McCarthy, Alaska was a tiny town with a year round population of 25. It sat at the convergence of the Kennicott and Root Glaciers, the headwaters of the Copper River. It was the jumping off point to our country’s most incredible mountain range and wilderness, the Wrangell-St. Elias.
There was no road into Cordova, so I began my journey with a ferry to Valdez, and started hitchhiking towards McCarthy. I caught a ride on a small airplane for the last leg, and arrived at the Kennicott river. There was no road into the town of McCarthy either, so I pulled myself across the river on a hand-tram. This is how all folks got to the town of McCarthy at that time.
At the old Power House I hired a guide who I would later spend years climbing with, but that is another story. I fell in love with ice climbing, and returned the next summer to do an internship as a mountain guide with St Elias Alpine Guides.
The ice was not like our glorious frozen waterfalls here in Colorado, it was bullet proof at times.
That next summer I flew all over the Wrangell St. Elias in small planes, where passengers sat in luggage compartments, and backpacks were strapped to the wings of the plane. I traversed enormous and wild country climbing unclimbed peaks. I lived in a tiny cabin, in a meadow of wildflowers, with a moose antler-door handle, and no electricity or running water.
Between travels and a decade of climbing around the world, I ended up near Ouray, Colorado, where we are lucky enough to have a virtual training ground in the Ouray Ice Park. Better yet, the long and wild climbs our surrounding mountains offer, from Silverton to Telluride and beyond. I ended up here, in a valley surrounded by 14,000′ peaks, and hot springs, and a small, rich community of exceptional folks, who have amazing talents they never talk about. So many of us came just to ski and climb.
This painting, Skelly, is for the Ouray Ice Festival 20th Anniversary, where it will be auctioned off at the fundraiser. This post tells a little of what’s buried in these layers of paint. Be sure to check out this fantastic event if you get a chance!