Down to Earth Expedition

In April of 2017 I was lucky enough to be a member of the Down to Earth Expedition. This is an amazing five year project focusing on human powered exploration in the arctic while bringing awareness to climate change and sustainability to kids in schools across the world. This amazing project was created by Michaela Precourt, below is an excerpt from our website!


Down to Earth asks students, teachers, scientists, communities, and team members to courageously contact what we do not yet know. Can you step into the unknown and try for something more? Down to Earth is trying to connect people together to instill a sense of hope back into the world that does not appear to know its way.

Our trip in Iceland ended up being a lot about intention.  Having a dream come to life is amazing and daunting at the same time. My intention and dream is to create an opportunity to instill a connection between the next generation and the arctic landscapes of the planet. 

The daunting challenge is having a dream come to life with people who may or may not fully hold the same image of what to accomplish. Not bad or wrong or insignificant if our goals are a little bit different, difference and variation express our humanness.  The hard part is finding where we do align and connecting my/our intention through that commonality.  

Making an intentional community that thrives on the same goals is not an easy task. Our intention meant that we would call each other out when we were not living up to the goals and values we had set for our expedition. And I think we were not fully prepared to do that quite yet as we began.  My impression of the strengths we did have and what we were ready to do together were to:

  • get to know each other, 
  • explore the physical land of Iceland, 
  • become familiar with the people and culture in Iceland, 
  • how we as individuals connect with the mission of Down-to-Earth, 
  • how we want our voices to be portrayed in what we produced, 
  • and ultimately, maybe even in the first place, why being part of something bigger than ourselves is important now.  

When we were in Iceland the participating schools tracked our expedition through a GPS System on our website. They received para. updates of what we ate, what we saw, and where we were. They were also able to watch video lessons, such as on the geography, the local food, and group dynamics among other things, which were uploaded after the sailing portion of the expedition.  

During the video conference with the school where I teach in Bend, Oregon, the students were able to ask us questions through live interaction from Iceland; a phenomenal experience for not only the team members but also the school Community.  During the video conferencing we had 67 other people watching and now 226 people have watched.  

While in Iceland we were fortunate to interact with Icelanders in significant ways:

  • We traveled to a farm where we met a man who turned a swimming pool and basketball court into greenhouse. 
  • We saw how he is using the geothermal hot springs to heat the greenhouse. The farmer, creating a micro-climate, is able to grow plum and cherry trees in Iceland. 
  • We met up with local Icelanders who think sustainability is critically important. One of the members of the group started a CSA in the small community.  In the first year she had 50 members. 
  • We talked with a local fisherman to learn his point of view about what is happening with the climate in the northern areas. And what needs to change in order for Iceland and other arctic regions to actually see a change in the environment. He talked about wanting to see, at a minimum, a change in the next generation perspective on how to treat the land around us. 
  • And with great excitement, we sailed on a 50 foot sailboat in the west fjords of Iceland; we explore the land by ski; we ate muscles sourced 10 feet from our boat. 

The intention of this trip spoke the most true to me at the end back in Bend Oregon, when I saw the smiles on my students faces. This trip ended up, as I had hoped, being about inspiring the next generation to live intentionally about their choices every day.  

We may have not always used human powered transportation or only ate within hundred miles due to circumstances but that was our choice in those moments plus our success more than not and ultimately my students saw that. What became our committed intention was the link they needed to see; that it's not about being perfect. What mattered was seeing where we chose to aim because that was relatable to them. It's not about striving to be perfect in every category in every goal 100% of the time, but aspiring to connect to our best self in this moment.  And that's a really powerful message. Ultimately, we can always strive to improve ourselves, and strive for the best and we hope to continue to do that in the next years. 


Climbers Are Amazing!

Climbers Are Amazing!

This time of year I am logging many hours a day in the office. Each day I try to escape into Acadia National Park for a few hours to climb or run and get my heart rate up. Today was a rainy and gloomy day and things in the office were slow. I closed the door and drove the few miles to the Huguenot Head parking lot. My plan was to run up to the top of Champlain and down the North Ridge and then back to the car. A nice mellow loop.

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Another great new route at the South Wall!

Last summer ACS guide Ryan Scott was flipping through the new Rock Climbs of Acadia guidebook and noticed a top rope route called Impalpable Cracks at the South Wall. The line was originally climbed by Chris Gill and Ray Simpson and begins at the 2nd pitch corner of Story of O. The route follows face holds and thin discontinuous cracks up and left ending at the top Story of O rappel anchor. Ryan went out and gave the route a try. He found superb and engaging climbing and noticed the route could be lead with only the addition of a few bolts. Ryan put in a proposal to the Climbing Advisory Group to add the necessary bolts to the line. The proposal was accepted and Ryan and some of the other ACS guides began the process of cleaning the route and finding where the bolts should be. They discovered a beautiful variation to the original line that would not only add some great and challenging climbing, but it would also bring the bolts away from the Story of O corner.

On a cold morning in early March Ryan and I spent a few more hours re-climbing the line and dialing in the bolt placements. We equipped the route with four bolts. This highly technical line begins at the lower Story of O rappel station and begins with a hard  bolt protected traverse right following a tiny crimp rail and crummy feet. This leads to a stance before committing to the face. Three bolts protect the fun face climbing which leads to thin discontinuous cracks. Arriving at the cracks there are two great finishing options. One can trend left into a small alcove or go straight up into the first thin crack. Both options are great and meet up after a few feet for some superb finishing moves.

Today Ryan and I went out to climb the line. Ryan went first and was able to hold on to the tiny holds even though it was blowing over 40mph! It was great to see him weave up the pitch so smoothly and clip the chains! I lead the pitch afterwards and we were both psyched with our efforts. Impalpable Cracks 5.11c is a great addition to the cliff!

Patagonia 2016 Part Two

The weather window looked short and cold. All of the climbers we knew were going to sit this one out and do some sport climbing in town. Pete was psyched as usual and convinced me that a quick mountain mission was a good idea. I was hesitant at first but once I committed, I, too, was excited to head back up to the mountains that occupy my mind most of the year.

We left town around 1:30pm and began the long hike to Paso Superior. We roped up for most of the glacier travel and we arrived at our advanced base camp around 9:30pm. We set up the tent and cooked a quick dinner. We set the alarm for 2:54am and went to bed.


The alarm came quickly and Pete brewed up some coffee and oatmeal. We shouldered our packs and continued our mission deeper into the mountains. With the cold temps the glacier was firm and we moved quickly. We arrived at the bergschrund at the base of La Brecha a 300m 60 degree snow slope as the sky in the east began to brighten.

We traversed south for some time until the bergschrund was small enough to climb over with little trouble. I led up and across the snow field aiming for a long protected corner. The sun broke the horizon. The wind picked up causing spindrift to swirl around us. The snow slope led to a 100m 5th class rock step which was icy and challenging in mountain boots.

From the col Pete led an icy corner pitch that brought us to La Silla – a bullet hard ice ridge that separates Cerro Fitzroy from Aguja Poincenot. I led out crossing the low angle snow and ice and traversed under the south face of Fitzroy. Pete got hit in the face by a small chunk of ice falling off of the upper reaches of Fitzroy – a not so subtle reminder of the objective hazards that surrounded us. I was able to get a bit of protection in the rock every 30m or so and we simul-climbed through the low angle terrain. One more traversing pitch with a short steep section and some mixed climbing finally deposited us at the beginning of our objective, the east ridge of Aguja de la Silla.


This is the last tower out of the nine primary peaks in the Fitzroy massif that Pete and I hadn’t climbed together. We had attempted this same route three years earlier but had turned around at the foot of the glacier due to high avalanche danger. I’m not sure how much our egos played into our desire to climb this peak but we were intrigued by the idea of climbing all of these incredible towers that were connected to each other like the spikes of a stegosaurus. It was also a perfect objective for a short and cold weather window.

A beautiful granite pillar rose above us for 250m. The wind had picked up and the temperature had plummeted. We put on our puffy coats and synched them down! I led the first pitch heading south around the tower navigating icy cracks. The pitch led to a recess in the ridge and Pete took over the lead. With numb hands he quickly dispatched three more very cold and icy 70m pitches that brought us to the pointy summit! We were the only climbers in the entire range. Everyone else was resting in town. This solitude gave the mountains a different feel and I was happy and proud to be with Pete surrounded by snow ice and golden granite.

Pete and I had first climbed together in these mountains in 2008 and this was our 4th trip to the region. This particular mission was our 17th time roping up together in these massive and complicated mountains. I am grateful for such a solid partner and for these powerful and authentic experiences.

We did not linger long and soon we were rappelling back to the base of the tower. From the base we had to reclimb the traversing pitches and rappell back down to the top of La Brecha. The cold temps were welcome during the committing rappel of this 300m gully as it kept the snow, ice, and loose blocks frozen in place.

We rappelled over the bergschrund and back on to the glacier. We stayed roped up and slogged around crevasses back to our advanced base camp at Paso Superior. We arrived back at our camp 15 hours after we had left in the cold pre dawn hours.

We melted snow and drank water. We ate food and rested for about an hour. We repacked all of our stuff and started down the glacier towards Laguna de los Tres. At this lake we switched from mountain boots to approach shoes, ate more food, drank water, ate Mexican pain killers and continued the long trek back to town. The sun disappeared and we continued. It began to rain. I hiked alone, lost in my music; my fatigue and the winding trail that heads to the tiny town of El Chalten.

At 1:00am I stumbled on to the paved road that runs through town. The streets were empty and the low light from the street lamps seemed alien. I opened the door to our house after 21 hours on the go, another wonderful long day in the mountains with a great friend.

Sleep came easy.

Star Face Mole

I have climbed at the central slabs hundreds of days over the last 16 years. I love this area so much and I hope to continue climbing its perfect lines until I am old and grey and unable to slip on climbing shoes.

This small area is locating at the east end of the South wall (AKA Precipice) and offers climbers a taste of somehigh quality moderate climbs on the best rock in New England. It is home to the ultra classic 5.5 Wafer Step and offers amazing views of Frenchman’s Bay.      

A few years ago I spied a potential new line between the two classics Recollections of Pacifica and Madame Lebois’ Troubled Lunge. I climbed the line on a top rope a few times and thought it would be a great addition to the area. This independent line protects naturally with cams and nuts but would need one protection bolt and a little bit of cleaning for it to be ready. I submitted a proposal to the Climbers Advisory Group and after a trip to the site it was approved. It was also decided to place a rappell station at the top of the pitch in hopes of alleviating the traffic jams that are often found on the Wafer Step anchor.

In the fall I spent a day cleaning the route up and figuring out the best place for the bolt. I was at the top of the pitch cleaning out a beautiful crack when I realized it was actually part of a large loose block that was not attached to the wall. Thus began a few hours of dirty difficult digging trying to unearth and remove this large boulder. By the time I trundled it I was exhausted and covered in dirt!

I let some months pass and allowed the wind and rain to clean up the line. This winter I had a few buddies climb the route on a top rope to see what they thought. Everyone seemed to like the line and each time I climbed it I enjoyed it more and more.

Today my buddy Max and I equipped the route with it’s one protection bolt and placed a two bolt rappell anchor at the top of the pitch. The line climbs well and has two tricky slab cruxes. I am calling the route Star Faced Mole 5.10+

The name is a playon the Star Nosed Mole which is an amazing digger and lives in Maine. Because of the extensive digging I encountered and that the climb is more or less a face climb, I thought the name was a great representation of my overall experience on the route. I also love strange critters. I am excited to have another quality line at the Central Slabs and encourage folks to go check it out. A huge thanks to ACS guides Ryan Scott, Richard Parker and Noah Kleiner for their help and incite, as well as Max Blanford for facing the cold today (15 degrees when I left the house) and joining me.