Climber, Filmmaker, National Geographic Explorer, The North Face Athlete, Paraglider, Writer, Chronic Goofball
688 posts 190,940 followers 617 following
Another trip around the sun with this one... @nmilfeld who I love far and beyond the ends of the earth! For my birthday I got to simul-climb this spectacular 1000 foot 5.11 multi-pitch up the wild Peñón formation that guards the jagged limestone coast of Costa Blanca Spain. It takes a bad ass wifey to tiptoe up technical 5.11 with no belaying...good thing I have one!! It was a nice cap to an all time adventurous year! Just In the last few whirlwind months I’ve climbed or flown paragliders in Antarctica, South Africa, Mexico, Kenya, Colombia, and Spain... and of course good old Boulder Colorado! I know..life is rough!!!one thing is for sure...Life is a crazy beautiful adventure if you are lucky...which I am in spades. Now it’s time to get to work back home where @tay.keating and I will be working on the Antarctica film. While we were here in Spain, @nmilfeld and I worked with @worldexpeditions to help a gaggle of newbie climbers step up their game which was super gratifying. It reminded me of when climbing was young and fresh for me, and rekindled a youthful spark for this sport that I love! Thanks Olivia, Anetta, Pascale, Ann, Jeannine, and last and least Derrick the token dude of the trip! Hopefully you guys are less Gumby than before you met me! Love you guys!!!
Portuguese, German, Spanish and French speaking friends! Stumped and Safety Third now has subtitles in your language! Link in my Profile to purchase the films. Turn on subs for your language... or if you are just an English speaker who is curious how, “Suck my stump @tommycaldwell ,” translates into The Languages of the world! Thanks again everyone who has purchased the film so far!!! And... thanks to stars @moinmountains ... pictured here, and @bradgobright for trusting us with your stories! Love you guys.
OMG!!! Thanks everyone who purchased Safety Third + Stumped this week! Link in my Profile if you still haven’t seen the films! Also... for those who bought the films through Reel Rock and Want to see the 18 minutes of Extras, deleted scenes and general hilarity...go to Vimeo and search Stumped + Safety Third The Extras and you can purchase just the extras! This is a @tay.keating image from the start of @moinmountains epic journey to one hand a 5.12! Definitely one of the coolest things I’ve filmed! Also the @bradgobright Extras are pretty over the top and feature @alexhonnold completely naked. There also several deleted scenes that didn’t make the final cut, but that are really great! One of the above statements is a lie.
Safety 3rd +Stumped + 18 minutes of extras for sale! Link in my profile! If you aren’t glued to your phone and a brainwashed social media robot like I am... then you may have missed my post yesterday launching my babies to the World. And we can’t have that!! Huge thanks to my filmmaking compadre @tay.keating who busted his ass on these films. Without Taylor we wouldn’t have heartwarming moments like @bradgobright breaking his back, when a cam rips out, or @moinmountains using her stump in unspeakable ways, and he made these cool posters too...so pretty!! Definitely Follow @tay.keating for a sneak peek into upcoming projects. Currently looking for a 7-figure big budget sponsor for first ascents on the moon... @elonmusk ....call me.
Stumped and Safety Third are up for sale with over 18 minutes of bloopers and outtakes available exclusively through the link in my profile! It’s wild to think that it was over 3 years ago that @tay.keating and I started following around @bradgobright ...and a year later that we first met @moinmountains ! Neither of the films had funding at the time, but I knew it was worth taking the risk on these unknown but compelling characters. I’m proud to say that both films have gone on to tour in @reelrock and @banffmountainfestival and win multiple awards at various other festivals! These films have helped both Brad and Maureen to launch well deserved climbing careers! Brad went on to break the coveted Nose speed record, and Mo is gearing up for her first climbing expedition to The Cirque of the Unclimbables! You definitely haven’t seen the last of these great climbers... who are also wonderful good hearted people. I’m excited for what my filmmaking future will bring, and I look forward to working on more stories about lesser known, but bad ass characters! Thanks everyone for supporting these projects!!
If you could see my face in this photo, it would be a look of horror! This is NOT how your Paraglider should look and I did it on purpose! Last Fall I decided that I needed to take safety more seriously. I was stepping up to my first “C glider,” The @advancegliders Sigma 10. Gliders are rated A through D....a safety and performance rating system for Paraglider’s. An A is a beginners wing and a D and the “open class” wings represents the cutting edge of glide and speed technology. As Paraglider’s increase in speed and performance, the level of piloting to fly them safely also increases. Most expert pilots will tell you that the “Full Stall,” is one of the best maneuvers for becoming a safer and more skilled pilot. Basically it involves pulling down on the breaks until your wing stops flying, at which point you fall backwards and your wing balls up into a horrific flapping mess, at which point you release the breaks in a controlled manner to about half way up and enter into what is called “Back Fly,” at which point Your wing is half open and bucking around a bit, and you are flying backwards. It is extremely unnatural and in the beginning… mortifying. From that position you release the breaks symmetrically and the wing shoots forward dynamically and begins to fly again. If you don’t catch the wing with a quick stab of the breaks, it can collapse or worse, and it’s not uncommon for people to have their full stalls go completely out of control in the beginning. This maneuver teaches you a ton about what is called “Active Piloting,” in the sport. Active Piloting is something akin to a good kayaker staying upright in a raging rapid with quick and adept paddle movements, and believe it or not… sometimes the air we fly in is an invisible raging rapid of turbulence. If you have the required skills it can be exhilarating, and if you don’t it can be really dangerous. After over 40 full stalls, I started to get the hang of it, and while it was uncomfortable at first, I’m really glad I took the time, and I’m super grateful to @codymittanck for coaching me through it! I’m half dreading and half excited to do more of this type of training in the future!
Summit Glory! Photo: @tedhesser from the summit of Mt. Kenya last year with @maurybirdwell and @alexhonnold Who is sitting in this photo due to crippling altitude sickness! At over 17k Mt. Kenya is the second highest peak in Africa, and unlike the highest point Kilimanjaro there is no easy way up; you have to rock climb. No one has ever flown a Paraglider from the summit, and I brought up a lightweight glider with the hope of being the first, but the ground was invisible under a bank of clouds making an attempt foolish, and frankly I was kind of glad because the only launch point I could find looked extremely committing and technical. I pictured myself broken and battered and hanging off the sheer face of the mountain and never pulled my glider out of the bag. I did fly from the base the next day, but not before botching a launch and rolling down in the talus a little bit. Alex and Ted both wondered about my sanity and safety that day I think, but once the glider was in the air, it was a delightful flight! Good memories!!! We enjoyed the top of Kenya for a while, and the ...Always teamplayers, Maury Alex and I downclimbed, leaving our media team of @tay.keating and Ted to fend for themselves on the endless rappells. They may have had the 1000 yard stare when the stumbled into basecamp hours after we had eaten and snuggled into our sleeping bags! @thenorthface
Today I had the opportunity to fly in a sailplane with expert pilot @ty_gunnlaugsson in Mountain Wave, a phenomena where wind rushes up over a mountain range creating a wild band of lift that can be taken to 40,000 feet or more! The sailplane altitude record is over 50k, and it’s theorized that if a “stratospheric Mountain Wave” were harnessed on the right day, that 85000 feet may be possible! Here in Boulder it’s not uncommon to fly my Paraglider with the Sailplane pilots, sharing thermals with this high performance aircraft, but, this Wave phenomena is very rarely experienced in a Paraglider, because it tends to set up in winter, with lots of wind and turbulence. Your average Paraglider has a top speed of a little over 30mph and a glide ratio of about 10 to one. A nice sailplane has a top speed of over 150mph and glide ratios approaching 60 to one. Today at nearly 18k we were seeing wind speeds of over 60mph, and being in that air in a Paraglider would have been the most horrific experience of my life. While Paraglider’s have much less performance, you don’t need to be towed up in an airplane, and you can launch and land virtually anywhere, in comparison. For me paragliding has an untethered purity to it that I think I prefer, but seeing the continental divide enshrouded in clouds from 17,980 feet was truly an outrageous experience! Thanks Ty!!!
The last two months have been some of the most adventurous of my life, but nothing beats being home. My bad ass 5.13 climbing, defense attorney wife @nmilfeld always gives me the love, support, and honesty I need, and @allterrainpug and #goberniego are my sweet unconditionally loving four legged children. Nellie is the reason that I have thrived more than ever. Those that know Nellie, know that I am one lucky bastard!!! My life is spiritually rich; filled with love laughter and adventure. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful. Thanks @sandsruss for the photo!
: @jimmy_chin My hair and hands styled by 13 Antarctic peaks in 2 weeks. “Dude, were we climbing the same rocks?” Alex teased me as he held up his baby smooth unblemished hands! “What...it’s not that bad...I’ve only got 1,2,3,4,5,6...,” I eventually couted about 78 tiny little cuts spreading across my hands in a bloody constellation commemorating our whirlwind of toil, fear and endless granite spikes! While I probably won the “most gobies” award, @conrad_anker and @jimmy_chin would have to duke it out for the “most destroyed clothing” award. The endless gritty, sharp chimneys and offwidths that they encountered on their first ascent of Ulvetanna left them looking like they had thrown their jackets in a blender. @sav.cummins And @pfaff_anna Definitely got the “most hygienic” award. At one point I went to visit them in their sleeping tent which smelled like flowers and sparkles.... my tent smelled like dirty socks! All jokes aside, our #tnfantarctica17 Expedition was one of the most fun, and productive Expeditions of my life. It was by all accounts a huge personal accomplishment for me to finish off the most expensively pipedreamed continent in my obscure, weird campaign to climb a big first ascent on all 7 continents! One great achievement for Cedar-kind, but one small completely opaque and obscure achievement for mankind! While climbers have been pretty stoked on our Antarctica expedition, I would call it pretty niche compared to the type of climbing that usually garners mainstream media attention. Usually it’s Everest...or well...it’s always Everest that gets mainstream attention. You tell a non climber you are a climber and there’s a 50 percent chance they ask you if you’ve climbed Everest! Arrgghhh!!! So imagine my surprise when a producer from @cbsthismorning Reached out to me saying they would be interested in covering our expedition! Today Conrad, Alex and I made an appearance on @cbsthismorning which was pretty bizarre...but cool! The 3 million people watching hopefully have a slightly better understanding and appreciation of alpine rock climbing! Maybe less people will ask me if I’ve climbed Everest now...but probably not!
The man the myth, the lovable socially awkward goofball, @alexhonnold complaining that the summit of Kintanna is too pointy. On this day, I led the first free ascent of the north pillar at 5.10+ in one 2000 foot pitch, the final exam in the Honnold School of Simul-Climbing. Two days before, Alex had lead us most of the way up the northeast ridge of Steitind, one of the most striking and imposing unclimbed features in the range. A couple feet below the top, he stopped his mega 1200 foot pitch, unsure if the route would go. We had no bolts and above us was 200 feet of overhanging protection-less rubble. Alex nervously disappeared around a roof. The rope ran 60 feet out of sight without a single piece of protection. I yelled up to Alex, “How’s it going up there?” “Not good, I’m kind of stuck, I’m really scared,” he whimpered. Alex had cranked an irreversible mantle and was stranded in a sea of choss. As Alex creeped horrifically upwards, the wall went into the shade. The change in temperature was drastic, to the point of being emergent. As I belayed a single pitch that had taken Alex longer than the previous 1000 feet, my hands and feet froze solid. I shivered uncontrollably. I became legitimately worried that if Alex didn’t take us to the summit soon, I might get frostbite. Finally after an eternity, that was actually an hour, Alex yelled down that I was on belay. I followed the pitch unable to feel my hands and feet. I hooked my woodblock hands with zero feeling into the cold overhanging choss. I climbed in utter horror, pumped out of my gourd. I deadpointed for creaking flakes, and wrestled frantically. It was apparent to me that I would have died if this was my lead. Even the follow was scary with the path traversing drastically over razor rock. I imagined falling and watching my rope rope sliced into oblivion. In 200 feet there were three pieces of protection that all would have ripped out! I thought the climbing was solid 5.11, but Alex suggested it was “classic 5.10d.” So if you try to repeat The Dark Tower 5.10d X, be very careful, Alex said it was the scariest lead of his life. #tnfantarctica17 @thenorthface
Formations like Midgard, are why I always dreamed of coming to Queen Maudland Antarctica. I love free standing towers. As far as rocks, nothing captures my imagination, and beckons to me more than a first ascent on a pointy summit. The spikier the better! Always the contrarian, @alexhonnold told me at the top of one of the many slender peaks we stood on during our whirlwind Antarctic summer vacation, that, "I kind of hate pointy spires, I prefer a giant broad summit." "Dude," I replied incredulously, "the only thing that would make El Cap more rad, is if it was a free-standing spire." "Agree to disagree," he said as we inspected the summit for a thread or stopper placement to begin the endless sketchy simul-rappelling that would leave us completely traumatized by the end of the trip. "This has been a great adventure, but it just doesn't feel that rad," Alex lamented as we rapelled off of a grumpy creaking flake, "I can't wait to pull hard on solid rock again." "Well, I think it’s pretty rad and, I wish I had at least another week here," I retorted. After all the bad weather delays, we had less than three weeks on the glacier, and I knew that with one more week, we could have climbed every summit... that will always be my mild regret... even though we climbed way more rock than I expected while we were out there. Alex loves an adventure, but, perhaps prefers the physical act of bone crushing rock gnar into powdery oblivion a little more. For me, climbing has always been more about first ascent adventure goals. While I love the athleticism, and physical achievement of climbing, I love exploring the world's beautiful landscapes, and having a crazy adventure even more. I really think Midgard pictured here is one of the most beautiful peaks in the world, and I will value standing on that spikey summit which was "only 5.11a," a lot more than ticking another 5.13. What I'm trying to say here, is that Honnold is wrong and I am Wright ! “I’m a performance rock climber, you are a lifestyle climber,” he once told me... which I think pretty well sums it up. Follow @thenorthface @sav.cummins @pfaff_anna @conrad_anker @jimmy_chin for more #tnfantarctica17
Today I achieved a life goal! I flew over miles in my paraglider here in Kenya! @nicgreece who grabbed this photo of me early in the flight, is one of the best pilots in the States, and a super talented creative as well, so when he invited me on this adventure paragliding mission, to the Kerio Valley, I knew I’d have a solid mentor, and a real chance of achieving a dream! Today it all came together, and I covered over 170 kilometers of wild African cliffs, mountains and beautiful villages perched on peaks. I connected countless thermals some times skimming in only a couple hundred feet above wild ridge top villages. The children would run out to see me in my Paraglider, and wave and cheer as I was yarded into the sky riding a bucking bronco of heated rising air at around 1200 feet a minute. My ears popped as I rocketed up through the atmosphere! At times, I was psychologically maxed out, but I knew I had to stay focused and in the game. Safely back at our base at the Kerio view hotel, it’s hard for me to fully comprehend what just happened! I took my body on an outrageous 7 hour journey through the sky, interacting with the landscape in a way that is impossible to completely convey, but that I would describe as outrageous, absurd, and spiritual. I’ve joked that paragliding is “Sky Crack,” but the truth is that I’m absolutely addicted to this sport, and there is something totally psychotropic about entering the macro world of birds, and using all of your training, creativity, and mental stamina to cover long distances of unmotorized flight. I’ve achieved my goal of tagging the 100 mile benchmark, but tomorrow, I’ll try for 200km, and then, I’ll gun for 200 miles someday. I’ve always been obsessive, and goal oriented, and flying Paraglider’s is becoming as special to me as climbing or filmmaking for channeling that energy into. With that said, I’m going to go grab a much needed beer, and try to unpack what just happened today!!!! Wooohoooo!!!
@jimmy_chin sporting classic #tnfantarctica17 expedition hair! I first met Jimmy 20 years ago, in Camp 4 in Yosemite. We ended up jamming on our Guitars for hours that day. Back then we were both full on dirtbags and super obsessed climbers, with more free time, then spare change! I don’t think Jimmy had even picked up a camera yet, but if you aren’t living offline, you probably know that Jimmy is one of the most accomplished and recognized adventure photographers in the world. Back then, I was working for Yosemite search and rescue, and was fully dedicated to being the best climber I could be, and had the unabashed dream of making a living climbing! By tenacity and luck, I finagled maybe the best sponsorship a Climber could dream of, a spot on @thenorthface climbing team! Jimmy had signed on the TNF team a few years before, and soon there Jimmy and I were on an airplane with Kevin Thaw to Mali Africa to explore and climb the wild five fingers of The Hand of Fatima. I was a complete world traveling Newb then, whereas Jimmy was pretty seasoned. At one point Jimmy watched in horror, as I threw bags of candy into a crowd of school kids, trying to make friends, but inciting more of a riot than anything. Soon after that trip, Jimmy’s photography career went ballistic, and Jimmy was shooting a feature for @natgeo about Yosemite climbing! I made sure to shoot one day with Jimmy on a wild roof called the Gravity Ceiling! I joked with Jimmy that I would give him my first born if he got me in Nat Geo. The thought of being in the pages of the biggest magazine in the world, one I had read since I could read, was pretty exciting. Luckily Jimmy got an outrageous photo that day, and I ended up in a two page spread in National Geographic! I was stoked, and Jimmy still jokes that I owe him. Jimmy now lives A celebrity’s life in NYC, with two kids and a bad ass film director wife! Jimmy is the most Baller guy I know! On this recent expedition to Antarctica, Jimmy and I reminisced quite a bit. That day jamming in Camp 4, we had no idea where life would take us, and how fortunate we would be! And...Jimmy’s still got it! He bagged an FA with @conrad_anker on Ulvetanna
“I’m going to be pretty upset if you don’t take us to the summit,” @alexhonnold says. Alex just lead a typical 1000 foot block with me simul-climbing behind him in frantic glee, and now he expects the same from me. With short windows of sun on rock when bare handed climbing is possible, Yosemite style speed climbing tactics allow us to free climb these huge routes in a single push. By the end of the trip we would still be able to count the amount of single rope lengths we climbed to the 13 summits we reached on one hand! As soon as you stopped to belay, your hands never warmed back up, so we just never stopped. We simuled virtually everything! For me, Alex was the perfect partner, but I can’t count how many times on the way to those summits that Alex said “When @tommycaldwell and I simuled....” followed by a tale of climbing a 5.13 big wall in Morocco in one pitch, or traversing all of Patagonia like it was a race track! “Nothing compares to Tommy,” Alex would say with lovestruck eyes. While not Caldwell, I was a decent substitute in this scenario where my back ground in soloing and “choss,” aka loose rock climbing was quite invaluable. I took off on my lead on the unclimbed North Ridge of Midgard, only placing gear when absolutely necessary. 50-foot run-outs we’re become rote, and barely traumatizing, they were so common place on this trip! The first ascent of Midgard was bagged by @mikelibecki and Josh Helling over many days, and the fact that we were near the 2nd ascent of the summit in 4 hours, and it’s potential for outrageous disaster, were not lost on me! I stopped below the huge house sized block that teeters on the summit of Midgard and belayed Alex up. Alex’s disappointment that I hadn’t taken us to the summit was palpable. Back on a normal belay I managed to boulder out a dicey 5.11 boulder problem to the summit, risking a decent ledge fall if I blew it! Alex actually tried hard for a brief second to follow my footsteps! Sitting on one of the most beautiful summits I’ve ever seen, Alex begrudgingly admitted, “Nice job today, there aren’t many people this would be possible with...but...You’re still no Tommy!” #tnfantarctica17 @thenorthface
A rare view! The only thing scarier than climbing a remote granite spire is descending! Here @alexhonnold and @sav.cummins make their way down from our “family style” ascent of Holtanna the 3rd hightest peak in the range. On this day Alex and I each lead the huge “Skywalk” route to the summit in a single pitch with @pfaff_anna simul climbing behind me, and Sav following Alex. Alex pulled ahead of me as expected, but I was quick on his heals… climbing along next to Savannah… at one point I watched the rope run tight and for a second Sav was literally being drug up a snow slope! The climb started with a 600 foot horizontal knife edge sidewalk with a over a thousand feet of air on either side. I tiptoed across the ridge weaving my rope around horns and flakes for protection. I had heard there were bolts on this route, but we were disappointed to find only two, and even more disappointed to find that there were no rappel anchors in place! Did the achors blow off the wall, or did the first ascent part rappel a different face? I’m still not sure. At the summit we decided that the fastest and “safest” way to descend was to downclimb. I could tell by the look on their faces that Anna and Savannah thought we were nuts, but, they reluctantly went along with the plan. The ladies would toprope down a section, and then we would solo down to meet them! Things went from unorthodox to outrageous, when we finally got to a section where a rappel was necessary, but the only anchor we could find was a loose flake. I climbed down the pitch, and secured the rope at the bottom. Alex wedged himself in an icy cave, slung the loose flake, and then Anna and Savannah rappelled off his body. “You might want to look away for a minute,” Alex advised as he downsoloed to us at the end of the sketchiest part of the descent. Hours later when we were finally back in our tents, I breathed a massive sigh of relief. I can only assume that Anna and Savannah think that Alex and I are a little sketch! @thenorthface #tnfantarctica17
Not much has transformed humanity more than flight. We land impossibly in Antarctica at the Russian Novo Airbase in an Aleutian Jet that has a mosaic of windows in the front that makes it look like The Millenium Falcon. The airbase itself is a Star Wars like outpost with a massive groomed ice runway large enough to land jumbo jets on! From there, after waiting out several days of ballistic winds and poor visibility, we are transported by twin otter to the Drygalski mountains, which are even more outrageous and beautiful in person, than in the @natgeo photos that planted the seed of a dream in my head so many years ago. We unload everything we need to survive for a month in one of the most severe places on the planet. As I watch the twin otter pull out of sight, I try to figure out what I forgot....not that it really matters now....toothbrush? Standing there on what feels like another planet, I’m struck by the absolute silence. We look up at the mountains with a mix of excitement and dread. Their scale is impossible to tell. I watch a white snow Petrel fly by with envy and curiosity. For these southern most birds, this landscape isn’t a place for adventure and exploration...it’s their summer home! A place to lay eggs. They are the only living thing besides humans that visit these mountains, and have tagged every summit in sight. @conrad_anker found a dead one on the summit of Rakenkniven when he was here 20 years ago. They come here to breed, I presume because their eggs are at zero risk of predators...and hey, it’s a pretty scenic and romantic locale!? We spend the rest of the trip wishing we had read up more on these unlikely companions on the glacier. What do they eat? I watch a flock of Petrel playing in the wind, soaring up across the face of Fenris, and gauge by how miniature they appear, that yes...these peaks are real big. For the next 3 weeks the sun lassos over our heads, never relinquishing the darkness. At times, I imagine being here in the winter when nothing lives here. The thought of endless impenetrable cold, darkness, and solitude, is haunting, but somehow reassuring. #tnfantarctica17 @thenorthface
A wild ice crystal formation, in an ice cave we explored while waiting in bad weather at the Novo Russian airbase for our flight to our climbing objectives in the Drygalski Mountains. A singlular crystal; ephemeral, beautiful and unexpected! Warning schmaltzy philosophical ramblings ahead: What if we treated every day like we treat the new year? What if each day was a chance for resolution and the promise of new beginnings? Sounds kind of hokey and stressful but sort of cool at the same time! We could have new day resolutions! We could celebrate life more often? Our guide Sergey led us out into a nondescript place in the endless sea of Antarctic ice and then began digging. He excavated a wormhole barely bigger than his body and then slid into it, disappearing from the surface! His head popped back out, and he beckoned us to follow him. We slipped and slid on our stomachs one after the next down a winding ice cave no more than a meter high, enjoying nature's most psychedelic slip and slide. And then...we arrived in a cavernous pocket large enough to stand in that dripped and prickled with all varieties of ice crystals, swirling daggers and flowing formations! A frozen museum of natures sculptures, lined up...seemingly extraterrestrial..And yet surely somehow belonging to this world! At times I'm filled with childlike wonder at the beauty and improbability of this world, but all too often, things become mundane or rote, that really should be appreciated with willful intensity. Those precious moments when we feel completely wowed and grateful, like I felt in that ice cave are to be cherished. Hopefully myself, and everyone reading this feels the feels and stands stunned by the outrageous absurdity of existence a little more often than average this year! #tnfantarctica17 @jimmy_chin @conrad_anker @pfaff_anna @sav.cummins @alexhonnold
Mentor, or dementor? @conrad_anker passing the sketch baton to @alexhonnold ! There is so much you need to learn to climb in the mountains, but maybe the greatest skill is the ability to forget how heinous it all was. Ask Conrad about his countless expeditions, and he seems to forget the frost-nip, starvation, and falling rock! It was 20 years ago Conrad first visited Queen Maudland, and a lot has changed for him since then. Just last year he suffered an altitude induced heart attack while pushing a first ascent in the Himalaya, and self-rescued from high on the icy face. He promised he was hanging up the expedition lifestyle for good, but one year later the rat needed feeding, and there he was with @jimmy_chin , charging up a first ascent on Ulvetanna, the biggest mountain in the range! Even though his stoke and motivation seem unbridled by the years, I often got the feeling on this expedition that Conrad was there more for us than himself. It's not that Conrad hasn't lost his passion and stoke for the mountains, but I think he now feels the need to pass on what he's learned from 30 years of remote adventure. "The dance of the absurd," Conrad joked with Jimmy, high on Ulvetana, "we've devolved as humans to the point where we have to climb frozen mountains." When Jimmy and Conrad came back from their 5-day push to the summit, having endured snow-choked cracks, 40 miles an hour wind and sustained sub-zero temps, it seemed Conrad had already forgotten all that, and only raved about the incredible views shared with one of his best friends. @thenorthface #tnfantarctica17u
The Hon, aka: Honny, aka: Hon Solo, aka: No Big Deal, aka: @alexhonnold doing what he does best, climbing ropeless on the first ascent of a wild unclimbed fishhook formation that we later learned the first Norwegian explorers had named Jörmungandr, which is a giant half human Mid-Gardian sea serpent that can wrap himself around the earth and grab his own tail. Alex and I spent one day of our two and a half weeks on the glacier on a recon ski tour soloing a couple easier peaks and working on our transitions from skis to crampons to rock shoes!! At the end of the day we headed over to The fishhook and gave it a tentative probe. We didn't have a rope or gear, but we figured it might be possible ropeless. "Dude! We are like proper Alpinists, I joked with Honnold as we front pointed in our crampons up steep ice to an obvious cleft that seemed the obvious way to access the wild thousand feet of hooking ridge feature that lead to a knife blade summit. "So hardcore," Alex joked, but looking down, I knew a fall down the huge slope would be a crapshoot. We reached the cleft and a small icy ledge and began the awkward transition from our boots to our rock shoes. Alex headed off first and occasionally shouted down beta to me. Weird chossy overhangs lead to the long snaking ridge. Alex headed on with the quiet confidence of the worlds best soloist. While I have soloed hundreds of routes up to easy 5.11, I'm no Alex Honnold, and it took all my faculties not to panic as I danced along the extremely loose knife edge ridge. Alex tagged the summit 10 minutes ahead of me, and began the downclimb. He watched in horror as I straddled and scooted along a particularly sharp and loose section of the ridge, riding the serpent like a cowboy. "It gets harder right before the summit," Alex warned me, and I very carefully climbed the final steep step, marking each hold with a big tick mark so that I wouldn't fuck up the down climb. I enjoyed the summit, for a couple seconds, and then headed down. I suggested 5.7 x for a grade but Alex declared it 5.2... but at least conceded it was so loose it was like soloing 5.10! #tnfantarctica17
Happy Holidays everyone! It’s great to be back in Boulder, but our digs weren’t too bad in Antarctica either! Not to dispel the “hardcore expedition,” image of our trip... but I would call our basecamp setup, “extreme, remote glamping,” thanks largely to @conrad_anker having winter camping totally dialed. Here @sav.cummins heads to the luxurious shelter of our 2-Meter Dome Cook tent where fresh brewed coffee started our mornings, and a good dram of scotch finished off most of my evenings. Of course living on the ice where it is never above freezing has it’s challenges and chores, and each day we had to shovel snow into buckets, fire up the stoves and melt that snow into water to hydrate the days adventures. One morning I was in the process of refilling a fuel canister, when a little bit spilled onto the stove-board that insulated our stoves from the snow. I started to wipe it up with a paper towel, when Alex insisted that, “Dude, just light it on fire it’s the easiest way to clean it up.” I should have known better, but, next thing I knew there was a giant fireball that leaped up into the gas soaked tissue in my hands, which meant that I was now holding a raging fireball. Always the team player, Alex assisted my dire situation by pointing, laughing hysterically, and generally enjoying my spastic shrieking dance of terror. “Arrrgghhhh!!...” I used a dish towel to smother the copious flames. I took stalk, and was overjoyed to not be seriously burnt or exploded! I was also relieved that Conrad wasn’t in the tent to see me nearly burn down his perfectly immaculate kitchen or he surely would have strangled me! “That was a terrible idea,” I admonished Alex. “No, that was awesome,” Alex replied. #tnfantarctica17
I awake sore everywhere. The promise of Coffee percolates me out of my 40-below sleeping bag. I begin "suiting up," in my layered insulated terrestrial space suit. Life is not meant to exist in Antarctica. It's a constant exercise in survival. Drop your gloves or boots on a climb and get frostbite or worse... drop your jacket and you just might freeze to death! Combine that with no chance of rescue, and it feels stark. It's overcast, and lightly snowing, but @alexhonnold and I decide to climb the second ascent of one of the cirques "smaller" formations, the 800 foot, Hel. The cracks are choked with ice and snow. "Looks significantly miserable," I observe. The ski approach to the base proper is REAL STEEP. If we blow a kick turn, it's a thousand foot tomahawk! This is a team sport @jimmy_chin @pfaff_anna @sav.cummins @conrad_anker @pablo_durana Alex and I joked that we would all be putting "numbers on the board," for each summit one of us bagged. "Bail?" Alex asks. "Dude... we've got to put numbers on the board," I retort. I set off up the snow-choked cracks with instant regret. For the next eternity, I excavate upwards with my ice axe. I dig out a hand or fist jam, shove my gloved hand into the crack... and then dig out the next one. The climbing is unrateable. Towards the top, I'm completely out of gear. I just keep going up a wild wind carved tube feature. A 150 foot run-out later, I finally belly flop onto a ledge below the summit with monumental relief. I bring Alex up and then we each lead and then downclimbing from the spindly summit that is barely the size of our two feet! Just standing on the summit is an exercise in balls and balance. Staring out onto the barren landscape peppered with impossible rock spires, it's hard to believe that this was our second full day in Antarctica. The sobering surrealness of it all reminds me of the time I took two tabs at a Grateful Dead show. Bad trip or good trip? We cut off a piece of our rope and tie it around a refrigerator-sized block perched on a ledge. "Let's get the fuck out of here?" Back at Camp Conrad greeted us, "How'd it go?" He asked. "Numbers on the Board!" I exclaimed.
High on Fenris, @alexhonnold and I reached an ugly roof system that seemed impassable without aid. Alex probed a few different options before traversing a mad dead sideways out of sight in a horizontal crack. The rope steadily moved out then stopped. The feeling of being high up on an inhospitable cold as hell wall in Antarctica with your partner out of sight and earshot, and not moving is...well...nerve wracking. "What's going on up there?... how does it look?," I shouted up to Alex... but he didn't answer. Ten minutes went by, but seemed like an eon, as the rope creeped glacially through my belay device. Finally I heard Alex shouting... but couldn't make it out. "What?"I screamed. And then barely perceivable I heard his shout drift to me in the wind with an unfortunate message... "the rope is stuck..follow on the Gris Gris." Alex's 80 foot sideways traverse to a hard angle up had paralyzed him with impenetrable rope drag and he couldn't pull rope to belay me!!! With a fifteen pound pack and half the rope coiled and hanging off off me, I nervously embarked on a run out technical hand traverse around the sharp north edge onto the the exposed and icy east face of Fenris. I was only able to pull in slack on the occasional bigger hold, and risked a huge and unorthodox whipper. I cussed and cursed my way out a series of pumpy tiered roofs and finally the rope became unstuck and Alex belayed me the last tidbit to the belay. The summit was in sight, and all the dread flooded away, replaced by relief, wonder and excitement. "That was wild, huh?!" Alex exclaimed, as I grabbed the rest of the rack and headed to the summit like a diver swimming up from the depths. Yes, wild indeed! @thenorthface @jimmy_chin @conrad_anker @sav.cummins @pfaff_anna @pablo_durana #tnfantarctica17
On our first full day in the Drygalski mountains, @alexhonnold and I skied out to climb the wild looking Fenris Peak, with a lot of questions bubbling in our head. The peak was gorgeous, and called out to be climbed, but...How big were these peaks? With the day being an overcast sea of white, scale was impossible to gauge. Was Fenris 500 feet or 1500? Would it be possible to climb bare-handed in this extreme cold? Would Alex recognize I had tricked him into coming, and bail back to his tent and just read his books until the plane came because his toesies were too cold? Would the rock be climbable without bolts? Would we succeed or get spanked by this frigid Antarctic granite? Like so many things in life, the hardest part psychologically, was just committing to trying. A few simul-climbing blocks later Alex and I stood on top of the 1400 foot spike of a summit pleased and surprised. We managed likely the second ascent of the peak, and the first ascent of the north buttress! The route was only 10+, but the huge 60 foot run outs on the marginal to crumbly arete made it feel like a 5.12 experience. The summit was the size of a coffee table and the views were insane! But, the summit doesn't count until your feet are back on flat ground... or ice in this case, and Rappelling using rotten horns and creaking flakes made it legitimately traumatizing. Despite the considerable mental stress, Alex and I returned to the ground some 12 sketch simul-rappels later feeling relieved that we could in fact use our Yosemite style speed free climbing tactics in Antarctica. We weren't going to get shut down! We eyed up another spike summit for the next day as we skied back to camp. It was my first day on the glacier and my dream of climbing a big first ascent in Antarctica had already been realized! Follow @thenorthface @pablo_durana @sav.cummins @conrad_anker @jimmy_chin and @pfaff_anna for more photos! Stay tuned over the next couple weeks as I unwind the tale! #tnfantarctica17
Photo: @pablo_durana We'll...that was outrageous! I just returned from an all time @thenorthface expedition to The Drygalski mountains in Queen Maudland Antarctica, with @alexhonnold @sav.cummins @conrad_anker @pfaff_anna @jimmy_chin and @pablo_durana it was by far the most productive trip to the alpine I have ever had. Partnered with @alexhonnold we established 7 first ascents, and tagged 13 summits, including all the major summits in the range, except for Ulvetanna, which Conrad and Jimmy established an epic first ascent on in bigwall style. That means as a team we climbed essentially every major tower in the range! I'll be unpacking the sheer amount of climbing and adventure we experienced for a long time, and will be posting a bunch of wild photos from the adventure in the near future. Right now I just feel extremely grateful to have safely experienced one of the most beautiful, and otherworldly ranges in the world...and to have just taken my first shower in over a month! #tnfantarctica17
Well... we're still not in Antarctica....but luckily we are waylaid in beautiful Cape Town South Africa, one of my favorite cities on the planet. Definitely an ideal place to wait out the shoddy weather that is shutting down flights to the Ice runway we will be landing on... hopefully tomorrow!! In the meantime, We've been Sampling some of the wild tiered roof climbing classic to this region! Here @alexhonnold crushes his 93rd or so 13c. Weird to think that we were sport climbing with our shirts off today, and tomorrow we'll be in full cold weather regalia on the coldest continent on earth! @pablo_durana @jimmy_chin @conrad_anker @sav.cummins @pfaff_anna here we go!!! #tnfantarctica17
Holy Crap!!! Stumped won best climbing film at @kendalmountainfestival !!! What a rad honor for @tay.keating and @moinmountains and I! If you haven't seen it yet, look for it at @reelrock . And..in other news, I'm currently in Capetown South Africa waiting for the weather to be good enough to fly to Antarctica... luckily the climbing here is off the hook!
When I first paged through this 1998 edition of @natgeo featuring @conrad_anker and legend Alex Lowe climbing a big wall first ascent in Antarctica, I had just started climbing, and I remember turning each page with amazement and wonder. Gordon Wiltsie's photographs sparked my imagination. The landscape was otherworldly to me, and Conrad and Alex seemed like astronauts. For years now, going to Queen Maudland Antarctica to climb these wild granite big walls that leap improbably out of the barren icy landscape has been on my climbing bucket list. Antarctica is the last continent I haven't climbed a big route on, but it's hard and expensive to get to, and it was in serious doubt whether I would ever be able to finagle a way to get there. Today, thanks to @thenorthface I leave for Antarctica with a crazy badass team including @jimmy_chin @pfaff_anna @alexhonnold @sav.cummins ...and.... this is surreal to say... @conrad_anker ...the guy who sparked this crazy dream of mine in the first place!!! With the mega assist from @pablo_durana and @tay.keating, I will be directing a short film about the adventure! I'm so excited!!!