National Geographic Writer - The North Face Athlete - Big Wall Climber - Ski Mountaineer - IFMGA Guide - Rigger - Storyteller - Sailor - Dad
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Sometimes I can't believe it when I look back and think about how much of my life I've dedicated to climbing walls. On the one hand it's an absurd pursuit, but on the other, I know that my passion for climbing is what has given my life orientation, purpose and meaning. I'm now 32 years into this journey and I will keep voyaging aboard this ship of fools for as along as I possibly can. @thenorthface has always shared my passion for climbing walls and this week they have announced that they are donating $1 million to the @trustforpublicland to help build climbing walls in under served communities across the country. Visit the link in my bio to learn more. #climbwalls@thenorthface_climb#neverstopexploring
Cleaned up the table stabilizers. I'm finding that old climbing gear comes in pretty handy on boats.
Thanks @kitdski for rallying with me for a backcountry classic - the Guides Wall. And an even bigger thanks to @hamptonkew for watching Tommy dawg - I owe you one. This pitch, a splitter thin-hands crack, has got to be one of the best in the Tetons. Everyone knows Kit for her exploits as a ski mountaineer - namely for being the first and I believe still the only person to ski the Seven Summits. But she's also a skilled rock climber. We've done a number of great climbs together, up to 5.11, and I can't say that I've ever seen her fall. @thenorthface#neverstopexploring
Based on the noises Tommy Dawg was making I think he appreciated Jenny Lake and the Cathedral group as much as @hamptonkew and I did. Fun to reminisce about all the good times I've had in these mountains over the years. Can't wait to ski some of these with Tommy some day.
The past few weeks have been some of the most intense of my life, so I decided to follow the lead of @alexhonnold and take a break from social media. I figure today is a perfect time to start back up because it's my lovely wife's birthday, and it's one of the big ones. Hint: she's not turning 30 or 50. At the risk of over sharing I will just say what I told her in the scrappy card I made for her last night: "The four years since I met you have been the happiest of my life." So I hope some of you will send her some well wishes, even if it's telepathically through the ether - we often receive those messages, just so you know. She is a special lady and those of us who have her as part of our lives are very lucky people. Happy Birthday @hamptonkew
A totally unexpected and serendipitous rendezvous with my lovely wife @hamptonkew and son and brother-in-law at Manhattan Beach. Thanks for the pic @shermankew.
After all my years of messing around with rope I finally made my first splice. It probably won't win any awards, but I'm pretty sure it's bomber. As messy as it is, I'm strangely proud of my handiwork. Camelot's anchor rode has been fully updated for a cruise I'm planning this summer to the Bay of Fundy.
Tommy Synnott, hard at work on his latest assignment.
A toast for @uelisteck. Certainly the best alpinist of my generation. Sad to have lost one of my heroes today.
This is my sister Amy Synnott (@amysynnott). She's an amazing person that I think a lot of you would appreciate. After 16 years as a member of the executive staff at InStyle Magazine she recently left to launch her own lifestyle website for gen x/baby boomers called The Beautiful Now (see link in my bio). She is also a mom, wife, daughter and someone I'm very proud to call my sister. Check it out.
Photo by @shonephoto (Robbie Shone). A wave of anxiety washes over me when I arrive at an intersection of several passages with absolutely no indication which one leads to the Red Lakes. Cavers love to tell you that you can’t get lost in a cave, but actually you can—quite easily, in fact. I choose the least worst option: a tube about the size of an air duct filled with four inches of water. I shove my backpack in and nudge it forward with my head. I hold my torso out of the water by perching on my forearms and toes, inching forward in a gut-crushing plank position. The ceiling lowers until I’m forced to slither on my belly. Suddenly the tube turns almost straight down. It’s so tight that just flexing my muscles keeps me from diving down the shaft. A few minutes later, I fall from the tube into a tall, narrow chamber draped in vertically-ribbed curtains of bloodred flowstone. The passage is filled with red-hued water. I know I have found the Red Lakes when I hear the telltale sound of cave-suits scraping against rock. Yuri appears, then stops to peer into a small hole in the floor. But before he can take another step, Vova pushes him aside, yelling “It’s mine,” as he dives headfirst into the hole like a rat going for a piece of cheese. I burst out laughing at the madness of it: these guys have been underground for nearly a week, and they’re fighting like toddlers over who gets to be first to wedge themselves into a dark, slimy hole that surely leads nowhere good. @natgeo@thenorthface@petzl_official#neverstopexploring#uzbekistan
First day on the rock for Lilla, Aida and I. Seems like I may have a new climbing posse this season. Nothing fuels my more than seeing the passion for this sport begin to burn inside these budding young grimpers. They also noticed something immediately that I have never once considered in 32 years of climbing: cliffs are a perfect habitat for fairies. #honnolding
Nick and I found more than enough snow to ski right off the summit of Mt. Washington yesterday. Auto road to the East Snowfield to the Lip. You can still ski to the car but it's going quick. @kaestleski@thenorthface
Photo by @shonephoto (Robbie Shone). I was jolted awake by the sound of laughter. Flat on my back, I looked up into the faces of cackling Russians. For a few seconds I had no idea where I was. “You better go to sleep,” said Tonya. “You’ve been assigned to the other tent.” Robbie, Matt and I grabbed our stuff from the cook tent and shuffled over to a smaller shelter erected atop a jumbled pile of boulders a few feet away. As I unzipped the door and crawled inside, my nose was assaulted by a powerful aroma—body odor and stale cigarette smoke. It was nauseating and claustrophobic in the tent, but we hadn’t eaten all day, so I rooted into a pile of detritus at our feet where Tonya said I might find some food. I dug past a pair of heavily soiled long johns, a dirty sock, a dead power drill battery, some bolts, and a plastic baggie containing several packs of cigarettes. Finally, on the very bottom, I wrapped my hand around a dusty sausage covered in something fuzzy that I hoped was lint. “Five second rule,” I exclaimed, holding it up proudly. After days of eating only what the Russians would give us, mainly thin gruel and Uzbek saltines, I could hardly believe our luck. An entire sausage. Protein we badly needed to fuel our bodies for probing deeper into Dark Star. And there were no Russians on hand to tell us not to eat it. Sometimes, I told myself, as I divided it into three equal chunks with my knife, it is better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. @natgeo@thenorthface#darkstar#neverstopexploring
Photo by @shonephoto. Robbie Shone and Matt Oliphant are veteran cavers, but they had never used the Russian bivouac system: two sleeping bags zipped together for three people. Getting the three of us tucked in for the night would have been comical if it wasn’t so painfully grim. Of course, I ended up with the zipper on my side. Every time anyone moved, the tension pulled the bag open, and I spent most of the night wide awake, my body pressed against the cold wet fabric of the tent. I spent that sleepless night (if it was even night) contemplating how hard pressed I’d be to find a place on planet earth further from my home… unless I were to go deeper into the cave, which, of course, was the plan. In a cave, darkness is absolute and eternal, and the diurnal cycle that rules life above ground is irrelevant. For this reason many cavers don’t wear watches. In Dark Star, the team rested when they were tired, and explored when they weren’t. It sounds pleasant, but never knowing what time it was left me feeling disoriented and uncomfortable. Should I try to go back to sleep, or is it almost morning? As my bag mates snored way, I thought about something horrible Robbie and Matt had told me about before bedding down. They called it “the rapture of the deep” and described it as a mental breakdown that sometimes afflicts cavers. There was a story, of course— a caver from Texas who simply gave up when he was deep underground. Rescuers spent days dragging him out of the cave, even though the only thing wrong with him was that he had lost his will to live. @natgeo@thenorthface#darkstar#uzbekistan#neverstopexploring
Photo by @shonephoto (Robbie Shone). Team Dark Star: An eccentric, eclectic ensemble of 31 world-class cavers and scientists. Our expedition team was comprised mostly of Russians, but also included a few Italians, Israeli’s and one German. Most of the Russians hail from the Ural Mountains north of Moscow, and I was impressed when I met them in the capital city Tashkent and discovered they had driven to Uzbekistan—a 26 hour trip. Many on the team had been to Dark Star before, but Evgeny “Zhenya” Tsurikhin, 55, (pictured here) was the expedition’s elder statesman. This was his tenth caving expedition to the Baisun-Tau Mountains. “They say he knows where the new passages will lead before they are explored,” one of the younger cavers told me. Zhenya makes his living breeding fish for a Russian research institute, but his true passion is exploring underground. His dream is to one day find the passageway that will lead him deeper into the earth than any person has ever gone. @natgeo@thenorthface#darkstar#neverstopexploring
What do I love most about Downeast Maine? There is always something new to discover. Like this beach that hadn't seen any in a while.