Tuesday, December 29, 2009


It has been a wonderful year. My children have enriched my life. I have reunited with old friends, made dozens of new ones, some on OS, some in person. Here are the highlights that make this holiday season so memorable:

My daughter, Daphne, drove over from Boulder to Ouray, Colorado, in January for a visit while I was house-sitting. It was the highlight of my trip.

Daphne in flannel pajamas

We spent a day at the Ouray Ice Park attacking the ice. Daphne has always been a natural athlete. Cool, huh?

Daphne climbing at the Ouray Ice Park

Daphne left me with two cats when she went off to college. They still rule the house and love me in spite of all my faults. Never thought I'd be a guy with cats...an inheritance from my daughter.
Ra and Magpie spreading hair and joy wherever they go

This winter in Anchorage, we held the first ever Alaska Ice Festival. Over 100 people participated, and I had the opportunity to teach two clinics, preside as Master of Ceremonies at the speed event, and perform as the auctioneer at the Organic Oasis dinner/fundraiser.

A competitor at the First Alaska Ice Festival

At the end of winter, the Anchorage Nordic Club holds an annual Champagne Brunch. Party, Party, Party!!! I love the skiing, the formal attire (check out my white shirt!), and the Champagne.
Colleen, Cynthia, Yours Truly, and Rebecca: the party animals
at the Champagne Brunch

Mid-March the annual Ice Pixies climbing celebration takes place in Valdez, Alaska, and lures women ice climbers from all over the state for a weekend of ascending frozen waterfalls and partying. I came for the dancing, beautiful women, and beer. At 4:30 am I was attacked by two baby Beluga's at the Pipeline club. Now that was memorable!

Dani with boa at the base of the frozen waterfall
at the Ice Pixies

Even though I live in the municipality of Anchorage, a variety of animals shares my yard with me. This lovely lady keeps the large willow tree pruned to perfection.

A moose nibbles the willow in my yard.

Come May, and the "World's Greatest Fisherman" shows up on my doorstep to take our little Lund skiff out onto the waters of Cook Inlet for King salmon and halibut. Thor has been fanatic about fishing since he was three. I've never seen him skunked, and this time proved no exception. He brought his friend Andy from Portland, and we out-fished the charter boats.

My son, Thor, with a nice King Salmon

May 9th, my daughter, Daphne, graduated from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. We all met her there and celebrated with her for the weekend. Emotions ran high, and tears flowed; it was simply the best time!

My daughter, Daphne, at graduation

Afterwards I embarked on a month-long climbing trip with my Colorado friends, starting at Ouray, then heading to Indian Creek with Donini and Chris in the pink Cadillac. We eventually went to Las Vegas to climb the Red Rocks, then back through the national parks of Utah, and ended up climbing in Vedauwoo Park in Wyoming. It was a fantastic trip!

Chris and I on the finest climbing road trip ever
through the West in the pink Cadillac

In mid-June, Rebecca and I headed to Banff for a week of hiking in the Canadian Rockies, drinking beer, and enjoying the local cuisine. We dined with my old friend Ron Perla, the first person to climb the famous Emperor Ridge on Mount Robson. Rebecca has a time-share condo...way cushy for a dirtbag climber like myself. The Rockies were fantastic!

Rebecca and I above Peyto Lake in Banff National Park

In July we spent a couple of weekends spraying, and sealing the log home I built in Denali National Park area. We got the caulking done just before freeze-up. I love the place, although it is remote from most of the world I inhabit these days. Twenty years ago I raised two kids and 30 sled dogs here. Memories of racing the 1000-mile Yukon Quest dogsled race from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, to Fairbanks, Alaska, three times swirled in my head as I painted.

My log home in Denali Park

In July, time for a big halibut fishing trip on Cook Inlet. Rebecca and I hauled the Lund skiff down the highway, caught a mess of fish, and danced the night away to Scupper.

Two road trips to Indian Creek: one in the spring and one in the fall with Jim, Chris, and the senior citizen gang. I dream of this trip every year, and my friends there are the reason for going. Camping, cooking, and climbing...my three passions.

High up on 'Incredible Hand Crack'
Indian Creek, Utah

In August I flew from Alaska to reunite with the 1967 North Face rescue gang in Grand Teton National Park. Ted's daughter Jenny produced a move about us while we were there. That was a delightful, intense, and educational experience. Four of us climbed the Grand Teton again...I think I've been up it over 100 times, but each time feels like the first! It was moving to meet Lori whom we rescued 42 years ago and reunite with the team...my best friends ever.

Ralph, Chris, Jamie and Mike on the summit of the
Grand Teton

The 1967 North Face Rescue Team reunited at Lupine Meadows

The rescue team and movie crew at the base of
the North Face of the Grand Teton

Of the many wonderful dinners out on the town, this one with a group of local belly dancers stands out as the number one highlight of the year.

Impromptu belly dancing at Turkey Red

My son, Thor, is the "World's Greatest Fisherman"; he is also crazy about hunting, especially Dall sheep hunting, so he, his wife Sarah, and I hiked 25 miles into the heart of the Alaska Range this fall to bag a sheep for the winter. This is what Alaska is all about. After the first day we didn't see another soul for 10 days. We hunted for the next week until we finally found a full-curl ram miles up a steep mountain. We floated out the glacial river in small one-person Alpacka rafts that Thor's mother manufactures.

Sarah and Thor get ready to cross the river

Each year while our mother was still alive, my sister Judy would gather us all at her place on Lake Tahoe for a reunion. Now that Mom is gone, we still assemble on the shores of the lake for a weekend and reconnect as a family. It's a lovely bunch; our parents would be proud!

My brothers and sisters with their families
Lake Tahoe, CA

Each winter I migrate south from Anchorage to Ouray, Colorado, for an extended visit during the darkest months of the year. Last weekend, I had the privilege of climbing with Chad, Sydney, Heidi, and Gena at the Ouray Ice Park. Three had lost legs due to a variety of conditions: Chad to an IED in Iraq, Syd to cancer as a child, and Heidi to a congenital defect. They are an inspiration to me.

Chad, Sydney, Heidi, and Gena
Ouray Ice Park

And, finally the best Christmas present ever. My two kids and partners came to visit me. We opened presents, ate lunch, played, and had the best time ever.

Corey, Daphne, Sarah, Thor, Yours Truly
Ouray, Colorado

My beautiful Christmas cactus in bloom!


1 comment:

sbt said...

Wonderful post Ralph! You've had such a fun year - I'm glad I got to see you a couple times. =)