The Tempest

I’m really not a Shakespeare nut, but there’s a classic route in Kootenai Canyon just south of town with the same name. It’s long (33m) and reasonably hard (5.11b), and sometimes confusing. In a good way that’s kinda like life. Skiing Gash point on Sunday pointed to a few more of those lessons.

Sometimes life really bucks your expectations.


walking with skis

Walking with skis wasn’t the plan. Simon and Martin smile anyway and keep going.

Or maybe, you can’t see where you are going at all. Things feel cold and scary, and you wonder why you make the choices that you do.

gash point bitterroot, backcountry skiing, avalanche evaluation

Looking into a different sort of tempest. Simon and Madison evaluate the “spring skiing” on Gash Point.

But we smiled into it, and kept going. The cool thing I’ve noticed is that when that is the mantra, good things generally happen. It’s hard for me to admit that sometimes and I don’t know why.

powder skiing, backcountry skiing, boot deep

“Huh… look at all that fluffy stuff.”

(the skiing was really quite nice after all on Sunday)

Life can feel like a tempest sometimes- one that tends to obscure the important parts of ourselves, and our lives as part of our communities. Getting outside is what clears my head and gets me operating properly again.

It’s suddenly a beautiful spring in Missoula. The Tempest (climbing route) has been on my tick list since I first heard about it, but I’ve only touched it once. That first time humbled me, and I’ve avoided it ever since. I promised myself it would be a project this year. Just before I left home this morning I looked at the weather and texted my good friend Michael about climbing outside after work. I didn’t want to avoid looking at the route any more. We stole out a little early, warmed up, and got right to it.

The Tempest Kootenai

Michael clears the lower turbulence on the route.

I surprised myself when I hung all the draws without falling off. I can’t call it my first project of the season, because it only took me one go to send it cleanly. The send matters less than the lesson: with preparation, willingness, and a clear head things aren’t always so hard as they might seem.

It’s gonna be a good season.

“The only real limits are the ones we create in our own minds.”



Portland #8

My legs were stiff as they turned over the bikes cranks, 9 hours of driving back from Portland will do that. Portland was much warmer- after the long drive, the evening air had a bite that reminded me I was back in Montana. It felt good on my face.

driving west, clouds

I never mind the drive west.

I went to Portland to represent Energetechs at the PHnw5 conference, geeking out with other building professionals on insulation, window, and energy modeling details for the most efficient buildings in the world. The usual highlights were not to be missed- solving the hardest design criteria in the world and watching my friend David present one of the first PassiveHouse apartment buildings in Portland.

window installation details

Nerdy… window flashing and install details.

speculative passive house

The first speculatively built Passive Houses. The two units sold in 3 days. Props.

This was the 8th time I’ve been back since I left in 2011. I still miss it (this song always runs through my head). There is a strength in my adulthood now that was developed while I lived there. As my ties to that place whither, I’m afraid that strength will also. Driving into inner northeast on Thursday night, the old ties swelled. Music with the band, a few favorite restaurants, and a late night at Stormbreaker Brewing (formerly Amnesia…) completed the feeling. It felt good to show Mark my old haunts, and make new friends in the Passive House community.

portland coffee

Coffee in little tiny cups.

Mark at Multnomah Falls. The spring runoff is big.

Mark at Multnomah Falls. The spring runoff is big.

I’m not sure why my history with that place still feels so important to me. Maybe because I remember having life a little better under control there. Maybe things felt more certain, or just less confusing. It wouldn’t be the same if I moved back, and I don’t really want to, but sometimes the decisions we make are never as cut and dry as they might seem.

“Allow. That’s most of what we have to do. Just allow it. We might not understand now, or ever.  But we will feel it. We will feel our lives. ” (Andrew Given)


ps. the title isn’t wrong. Portland #7 didn’t get it’s own post, but you can read about it here.


Want What You Have

I believe in sucking the marrow out of the bones of life. I believe dreams are meant to be chased with reckless abandon, and that one of the few true sins is settling for less than what we want. Lately though, I’ve been thinking about a quote from my mirror last summer:

"Before you can have more, accept what you have."

“Before you can have more, accept what you have.”

I was doing a lot of introspection, and am again now. Acceptance can be difficult for me because it feels passive. Lately the quote has become more about wanting what I have. I have some amazing things, even if they are not what I expected.

Marshall Mountain, safe skiing, dawn patrol.

Safe conditions were… fleeting. Taking the slow way to the office a few weeks ago.

We don’t have awesome skiing weather right now. Professionally, I’m taking hard knocks and waiting to see the labor pay off. A small romantic failure and a left foot that seems not to heal furrow my brow a little deeper. I could go on, but I won’t.

Skiing Mt Sentinel, Missoula, Montana

Ticking the list. Skiing over “the M” at sunset.

I’m prone to feeling unsatisfied with my life. The problem is common to people that like to maximize their day. For some reason it’s become socially acceptable to overlook the amazing bits of each day.

freestone climbing missoula, rock climbing training, roscoe outdoors

Quiet nights honing the craft.

While I haven’t been outside so much, life is rich. Thanks to Paul, Mel, Tess, and Simon for being awesome training partners. For the New Leaders Council connecting me with my community in ever broader ways. For a landscape that offers unceasing beauty, for passionate friends, and authentic co-workers. For good food, meaningful work, and soulful music.

Untied Way, Susan Hay Patrick, New Leaders Council-Montana

The one and only Susan Hay Patrick with the 2014 New Leaders Council fellows.

For good friends that like to cook.

Montana, spring, friends

Thanksgiving dinner on the first day of spring weather.

I haven’t set many goals for the coming year. I’m wary of asking for too much more. I’ve got a lot of work to do on simply really wanting the amazing life I’ve already got.

“Love it, ’cause this is what we’re doing, so love it.” (Ryan Van Luit)



“Do not ask what the world needs. Rather, ask what makes you feel alive, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Howard Thurman)

The stage is set. (Photo: Nick Triolo)

The stage is set. (Photo: Nick Triolo)

One of my early mentors was a storyteller, but it took me much longer than the time I had with him to understand why his profession was just so important. I think I’m starting to get it now. Stories engage us and inspire us. They remind us that the world is not limited to what we see, but that it extends to include the our hopes and dreams and sorrows and failures. They remind us of the experiences that make us feel alive.

Just before I left for Vegas I got an email from my friend Trevien. A talented poet and beautiful human- he had an idea and needed a cellist. The gig was this past Thursday, so as soon as I got home, we sat down for a few hours and matched a few of my improvisations to some of his delicious prose. We shared it live at the Wild Mercy reading series at the UM FLAT. The crowd it seems, enjoyed it thoroughly. You can listen below:

I start playing at 43:30. Thanks to Simon for making a stellar recording. Thanks to Trevien for the idea, and amazing words. Thanks to the UM FLAT for hosting, and Mel & Caroline for being overall event masterminds.

Red Rocks

Going someplace good.

Going someplace good.

Simon and I slid together down our ropes into the blackness. Light from my headlamp faltered as the batteries strained and drained, our eyes squinting for the glint of bolts. We had already voiced our shared our fears of rappeling in full dark, but it didn’t change the necessity of doing it. There was a peace in the abyss though. The night air was still. We were looking for bolted anchors on a clean and obvious route. My companions were the kind of friends that make any “extra” adventure seem like legitimately more fun, rather than something scary or annoying. We had topped out the Ginger Cracks route on Rainbow Mountain in Red Rocks, and despite the fading light, our stoke was bright.

Simon gets us off the deck.

Simon gets us off the deck.

Ginger Cracks is an old school Red Rocks classic 5.9 that took us just a little longer than expected. It was a perfect day that started with looking at the line of people waiting for their turn on “Crimson Chrysalis” and making a fast decision to do something else.

Simon is all smiles on top of the crux pitch.

All smiles on top of the crux pitch.

I would rate Ginger Cracks as one of my favorite 5.9s anywhere- long pitches of varied climbing with occasional runouts and awesome position. I still haven’t climbed the more popular classic next door, but I didn’t need to for a perfect day out.

Simon runs out the gear on pitch 6.

Simon runs out the gear on pitch 6.





I’ve never been one to shirk the season and head for the sun, but when Ky floated the idea over Thanksgiving, there was no way I was going to miss out. The union of old and new friends in the winter desert was a perfect idea, and I dare say- perfectly executed. Ky and Joe flew in from Bellingham and Boulder respectively and got a few pitches on Thursday afternoon.

A long journey, in a very short time.

A long journey, in a very short time.

Bacon and coffee. I must be on vacation.

Bacon and coffee. This is living.

Simon and I took off after work Thursday night in the Jetta and swapped shifts to keep the car moving- an all nighter under full moon in the desert didn’t feel like much effort. We made it in time for a full but slightly groggy day of climbing “Birdland,” a perfect warmup.

Splitter headwall pitch on Birdland. Thin.

Splitter headwall pitch on Birdland. Thin.

I would travel most anywhere to climb with Ky and Simon, and didn’t think much of it when Ky started pushing Red Rocks. I’ve been there before but with mixed success- despite it’s beauty the place hadn’t held my heart. This time was different. Meeting Ky and Joe, with Simon felt like a reunion of brothers. Perfect weather, a gorgeous landscape, and boisterous climbing set the backdrop for an unbelievably fun weekend. To some, driving so far for such a short time might not make sense- but it was a perfect chance to reconnect with the spirit of adventure that is commensurate with living fully.

The only limits are the ones in your own mind. Climbing with a steady head on Sheep Trail. John Bachar 5.10a.

The only limits are the ones in your own mind. Sparse gear and a steady head on Sheep Trail. John Bachar 5.10a. (Photo by Joe Stephenson)

My best friends have always been the people that inspire me to do the things I’m afraid of. To be more honest with myself and the world. They are people that I love and admire so much that giving my best doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, it’s simply the most obvious and essential course of action. They remind me how to serve others better, to dial my own needs in so I’ve got more left in the tank for others. It was a weekend with some of those people, and I never doubted it would be.

Summit stoke.

Summit stoke. (Photo: Joe S.)

Disproportionately, I find these friends through silent sports done in nature. Indeed it might be why I do them at all. This time, we got Red Rocks right and I look forward to the permanence of the memories.


After nearly two weeks of amazing sunshine in January, the weather gods dumped 18 beautiful inches of powder on western Montana this week. Somehow, it even managed to come in wet and heavy, and end dry and light (the preferred configuration to avoid avalanches). After a challenging week of work, I was eager to shred hard.

We go up....

We go up….

Saturday was busy at the G-Spot off Lolo Pass. We were one of the first in, and the last out. Despite our big group, we made 5 laps under bluebird skies. The powder was every bit as good as hoped. Maybe even better. It was the first time I should have legitimately considered a snorkel as part of my kit. Anna, Molly, Larry, and Paul- thank you, ’cause that was a damn good time.

Larry gets the hang of his new Legend XXLs...

Larry gets the hang of his new Legend XXLs… note the powder contrail.

I know I’ve got the right friends when Super Bowl Sunday makes us all think that the ski resort will probably be empty. The snow report pushed us to Lost Trail (4/4 on excellent days there this year), and after Simon missed out on Saturday, he was determined to get it all. With 7 people, our mixed abilities spread us across the mountain. Simon, Trevien and I enjoyed some of the best steep powder I’ve ever had the privilege of skiing. These men make me ski better, and I’m thankful for it. We all re-grouped after lunch for a full afternoon of playing in the trees and coasting packed powder groomers. All smiles, all day.

Despite the great ski turns, I was still turning work stuff over in my head. I don’t like taking work home with me, and don’t like some of what’s looming on my professional horizon (while some other things are very exciting). Interestingly enough, the things that have nothing to do with work have been the most calming. It’s fun to realize that my skiing as important to me as anything else that I do- not because I bask in the glory of being a great skier, but simply because it fills me with pure, authentic joy. Dreading my week, I look back on the things that have stood out over the years. The places I’ve been and people I’ve shared them with seem far stronger than the immediate concerns about sales numbers or workflow planning.


Working with Dustin at the Commons.

The Muldrow Glacier.

Castleton Tower.

Running on the Chicago lakefront.

Playing great music.

I don’t mean to slam work, but when things aren’t going well I usually end up feeling like the world is going to end. It won’t. These experiences remind me why my life outside of work is just as important as my life at my desk. They are mine, and reflect a life that I am proud of. They remind me how capable I am. Of how rich my life is. I’m not sure why that’s so hard for me to keep in perspective, but it’s a perspective I’m determined to keep fighting for.

Saturday's perspective was bright.

Saturday’s perspective was bright.


The start to all good adventures.

The start to all good adventures.

I had about 12 hours between getting back from a full work week in Thompson Falls and getting into a car full of friends headed to the southern Bitterroot for a weekend of yurt skiing. It was my favorite kind of transition. More on Thompson Falls later, it’s about skiing now:

Bad habits from telemark skiing carry over. I'm still a back seat driver.

This weekend did not suck (Photo: Evan Smith)

Simon had texted me: “can you get next Friday off?” Knowing Simon, my reply was simple: “Whatever it is, count me in.” He had booked two nights at the State Line Yurt tucked just a mile or so behind our favorite ski resort, and had backcountry turns on his brain. Mel and Simon are an amazing adventure duo, and their friend Evan is a hard charging Jackson native. With a yurt and good snow, the stage was set. I felt damn lucky to be included.

The fun begins. I love the looks we get in a resort with big packs on.

The fun begins. I love the looks we get in a resort with big packs on.

The State Line Yurt is a revival of an old thing, and I had never had the pleasure of yurt supported skiing. After more than a few freezing nights in a tent, I can’t complain. A potbelly wood stove, ample mattresses, and a stellar kitchen setup made the living pretty plush.

New use for the crampon pocket.

New use for the Cilogear crampon pocket.

While we had packed a few party supplies, it was more fun to realize that my companions and I were all on the same page- we just wanted to tour. We skied hard all day, ate well, and slept immediately. We might be the first skiers in the history of yurting to carry beer back out with us. The touring was just too fun to miss.

Evan gets some.

Evan gets some.

We found quick turns on Friday afternoon just over the ridge and out of earshot from the resort. The north facing powder was deep and dry. Our excitement skyrocketed. None of us had really expected decent snow- friends and solitude were enough. With a little looking though, the mountains had treasure waiting for us.

The best of Saturday mornings.

The best of Saturday mornings.

Saturday we all agreed was for a longer tour, someplace we would never go without the yurt location. We headed south to Pt Hughes, and after some navigational arguments, found a spectacular burn with decent steeps. The views south into Idaho beckoned us on like sirens, but the snow held our attention and the turns were not to be missed.

If you don't GoPro, don't go... (or something). Photo: Evan Smith

If you don’t GoPro, don’t go… (or something). Photo: Evan Smith

We got back to the yurt just in time for a perfect sunset, and another epic meal. Mel and Simon prepped the whole trip at Costco, keeping things cheap, efficient, and tasty. Despite all the touring, I’m not sure I lost weight on this one.



Somewhere in the course of skinning I remarked to my companions “I’ve hit a state beyond excitement, and I can only describe it as bliss.” It makes sense to me that the silent physical work of skinning, followed by the pure rush of downhill powder turns adds up to a singular, superlative experience.

The best kind of tired.

The best kind of tired. (Photo: Evan Smith)

Sunday we skinned over to Saddle Mountain for incredible looks north at the Bitterroot valley, and hopefully more great snow. The views delivered, but the snow didn’t. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be perfect. Clouds rolled in, adding texture to the sky and snow to the Pintlers- topping our together felt like the perfect end to the trip. We got a few great turns on some south facing corn as we headed back to pack up, and caught the tow rope in the resort before it closed.

Snow not required for fun. (Photo: Evan Smith)

Snow not required for fun. (Photo: Evan Smith)

I’m gonna say it to set the bar (and cause it was true): I think this was the most fun I’ve ever had on skis. I cant wait to see what’s next.