The SnowBrains Podcast
The SnowBrains Podcast

Episode 7 · 10 months ago

Andrew McLean, The Big Mountain Scientist - Part 1


Andrew McLean, The Big Mountain Scientist - Part 1 | Brought to you by Alta Ski Area

Disclaimer: So, right off the bat, I wanna let our listeners know that Andrew and I are friends and that we've spent weeks together confined in small sailboats in Svalbard, Norway and well-spaced from each other in big boats in Antarctica so this conversation is gonna be fun, it's gonna be frank, and I'm excited to have this venue to really dig in and ask tougher questions than normal - so watch out...

“We had a lot of snow and I went to dig out the outhouse, and the whole thing collapsed and I fell into it [& human poop]…. I had to use a pancake scraper to basically scrape my pants off. It was totally disgusting” - Andrew McLean in Part 1

Andrew McLean is a legendary ski mountaineer, author, inventor, and Big Mountain Scientist. In 2017, Powder Magazine voted Andrew as one of the "48 Most Influential Skiers of All Time". Andrew is one of the best ski mountaineers on the planet having skied first descents on every continent and has been featured in a myriad of ski movies including the Big Mountain Skiing documentary: "Steep." Andrew is the inventor of the "Whippet Self Arrest Ski Pole" among many other groundbreaking inventions in the mountaineering universe. Andrew has skied over 100 first descents all over the world. Andrew graduated from the very prestigious Rhode Island School of Design and went on to become a product designer for Black Diamond in Salt Lake City, UT for 14-years. Andrew was even an avalanche forecaster for the Utah Avalanche Center for a year. Andrew wrote the most legendary, hilarious guide book ever created called "The Chuting Gallery - A Guide To Steep Skiing in the Wasatch" that is simultaneously considered The Bible & Holy Grail of steep skiing in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. Andrew is a gifted writer and has written articles for Powder Magazine, Backcountry Magazine, Skiing Magazine and many other publications. Andrew is most likely the very first professional ski mountaineer on Earth. Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah with his wife Polly, their 2 daughters, and 2 poorly behaved canines.

2 PART PODCAST: Andrew McLean is so goddamn interesting, he has so much to teach us, and has so many hilarious stories that we had to break this interview into 2 Parts.  

This is Part 1 of Andrew McLean, the Big Mountain Scientist.

In this episode, Andrew & Miles talk about surviving a 500-foot fall, being covered in human poop on a glacier, being on the Colbert Report TV show, being the first professional ski mountaineer, mountain unicycling, getting arrested, getting caught in avalanches, losing friends in the mountains, and Andrew's favorite mountain ranges to ski.

Andrew McLean answers these invasive questions in Part 1:

  • How the hell did you become the first professional ski mountaineer ever?

  • You and your friends coined the very popular term "Dawn Patrol," how did that happen?

  • Why did you get arrested twice while attending the Rhode Island School of Design?

  • What was your experience being on the Colbert Report TV show?

  • How did you invent the wire-gate carabiner and the "Whippet Self Arrest Ski Pole?

  • What's the funniest accident you've had in the mountains?

  • The New Yorker called you a "Mountain Scientist," do you think that's an accurate portrayal - Mountain Scientist?

  • Many more...

Please enjoy!


Join us next week for Part 2 of Andrew McLean, The Big Mountain Scientist where we discuss the explosive growth of backcountry skiing and riding, Accidents in the mountains, losing friends in the mountains, & Andrew's battle-hardened sense of humor.

"The style of the writing came about because I never really expected it [The Chuting Gallery] to be a real book. It's just gonna be like 'here Miles, here's this book you can read on the toilet and get a laugh out of.'" - Andrew McLean in Part 2

Join us, won't you?

This episode is brought to you by Alta Ski Area. 8.5%? Nope, we aint talkin' 'bout beer... We're talking about the average density of Alta's snow. The density that provides perfect powder flotation. 


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The SnowBrains Podcast Episode #7 - Andrew McLean, The Big Mountain Scientist

Recorded on October 29th, 2020 in Santa Cruz, CA (Miles Clark) and Park City, UT (Andrew McLean).

This episode was edited by Robert Wilkinson.

Music by Chad Crouch.

Host, producer, and creator = Miles Clark.

Hello and welcome to the snow brainspodcast, where it's my job to interview the most intelligent people in thesnowsports industry and pass their fascinating knowledge. Unto You, ourlisteners, I'm your host miles, Clark, I'm a professional free, skier, aprofessional mountain guide, a UCE Berkeley, molecular cell biologygraduate the founder and CE OF SNOWBRAINS AND IA've only ever been inone fight. In my entire life. It was a street brawl in San Francisco. I don'tthink I land a single punch, an I definitely got punched twice hard inthe face and got fish hooped. The silverains podcast has brought youby Alta Skieria, eight point: five percent nope. We ain't talking aboutbeer, we're talking about the average density of Altha snow, the dentity thatprovides perfect powder flotation. My guest today is the legendary Schemountaineer author inventor and Big Mountain Scientist, Andrew McClean intwo thousand and seventeen powder magazine voted Andrew is one of theforty eight most influential skers of all time. Andrew is one of the Best Kemountaineers on the planet, having kie first descens on every continent andhas been featured in a myriadof ski movies, including the Big Mountainskiing documentary. Steep Andrew is the inventor of the whippet Selfareski pollamong many other groundbreaking inventions in the mountaineeringuniverse. Andew has skeeed over one hundred first ascents, all over theWorld Andrew graduated from the very prestigious Rhode Island School ofdesign and went on to become a product designer for black diamond ind SaltLake City. For Fourteen Years Andrew was even an avalanche forecaster forthe Utah Avalanche Center. For one year Andrew wrote, the most legendaryhilarious, guidebook ever created called the shooting gallery, a guide tosteep skiing in the wasatch that a simultaneously considered the Bible andHoly Grail of steepe skiing in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah Andrew is agifted writer and has written articles for powder magazine Back CountryMagazine, skiing magazine and many other publications. Andrew is mostlikely. The Very First Professional Schi mountaineer on Earth AndrewMcClean lives in Park City Utah, with his wife Polly, their two daughters andtwo poorly behaved. Canis Andrew McLean is so goddamn interesting. He has somuch to teach us and has so many hilarious stories that we had to breakthis interview into two parts. This is part one of Andrew Mclean, the bigmountain scientist, hello, Andre, welcome, O the show. Howare you today buddy doing great good dy yeah? You too man really good to seeyou. We were jost saying that you know we're supposed to be seing each otherin Usuy, Argentina right now and headed to ANARCTICA. Right now, which is yeah,he's wiping tears away o kind of sad wer yeah. It hurts thatwe're not doing that T it's. My favorite ski trips got to be one ofyour favorite ski trips, Andrew Yeah Yeah. If I had to cash it an every skitrip for one trip, that would be it's just. The combination of everything isphenomenal down there. That's a bold statement, especially coming from you.I kind of want to start here by just saying. I've been researching youAndrew and there's so much to unpack about you you're one of the most famousyet enigmatic big name, skers on earth, and I want to change that today. I wantto Ose. You then expose you to our audience and and right off the bad. Ithink the audience is feeling it, but you and our friends we've spent weekstogether. You know in small sailboats and Spalbard Norway, ski guiding we'vespent time and boats in an articast ski guiding, and so this arn interviews inbe fun, it'worth, going to be frank, and I'm really excited to have thisvenue, so I can kind of dig in and ask you tougher questions than normal, sowatch out. So are you the very first professional scheme, outineer? And ifso, how the Hell did you do? That hat was an early early adapter in theUS. I think there were depends on how you defined scheme out in yourprofessional scheme, moutain yeur. When we started out there was no sexh thingand we'd be on a skin track and find a droped power bar or something and GodLik yeah sponsored. It was kind of a joke, you know to be sponsored becauseit was just back country. Skiing was nothing at the time and you know thathad caught on and especially with the influence from the European gear comingin the Dena fits and just lighter, more reliable at year. Suddenly it justcaught on in America, and because I was working at black time and equipment, itjust took off, and you know at some point it was like. Well, you know youcan add you know whatever geer you want and then you know well pay for yourtrips and then at one point he's like Oh and we're going to pay you on top ofthis like really so it I think it's much a anything. Itwas just kind of the right place at the right time. I just kind of caut thewave as it was building timing is...

...everything and we'll dive into that lorin a little bit. How many ski movies have you been in and which was yourfavorite Beenin about ten to fifteen of them say my favorite was steep, whichwas put out by Sony, and it was just a really cool, well done, documentarywith a lot of interesting people in it. Doug Coom, seth, Morrison, AngridBaxtram in he poky Yeah Chan, mcoky yeah, and I just thought they did areally good job with the filming and covering the whole thing and kind of telling the story of bigmountain skiing, wide variety with thits European routes and then how it'skind of transferred into the US and where Wat's going now, each person waskind of different Oshame Makonki was doing back flips off clips and I wasdoing more expedition skiing. So I thout it was interesting and well downehand. We Han a really amazing avalanche that we got caught in so, and we aregoing to talk about that more here today. What's your main goal, whenyou go skiing, what are you looking for out there just on a regular day, you know try tomake the best of the day D. it's kind of you get more and more into backcountry. Skiing you just like a right. You know it's kind of overcast andwindy and it hasn't snowed for three weeks. You know I'm going to go, try tofind powder, and I think that you don't Hafeter you've done it for a while, andyou find powder you just like a yeah. It's you know it's kind of like alittle slothing mission that come up with the theory and then see ifyou can pull it off yeah going out with good group of friends. That makes a bigdifference to you're a very famous professional skier, and I get thefeeling that you'd be doing the exact same thing without the fan. Fair. Doyou think? That's true yeah for sure that kind of started to realize that onsome of the trips, where I've been it guide, been on those amazing megayachts, you meet people that are just wealthy beyond your wildest imaginationand I's. Like you know, if I had all this money, I think I'd be doing thesame thing. That' still, I thinkis, because skiing ID be on o, know goingto cool trips and going skiing and meeting people and traveling around soyeah. I think I would I might like to have a few more pairs of skis and thefancy our car, but yeah basically the same thing: what's your biggestaccomplishment and Schem ountaineering have to say the biggest single onewould probably be skiing. The Alaska family, which is at forker hunter and didallike Ou, knowthat was a multiyearquest and they were all kind of big GE. Fourteen yearsright, something like that. Yeah did ever you now we started at just skiing,Denalli, and that was great by itself and then I kind of got interested inskiing, Deniski Hunter with Lauren Glick and Armand and Weedy, and all of a sudden it was like.Oh Ou, know I've done two out of the three of the family and looked over andit's like. I should get forkera try so that took two tries to get it and we just got it.We. It was two week trip and we skied it. On the last day, wellthere wepossibly could so it'd say that was probably the biggestsingle one y. u longest time most involved, we might. We might dip intothat a little bit more later, as we as we talk about your ski exheditions.What would you do if you couldn't ski? I could just do be a designer I'vealways been even before I started skiing I just like building stuff andmaking stuff and putting things together as a kid. I was always makingmodels and painting stuff and burning aerplanes and building kites and stuffbuild stuff and be a designer, and you invented some incredible things likethe whip, it the IAX Kypoll- and we definitely going to talk about thatlater. What scares you the most in the mountains, apalanches for sure,specifically, maybe the head of the steep cuwar that has a lot ofwindloading in it and just seeing a lot of them fail. We had to a mutual friendKIP and Allison E cotter, an autlanch there. It was involved in earlyavalancheve utality to hiking up the COULBAR and right at the head of it.When you get a lot of windloading coming in, I think that's one of thescarier scenarios mean their ways to kind of diffuse it roping in keycutting it things like that hat en. I see things like that, especially when Isee like tgr movies with people. You know hucking their meat and landing onthese big fat Windloa that Pillos H, yeah, that's probably biggest singleitem, and that was so sad, Kippin, Alison Split Mountain in California andthey go believe thats, two thousand and eleven that was that was devastating. Iwas up at point North Helly. When that happened where KIP works, I saw him ashe was leaving the Corderof airport, and that was the last time I saw himand then obviously that trip just had a big shadow over it. Yeah herewas a bigpart of point north. Yes, absolutely what do you love most about themountains just being out in them? You...

...know a lot of times it's hard to getmotivated, you're, tired or you know, the conditions aren't perfect is like,and then you go out and it seems like I we out e's just like. Oh Yeah, this isgreat y N. it's just things: There's kind of a magic to the mountains. Youend up just having adventures and meeting people and you know come backand it's pretty rare daythat. I would ever be kind of disappointed that Iwent out. It's always good to be out of the mountains. I Cay agree with you onthat. What's the funniest accident you've had the mountains we ere down inPatagonia on the doing the southern Pategona ice cap around the backside,and we had dug a big outhouse. We had a lot of snow and I went to dig out theouthouse and the whole thing Colla Apstan I fell into it s, that's in wewere nowhere from running water, so I had to use a pancake scraper. Thespachlet scrape my pants off. It was totallydisgusting, human feces. Oh that's y! That's that is. It's wasn't funny atthe time funny that it was pretty fun at the time. Okay, especially if you were by other twofriends that were there, buoh Gosh but yeah they've been bettenough, maybe not so much skiing, but I meanjust in the travel or you know, n the ice ax trip, but I mean there's just alot of great memories, that kind of come with the skiing lifestyle and thepeople, the culture all that stuff. What's The scariest accident you've hadin the mountains, scariest one I don't know, maybe thetest. Second time we skied the Mawiage face was pretty terrifying y? U Knowthe first time was just this perfect corn snow and we just were able to linkturns all the way down at MOU raneer. So I went back with the friend MarkHolbrook and you know just told Hem how great it was now awesome was going tobe and it was just a sheet of ice. It's a really big fivesand plus beed fiftydegrees just unrelenting, and I think we may maybe one turn down the horrofine, just side slipped, the whole thing. It was terrifying so that youhave a wet avalanche. At one point I was just we tried that one twice aswell, the first time we basically got avalanched off and just with it's areally tight jhoke itwas, just a fire eose of spindrift coming down so the secondtime there was just two of us, so it was a lot tighter, so we weren't reallygetting kick without Alanche debrit, but it's just a really unrerentingtechnical route, repelling setting anchors natural anchors, ballards,petons and just right off the bat youre in super steep terrain and just getsmore and more committing from there on sounds terrifying. We can tell jokesyeah that might help me keep me from crying and and on that noe. This is not thatfunnest thing to talk about, but I is important for ou audience, becausewe've all lost friends in the mountains. How many friends have you lost in themountains? ANDRO? Let's see, of the people that I've beenwith for, but beyond that you know like kipp and Allison and people that wereacquaintances, that I wasn't involved with their accident. I mean it's mustbe twenty over. The years seems like therehasn't been anything for the last couple of years that that's Geen, agood sign. Ducko Woud, have you ever been hurt, while skiing, I cracked, a rib once that's about itat, doesn't count how many ars, how many avalanches have you been in I've been buried once and you know, triggered endless avalanches. You know where theybroke right your feet and maybe went a little ways and then stopped beentaught and carried, maybe five to ten times bat and it's just impressive to that.You've essentially never been hurt, you've been able to avoid of avalanchesand then and then the lines that you ski it's just it's phenomenal and therewas one story about you: Taking a five hundred foot fall somewhere is that isthat bs or is that real yeah? That was where was that ot the data it was inthe Outo Ski Ara, no resort welthat's, not what I imagine that happening. Yeah and Thi was kind of a weirdcircumstance. It went up and they just opened the gate for main baldy and Iwent up there and I was waiting for a friend and there was a big delay. Sothe whole crowd got ahead of me and went up, and I was like. Oh you knownow. I don't want to ski main Baldy with fifty other people, so I starteddown one that was earlier before that called Pearlos, which is there's likemain baldy and then there's dog leg and then way over to the side is purlinsand it had a little drop to it. There was maybe just three feet, you know alittle cornice and I watered up a snowball and threw it on it and it justkind of plopped, and I was like all right. You know this is this is goingto be just soft powder, and so, when...

...the friend caught up to me, it was likeall right. You know, let's go caust it' been a while of waiting and I jumpedand landed on a little windlit N. I thought it was just going to poof ifthat, except the wind lip was actually really hard and I tippd backwards and Ijust started to fall backwards and more than anything I was just annoyed. I waslike damn it. You know it just blew this line that I just took off like arocket like because it was so steep and it was actually pretty hard underneathand I just started it. You know spinning and I hit once and it kickedme way up in the air and I just was seeing like pli cliffs and rocks andsky and snow, and I jus like this is it this is you know, I'm going to break myback, I'm going to die, I'm goin no hook up on a tree because there weretrees there and you know then I hit again, but it was so steep that itdidn't really hurt it. Just boomed me back up in the air and I went about Iwent. I fell from the ridge line all the way down to where that ball, roomtraverseis and I hit three times and just totallyaccidentally landed on my feet standing well. It's just. I mean it's hard to understand. Justyeah just totally stopped and it was springtime and there were a whole bunchof people up at the top of Germania and got a big bround of applause of sure,your buts. I was still kind of L S, Ust like Oh, my God. You know, I can'tbelieve I live through that alone. Ski patroller came out becausethere's this ky patrol sack up there and he just skis out, and we were onlylike five feet apart, because he was on the traverse and I was right above itand he's like. Are you okay? It's like Yep Iwas, like you got really lucky.It's like yeap, you knowia way it was. It was reallyeducational because it kind of taught me like. Whenever that happens,whenever you start to fall and really steeve terrain, you got to get it undercontrol like right there like waitand, that's where kind of whippits help out,because you know you're able to dig in stop or at least Orient your feetunderneath you but yeah. You don't have any time onreally steep torain. U Know the whole idea of like setting up a selfarrestand getting out racks and a, I think, that's just total follacy. It's ejustyou're waning too fast that incredible story, thanks for sharing that you'vebeen on SK expiitions at every coniit and had first descends on everycontinent, which was your favorite SK expedition. I think maybe Bathan islandin two thousand and two where we did kiding expedition with Brad Barler Twos,just the two of us and no there was no information on it. We just based thewhole trip on the photos and there were polar bears and we build our own kites.These big traction kites and we just didn't know you know what we were goingto find. We didn't know if the kites were going to work. We didn't know ifwe're going to good eaten by polar bears. We didn't know how cool it wasgoing to be. We didn't know if the water, the ice, was going to break upand drift out and it just turned out to go the other way. You know everythingjust lined up perfectly, that the kites were amazing and we skied, I think Tuan,nineteen new cool wars up there and they were all just total five star, sweethearts reall,really really good, so hink that one stands at that hearing about that trip. AlmostI've heard about it a few times it almost pisses me off, because I justI'm never going no go there, I'm never going to do that. I don't know how toeven execute something like that. It's just that that trip is incredible. Iwant to see more media from that. So where have you been on a SK expeditionthat you would not go back to Iceland? Oh really, tellus, why I went there at a trip? That's wherethe steet avalanch was filmed. Okay- and it was right at the zenith of theireconomy- was before the whole world economy exploded, and it was justunbelievably expensive and we hadn't done much research on it. We just likeyou know, ice loan, it's going to be a cool little thing and remember gettingthere to Rakavick and got in all night flight first thing in the morning andJohn Driver bys around of coffee and muffins, and he comes back andhe's likeI'm. Not doing that again it was a hundred and twenty bucks and the trip the trip kind of went downhill from there I mean Finda thise game was great nd, the people were great andwe had a good time, but I'm still kind of emotionally and financiallyrecovering from that. We didn't put much research into it.The you know we looked at these really old maps from World War, two and justUNTER. This idea that you know it's going to be this remote greenland typeplace and we get there and we found this area and we're like yeah we'regoing to. You know ski here. This looks like great tourain and when we gotthere in the intervening years between World War, two and twohousand orwhenever it was there's an entire town...

...with a ski village and Chair liftsbuilt ther. Oh, that that's a little that's not as remote as you werelooking for. So we ended up just free forming the whole time, and you knowthe trip was very disjointed, but yeah ITW still a fun ship that I'm still alittle scarred about going back there deep scars right there, The New Yorkercalled you a mountain scientist after seeing how you kind of tinker and buildthings in your house and cleaing those kites yoere talking about for bathandisland. Do you think that's an accurate portraial mountain scientist thinkscientist might be given a little too much credit, like maybe mountaintinkeror, at Likelik Inot. Really you know, I don't do it really in ascientific method, but just like building stuff. So I do you know a lotof tinkering, a lot of building and thinking about stuff, and what have youbuilt like? What's a fun list of things you've built and designed to make lifebetter, the mountains did a bunch of Caribbeianers, the first wire gate,caribener you're, familiar with those like little paper clip that was the hotwire and then I did live wire. Did the pecpers, the Talen knee pads, Thocamelots, you familiar with the its caming devices, t a you kind of squeezeand the open and shut, and that was that something that hadn't existedbefore the cams they had existed, but I did a redesignon them that came up with a single stem and lightened im up and just kind ofmore streamline them. So H, t that was a big project about a year and a half.Well it some smaller things like ski leashes, the asymmetrical backcountry basket, some Raven cramp bombs, the Benon ice tool, a lot of metal spiky things with a lotand, of course, the whith it whitch again we're going to we're going to getto and and hen. Just let's do this quick, because I almost don't believethis. Your resume says that you enjoy mountain unicycling. Do you ReallyMountain Youtocycle? What the hell is that, like pickup line for Tinder now, it's yeah do iyeah learned how toride a UNICYCLE. When I was a kid and I payfo that for a long time and then Iwent to Banc Milton Film Festival and they had Chris home video and he kindof introduced mountain Uniliclin soon it's the idea of taking a UNICYCLE andbasically going off trail. You know doing a mountain big trail with it. SoI got one and Righti. It's fun, it's great aroundPark City. It's really good with dogs, because you know you go a lot slower with themountain bike. You can just dust them, but with a UNICYCLE, you're, just kindof you're going eight miles an hour up eight miles on the flats and eightmiles an hour on the skeepes and you're. Only I'm only good for you know an houror so it's pretty good work out. It's really good for skiing! You have tohave a really quiet, UPFOR body. You can't be moving around, so I thinkthere's a lot of cross over and you can do the whole thing and you know an hour.You're, pretty satisfied with e good work at just one more thing that you'rebetter than me a great that's, a pretty low bar just a balance involve yeah. That'sthat's got ta go like you said it's got. I really bad seein, your backflips, the occasional so you're in the COLBARreport, with Steven Cobert in two thousand and eight promoting the moviesteep hat the scheme of ev you've spoke of here today. The COBERT report is oneof the most popular comady new shows of all time and average. One Point: fivemillion viewers per show, and one was one of my favorite shows, and so I'dlike to play a quick clip from the coberopor right now for our audience ofStevhen Colbert interviewing you and asking you about the avalanche thatthat you are in in the movie steep. Now, when that happens, Dude you sayhell yeah, let's do some more EALYMA slow learner, so yeah I wastotally into it. I thought it was pretty cool is great to be aliveafterwards, better yeah. I keep coming back. It's part of Schee mountineeringafter hearing that clip today. Do you still feel that way about thatavalanche in that clip? Yeah Yeah? I think you know if you could, if youcould teach apalanche classes, if I taught avalanche classes and you couldguarantee they would be safe. The first thing I'd have everybody do is go for abig ride, an an avalanche, this SAS that they kind of understood.You know the power of it and you know they'd have to there would have to besome like you know, pop out and you'd be safe, Tbat yeah, I think you knowthe experience of it was yea. I didn't think I was going to pullit off. I thought it was going to be washed backwards off. He cliff TBAT.You know having survived it and live through it. It's like yeah, it was. Itwas pretty damn exciting. It's a good adrenal gland, massage. If you will I'm just so curious, because I lovethat show so much and so seeing you on it. Just blew my mind: What was it like?Bein on the Colberopor that was cool yeah? There was a big fan of hisbeforehand and it was super fast. Like...

...yes Y, you just go in and yeah he'slike thelubl, Baboom and he's you know he has a lot of makeup on it like whenyou see him really close Bo the cameras- and it was almost like talking to thisManekin. You know because he was she was so animated and he just had so muchkind of stage. Makeup on and you know he's just so. Quick like everything wasmoving around was just kind of hanging on for the ride like wow. This is cooland then it was like. Thank you bye, like yeah cool and you you did great bythe way, and I love how you actually joked with him and made him believe fora second thatskiers where parachutes and then you cuce, fone at the French,no, the Fredge, that's why we made this movie and he was totally into that. Iknew new. He was a French teaser. I love the Frenich fit. You know you gotto tease tem a little bit. Oh absolutely absolutely, and did you guysrehearse at all for the interview just jump in there yeah? They have all thesegreen rooms set up and your just sitting there in the Green Room- andyou know they've got all this food and, as he came in just like door flies oupand he came in like ten minutes beforehand introduced himself and yo osaid how it's going to go and yjust like okay and then you know they justcome, get you and you walk out and now there's a lot of uickediting going onthat he's really good at like he says stuff like you know, stop point andthey'll stop something and they'll cut to a different this and that its justit was. It was broken up a little bit more than it looked like, but it wasreally cool to see. Now the audience helped out a lot because there's liveaudience, so it's Punsy pretty fun to talk to them and then Jeb corliss thebase jumper that wears all black was ong the same shit so that was kind ofcool. I got to meet JAB and kind of felt like it was good. You know,extreme sport show it's fun agree. You did great gem. Colus is awesome what anexperience you were also on ABC's Good Morning, America, promoting the moviessteep. Do those people have? Any idea have to talk to you at all: no yeah, no IUSYOU, just to litally you, noskiing was completely foreign. You know they might have been ski Mout Hunder afew times, but they just had no idea like the whole back country. You knowyou take a helicopter Iwas like mm yeah, sure so yea Itas much different SCEARIA. Imean that I remember the cold bear one very clearly. I don't remember ver muchabout the good morning in America, except with in Gren tos good sport hada great time traveling with her, so let's jump into your lifetimeline,because I think this is a really bring you to life with our listeners. I justthink it's fascinating and I really feel that each stage of your life wasinsanely impressive in each stage presented, challenges that led toexcellent in the next stage, which resulted you and being one of the mostbad asks. Cheme ountinears on earth and you're still doing that and you stilhave a long way to go so we'll just we'll just start off with yourchildhoond. What was your childwootd like and where did you live and ski we moved around quite a bit my dad asnot symologist, iyball doctor, and we I first learned out of SCI. My mom wantto ski Er in the family started. She was skiin. structor at Alta first turnswere at Alta and then we moved to Vermont Florida, Hadi Connecticut, youknow skiing around there, so just keep teeny little mountains, Haystack, mdonaMountain Mohawk, Mount Ain places like that, a East Coast and then it's prettyyoung age removed to Seattle and that's kind of where I grew up and I grew upskiing at album tall. I think that's where I got my taste of the steeps owthe whole upper chair. There is a really steep line or YEU every run isdouble black dimonds. I was on the racing team, so I had kind of abackground and racing a lot of good racing, buddies and yeah. That waswhere I got my my start: skiing that workes out great for you, because Ithink alpatols is one of the most awesome w bad ass little mountains inthe northwest for sure en did Youo High School Ski Academy. Is that what I readafter I graduated from High School? I went to the Mission Ridge Ski RacingAcademy for a year and that was offering when ACI and that'sin inOregon or Washington, Washington, thats round the the east side. So yougraduate from High School. You went to the academy for how long and you didsome coaching there you got coach of the year. What is this? No, I did oneyear of racing, I really loved racing, but I was never that good at it. I meanthe grand scheme of things and then after that went to college and then I startedcoaching and I went back to Albam Tall. I still had a lot of friends there andthere was a coach for the Alton Tall Ski team. Okay, Great Wellwell, th tthat moves us right into so kind of phase. To as I have your phases,written down here is university, so after you graduate high R oethousandnine undre nd ighty one, you went to the Rhode Island School of design,which is one of the best universities in the nation. And what did you learnthere? I started out thinking I was going intoarchitecture, but there is a subdivision of that called industrialdesign and industrial design is like...

...the design of products like furniturechaires. You know any anything. You have tha ice,ax is toys any consumer products, and I just Ilike that- a lot more than architecture. So I stwitch to that and you know,teaches you form and function and how to make mechanical drawings and how tomake things fit. porgonomically with the human body and a soon as the fourt year program, EingThi industrial design well sound thike. It really served you well because youended up inviting some impressive things and and let's get into some ofthe dirt. You know. So. What's this about you almost getting arrested forclambing on the museum walls of the roof or what happened there? It wasn'talmost. It was full of rest, yeah, okay, good miels credit. I goti know this Poin,you might as well own it right igotyougotarested for climbing oncampus. What happened here? Yeah it was a friend of buying. My roommate is theguy that got me into rock climbing and we just read books about it in one ofthose techniques is chimneying no stemming up, and there was this thesetwo buildings that were close together and they were on campus at He Rhode,island, school design and one night we decided. You know we're just going tochimney up this thing because it was like the perfect whip. So we timneyedall the way up, not really even thinking about but buildings what itwas just like this perfect Ghymney at the top you kind of had to lunge off tothe side and grab onto the roof and climb over and it's Y as soon as I didthat ore kind of Jumpe down on the roof- and there was like this click pum islike that's kind of weird. You know it must be like air conditioning or justsomething. Something happened that it was a siling Alaarm, so we were hanging out on the top there.You Know Pretty Psyche, I don't know how we thought we were going to getdown. It was probably lucky we did get arrested. All of a sudden about. Yougot fifteen cop cars showup. Well, it's only a three story. Building and youknow they came in and we were just sitting there and they came up and theywere all pretty sihtto o. What are you doing here and weidthat beforehand, redread about climbing? Howdid you need chalk? So I had ground up. A bunch of there was some wallboardlike a Gypson y sheet rock and I ground up some sheet rock for chalk and Ididn't have a chalk bag, so I just put it in a baggy like a little ziplockbaggy. So it was like this is: Is Isha Hacky, looking yeah with with whitepowder in it, and you K so they're searching us all down? They pull it outand they're just like go check this and yeah. So we opens it up, and this isyou know the old days he does. The full finger dip and he sticks it in thereand Takei ID ot. His met Yeah Ir's, just like it's chalk. So you know that was that was luckily it was on campus, andso we had it. We went in, we talked and we kind of got a N W reprimanded we'rejust like fully admitted to it. It was just a mistake: wrong building, breatchimne wrong building right and might you have also gotten arrested,dangling from a train trestle somewhere? Is that is thattrue for two? I thinkthat was yeah. That was maybe a year later and there was a big train trestlthat went over a bridge and it was stuck at like a forty five degree angleover the water and we had you're going to go climb. Half gowne that summeristead of a practice for Halftown we're going to learn how to Ju Mar you knowhow to climb up a rope using a special knot, called it Gmar, not and my friendclibed up and he repelled down. Instead of only going like twenty feet, he wentthe full hundred and fifty feet of the rope he's down, but for trying tofigure out the not whether it or o so he's down at the bottom of the rope andshe's swinging around. You know trying to get it to work and I'm looking overin the whole kind of freeways stopped and I'm like Ukay, that's Yo know Imust be traffic jam or something just watching, Paul and nothing's happeningand all of a sudden, the fire trucks start coming itwas like there's a fireall of a sudden. They take the exit right near me and I'm like I went hermust be around here and then they turned into the neighborhood that werein and itwas like. Oh No, you O that's right. Then I see him turn into theroad that leads to us and they showed up with you kn fire engines and policecars and they set out now they all stayed back. All the sirens were offand they sent out one guy that comes out. He was like the the suicideprevention negotiator, nhe halls up, he's like hey. What are you doing up?Theres like just climbing he's like? Well? Why don't you come on down I'slike great okay, O Clok Daa? These super nice guys like what are youdoing's like were just practicing...

...climbing and e just tarts. He starts tolaugh t' like Oh, my God, sg o, you guys are Gnn,kill yourselves yeah but yeah. I guess they thought that he was committingsuicide like I failed suicide or was dangling at the end of the Rod becausehe was kind of kicking and squirming around Gin e climbed back up and thenwe both got holled up and and then they just left us like. It was out inLincoln Woods, which is like a hour away around two in the morning. Theylet us go because nobody could claim ownership with the bridge. Nobody knewwho owned it. So they couldn't do trespassing or anything. So they justlet us go and you had to find a ride home. I love it. You got away with oneand you definitely tested the social services in your area during collegeell done well Don, sir. Well, I think the third phase of your life is thetalen. So after graduating from the Roadou and school o Dein thousand ninehundred and Eihty Five, you found you founded a company called Peregrinmountain products and created only one product, the Talen I es thproduct Thihuge company product that we canhavit literally weca yeah you're right itshouldve just Ben Parregan rounton product. So what was the talent and where did itlead? You talen was three point rock climbinghook. So a lot of hooks justare like a fish hook and if you're doing directaid like you're, climbing up thell cap and you're, not free climbing, like youknow, Alex Allnolyou're using cams and petons and nuts, with the hook you hookonto a little flake, and you pull yourself up and Pook. Another thing putyourself up, maybe put a Peton ind pull yourself up, so the original hooks justhad one point, and then they were kind of wabbly like when you lean on to them.They teeter. So this was like a tripod, so it' had three different size pointsto it and you could you could swing onto it. You could switch around thepoints. Things like that. I design that started building it and then startedselling it and the first people that bought it was black diamond equipmentand they ended up buying the entire design in the process of selling thedesign. I met John Berka and he was like you're a design or black dime andjust started. It grown out of Shin Art equipment. It was only, I think, threeor four months old at time, and but I knew a deal about it. TBREONARDequipment e showed equipment was, is Yvanchanard who started Patagoni aswell. Conti yeah. That was the the original like Nexis of Patagonia. Itwas the rock climbing division, so he he was like. Well, you know we need anindustrial designer Yo. Are you interested I like? No, absolutely sobacked up my sixty nine Camero and drove down to Ventura and the s downventure for about thre? Actually it was nine months andthen black diamond is a whole move to perk city hat IM. WENI ENDED UP BACK INUTAH fantastic is that that rolls us right into pase. Four of your life,which I have listed, is black diamond. So you worked at black diamond and saltlike city for fourteen years. I believe as a designer one thousand nine Hundeand ninety one two two thousand and five at least on your linked in tell meabout your experience there and about what you invented while working there.It was really fun to yeah. The company was really small at the time. I thinkthat it's lowest, it was maybe forty people or something like nowadays. It'sprobably purshering n a couple hundred easily a couple hundred- and you know Iwas growing and ther was just full of really avet climbers and skiers andoutdoor people and know the com. Everybody was so busy that it was justlike as a designer you're just like what do you want to work on it' likeCaribinees, okay, good great just, you know work on them for a while. So youknow there was a lot of autonomy. You could design stuff and find a climberthat was really into big Wallo, climbing or sport, climbing or whatever,and develop a product that was very specific to that activity and enautually have like one major project for year. Butthen I'd have a few side projects like I'd work on a N, Caribbean or camelotsand then off to the side and do something like the pepper or equipment,or something like that. What are you most proud of buildingther? What affected your life? The most say? Probably the the simplest, would be the wire dad. Caribinercarabiners are super simple there's the body which is the bent metal parth youhold on to and then there's a gate and the gate traditional gates have theirbent metal they've got a spring. Theyv got a plunger two ribets, so the wire gate was just replaced. All ofthat with just as single wire loop. It was kind of the design had been aroundbefore it was used quite a bit in sailing, but black diamond with JohnnyWoodward. We ended up reflining it. So... was nice and smooth and even- and itmade a big difference for climbing, because you know it's much more simple one partinstead of six parts for the gate, utmateed a lot lighter and it workedbetter in a lot of situations. It didn't jam up with ice, it didn't haveany whitlash to the gate and you know originally. We thought that it was justso odd and different that when we sat around talked about sales projections,ey're, like you know, I'll, sell ill sells, you know for thousand all sellfive to Thousann alstill. You know eight hundred type of thing and I thinkwithin maybe one or two years it was the number one selling Caribaner and alot of that just had to do with climers adopting it. You know they take it out.They go climbing with it and go back and bi replace their whole rack withthem, so that that was pretty satisfy wow, that that is something to be proudof. That's amazing and then the though I thought you'wre GOINGNA say the WHIPPat the Selfuresski poll, because ive read that favorite, that's my face.That's your personal favorit, because I've read that that's the only Americaninvented piece of mountaineering equipment ever on othat. Well, let's gowith it because I, like e okay. So how did you come up with that idea? There were some other selfarrest gripsthere used to be this thing called an albun stock. So you know when peoplewalk around in the mountains. They'd have like a six foot long poll and theywould put a little hook on the end and they' use it for kind of you know,cooking, sheep or walking around or whatever, and then there were ice axesthat were really long, so you could use them kind of Tus a staff, and thenthere were some self arrest polls from Europe that were like had littleplastic prongs to them. So you know there were more for looks. They didn'treally work all that. Well, you know you take them out. If you were bootingup the coolr and climbing you could together they bend and break, and theyjust didn't function that well. So I just wanted to design something thatwas a hybrid like IC, ax and Skepol, and that started out pretty much as aside project and I just made a bunch of different crototypes and thenintroduced it at one of the sales meetings and I kind of caught on, andyou know they decided to fold it into the product line andstarted out just as a small little side project that it's cool to see that it'slived on three twenty five plus years, maybe thirty years by a long time, it'sbeen around so saved a lot of lives. I believe that an N. I really think it'sit's a standard piece of schemeout nearour equipment. Now I don't know howthe sales were. But when I go out when I have clients, it's something that ifpeople don't have it they're talking about it and if it ever gets teepthey're wishing they have it and I actually don't have one so I need toget Onei know. I know I didn't want to have to admit that here. So, let's jump into stage five of yourlife and calling don patrol, so you and your fellow black diamond coworkers,the legenary, Alex Low and mark holebrook would get up in the middle ofthe night and ski terrifying lines in the Wasash mountains of Youtibbeforework, and you called you little plan, the down patrol. I think that'sright and these don patrol sessions led to your famous book. The shootinggallery is that right kind of I mean there were. We did a lotof the shooting gallery: asdon patrols, the shooting gallery was kind ofseparate that was yeah Iski, two or three F, the classic Wasach Lines, yeahlike a Toleto, shoot and superior, and may He dogleg shoot or something- and thisfriend said you know now- you've skied all of t the major wil sate classicsand I was looking around as like. I don't know they're a lot more, so estarted to you, know ski some of them and I just started keeping track andwriting it down and that that's kind of what led to the shooting gallery, butthe the down patrol was really Alex Low and that guy was justthe energizer bunny an then he you know he' always wake up. Becoudhe'd be at the gym at six am in the morning, and you know during winter onetime I'd really wanted to ski main baldy shoot, and I was thinkingyou know in terms of you know you wait to lift Om. The skiaria opens you rideup, you wait till the patrol opens it and I told Alex something about. I waslike o. You know, th I'd really love to ski that this year and he's like well,let's do it tomorrow or morning before work, and I was like no Wai. You knowAlex as just an amazing. You know climber Hir's like in that you know,like ego. Is that just like? Well, you know, if Alex is going to do it, I'mgonna, do it yeah? U I mean to me, it was just like so faraway and so big and Kso we start out in the morning, and you know bus trayl upthere, and it was, I think, in October, like really early season, and you knowgot up to the top right at first light, it's beautiful day the sun's out andwe're just looking down main baldy shoot and it's Bo three feet of virginpowder with Y N W elpand glow morning...

...light on it and it's just like wow seryski baldy shoot. It was phenomenal and you made it back and you know, look atthe clock and it's like ats. Only o nine am in the morning and it kind ofgave me an idea of like what was possible like in the Wasach. You know,because the axiss is so easy here. There's like you know, you can do that.You can go to Wolverine Sirk, you can go up superior. You can do things likethat and you now it was really Alex that it was the driving energizer,bunny yeah. I could do one or two down patrols a week that I mean Alex wouldjust like if conditions are good heu, just like day after Dat. After dayafter day after day, and now we did some huge ones like bonkers and atleasta falls all the fore work at would be like what time did you start? Youknow like three Anyo do im Solao Knoo, my headlamp run out or his backwhenheadlancs really bad. You know so it slowd me down. I got lost and no, I waslaundering. It's like yeah O do stuff like wake up, read a chapter of a book,mount a pair of skis and go, do a don patrol and then show up at work at you.No Eight! Thirty win that vein. A to teal. This quote from your book that Iwant to read to our listeners, for this is the from the forward written by AlexLo in the shooting gallery, and he says the descents were sublime, but the mostexcruciatingly satisfying part of these outings was thundering the front doorat black diamond where Andrew and I both worked just as the clock struck.Eight never mind that we were still wearing ski boots, sweat and drenchdski clothes. It would be unable to remain awake past one in the afternoon.We'd made it to work on time. Having witnessed another sunrise skied,another shoot lived, a little more life than the rest of humanity on thoseExalted Mornings. That's what Alex Ron! I think that just captures you knowwhatever it was. You guys were doing. How many years did you guys do this forit, but it sounds like you guys were meeting at three am and then making aplan and getting out the door yeah. I think Alex was around black diamond fortwo years, so we did two winters with him, but then the you know, tradition,lived on bill, delicourt, bride, barletge Park Holbrook, and did youguys coin that Don patrol now this ubiquitous trend doing don petrol? Wereother people doing this? No yeah, there's nobody. After the Great Yeah Yo you tee meet a lot of peopleand you ode FT Ane. Should they just be getting started and they'ere just kindof like how'd you get up, it's like. Oh just hyped up and what time you startthat Don patrol came from. I guess there wasa movie by that and it was kind of like an army navy movie and there, as youknow, the special force like the dawn patrol and they had somethings. It waslike you know, at dawn, we ride the was a like their battle cry. Youknow, so we were always just kind of saying that if you now a joke, but itkind of became the dawn patrol. Well, that's a that's isens to the movie. Ifyou guys coing the term down patrol, I mean that's phenomenal, because youknow it's used in skiing surfing, so many of the sports mountain climbingthat that we all do so. That's that's a really interesting back story, and Ilove that you guys did it for years it helped Leav, just some of the shootinggallery, stuff and and just man it's it's hard to believe getting up thatearly and doing that before work. I love that I love alway says we couldnot stay up stay awake at work. Best woman, that's fat, inteestic, a blackdiamond! Didn't really get their moneys worth that o? Well, maybe the end of just becauseyeah thipart of the culture right and that Yeu hasn't you guys both becamethese large of the live. Figures join US next week for part two of AngewMcLean, the big mountain scientist where we discussed the explosive growthof backcountry, skiing and writing accidents in the mountains, losingfriends in the mountains and Andrews battleheartened sense of humor. Herethe style of the writing came about those. I just never really expected itto be like a real book, it's going to be in Tayou Kno, it's just going to belike here miles. You know: here's! Here's! Is You now here's this book,you can read on the toilet and get a laugh at. I tike ti a now. It's thislegendary Bible of the watsat that you literally can't live in that area, be aback countrys GIAR and not have this book join us. Won't you thank you so much for listening to thesnow brains, podcast. If you like this podcast, please share with your friendsand family, and please subscribe to find out more about snow brains. Pleasevisit us at snowbrainscom. You can also find us on Instagram, twitter andfacebook at Snow Rans. This episode of the sowbrains podcastwas brought to you by altaskier. The editing of this episode was Downe byRobert Wilkinson. The music was created by Chad, Crouch, I'm your host producerand Creator Myles Clon. Thank you for listening.

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