Sunday, February 15, 2015


Just to mix things up a bit I thought I would share one of my other passions, working with logs.
When I picture what I want to do with my life the answer is very clear, build cabins and climb mountains. This video shows how I spent a good portion of my summer last year, starting with selecting a cabin site and finishing the season with a completed cache and the cabin walls up. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Brake the Damn Box

Life has a way of kicking you in the ass. No sooner did I post that I was ready to step back into the alpine climbing game then two days later I found out that the shoulder that has been bugging me is actually a torn rotator cuff, with a possible six-month recovery period. Not only does that put my expedition to Pakistan at risk, it also means that as a self-employed tile contractor I can’t lay tile.

“Why me? Why now? Oh, Oh poor me!” That is how I felt last night when I found out. I felt totally defeated. I couldn’t sleep because I was worrying about how to pay for the bills or just pay for life in general. And what about Pakistan? My climbing partner Doug and I have been planning the climb for a couple years now, and with the peak sitting at 7,600 meters, I looked at it as a necessary step in my quest to realize a super project I’m planning in the future. 

That was yesterday and I have cried about it long enough. Today the sun is out, it’s a beautiful warm winter day, and I have a new perspective. It is my choice how I view my current situation, and I have the power to put it into whatever context I choose.

A golden opportunity is how I choose to look at it. The situation is making me get out of my box, and getting out of one’s box is always a good thing. First of all, my day job, I hate it! Now I am being forced to look into new career paths, which is exciting and scary! And what about Pakistan? Well, I’m still planning on going to Pakistan in June, and this gives me a great chance to try some new training cycles that I have been thinking about. I look forward to the challenges ahead and I feel fortunate that I have to step out of my box. As a matter of fact, I plan on throwing that damn box away so I can never go back to it. Everything is a step forward! So just like my childhood hero, Steve Austin, I plan to get better, stronger, faster! I’m not saying I’m the Six Million Dollar Man, I’m just saying nobody has ever seen me and the Six Million Dollar Man in the same room together. Onward!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The sun is starting to rise and we don't know it yet but hell is about to be unleashed on the mountain.
Profile of the north face from the standard route on the southwest rib.

Approaching the north face.

Doug finally feels safe to crack a smile after we are off the face.

Dead sea bird in the glacier on the approach, maybe a bad omen.

“Rock!”  Doug Chabot and I where at the belay, tethered to the icy mountain face together. We heard the rumble and simultaneously looked up to see the sky above us filled with a barrage of stones. Doug yelled the warning of rock to Steve Swenson who was out on lead above us. There was nowhere to hide, nothing but 70 degree ice for hundreds of feet in all directions. There was no escape. I remember thinking of a turtle as I tried to suck my body under my helmet and backpack. Doug doing the same beside me began saying, “fuck, fuck, fuck!” I could hear the fear in his voice.

We were in Tajikistan, on the north face of Peak Karl Marx. We had already summited the 6,800 meter peak by the standard route, and were now trying for the first alpine ascent of the north face.

Then, the rocks hit. Steve, who was out on lead, had one ice tool ripped out of the ice. To his credit he managed to not fall. A fall would have been catastrophic. Doug, who was beside me, suddenly seamed to go limp and started to moan. He had taken a direct hit to the shoulder. Then my world went black for a split second, and my ears began to ring, I had taken a rock square on top of my helmet. There was no fight or flight. We had no options. All we could do was wait, wait and see if that one unlucky rock would come and take one or all of us off the mountain face.

That moment is burned into my mind, it has haunted my dreams on many occasions.

After many rappels always under constant rock fall, we escaped to the safety of the bergschrund.  Steve and I were unhurt, but Doug had been hit by another rock, this time to the face. There was a lot of blood, but luckily nothing was broken.

That was a year and a half ago, and I have struggled with the thought of going back to climbing big objectives. But everything is a learning experience and everything is training. From Steve I learned how to remain unflinchingly calm under stress. The guy was the picture of efficiency and calmness on the retreat off the face. Doug who took two big hits, one to the shoulder and one to the face, showed how to be a tough son of a bitch! Because of his injuries he couldn’t help much on the descent, but he kept moving and did what he could. A lesser person could have shut down physically and put the team in an even worse situation. I learned from myself to trust my judgment. The day before the climb I voiced concern about the weather being to warm, but I was very easily persuaded to go have a look.

Lastly, I learned that the big mountains are where my ambitions lie and where I want to be. Its okay and healthy that I stepped away and took time to reflect and look inwardly at myself and decide just who and what I want to be. And now I feel ready to step back into the game. I leave for Pakistan mid-June. Onward!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Success and Failure
 Upper Doublet (right tower)
Giants Foot
My alarm went off at 3:30, I made a cup of coffee, through my gear in back of the Subaru, kissed Francine good-bye and left the front door at 4 a.m.. I was meeting my climbing partner, Chris Guyer, in Columbus as he was coming from Billings. Chris is in his early 20's, he is super fit, strong and has a great head for climbing. The guy can throw down! Our objective for the day was the Abbey Schock route (13 pitches, 5.11) on the Upper Doublet in the East Rosebud Canyon. We felt like we were making good time as we simul-climbed the first 5 pitches, then we hit the Grey Matter pitches mid way up the wall. This part of the wall slowed us to a crawl as we got off  route and climbed some very loose scary pitches but we got throught it and managed to get back on route up higher. We climbed the last two pitches of the route with headlamps as we lost the race against the setting sun. After the descent and the three hour drive back to Bozeman, I walked back through my front door at 4 a.m., 24 hours bed to bed. Chris who had the shorter drive back to Billings made himself stay up until 4 so that he had the same experience as I did. I told you he was young and strong, I didn't say he had the common sense to go to bed when he got home. Sorry Chris, I have to give you shit!
starting the Grey Matter pitches
 5.11 traverse
Chris contemplating the difficulties ahead
Chris on a hard lead
Summit Shot
   After our success on the Upper Doublet, we turned our attention to the unclimbed Giants Foot (A.K.A. First Wall). This wall had been attempted by the Alex Lowe in the 1990's and a few years ago I had found his old fixed line and the start to his route. This would be a full-on big wall aid climb, we planned accordingly bringing a ledge, bolts and rivets and a willingness to spend a few days on the wall.
   Before the trip I joked with Francine, telling her that Chris and I would need to go into Spartan Warrior mode to get this thing climbed, as it would turn out that wasn't to far from the truth. I went  in two days ahead of Chris and started hauling loads to the start of the route, on one of my trips up the loose scree slope I lost my footing and fell, cutting my knuckle to the bone. My first thought was that our climb was don, but then I thought about what I had told Francine about the Spartan Warrior mode. So, I went back to the tent washed all the blood off and cleaned the wound, I didn't have a first-aid kit only some tape and a flask of 101 Wild Turkey. I figured the whiskey would steralize the cut.  It works in the movies. Wow! Pouring that whiskey on my raw knuckle lit me up, but hey we are Spartan Warriors here. So I taped it up and kept going. Later that night Chris showed up eager to get on the wall the next day.
   The next morning we would climb the gully below the face to the launching area for the wall above. Leading the gully turned out to he a lot harder than we had anticipated as it was running with water and the walls were worn smooth with little to no gear placemants. I did manage to get to a chock stone that I slung and after much internal disccusion I commited to the polished stone above and I promptly fell off slaming my knee into the chock stone. In much pain I again thought of the now annoying, Spartan Warrior comment. So I shook it off and tried again. This time I managed to get past the "approach pitches" to the start of the actual wall. After fixing lines and hauling loads up the gully we were ready to start the wall. The first pitch was the real deal right off the deck, but I gained confidence the higher I climbed. After pulling a small roof, I could see the old fixed anchor and felt confident that I was only moments away from finishing the first pitch. Adding to my confidence was a perfect #1 camalot placement that I spotted just below the anchor. This meant I could get off these pin placemants and have a solid piece to get to the anchor. As I got to the slot I placed the cam, clipped my aider to it and gave it a tug. The wall exploded above me as a refrigerator sized block came out and caught me in the right shoulder. It slammed into the talus below and luckily missed Chris. In the fall I shock loaded my fifi hook and it snapped in two, but the last pin that I placed held and Chris caught the fall. After a quick assesment I realized that I was okay other than the fact that when I  raised my arm above my head I had a terrible pain in my shoulder. Turns out it is very hard to climb when it hurts to lift your arm above your head so I built an anchor and lowered off leaving Chris to jug and clean the pitch. After this it was decided, "To hell with the Spartans, I'm tired of getting beat up everytime I turn around" and we started to bail. Some would say why post about such a coveted first ascent and give people the idea of going to climb it before I have a chance to go back. Well honestly I'm not too worried, but if someone out  there thinks they have the sand to go give it a try, a little advise, "Spartan Up"!

Chris on the approach pitches
Getting ready for the wall
Starting up!
Full on aid mode

Chris cleaning the pitch after the near miss
The mighty Bear's Face (only one ascent) with the Giants Foot ( no ascents) behind upper left.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hushe Valley, Pakistan
This was our home for the month, not a bad place!

My first 24 hours in Pakistan ended here. 14,000 ft. pass, army check point, we had to stay here for fear of being robbed traveling at night.

 Skardu, this was the jeep that would take us up to Hushe.

 First day and we already have our first climb scouted. 16 pitch 7c+

 This is Doug with Hushe down below.

 On clear days we had a great view of Masherbrum.

 Little higher on the route, one of the crux pitches, 7c+

 Myself on the summit
Great day!

 Ali & Rasool, they were our constant companions. Two great guys!

This was our next climb, turned out to be dirty rock so we bailed after 5 pitches.

This was 6oz. of milk that destroyed me for about a week. Doug commented as he took this picture
"Here is the last picture of Rusty before we call Global Rescue!"

Rasool and I visiting with the women that gave us the milk. This was in a valley above Hushe.

 After I recovered we turned our attention to this unclimbed peak.
The photo only shows the first buttress, which we climbed at 5.11-.

 This was the crux pitch.

Higher on the ridge above the initial buttress. We bivied not far from here at 16,000ft..

Doug with the unclimbed summit behind. That night we got rain and snow and bailed in the morning.

Another climb, Stago Peak, Doug leads out.

 Rasools wife and new daughter.

 Ali with his family at there home.
the climbing was great but making friends like this is priceless!

 Some of the guys at the hotel playing a board game.

 Our room, not a bad base camp. The food was excellent also.

12 steak kabobs, rotti bread & a coke, Back in Islamabad. Not  bad way to end the trip!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Becoming a Mountain Man

Last winter, I read a quote listing three requirements to become a Mountain Man. First, you have to kill a bear. Secondly, you have to love a native woman. And thirdly, you have to pee in the Yukon River. Now for as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be a Mountain Man. As a child the idea of wondering the hills with a Hawkin rifle, leggins and a fur hat captivated my imagination. I felt I would truely be wild and free, answering to no one. Unfortunately, I grew up and turned into an adult. I also bought into the fascade of the American Dream, a mortgage, car payments, credit card debt, big screen tv and all the other bullshit that our sociaty tells us is part of our dream.
Last summer I was trying to find that particular quote. To no avail I could not find it, but it got me thinking how I accomplished all three.
 First of all, I killed a Pope & Young record sized black bear using a self bow, which is a stick bow my friend Brad carved out of an Osage Orange tree branch, and wooden arrows.Secondly, I am married to the most beautiful woman I have ever set eyes on, and she just happens to be Northern Cheyenne. Her Great, Great grandfather was Chief Dull Knife also known as Morning Star.
Thirdly, I pissed in the Yukon River. Sorry to say I didn't reach number three with quite the same pinach! I was in Whitehorse, the biggest town in the Yukon, with Stan, Daniel and Peter, on our way to climb Mt. Logan. On the long drive from Montana, I was telling them about the three requirements and at that moment we were in the middle of town gasing up Stan's Toyota. I look across the busy street and there flows the mighty Yukon River. Daniel notices me looking and says, "Here is your chance." Without a second thought I sprint across the busy street, and I turn to see Peter close on my heels, with a huge grin, and his camera. I find a spot on the bank in the bushes, drop trow and piss in the river. Peter follows suit and we laugh like little school kids.
When I returned from Canada, I reflected on where I am at in my life, and I also thought a lot about those three crazy requirements. I have come to realize I don't hunt anymore because I honestly don't like killing animals. Secondly, I love my wife because of the amazing person she is and not because of her lineage.  Lastly, anybody could piss in the Yukon if it were right in front of them. However, I am a Mountain Man not because of or inspite of those three requirements, but because of what is in my heart. Only differences are that I roam the mountains with ice tools instead of a Hawkin rifle, and I wear gortex and a helmet rather than buckskins and a coonskin cap. But it would be a lie if I didn't say I have thought of attaching a coon tail to the back of my helmet.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Logan 2011

Just a quick trip report, in June Daniel, Stan, Peter and I made the 38 hour drive north to the Yukon. Our goal was to climb Mt. Logan, Canada's highest point and the second highest in North America. We failed, here are some photos.

 Sorting gear at Kluane Lake
 Approaching our route
 Peter on the start
 Stan and Peter
 Bivy #4
 This was day one, waiting for the temps to drop

 Little mixed fun!
 Stan feeling tired
 The crux

 More mixed goodness
 The summit behind Stan
 Near the top of our ridge
 Our ridge started bottom left and climbed up right to the very obvious sun shade line upper right of photo. see bottom photo for rest of route. Our high point was the top of the wide snow ridge (HubSew Ridge) which we then descended and traversed around to HubSew peak and came down the south west face of HubSew. The ridge that we climbed gained 4,500 ft. and was unclimbed, our descent down the HubSew ridge and face was also a first and we believe that it may offer a better option than the very long East Ridge. The point of climbing a mountain is to stand on top and in that we failed, but what a great climb with great friends!
Just a quick trip report, in June Daniel, Stan, Peter and I made the 38 hour drive north to the Yukon. Our goal was to climb Mt. Logan, Canada's highest point and the second highest in North America. We failed, here are some photos.