Berndog, motorcycle

Butte, Mont.


A blizzard on I-90

North Dakota


Frank Lloyd's fans

Oak Park, Ill.


Lean wit it



Bus stop hand

Chicago, Ill.






The long way to Chicago, VIII

Oak Park, Ill.

Chicago, Ill.





The long way to Chicago, IV

Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Mont.


The long way to Chicago, III

Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Mont.


The long way to Chicago, II

Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Mont.


The long way to Chicago, I

Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Mont.


Jacob's new route on Beacon Rock

Beacon Rock State Park, Wash.


Stikine (Epilogue)

After returning to Petersburg two days earlier than planned, Shawn and Quentin were able to secure earlier tickets from Alaska Airlines for little or no cost. I was not so fortunate, but it wasn't difficult to acknowledge my extra free time in Southeast Alaska as the gift it was. I went for a solo salt-water skinny dip, and was able to spend an afternoon talking with Dieter Klose, the man who knows the Thumb better than any person. His simple living room has a picture-window view of the Stikine Icecap when its clear out, and the oceanic tides when its not. We talked about the value of ideas, and he told me about his life as if we had known each other for years.

That feeling of connection is powerful and it is positive. I absolutely felt it after a year in Ketchikan. I felt it after many tent-bound days with Shawn and Quentin, and the feeling is lodged permanently inside me after a long morning scratching my way nearly to the top of the Thumb and very nearly getting spit off in the process. The feeling was immediate and deep when I listened to Dieter.

We didn't get to the top of the Thumb, but the conquering mentality has never been why I climbed. I climb because of how it connects me to places, people, and to myself, and for that, this trip was a true success.


Stikine XI

After excavating and building a series of rappel stations to the curving snow ridge, trying not to slide down the slope now above its logical melting point, and falling into the bergschrund, I returned to my skis to find my ski boots filled with water. Shawn called Wally in Petersburg to schedule a pickup ASAP. He said he'd try to get to us. Thanks Wally.

The helicopter took longer than anticipated because Wally's regular route to the Thumb was too cloudy. Shawn and Quentin volunteered to go on the second flight out, and made sure to have enough food and shelter in case Wally couldn't return for them that day. We flew out over the Baird Glacier, the emergency escape route by foot and air, and I was thankful to be on the helicopter instead of the maze of deep blue crevasses and gravelly moraines below.

When Wally returned to the hangar after his second trip to get Shawn and Quentin, his face was sullen as he told me he had to leave my partners on the icecap. The weather finally closed. The potential of the situation was too real not to believe, until Shawn and Quentin burst through the doors laden with backpacks. Thanks Wally.


Stikine X

The ridge appeared to be a little more straightforward above the gendarme. There was often enough rock to climb around the snow, but still enough snow to be jealous of attempts lucky enough to find the Thumb in true rock climbing conditions. The circuitous climbing was slow going, but at least we were moving.

After a few pitches of climbing up, down, and sideways to escape snow, I found myself moving more directly on the steep upper slope of the northwest face to avoid an obvious ice-smeared crack I couldn't bring myself to jam. With my two gloved hands underclinging a dripping flake and one heel hooked around an arete, the entirely natural fear of falling into well over a vertical mile of space finally wormed its way into my brain, just in time for my other boot, edged desperately on drying lichen, to slip. Of course I was run-out.

How did I manage to hold on? It was certainly the most scared I've ever been climbing, and by the time I built an anchor higher up, I was mentally drained. We climbed one more beautiful pitch to the rappel notch, a point we approximated to be 100 vertical feet and 300 horizontal feet from the summit, and the most convenient place for a party to *spoiler alert* bail. It was around noon, and the clouds that had seemed to extend into eternity below the ice cap all day now had companions drifting above our heads. We were moving too slowly to have a chance of scrambling up and down the easy, but slippery terrain to the summit and return to camp in time for Wally to get us out before the weather hit.


Stikine IX


I had set my alarm for three in the morning every day on the ice cap, prepared to climb. Most days, the alarm proved comically optimistic given the heavy precipitation that would blow throughout the night, but on Wednesday we woke to a clear sky, its colors warming from the blinking summer night. Grabbing our pre-packed bags, we zipped up to the bergschrund, swapping skis for climbing boots, and continued up a steep snow slope to a ridge, roughly following a melted boot track we left on a scouting mission a couple days before.

The snow curved in a grand parabola, pointing upwards past blocks of unconsolidated granite diorite patched with snow and towards a menacing gendarme that marked the start of the summit ridge. Our route. Leading this section rarely felt secure. Protection was minimal, the snow steep. I was thankful to have two ice tools, which allowed me to move between wet rock and shallow snow relatively comfortably. After a handful of pitches, we arrived below the gendarme. I chose to climb below it, hoping the ridge would be dry enough to allow passage on its north side, an incorrect assumption. It was on this mini-reconnaissance, however, that I would peek over the Thumb's plumb, massive, unclimbed northwest face for the first time, a singular moment of the trip. The joy of the exposure was soon muffled by the meter of snow pasted mercilessly to the north side of the gendarme. Down I went, and found a quite fun variation that would take me to the uphill side of the gendarme. I later learned this variation was pioneered by the gatekeeper of the Stikine, Dieter Klose and the late Mike Bearzi.