.  All that and more, on this episode of The Firn Line.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Notes

Special thanks to Vasu Sojitra / Cover Photo: Sofia Jaramillo

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

Support The Firn Line

Patreon
PayPal
Merch

Sponsors

Alaska Rock Gym
The Hoarding Marmot

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.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Notes

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

Support The Firn Line

Patreon
PayPal
Merch

Sponsors

Alaska Rock Gym
The Hoarding Marmot

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

Support The Firn Line

Patreon
PayPal
Merch

Sponsors

Alaska Rock Gym
The Hoarding Marmot

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

Seeking The Sublime: Klara Maisch

 

Alaska is a vast and wild place; a constant fluctuation of movement and changing landscapes.  Rugged mountains are carved by massive, chaotic glaciers – and lush, brown-green valleys are cut by powerful silt-laden rivers.  During the spring and short summer seasons, the landscapes come alive; the lowlands teeming with wildlife and colorful and fragrant boreal forests.  Then in the winter, a darkness falls, blanketing the ground with snow and ice, and I quiet the you can sometimes feel, more than hear.

Some people shy away from these natural environments, choosing a more urban existence full of creature comforts and predictability.  While other folks, people like artist, skier and wilderness guide Klara Maisch, embrace it, choosing to let the wildness of Alaska shape every aspect of who they are, and how they live.

To immerse yourself into Klara’s artwork is to transport yourself into the heart and soul of Alaska’s wilderness.  Flowing lines are meandering rivers.  Circles and shapes are glacial erratics.  Wistful strokes on canvas are citadels in the distance.  And introspective shades and colors, are the crisp interior sky.


Music

• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Her Glorious Morning /Evan Phillips / Goodnight My Dearest Stranger (2012)
• Learning To Climb / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Afterschool Special / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Old Dirt Road / Evan Phillips / Cabin Vibes, Vol. 01 (2018)
• The Search / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)


Links

Klara Maisch
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

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 21 // The Firn Line “Live”: Roman Dial

 


Narrative

On December 2, 2017, I had the great privilege to sit down in front of a live audience at the Alaska Rock Gym, and talk with renowned Alaskan alpinist and explorer, Roman Dial.  We had a candid and highly-entertaining conversation that spanned topics including his early years in Fairbanks, his ambitious climbs in The Hayes Range in the 80’s, as well as his forays into hell-biking, tree climbing, and packrafting in the 90’s and beyond.  

In some ways, Roman is a larger than life character, with a list of jaw-dropping outdoor achievements to his credit.  But as you’ll soon hear, it’s the characters, friends and partners that have helped shape Roman’s life, and ultimately meant the most to him.  


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Lonely Mountain / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Space Walker / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)

Links

Support The Firn Line
Evan Phillips
The Alaska Rock Gym
The Roaming Dials
Shwak Magazine


Episode 19 // Commitment, Vision,Trust: Jack Tackle (Part 2)

 

Narrative

Many years ago, I saw Jack Tackle give a slideshow in Anchorage.  I was in my early to mid-twenties at the time, and mountain climbing was the only thing that mattered. That evening, I listened intently as Jack described icefaces, corniced ridges, and run-out pitches that had long captured my imagination.

But I was also impressed by the life-wisdom Jack imparted.  His laid back style, coupled with a philosophy about the importance of vision, commitment and trust, resonated in a way that made sense to me.  I remember walking away that night feeling inspired, and ready to apply some of Jack’s hard-earned wisdom into my own climbs.  

But it’s funny how life works.  Shortly after the slideshow, I sustained an injury climbing, that effectively ended my career, and irrevocably changed my life forever.  Although I went on to make a new path in art and music, I can say without a doubt, that my life was never the same without climbing.

Jack too, experienced life-altering injuries that could have ended his climbing career.  In 2000, while guiding in South America, he contracted Guillain-Barre, a rare and sometimes fatal disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks the nerves.  Although Jack eventually regained his strength, the disease created lasting effects, some of which still linger today.

There was also the accident on Mt. Augusta in the Wrangell-Saint Elias, where jack was struck by a falling rock.  The impact broke his neck, leaving him paralyzed on the face, and stranded fifty miles from the nearest road.  The ensuing high-stakes rescue would become the stuff of legends in the mountaineering world, but for Jack, it was an opportunity to move forward in life, with a new perspective.

Fifteen years later, and despite some limitations from his injuries, Jack is still climbing at a high level around the world.  Over the years, I’ve watched his career from afar, and often wondered how his brush with Guillain-Barre and the accident on Augusta affected him.  

That’s why I felt fortunate to sit down and have a face-to-face conversation with Jack this last fall.  We talked at length about his climbing career in Alaska, the Himalaya and elsewhere.  But we also talked about his life outside the mountains, and how he’s managed to navigate thru challenging injuries and situations.  Turns out, if it weren’t for his friends, family and partnerships in climbing, he wouldn’t be where he is today.


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Isis / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• The Cave / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Till You Came Along / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2014)
• Lexington / Evan Phillips / Goodnight My Dearest Stranger  (2012)
• Stormy / Easton Stagger Phillips / One For The Ditch (2008)
• Traveler / Evan Phillips / Lonely Mountain (2017)

Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
The Alaska Rock Gym

Episode 17 // A Higher Calling: Brad Meiklejohn

 


Narrative

It’s no accident that Brad Meiklejohn makes his home in a beautiful alpine valley outside of Anchorage, Alaska.  An avid pack rafter, climber and skier, Brad has spent much of his life exploring Alaska and other remote corners of the world.  But beyond his accomplishments in the outdoors, the mountains have always been a sacred place of reflection and self discovery, attributes that can certainly be traced to his deep family roots.

As a kid, Brad followed his grandmother and cousins on hiking and climbing adventures in The White Mountains of New Hampshire.  It was during these formative years that Brad would lay the foundation for his future outdoor ambitions.  But more than anything, his family instilled in him a deep loyalty to each other, as well as a sense of duty to protect the natural world they loved.  

This way of life was a natural progression for Brad, first as an avid climber, skier, and avalanche forecaster in Utah, then as Alaska Director of The Conservation Fund, a position he’s now held for over 20 years.  

But as much fulfillment as his career and personal adventures have brought, there’s been equal amounts of tragedy and sadness.  Over the course of Brad’s outdoor career, he’s lost over 30 friends in mountain-related deaths, a toll that has affected him profoundly.  But perhaps none of these deaths have affected him more than loss of Kyle Dempster, a young American alpinist with whom he shared a deep family and spiritual connection.

A few months ago, I drove out to Brad’s mountain-side home in the Chugach Mountains, hoping to gain insight into his wilderness adventures, his philosophies about conservation, as well as his meaningful relationship with Kyle.  


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• By Your Side / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Avalanche / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Falling Down / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Guess I Was Just Young / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Letter That You Sent / Evan Phillips / Lonely Mountain (2017)
•By Your Side / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)

Links

Patreon
American Packrafting Association
The Conservation Fund – Alaska
Kyle Dempster
Evan Phillips
The Alaska Rock Gym


 

Episode 15 // Denali Dreams: Vern Tejas

 

Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
Vern Tejas


Narrative

When I was a kid growing up in Alaska, Vern Tejas was one of my heroes. Back in February of 1988, Tejas made the bold first solo winter ascent of Denali, and in doing so, captured the imagination of all Alaskans, including me.

The Denali climb changed Vern’s life. He wrote books, gave lectures and eventually became one of the most sought after high altitude guides in the world. But Alaska never remained far from Vern’s heart, and he returned each year to guide on The High One. To this date, Tejas has summited the mountain a staggering 57 times. A world record.

I recently had the privilege to sit down with Vern, and talk about his life in and out of the mountains. From his first adventurous forays of hitchhiking around the country, to his 1st winter ascent of the Lowe-Kennedy route on Mount Hunter, Vern is a larger-than-life figure and a great storyteller.


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• The Cave / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Denali Dreams / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Lost In The Night / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• After School Special / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• The Cave / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Unnamed Jam / Evan Phillips & Vern Tejas / Unreleased (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