Thursday Thought: The Storm Years
Note and apology: This Thursday Thought was supposed to come out last Thursday, January 21, 2010, but in my sick and sleep-deprived state, I hit “draft” instead of “publish”, and only noticed the error now. Sorry!
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I opened the mail the other day to a pleasant surprise: Volume 3 of The Colorado College Alpine Journal (CCAJ). As usual, the articles and trip reports were wonderful, replete with accounts of local epics like “Childhood’s End III” on Big Rock Candy Mountain to “jungleneering” on the first ascent of “Nkhalango Khoswe” in Malawi.
From what I know, CC’s climbing legacy dates back to 1914-1919, when Albert Ellingwood was a professor there and took time to pioneer many classic routes in Colorado’s high country, including the famous Ellingwood Ridge on La Plata Peak and Ellingwood Ledges on Crestone Needle. While perhaps the first “named” climber at CC, Ellingwood was certainly not the last. Since his tenure, the ranks of climbing have been filled with Colorado College alums, including:
- Harvey Carter, a remarkable climber with over 5,000 first ascents…and counting
- Ed Webster, who pioneered new climbs from Colorado’s Black Canyon to the Kangshung Face of Everest
- Steve Hong, who sent the first free ascent of Sphinx Crack in 1981
- Charley Mace, who’s climbed Everest, K2, and recently put up a new route on Carstensz Pyramid with Hans Florine
- Colby Coombs, founder and owner of Alaska Mountaineering School (AMS)
- Doug Workman, great climber, Mammut athlete, and guide for Jackson Hole Mountain Guides
- Rob Frost, amazing climber and film maker
- Will Gadd, incredible climber and adventurer who just did the Endless Ascent at the Ouray Ice Festival, climbing “Pic o’ the Vic” – a 120 foot WI4 – 194 times in 24 hours to raise money for the dZi Foundation…amazing!
- Renan Ozturk, a member of the younger cadre of impressive CC climber-alums
- And, the list goes on and on and on…
At any rate, reading the CCAJ and remembering my climbing days at CC brought to mind a classic quote by Geoffrey Winthrop Young, from his classic book Mountain Craft, speaking about the need to push ourselves in, as he calls them, “the storm years of our strength”. (Not coincidentally, this phrase is the subtitle of Ed Webster’s wonderful book Snow in the Kingdom: My Storm Years on Everest.) Here is today’s Thursday Thought:
A mountaineer may be satisfied to nurse his athletic infancy upon home rocks, and he may be happy to pass the later years of his experience among the more elusive impressions and more subtle romance of our old and quiet hills. But in the storm years of his strength he should test his powers, learn his craft and earn his triumphs in conflict with the abrupt youth and warlike habit of great glacial ranges.
And, for kicks, check out the video below – it’s a snippet of Chris Alstrin’s film Luxury Liner about the first ascent of the Indian Creek classic “Supercrack” in 1976 by Earl Wiggins, Ed Webster and Bryan Becker: