I’ve been AWOL for a while.   Life has been crazy for the last 18 months or so.  Why?



We had a new house guest who was on the way.



He showed up not long after I got back from Teton.   Looks like he’ll be sticking around for a while.  Something like 18 years.  Maybe more.



Being a dad is a full-time job, so it hasn’t let me a ton of time to write.  But I didn’t mind too much.


But now he’s a little older, life has settled down a little bit.  So I’m going to try to get back to writing.  I’ll wrap up my trip report for Grand Teton and share some pictures and stories of other stuff I’ve been doing, including our trip to Mt. Shasta in California.




“The mountains are calling and I must go.” -John Muir

Our plane suddenly descended and banked sharply as we prepared to land in Jackson Hole Airport.  I looked out my window on the right side of the plane and our journey suddenly felt much more real than it had seconds ago.  Out that windows, towering above her sister mountains, was Grand Teton.   Holy shit, it looked huge.       I was almost overwhelmed with emotion as it drifted out of my view.  We were really here.

It all seemed like a fantasy back in December when Dave, Matt and I started talking about coming out to Jackson, WI to climb the 13,770ft Grand Teton.   We had just finished a weekend of multi-pitch climbing and camping at Seneca Rocks, WV and we had bigger peaks on our brains.   We all agreed we should do a trip the next year somewhere more ambitious than West Virginia.

We established some basic criteria for our next adventure.  It had to be in the US, it had to be out west and it had to be something none of us had done before.  We thought about doing Rainer or Whitney, but Matt had already done both of those.  We looked and some of the 14’ers in Colorado, but a lot of those, didn’t involve a lot of roped up climbing that we desired.

Then someone mentioned Grand Teton.  Almost 14,000ft, requires class 5 climbing to summit and it’s got a great little airport and fun town right at the base of it.   Sounded like we had a winner.  Plus just looking at pictures of it, it was just begging to be climbed.  So after a few months of research we finally got our permit and booked our flights for Jackson, WY.

Being from the east coast and living a relatively sheltered first 30 years of my life I’d never been on anything higher than 7000ft.  The prospect of climbing a real mountain was making me wild with excitement.   The whole concept of alpine mountaineering was only something I read and dreamt about.   The altitude, the snow covered slopes in July, standing on top of the clouds… it was all going to be a reality.


The plane touched down and after waiting nervously for our checked bags full of our climbing and camping gear, we managed to find our way to the car rental place. We had about 8 hours before Matt would be flying in from San Fran, so we had a little time to kill.

Downtown Jackson is a weird amalgamation of a town.  In one block you’ll find cheesy souvenir shops that sell trashy t-shirts, a trendy restaurant and a store that sells cowboy boots.  It’s a lot to take in, but it’s got a lot of western charm and the surrounding peaks provide a stunning backdrop.

Dave and I settled in for a lunch at a restaurant we were referred to by a couple of locals called Sweetwater Tavern.  There we enjoyed buffalo sloppy joes and elk melts, along with a couple of nice local IPAs to wash it all down.

Once we were done we crammed ourselves back into the rental Corolla and drove about 30 minutes outside of town to the Jenny Lake Ranger Station to pick up permit and check in at the climber ranch where we’d be staying at that night.


“If you blow it here, you’re gonna take a ride all the way down the Idaho Express.  Don’t blow it man. ”    The bearded climbing ranger was going over the route with us and was warning us of the dangers of making a mistake on the mountain.  He was referring to a particularly exposed part of the climb and a 3000ft cliff that drops almost completely straight down the mountain into neighboring Idaho.   With his sun bleached hair and wild looking beard, he looked like he could just as easily been working at a surf shop as he could be a climbing ranger in a national park.

“Some 19 year old kid blew it at this spot last year.  He was clipped into the accessory loop in his harness.  He didn’t make it”.

The Idaho Express.

3000ft drop.

Don’t blow it.

Hard to forget any of that, right?   We finished reviewing the route with the ranger, he gave us our permit and we were on our way.   I stopped for a moment to look up at the mountain before we jumped back in the car to head back to Jackson.  I looked over at Dave who probably looked as wide eyed as I did.

“Dave, let’s not blow it up there..”

“Yeah, no shit man.”





View from the bottom













What an incredible week!   I’ve made it back from the Grand Teton adventure in one piece, albeit a little sore in the legs.  Truth be told, I don’t think my legs have ever been so sore.  I got off the mountain on Friday and I’m still wincing at the thought of climbing stairs.

I’ll be posting a full write-up of the adventure this week, in four parts starting tomorrow.  I don’t want to drag it out too much, but there’s a lot to cram into one little post.  For now I’ll leave you with my favorite picture from the trip, taken from the lower saddle of Grand Teton at 12,000ft.




Look at that view!



I’m actually on a plane right now, but using the power of WordPress’s schedule posts, I could write this last night so you could read it this monring.

So you might be asking yourself, what does one pack when they go on a 3 day mountain climb in the middle of Wyoming?  Good question, this my first trip out west to climb, so I was a little unsure myself.  I did a little research on some other sites and have been paying attention to the weather situation out there, and I put together my own list of stuff I’ll be packing for the trip.  Not all of this will be going up the mountain with me, but I like to have options I can pick from depending on how the conditions look.   A lot of this will likely end up staying in the rental car.



Next stop, Jackson Wy.   Happy trails!




Packing List

Climbing Gear
Climbing harness
Trad rack
Rope (60m)
Headlamp (with extra batteries)
Approach Shoes
Technical Shoes
Ice axe
Sleeping bag
Camp pillow
Sleeping Pad
MSR water filter
1.5l nalgene
Trash bags
Bear spray
First aid kit
Camp towel
Food bowl
Coffee cup
Treking poles
Down vest
Shell jacket
Treking pants
2x technical t-shirts
4x undies
3x hiking socks
2x t-shirts
Mountaineering boots
Flip flops
3x Freeze dried dinners
5x Ramen noodles
Cliff bars
4x Starbucks Vias
Sports drink mix
Trail mix
Baby wipes
Bug spray
Personal items
Sunglasses (Raybans)
Sunglasses (Oakleys)
Cash ($100)
Sat Phone
iPad/iPhone wall charger
iPad/iPhone car charger
Watch (Casio)
House keys
Return box for Sat phone
Canon charger
Canon Extra Battery
Go Pro
Go Pro charger
Go Pro extra battery
SD cards

This time tomorrow Dave and I will be on a plane headed for Jackson, WY.  All the preparations have been made; the permit is secured, the lodging is booked, the rental car is waiting.  Now all that remains is a little bit of laundry and packing of the bags.

This is what lies ahead of us in the next few days:

Tomorrow morning we’ll take off out of Dulles and fly to Denver where we’ll get a connecting flight to Jackson.  We’ll pick up our rental car at the airport, grab a quick lunch and drive out to the Ranger station at Jenny Lake to pick up our permit.  Then, we’ll check in at the climbing lodge and drive back to Jackson to pick up some fuel for our Jetboils, grab some last minute supplies and check out the town.

We’ll grab dinner in town and wait around till about 9 when our friend Matt will be flying in from California to meet us.  Once we have him we’ll drive back to the lodge, unload our sleeping bags and crash out.

Wednesday morning (July 4th!) we’ll wake up, make a quick breakfast while sorting out our gear and drive out to the trailhead to start the hike up Teton.   The first day will be about 5 miles of uphill hiking, gaining around 3000ft of elevation.   Luckily we have all day to do this so we can take our time and not get worn out trying to rush up.  We’ll camp the first night at the Meadows campsite, or if we feel strong, we can continue up another couple of miles and setup camp at the Lower Saddle, just below the summit. Either way, we’ll eat our freeze dried dinners and crash out in our tents.

On Thursday, depending on how high we’ve hiked the day before and how the weather looks, we’ll either keep hiking up to the Lower Saddle or we’ll wake up super early and make our summit climb.  We may push this to Friday, but regardless it’ll involve another couple miles of hiking, another 1500ft of elevation gain and then the technical climb.

On the day we start out for the summit, whether it’s Thursday or Friday, it’ll be an early morning.  3-4am is our wake up time which will put us near the start of the technical climbing portion right around sunrise.

We’ll rope up at the base of the Owens-Spaudling route and begin our 1500 vertical feet of climbing.  If all goes well, we’ll summit by 10am, hang out for 30 minutes or so and rappel and hike down to the Lower Saddle by noon.   A quick lunch followed by breaking down of camp and we’ll hopefully be back to the car by 5pm.

For those of you counting, that’s 14 solid hours of hiking and climbing in one day.  We’ll really enjoy those cold beers and pizza that night!

Finally, on Saturday, we’ll wake up, enjoy a nice leisurely breakfast and do a hanging around downtown Jackson until it’s time to head to the airport for the flights home.

I’ll try and upload some pictures from my iPhone using the wordpress app as we go.  I have no idea what the cell phone service is going to be like up there but I’m not counting on it.  Though I’ll have a satellite phone on me, the $4 per minute usage charges will likely keep it in my bag unless there’s an absolutely emergency.

That’s it.  Hope to have lots of good stores, photos and video to share when I come back.  Till then, happy trails!

I was dangling on the rope at Great Falls, looking down at the sharp rocks and churning river 40ft below me.   My friend was belaying me from below, the rope tight with my weight.  The only thing keeping me from crashing down on the rocks was this rope and the little aluminum carabiner it was run through.    At this moment I couldn’t help but wonder how strong that little carabiner really was.   Do they even design them to take the weight of a big guy like me?

I did a little research and I found this nifty little video on Youtube on the making of carabiners.  After watching it, you’ll probably feel at least a little bit more confident:






The airfare is booked and the permit is secured.  So I guess it’s about as official as it’ll ever get;

In about a month from now, me and my buddies Dave and Matt will be starting our climb of Grand Teton in Wyoming.

At 13,775ft it’s the second highest mountain in Wyoming and far and away the tallest thing I’ve ever climbed.  It’ll take us about 3 days to get from the base of the mountain at 7000ft all the way to the summit and back down.  In the process we’ll be doing some high altitude camping and hiking, along with several pitches of class-5 climbing at 13,000ft.  All these will be new to me.  Heck, I’ve never even been above 8000ft before!

I know I’ve been slacking on my posting here lately, but over this next month I’m going to try to write a bit more about my preparation for this adventure, about the mountain itself and of course a recap of the whole thing along with lots of pics and video.  We leave the morning of July 3rd.  Stay tuned for more updates and write-ups.

In the meantime, have a great weekend and happy trails!


A send-off climbing trip with Dave, Matt and three of Matt’s co-workers as Matt is moving to California next weekend.

It was bittersweet to have Matt leave but we enjoyed a great weekend of climbing, good food, better friends and maybe a beer or two (or 5).

I came across this obituary completely by accident a few years ago and it had a profound effect on my life.   After reading it I got to thinking that if I’m lucky to die a really old geezer like this guy, I hope I’ve lived a life worth sharing like Capt. Tony.  And it’s what I’ve been doing ever since….

Anthony Tarracino, known to one and all as “Capt. Tony,” spent two years as mayor of Key West, Fla. — and 60 years as one of the most colorful characters in an island city full of them. During his 92 years, he was a bootlegger, gambler, gunrunner, saloonkeeper, fishing boat captain, ladies’ man and peerless raconteur. He died Nov. 1 of heart and lung ailments at Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West.

Mr. Tarracino survived on his wits and cunning long before his arrival in raffish Key West in 1948 with $18 in his pocket. He spent more than three decades as a charter boat captain and for 28 years owned a dank, musty bar that once doubled as the city morgue.

Capt. Tony’s Saloon, an unprepossessing spot on Greene Street, still bears Mr. Tarracino’s name almost 20 years after he sold it. It was the original site of Sloppy Joe’s Saloon, which was the favorite watering hole of Ernest Hemingway when he lived in Key West in the 1930s.

A huge tree grows in the center of the tavern and disappears through the roof. License plates, business cards and countless women’s bras are stapled to the ceiling and walls. In the 1970s, tropical troubadour Jimmy Buffett performed at Capt. Tony’s for tips and beers. He later described his experience in the song “Last Mango in Paris.” Until a few months ago, Mr. Tarracino was a regular presence at Capt. Tony’s, where he greeted visitors, told stories, and signed T-shirts and posters displaying his grizzled likeness.

His most famous slogan, which became part of his successful run for mayor in 1989, was: “All you need in this life is a tremendous sex drive and a great ego. Brains don’t mean (a word we can’t print in the newspaper).”

Mr. Tarracino ran for mayor of Key West in 1985 but lost by 52 votes to a banker named Tom Sawyer. Locals joked that the race was between someone named for a fictional character and someone who was a fictional character.

Four years later, when Mr. Tarracino ran again, some people objected to his frequent use of a certain four-letter word.

He was unapologetic: “I just hope everybody in Key West who uses that word votes for me. If they do, I’ll win in a landslide.”

He won by 32 votes out of more than 6,000 cast.

His goal as mayor was to limit Key West’s growth and to keep its reputation as a refuge for eccentrics and renegades who had found their way to the southernmost point of the continental United States.

“Key West is an insane asylum,” he told the Chicago Tribune, sitting behind his new desk at City Hall.

“We’re just too lazy to put up the walls or fences. I want to retain that mystique.”

Anthony Tarracino was born Aug. 10, 1916, in Elizabeth, N.J., where his immigrant father was a bootlegger during Prohibition. According to Brad Manard’s “Life Lessons of a Legend” — a book about Mr. Tarracino published the week of his death — young Tony dropped out of ninth grade to make and sell illegal whiskey.

During World War II, he left a wife and three children behind in New Jersey and moved to Seattle, where he worked for the Boeing aircraft company.

After the war, he returned to New Jersey and made good money gambling on horse races. But he ran afoul of mobsters and, according to Manard’s book, was beaten and left for dead at the Newark city dump. Mr. Tarracino fled to Florida and hitchhiked to Key West on a milk truck.

For 35 years, he ran fishing boats — always called “Greyhound” — out of Key West. He said he was a gunrunner in the 1950s and ferried arms for the  CIA to Fidel Castro‘s Cuba for agents and mercenaries to Cuba and Haiti.

He ran Capt. Tony’s Saloon from 1961 to 1989, when he was elected mayor. His principal achievement was to preserve Key West’s daily sunset celebration, at which acrobats, buskers and performing animals appear in an impromptu street theater.

Survivors include his fourth wife — of 38 years — Marty Tarracino; 12 children; 13 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

For years, Mr. Tarracino had a diet of pizza and chocolate bars, smoked unfiltered Lucky Strikes and drank 12 cups of coffee a day, chased with the occasional beer or whiskey.

When I die, an era’s over,” he said in 1990. “But that won’t happen soon. Only the good die young.

Here’s to you Capt. Tony!

Stuff I’m doing this year:

July 3-7 - Climbing Grand Teton, Jackson WY

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