Back in the Day and Today: 20 Years of Sierra Running and Climbing

Matt Samet pioneering the idea of Sky Running, Sierra style, way back in 2002.

20 years ago I was doing exactly what I’m doing now. Making plans for a huge project in the mountains. Back then, I’m sure I never imagined I’d spend the next 20 years doing very similar things. At that time, Janine and I were living in our VW van, milking our $62 bank account, and trying to figure out how to be professional mountain sport photographers. 

Then, Rock & Ice Magazine took an idea we pitched to climb all of California’s Sierra Nevada 14ers by technical routes. It was our first big assignment. At the same time, Patagonia’s Photo Editor, the highly influential Jane Sievert, took us under her wing helping us produce iconic Patagonia style images. 

As the snow left the Sierra, we moved in. One by one we ticked off all the 14ers. Many, like Mt. Russell and Whitney, we did by numerous routes, bivvying at the base of the walls and running laps. We also climbed just about every Sierra classic and only really left the high country to move to the next trailhead. 

2001 repeated itself countless times, a continual cycle of organizing trips to mountains around the world to make photos of what we do with friends.

Somewhere along the way we moved to the Alps and our lives in the Sierra became referenced with, “Back in the day.” With the years, life became more stable, cozy, and comfortable.

Living free and wild felt normal in my 20’s, but I dreamt of more. Now, in my 50’s and having fulfilled many of those dreams, I wonder what I’ll find if I go back. 

I’m excited that current planning puts us in the Sierra for the bulk of the year working on yet another big project and discovering what has and has not changed in 20 years. If you follow us on social, expect to see a lot of mountain running, some climbing, and probably more than a little re-living, “Back in the day,” while we develop something special for the Sierra trail running community.

By Dan Patitucci

2001: Climbing Mt. Russell’s Startrekkin’ 5.10b
2001: Mark Leffler stuck between a rock and a very hard place as snow moves in on Mt. Russell’s Mithral Dihedral.
2001: Meanwhile, at Mark’s belay Dan Patitucci begins to stress at the absence of California sun.
2001: Tommy Caldwell & Beth Rodden climbing the East Face of Mt. Whitney
Fish, it’s what’s for dinner.
The Evolution Traverse. The only route I’ve done that was measured not in feet or meters, but in miles of climbing. Dave Melkonian and I did the third ascent of Peter Croft’s masterpiece.
Wellness, Sierra style.
2001: Underwear modeling. Thankfully, for Patagonia.
2001: Dan hydrating at the van with a pile of CLIF Bar wrappers, dirty feet and meters in the legs. Turns out nothing has changed, except better fitting clothes. Then, a Medium. Now, XS..
Looking forward to super sized burritos and cervezas.
2001: Our year in the Sierra ended with a party that left our van (home) a mighty mess. We just wish the bears had invited us.

A HUGE thanks to the brands we are celebrating a Platinum Anniversary with:


And of course the never ending love & support from these wonderful friends (although not quite at 20 years, yet):


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