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Learning from Loss

The loss of friends carries a message. Death has the ability to teach us to live.

In the last months I have seen death in the mountains. I have been both witness to it as well as removed, watching from afar as its effect sweeps through a community of friends and family.

I have sifted through others thoughtful words after the loss of Shane McConkey, Jonny Copp, Micah Dash, Wade Johnson and two men whom we watched taken in an avalanche. There is always consistency; life is to be lived, and if in so doing one is lost, at least life was had. As a mountain person, I understand the risk inherent in the opportunity to feel tremendous joy for living within so much beauty. Loss can strengthen love by serving as a reminder the importance of appreciating the present, both for people and experiences. Jeremy Collin’s eloquent letter to Jonny Copp is a perfect summary of what I feel.

Each day I must go through our photography. In it we have a collection of memories. The nature of the way Janine and I work is to document what we do. At an early point in our careers, we made the decision that our work is less about “photo shoots” and more about shooting photos, of our lives as people who greatly enjoy being in the mountains with each other and all of our amazing friends. In our own work I see why we do what we do, it gives us life, strengthens our love, builds our characters and teaches us about the natural world and our place within it.

And so I have looked through some of our work and identified those photos that are of experiences that have made us better as people, images of perfect moments that have shaped who we are. Ironically, the most memorable, are from climbing in the mountains. Climbing can be frightening, dangerous, and difficult. But because of this, the rewards are some of the greatest . We can all identify with the emotions coming from friends of people lost. To carry on the lessons is how we can enrich others as well as ourselves, and turn something so tragic into something life giving.

Below are a few images that come from experiences that gave us life.

Alpine Sunrise - Basecamp

2001, our first climbing trip to the Swiss Alps. Too poor to stay in huts, we had to camp on the glacier. Our stay included a 3 day storm so fierce we couldn't leave the tent. The early days of our relationship with each other and with each other in the mountains.

Alpine Climbing - Monch

Swiss Alps, 2001, my first alpine route in Europe. We would spend the next 6 summers climbing in the Alps before moving over to Europe.

The Monch Summit

Janine and I on the summit, a rare day of being the only people on a Swiss mountain.

Climbing Mont Blanc

Climbing Mont Blanc with friends John and Julie Stamstad. John had raced, and finished 11th in the 100 mile/27,000 foot elevation gain Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc only a few days before. We arrived at the summit for sunrise.

Mithral Dihedral Storm

My closest friend Mark Leffler racing to our belay in a lightening storm on California's Mt. Russell. We thought we were done for as lightening was making all our gear hum and our hair tingle.

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Janine took this picture of me as we waited for Mark, previous photo, to settle into the belay. This is a look of true concern. Moments later we were rappeling.

Mt. Mendel Summit Sunset

In 2002 I did the Sierra Nevada's longest route, the Evolution Traverse with Dave Melkonian. We started in the late afternoon and bivvied on the nearly 14,000 foot summit of Mt. Mendel. This remains one of the finest trips I have done in my 23 years of climbing, not just for the route, but for the company.

Climber above the clouds at sunrise

Janine and I did a long enchainment in the Swiss Alps in 2003. Beginning at about 2 a.m., we arrived to an alpine ridge for sunrise and one of our greatest days together.

Sunrise Climbing

Continued from the previous photo, our ridge traverse in the Alps went up and over numerous peaks and always on a ridegline. It is a magical position to spend a day.

Aiguille d'Entreves Traverse

Together with friends we started the Aiguille d'Entreves Traverse above Chamonix. The weather turned from blue sky to storm very quickly. Our friends opted to turn back and descend, Janine and I continued.

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Comments 2

  1. Maybe I am a little biased after spending some time in the industry, but I can definitely say that these photos don’t scare me. They make me want to go climb a mountain. Thanks for sharing them! Jill

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