May 23, 2012
How long have you been guiding?
I’ve been guiding for 12 years. After climbing rock and ice throughout New England and New York during college, I applied for a summer job guiding on Rainier shortly after graduating. One thing led to another and I began guiding year round leading both domestic and international expeditions. I’ve been fortunate to have many great opportunities to guide on the mountains of the Seven Summits over the past decade for International Mountain Guides and Alaska Mountaineering School.
How many times have you climbed each of the 7/8 summits?
I have climbed all of the original (Bass list) Seven Summits at least 4 times; some as many as 19 (Aconcagua) times.
Why did you write Climbing The Seven Summits?
When I began climbing on the Seven Summits I struggled to find accurate information on several of the climbs, and there was no one resource that compared and contrasted all of the climbs easily. A lot of clients and independent climbers mentioned they had the same problem. I felt that with my experience on these mountains I could create a guide book that filled this niche and promoted safe and environmentally responsible climbing, creating a better experience for all as these climbs become more popular.
What was the most challenging part of putting it together?
The most challenging part of putting a book like this together for me was spending so much time in front of a computer! Being a mountain guide I’m fortunate to be able to combine my passion for being in the mountains with work and even on my days off I’m happiest outside, so it was difficult choosing to pass up days climbing, skiing and fishing to write and edit. In the end, it was a great experience and education for me and I am glad to have had the opportunity to pursue a different type of goal. As Phil Ershler remarked after writing “Together on Top” with his wife Susan, it is more difficult to write a book about the Seven Summits than to climb them, and I would agree.
IMG, in particular the owners here at IMG, played a big role in your guiding career. How did this come about?
That couldn’t be more true; IMG guides, specifically the owners, have played a big role in my guiding career and influenced me immensely. First of all, without the opportunity to guide the Seven Summits I wouldn’t have been able to write this book! Furthermore, I have always had great respect for the owners as climbers, guides, and most importantly as first class people, and this is the reason I sought work with International Mountain Guides in the first place and continue to do so. I am inspired by what the owners have accomplished outside their business such as Eric Simonson’s well-known expeditions and books regarding the search for Mallory and Irvine, and Phil’s Book “Together on top”, among many other accomplishments. The IMG owners foster an environment of professionalism, hard work and achievement and lead by example and I have tried to emulate this.
Do you get excited about Everest each time you return? Why?
I have been asked this question many times about Everest and other peaks I guide on a regular basis. Climbing these mountains is never routine no matter how many times you have been up them. For no mountain is this more true than for Mt. Everest. On each expedition, factors such as the weather, the team, the political situation, objective hazards, among others, change and force you to continually adjust your “plan” and make every expedition unique. The mountains are very humbling and deserve great respect, especially Everest. Also, I really enjoy seeing friends from all over the world who converge each year on Everest and meeting new people and learning from their experiences.
Which of the 7/8 is your favorite? Why?
This is another question I get asked frequently. My favorite climb of the Seven Summits is probably Vinson Massif. It’s unlike any of the others because of it’s remoteness. It’s a committing feeling to be as isolated as we are while climbing Vinson, and also very freeing at the same time. There is no place like it on Earth. Antarctica is a very beautiful continent. Beyond the climb, the Russian Illysian cargo flight to and from the ice, and the time spent in Southern Chile make the experience very unique and enjoyable.
What’s next on the agenda?
I am currently on Everest in Nepal. After this climb I head to Alaska for a Denali expedition, which is also one of my favorite yearly pilgrimages. Then, off to Russia for an Elbrus expedition and some time spent guiding on Mt. Rainier. This fall I will be guiding Cho Oyu and Vinson Massif. I will also be at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City this summer and the Banff Book Festival this fall so stop by and see me.
[Update: Mike is on his way back to Kathmandu after leading another successful Hybrid Everest Program.]