Thursday, April 30, 2009


Today I received news that my very good friend, John Evans, was killed while assisting in a mountain rescue in Wales, his home.

John Evans

I met John many years ago when he was a mountaineering ranger at Denali National Park on Mount McKinley. A native of Wales, he spent his summers on Denali, rescuing others, guiding, teaching mountain rescue, and mountaineering. He always gave more than he got.

Last June, John Evans, Buck Tilton (the founder of the Wilderness Medicine Institute), and I were on Daryl Miller's last mountain patrol. Daryl was the supervisory Ranger on the mountain. All of us were senior citizens. A Russian climber came over to Daryl one day and asked, "Are you the Rangers?" Daryl admitted we were, so the Russian, in a thick accent replied, "I have observed that you are all very old!"

Buck Tilton, Yours Truly, Daryl Miller, John Evans

It was a wonderful time. John and I went out twice together to climb peaks on that trip. He was so careful, to the point of instructing me (having climbed mountains for 50+ years) on the latest techniques in mountain rescue. We took off early in the morning when the snow was still crusty and hard, roped up and crossed the East Fork of the Kahiltna glacier to climb "Radio Tower" peak. It was so safe, so comfortable, so beautiful, so fun. It's the reason I've spent all my life in mountains. John was the best of companions.

John on the final ridge of the 'Radio Tower'
Mount Foraker (17,400') in the background.

John was a para-rescue jumper in the Airforce National Guard, although he was a Welshman. I don't ever know how he did it, because his home, wife and family, were in Wales. Everyone was his friend. He was the toughest of the the tough.

The Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter, 5000' of sheer cliff, just across the glacier from us.

We stood on the summit, gazed across at the immensity of Mount Hunter and ate our lunch. It was the best of the best; a day like no other in the mountains. It's why we climb.

The rangers rescue many climbers in peril every year. They risk their lives, work their hearts out, and most volunteer their services for free. Below is Dr. Jen Dow, Buck Tilton, John Evans, and a group of volunteers in Base Camp on Denali. The friendships and commaraderie are forged through the most intense physical and psychological experiences as our lives depend on our friends.

A Denali patrol reaches camp. Mount McKinley (Denali 20,320') in the distance.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Independence Mine, Hatcher Pass

Complete with tuxedos and formal gowns, it was the 25th annual Anchorage Nordic Ski Patrol's Champagne Brunch at Hatcher Pass, Alaska. As with many Alaska venues, it's at the end of the road to the Independence Gold Mine. Gray granite peaks rise above the old mine, now an Alaska State Park; surrounded by glaciers and snowfields, it is a popular venue for Alaska's backcountry skiers.


We put the climbing skins on our skis and ascended about 45 minutes up from the Hatchers Pass parking lot to the large "amphitheater" between the north side of Marmot Peak and the south side of Microdot.


It looked like miners on the Chilcoot trail, as the skiers ascended to the party site. The early birds dug out a long table in the winter snow, about 30 feet long, with bench seats covered with foam pads. Checkered tablecloths started filling with potluck dinners: everything from ham sandwiches to pumpkin cheesecake. But everything was washed down with glasses of champagne.


Amy in suit, and Heidi in a dirndl. It was formal attire, everything from long gowns to tuxedos, although being in Alaska, Carhartts were also seen.

A fine couple complete with matching parasol and cummebund.

Marcie shows me some femine leg!


And for me, the main reason to come is to get my photo taken surrounded by beautiful women: Colleen, Cynthia, Yours Truly, Rebecca!!!!


Once the participants had drunk enough courage, the lines of skiers continued to snake up to the untracked snow couloirs above the feast. Some chose to climb Microdot and telemark down the volcanic-ash covered snow slopes facing the sun. Mount Redoubt had erupted dozens of times in the past month, so a fine layer of glass covered the melting snow. It would certainly polish the bottoms of the skis. Others climbed the north slopes and skied fresh powder on the steep slopes under menacing cornices. All the skiers carried avalanche beacons, probe poles and small shovels in their packs, because at this time of the year, climax avalanches are common in the mountains, and their signs are everywhere. Just the previous week snowmachiners had been killed in an avalanche.

Cynthia takes off skins

Cynthia takes off her climbing skins and prepares to ski. It's a steep run!

And she bends the knee in a beautiful Telemark turn!

And she bends her knee in a beautiful Telemark turn! Into the snowstorm and the flat light of the afternoon.

The group

Back at the party, the clouds have descended, but the mood is cheerful. We are high on mountains; we are high on skiing; and we are high on champagne and brunch!

Monday, April 6, 2009


When I was a young boy, barbers cut men's hair. A trip to the barbershop was a journey into the world of men. The shop in the basement of Zion's bank in Salt Lake City was huge: granite columns holding up the building, marble and tile floors, and a row of elegant barber chairs with woven chrome designs and foot pads. On the sides were levers; the barber pumped them to raise the chair up to the correct height for hair cutting.

Besides the fact that I have had the same haircut for the past 65 years, it was always a wonderful experience to get my hair cut. It started with the ambiance, possibly because the reading material included men's magazines; it was the only place where a young boy could glance through the likes of 'Stag', 'Argosy', and later 'Playboy'. The barber wore a wrap-around white shirt, and after seating me in the chair, wrapped a tissue around my neck, then draped a white silk cape around. He would ask how I'd like my hair cut: "Just a trim", I'd say, and he'd reply that I shouldn't get it too short in the back. Being a man's world, the barber shop was where men discussed politics and religion. The leaders of the Mormon church would get their hair cut here, so I would hear the latest theological discussions. It was also a place where horse racing was a topic of conversation, and perhaps a few bets were placed. This was a world unlike any I could find in my middle-class Salt Lake neighborhood.

I was an easy customer, a simple cut with my blond hair parted on the left, tapered above the ear and sideburns. The barber would slip a large comb attachment onto the clippers and take off the back a bit. Then he would pick up the long barber shears, hook the ring finger into the notch behind the finger hole, and take a couple of fast snips in the air to make sure they were oiled up and in working order. With a comb in one hand and the shears in the other, he would go to work lifting my hair and snipping it to the correct height.

When he was finished, he'd swing the chair facing the large wall mirror, bring out a large mirror and hold it behind my head so that I could approve his work. "Looks great!" I'd say, meaning it was now time to move on to the sacred shaving ritual that I loved best. First, he would push a button on the automatic foam machine, and hot lather would extrude from the nozzle into his hand. With a finger he would apply it to my neck and sideburns. By the time I was a teen-ager, he would ask if I'd like my chin shaved, too. How mature! A long leather strop hung from the side of the chair; the barber would take out a straight razor, flip it open, and strop it up and down on the treated canvass side, then on the slick leather to straighten out any curl on the edge, making it 'razor sharp'. With the little finger on the hook of the blade, holding the pearl handle with the fingers, the barber delicately pulled the mirror-polished blade across my neck, giving me the smoothest shave imaginable. Then, he reached into a little oven and brought out a steaming towel, laid it across my neck and wiped off all the excess. It's a lost art.

In the 60's and 70's I worked in the Tetons. Every few weeks I'd go to Van's Barber Shop in Jackson, Wyoming. I went there all the years I lived in the Tetons. First Van, then his partner, Don Bent, cut my hair. The joke was told that once a guy stuck his head in the shop and asked, "Bob Peters here?" "Nope, just cut hair!" replied Van. I got great haircuts, but no shave. The electric razor took the place of the straight edge, and I could always feel a bit of fuzz on my neck. The whole procedure was quicker and easier, but without the many amenities. It also began to cost more.

During the married years my wife cut my hair. We mostly lived far from town in bush Alaska, and she did a great job of keeping it neat, without the male rituals. But, one day in 1987, I was in Fairbanks, Alaska, doing some business and was in desperate need of a haircut. I saw a barber pole next to a hole-in-the-wall shop and walked in, the only customer. I sat in the chair, and to my amazement, Don Bent was the barber. I sat there for a while, flummoxed, and made small talk, but finally said, "You probably don't remember me, but you were the last barber to cut my hair in Jackson, Wyoming, 12 years ago." "Oh, I remember you and have followed your dog racing career every year on the Yukon Quest!" he replied. Don Bent closed his barbershop in the old Sampson Hardware building near the Chena River in Fairbanks, Alaska, January 9, 2009. I couldn't track him down, but I wish him luck.

We moved to Anchorage, and for many years I went to hair stylists, women...who are not trained in the secret and manly art of the haircut and a shave. Even an expensive cut at the stylist looked like shit, so I placed myself at the mercy of young women at the hair-styling school. The women at the academy did a tolerable job and were also required to wash the hair before cutting, so that became the new ritual. It was fun, but there was no shave, and I often looked like I'd been attacked by a sheep shearer. I could go home and trim it up myself be presentable at work.

Then a couple of weeks ago hair was growing over my ears, and I looked like a shaggy dog. As I walked out of Safeway, I saw a little styling salon, Master Cuts, next door and thought I might just save some time and get it over with. I walked in, and to my amazement, a senior citizen my age named Dennis called me back and said he'd cut my hair. I'm a chatty patron, so after telling him explicitly how I would like my hair cut, but not expecting it to actually occur, I asked him where he learned to cut hair. That opened the floodgates; he told me about the fellow he apprenticed with and who taught him the trade; how he had cut hair since the 60's, even in the military; how he came to Alaska to work in other military jobs; and that he had kept up his barber skills. He even had his own little barber tools wrapped in a beautiful leather case. As he cut my hair, I noticed that he was using the barber scissors and thinning scissors, just as I had remembered from my youth. I bemoaned the fact that one of my great memories was of the straight razor, the hot foam, and the hot towels.

Dennis calmly informed me that he rarely did that any more, but he looked furtively around for the owner, then withdrew a straight razor from his case, apologized that he didn't have hot lather, but did have a wonderful palm cream which he pasted on my neck, and began to shave. I felt the clean blade taking the hair down just like 50 years ago. After I was shaved he produced a hot towel and draped it over my neck, wiping the excess cream and hair away, leaving no little feathery cuttings to stick in the collar and tickle for the rest of the day. The memories flooded back of the great haircuts of the past. I'm his customer now!

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Imagine my amazement. I was reading the sport page of the Anchorage Daily News this morning after an evening of birthday partying last night at Alyeska ski resort, having enjoyed the Telepalooza event. I didn't watch the races, preferring to do my own telemark turns. So, there in the paper sat the results of yesterdays telemark championships.
First place in the women's category was Page Brady, daughter of my very good climbing friends, James and Nancy Brady of Anchorage. But to my surprise, third place in the men's division was a certain 'Paul Kimbrough'. There can't be two of those in the world, I thought, so I gave Tom and Barb a call to confirm my suspicions. Tom answered and acknowledged that it was his scion. And....he did it with a broken hand, without poles, 'cause he couldn't hold them. He told his dad that he couldn't really go all out without the poles!!!!!

So I Googled Paul...

The first article on him shows him upside down a hundred feet in the air jumping a highway in Washington:

"Western Washington University student and aspiring professional skier Paul Kimbrough, 21, spins a 360-degree turn as he leaps the famed Road Gap (from left to right) across the Mount Baker Highway." Seattle Times

The second shows a nice bio and photo. He is listed down the page a bit as THE PLAYER:

And he won the 2009 SIERRA NEVADA TELEMARK FREESKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS. There's a nice photo of him down the page in the winner's circle:
Paul is second from right

If I'd known, I'd surely have watched the race!



It's been a rough week for our governor, Sarah Palin.

First, nationally, Sen. John McCain wouldn't commit to supporting her for president if she ran in 2012. On this week's 'Meet the Press' he said "Well, we'll have to see..."

Second, she was replaced (or uninvited as some say) as the keynote speaker at June's Senate-House Dinner in Washington. Some of her handlers said she never accepted the invitation, but that appears to be more of a flub-a-dub:

Third, Levi Johnston, Bristol Palin's ex boyfriend and father of the new baby, broke his silence on the Tyra Banks show, admitting that he didn't use safe sex always:

Fourth, U.S. Representative Don Young, (R) AK, said in an NPR interview that Ted Stevens should run for governor. “Personally I’d like to see him run for governor, and that’s my personal feeling,” Mr Young said on Alaska Public Radio Network on Thursday. “So, we’ll see what happens down the line. He probably won’t, but I think that would be a great way to cap off a great career as being the governor of the state of Alaska.”

Fifth, Alaska legislators in Juneau refuse Palin's demand for a public vote on confirming her choice of a new representative in Juneau to fill a vacant seat. The Democratic senators must confirm her choice, but refused it, wanting another candidate. Palin then said she wanted the public to weigh in, but she was rebuffed:

Sixth, Native Alaska groups oppose her choice of Wayne Anthony Ross, former NRA executive, as the state's attorney general:

Seventh, she's drawn fire from both Democratic and Republican legislators on the stimulus funds, where she has said she would reject funds for special education and bush-community education.

And now her husband, Todd Palin's half sister was arrested for buglary. Complicating the crime is the fact that she had her 4-year old daughter along, bringing up the issue of child endangerment:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Antique Rocking Chair

My latest project was a small children's rocking chair, likely from the mid-nineteenth century. It was hand-made, with no nails, only small wedges holding the many parts together. The rocker on one side had broken off, and it had lay under the house in moist earth for so many years, that the rockers had rotted. many parts had fallen off, and the finish was pretty sad.

So, I spliced in a new piece of matching wood to the rocker leg:

A variety of hard woods were used in the construction of the chair, likely maple, and alder. It appears everything was made with hand tools. I constructed two new rockers from maple, a hard wood that would take the abuse of rocking. The seat of the chair is made from cotton twine, and one section had broken.

After carefully cleaning most of the 15o years of grease and grime, Tung oil was rubbed onto the wood to restore the natural finish of the wood. It's now ready for some children to rock it for another century or so!