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The Firn Line

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The Firn Line is a podcast about the lives of mountain climbers. Season One, stories from Alaska's mountains drops 3.3.2017

The Firn Line is a podcast about the lives of mountain climbers. Season One, stories from Alaska's mountains drops 3.3.2017
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The Firn Line is a podcast about the lives of mountain climbers. Season One, stories from Alaska's mountains drops 3.3.2017








Desert Delusions: Friendship and Failure on The Thunderbird Wall

In March 1999 I found myself wedged in a sandy chimney, fully-gripped and trembling, five hundred feet off the deck. Me and my partner Scott were attempting to climb The Thunderbird Wall, a grade VI backcountry behemoth in Zion National Park’s Kolab Canyon. The face, which is among the highest sandstone walls in the world, had only been climbed twice since Jeff Lowe and Cactus Bryan made the first attempt in 1971. Scott had been to Zion once before. I had never stood in a pair of aiders. In...


Episode 22 // Alaska Roots: Danielle Varney

Growing up in the Yupik village of St. Mary’s, Danielle Varney was raised on a steady diet of winter camping, and long summer days spent working on the family’s Yukon River fish camp. These core experiences instilled a work ethic that first carried over into college athletics, and ultimately, mountaineering. Since that time, Danielle has climbed and explored big Alaskan mountains including Denali, Mt. Drum, as well as a harrowing life-and-death experience on the icy crown of The Chugach ,...


Episode 21 // The Firn Line "Live": Roman Dial

On December 2nd, 2017, I had the great privilege to sit down in front of a live audience at the Alaska Rock Gym, and talk with renowned Alaskan alpinist and explorer, Roman Dial. We had a candid and highly-entertaining conversation that spanned topics including his early years in Fairbanks, his ambitious climbs in The Hayes Range in the 80’s, as well as his forays into hell-biking, tree climbing, and packrafting in the 90’s and beyond. • In some ways, Roman is a larger than life character,...


Episode 20 // Short Ropes: Podcasting Is Like Climbing

On episode 20, I look back on 2017 and season one of The Firn Line, and give thanks to all the folks who have been with me along the way. Also, we hear a sneak peek of the first ever Firn Line "Live" with Roman Dial, which happened earlier this month at the Alaska Rock Gym. Finally, I give my rundown on why podcasting and climbing are essentially the same thing.


Episode 19 // Vision, Commitment, Trust: Jack Tackle (Part 2)

Many years ago, I saw Jack Tackle give a slideshow in Anchorage. I was in my early to mid-twenties at the time, and mountain climbing was the only thing that mattered. That evening, I listened intently as Jack described icefaces, corniced ridges, and run-out pitches that had long captured my imagination. But I was also impressed by the life-wisdom Jack imparted. His laid back style, coupled with a philosophy about the importance of vision, commitment and trust, resonated in a way that made...


Episode 18 // Commitment, Vision, Trust: Jack Tackle (Part 1)

On episode 18, we’ll delve into the first of a two-part series with venerable North American alpinist, Jack Tackle. With his unmistakable baritone and classic unassuming style, Jack is the epitome of a true Alaskan “hardman”. His gutsy first ascents up climbs like the Isis Face on Denali, the Diamond Arete on Mount Hunter, and the Elevator Shaft on Mount Johnson, have cemented his place in the storied history of Alaskan alpinism. • Recently, I got to sit down with Jack at his Castle Valley...


Ep 17 // A Higher Calling: Brad Meiklejohn

It’s no accident that Brad Meiklejohn makes his home in a beautiful alpine valley outside of Anchorage, Alaska. An avid pack rafter, climber and skier, Brad has spent much of his life exploring Alaska and other remote corners of the world. But beyond his accomplishments in the outdoors, the mountains have always been a sacred place of reflection and self discovery, attributes that can certainly be traced to his deep family roots. • As a kid, Brad followed his grandmother and cousins on...


Episode 16 // Short Ropes: Committed On The Cassin

In June 2017, Aaron Kurland and Sam Novey planned to attempt the formidable and rarely-climbed Father and Sons wall, but when they found the face to be out of condition, they quickly turned their attention elsewhere. • The duo settled on the ultra-classic Cassin Ridge, a 9,000 foot spine of ice, snow and granite that snakes it’s way directly up the center of the south face. With a big storm scheduled to hit within the week, the duo planned a 3 day alpine-style ascent. Little did they know,...


Episode 15 // Denali Dreams: Vern Tejas

When I was a kid growing up in Alaska, Vern Tejas was one of my heroes. Back in February of 1988, Tejas made the bold first solo winter ascent of Denali, and in doing so, captured the imagination of all Alaskans, including me. • The Denali climb changed Vern’s life. He wrote books, gave lectures and eventually became one of the most sought after high altitude guides in the world. But Alaska never remained far from Vern’s heart, and he returned each year to guide on The High One. To this...


Episode 14 // Short Ropes: Ashley Saupe

A few weeks ago I got to sit down with outdoor educator and host of the excellent 'Sharp End' podcast, Ashley Saupe. We talked about her upbringing in Alaska, her experiences teaching as an Outward Bound instructor as well as discussing what it takes to produce a monthly podcast about accidents in North American climbing. • Episode Music: Intro // Evan & Molly // 'Evan & Molly' (2012) The Sharp End // Evan Phillips // unreleased (2017) Traveller // Evan Phillips (written by Leeroy Stagger)...


Episode 13 // Mindful Mountaineer: Sam Johnson

Episode 13 // Mindful Mountaineer: Sam Johnson by Evan Phillips


Mindful Mountaineer: Sam Johnson

On today’s episode, we’ll get to know Alaskan alpinist Sam Johnson. Growing up in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains, Sam was exposed to the outdoors and mountain environments at a young age. But it wasn’t until his teenage years that he discovered a newfound focus and direction thru climbing. Since that time, Johnson has climbed extensively Alaska, Canada, Europe and even the far reaches of the Karakoram. His quiet first ascents in Alaska’s Hayes Range, including a bold solo on the...


Short Ropes: Tobin’s Tales

On this episode of Short Ropes, we revisit my conversation with legendary Alaskan alpinist Carl Tobin (See episode 11). Tobin's climbs in Alaska’s remote Hayes Range raised the bar for hard alpine climbing in North America in the late 70’s and early 80’s. His climb up the Valdez test piece “Wowie Zowie” is an honest grade 6 ice climb, and was way ahead of it’s time when he made the first ascent in 1981 with the late Andy Embick. In this episode, Carl and I talk about the early days in...


Mountain Memories: Carl Tobin

On today’s episode, we’ll get to know legendary Alaskan alpinist Carl Tobin. With an alpine career that has spanned over 40 years, Tobin continues to be a force in Alaska’s climbing community to this day. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Tobin and a small group of committed partners, pioneered a number of first ascents in Alaska’s Hayes Range including the west face of Hess Mountain, the northeast face of peak ten nine ten, and the historic east ridge of Mount Deborah. These climbs set the...


Short Ropes: Mixed Master Vol. 1

I first came up with the idea to do The Firn Line in September 2016 - really not that long ago when you think about it. I think the truth is that i’d always wanted to somehow combine my love for the mountains with my creative pursuits. I just wasn’t sure how to do it. I guess you could say I had a light bulb moment when I realized that I could combine my passion for storytelling, the mountains, and music all into one creative outlet. Nine months and ten episodes in, I guess you could say I...


The Search: Graham Zimmerman

From a young age, Graham Zimmerman was inspired by the rugged peaks of the New Zealand alps, and later, the cascades of Washington and the pacific northwest. During high school, Graham developed a keen interest in geology and it was then that he would experience his first involvement with mountaineering. But it wasn’t until he returned to New Zealand for University that climbing became the driving force in his life. Since that time, Zimmerman has honed his craft, and over the last decade...


Ep 08 // Short Ropes: Katie’s Micro-Expeditions

Last month I sat down to chat with Alaskan climber and mountain explorer Katie Strong. Katie is an ambitious adventurer, as well as a driven environmental lawyer, which means her career often-times takes center stage, leaving her with limited amounts of free time. But that doesn’t keep her from spending time in the mountains. Rather, it just means she has to pack big trips into shorter blocks. Enter the "micro-expedition”. To find out more about Katie's adventures in Alaska and beyond,...


The Power Of Being Human: Luc Mehl

Growing up in the village of McGrath, Luc Mehl was inspired at a young age by the simplicity of rural living, and the vast Alaskan wilderness surrounding him. As a teenager, Luc moved to Anchorage to attend high school, and it was during this period that he would first experience rock climbing and other outdoor sports. But at that junction, his passion for academics and learning would take center stage. After earning his undergraduate degree in geology, Luc attended UC Santa Barbara where...


Short Ropes: The Risk Of Commitment

Nestled in the heart of the Alaska Range, lies what many believe to be one of the most beautiful mountains in the world: Mount Huntington. Rising on all sides to form a symmetrical pyramid of rock, snow and ice, Huntington has captured the imagination of bold and dedicated alpinists for decades. When the French Ridge was first climbed in 1964, the mountaineering world took notice. Then just a year later, when a young David Roberts and crew climbed the stunning west face, the mountaineering...


Alaska Ranger: Mark Westman

Mark Westman is one of Alaska's most prolific alpinists. On Denali alone, Westman has climbed a myriad of monumental routes including the Cassin Ridge, Isis Face, Denali Diamond and Slovak Direct. He's also climbed a number of important routes on other Alaska Range peaks including Mount Hunter, Mount Silverthrone and Mount Huntington. On episode 05, Westman traces his roots in the outdoors, the important partnerships in his life and the challenges he's faced in and out of the mountains....
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