Wildfires in Winter Are a Climate Change Event

I’ve lived on the Front Range of Colorado my entire life. I was born and raised here, something few people can say these days, as more and more people are moving to the area. According to the last census, more than 750,000 new people have joined the population of Colorado in the past decade.

Most of these people, seeking cheaper rent or mortgage prices, move into small suburban communities in and around Denver & Boulder — just as my parents did thirty-five years ago when they arrived, looking to start a family, and found themselves unable to afford their desired location of Boulder.

Boulder, for those unaware, maintains strict rules on new development — a controversial policy which has caused home values to skyrocket, but priced many, if not most, people out of the housing market. Even renting here, prices are high and most people live with roommates. Denver is not as restricted, but the housing demand still far outstrips the supply, especially for those with lower incomes.

For decades, developers have been falling over themselves to build new subdivisions and dense apartments in nearby commuter towns like Superior, Louisville, Lafayette, and Erie.

Three days ago, on December 30, 2021, a once-in-100-years type of fire sparked just outside of Boulder. Spurred on by record-setting winds which blew all day long (gusts up to 100 mph were measured), the fire quickly spread through the grasslands outside of Boulder and into the towns of Superior & Louisville, where fueled by the strong and unrelenting winds it consumed several subdivisions. Neighborhoods *just* like the one I grew up in, burnt back to nothing.

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Almost Winter

I talked to an old friend from university the other night on the videophone. “You haven’t really been blogging much,” he said. “In fact, you haven’t done anything creative of late. It seems like all that energy has just gone into climbing.”

It was an insightful comment and made me think a lot.

Anyways, here’s some photos from the first day out ice climbing this season.

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2020 in Climbs

Normally I write a “year in places” post, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent much of this year at home, in Colorado and other states of the American West (WY, UT, CA). A look back on the year thus involves a bit less horizontal distance, and a lot more vertical!

Most of these climbs involve 5-10 miles of hiking in addition to the technical climbing. This isn’t Europe, and you can’t ride the telepherique to your objective. Here, you gotta walk.

These are the major climbs of the year.

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Self-Portrait Atop a Mountain in a Lightning Storm

This photo was taken above 4,000 meters on Long’s Peak, after a climb of the Notch Couloir, June 2020. My partner and I had dawdled on the way up, and we got caught up high in a light afternoon thunderstorm. Deciding our best option was to wait the storm out, my partner and I stashed our ice axes, crampons and other metal gear fifty yards uphill, and took refuge in some small talus “caves.”

In reality, my boulder was barely large enough to provide shelter. My legs, pulled up into my chest, were still getting wet. My partner, a few yards away in a better cave, described themselves as on the brink of a nervous breakdown.

I shot this photo on my 35mm film camera. The storm soon passed. We summited an hour later.