Just because it’s never been done, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tried…


Cho Oyu (26,906′): the world’s 6th tallest peak

As part of my 2nd attempt to climb Mt. Everest in the Spring of 2014, I will be attempting to climb 3 of the 6 tallest peaks in the world with a strong, experienced team in an unprecedented, single push.  My team will start by climbing the world’s 6th tallest peak, Cho Oyu (translates to Turquoise Goddess), which stands at 26,906′.  We will spend the month of April acclimating on Cho Oyu with a summit attempt to occur at some point in early May.  This strategy, although atypical, will allow us to acclimate to the extreme altitudes of the highest Himalayan peaks by climbing one of the tallest peaks in the world (to see acclimatization schedule click here).  Additionally, this strategy will eliminate the boredom that often ensues in Everest base camp between acclimatization rotations as well as minimize the number of trips we take through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall and, therefore, mitigate this objective hazard as much as possible.

The World's Tallest Rock

Mt. Everest (29,035′)

Once we complete our climb of Cho Oyu, we will return to Nepal from Tibet and turn our attention to Mt. Everest (29,035′).  After a brief recovery in the Khumbu Valley (likely in the villages of Namche or Pheriche), we will arrive in Everest base camp by mid-May.  Already acclimatized, after our climb of Cho Oyu, we will await a promising weather window in Everest base camp and plan our summit attempt relative to other teams on the mountain to mitigate climbing with the crowds as much as possible.  A typical climb to the summit of Everest takes 5 days after leaving base camp, so if things fall into place for us, we could stand atop the world around the 20th of May.


Lhotse (27,940′):  the world’s 4th tallest peak

Lhotse, the 4th tallest peak in the world at 27,940′, is adjacent to Mt. Everest.  The low point between the two peaks is the infamous South Col from the Into Thin Air book and is the high camp for climbing the SE Ridge of Mt. Everest.  Therefore, upon completing our climb of Mt. Everest, we will return to Camp IV at the South Col (26,200′) to spend another night.  We will depart from here in another alpine start (i.e. departing in the middle of the night to climb when conditions are frozen solid to mitigate ice/rockfall and avalanche risks as much as possible) to summit early the next day.  Upon summitting Lhotse, the team will descend to the relative safety and thicker air of Camp II (21,500′) of Everest in the Western Cwm.  The following day, we will descend through the Khumbu Icefall to Everest base camp and start the journey home.

If successful, this expedition will require us to climb well over 45,000 vertical feet (up and then down), all at altitudes over 15,000′, during our two months in the Himalaya.  This is an ambitious agenda that has never been done, so we go into this fully understanding the challenges that await us and the amount of fortitude it will take to succeed.  I am very confident in the team’s strength, skill, and decision making, so hopefully we will experience some good fortune along the way to help us on our journey to the top of the world.

Dinner Guest

IMG_1879We had a visitor show-up the other night at dusk.  He didn’t seem at all skittish, so I would guess he has benefited from a few free meals from his human friends along the way.  Camden, fortunately, wasn’t there to greet him, but he did get a good whiff and has been eagerly searching for this elusive guest ever since… just faint footprints in the snow as his only lead.

Otherwise, I’ve been up in the hills quite a bit this week.  I was able to get in a few longer outings and late yesterday stood atop of peaks #46 & #47 of this training cycle by summiting Colorado Mines Peak (12,497′) & Mt. Flora (13,146′) on the Continental Divide.  I have one more week of training here in the mountains and then it is back to Denver to wrap things up, pack my gear and head out.  Two weeks from today, I will arrive in Bangkok on my way to Kathmandu.  It is hard to believe that it is nearly time…


40 Peaks in 40 Weeks – Check


Postholing up to the Continental Divide at sunset

At the confluence of my 40th birthday and discussions of a potential return to the Himalaya, I pledged to myself to climb 40 peaks in 40 weeks to get back in “Everest shape.”  This past week, I stood atop my 40th summit (actually 42nd now) and have had a lot of fun in the mountains along the way.  Not all outings culminated in reaching a summit so there were many more than 40 outings required to reach the final tally, but all helped me get back into the kind of shape I need to be in for this next adventure.  Since I began this endeavor last June, I’ve climbed well over 100,000′ in total and should add another 20,000’+ over the next couple of weeks as I get ready to depart.  All of this preparation will be critical as we attempt to climb 45,000’+ of vertical, all at altitudes over 15,000′ and as high as 29,035′, to reach the highest expanses of the earth…


A recent outing on Colorado Mines Peak (12,497′) w/ Camden, Charley Mace and Hocus Pocus

I want to thank my many climbing partners that joined me along the way and helped prepare me for the upcoming expedition to Tibet & Nepal.  There were 6 summits of 14-ers (what we affectionately call 14,000’+ mountains in CO) with Carla (as well as many more non-summit hikes); 10+ summits with my Himalayan partners, Mike & Matt Moniz; many ski & non-ski outings with Ben; one long traverse of 6 peaks along the Continental Divide with Colorado Bob; one terrifying experience on Mt. Jefferson with Craig, Mark and Oregon Bob; and a couple of memorable outings near Telluride with my brother, Mike, as well as my nephew, Will (his first big peak!), and my sister-in-law, Caroline (her first big peak!).  However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my most loyal climbing partner over this journey, who enthusiastically jumped at any opportunity to head into the hills and faithfully joined me on 17 of my 40 summits (as well as countless other outings in the hills), my fur-buddy, Camden.  My sincere gratitude to all of you for providing motivation, encouragement and inspiration along the way.  Climbing can be a very introspective and selfish endeavor, but the camaraderie formed by the shared experience of climbing with others is a big part of the reward.  Thank you.

Mountain Living


Byers Peak as viewed from rental near Fraser, CO

I moved to the mountains last weekend to put the finishing touches on my training.  The pup and I are staying in a spacious, one-bedroom rental for the month of March in Fraser, CO.  This move allows me to sleep at nearly 9,000′ every night this month, while getting out into the mountains every day to train.  The pup and I have already battled the elements (primarily wind & snow) most of our days here by doing backcountry ski outings up to elevations of 12,500′.  We’ll certainly do some bigger outings (both longer days and to higher altitudes – up to 14,000’+) as the work schedule permits.


“Enjoying the views” from the summit of Colorado Mines Peak (12,497′) on a blustery day

This jump in sleeping altitude coupled with having the ability to train at altitudes of 11,000’+ on a near daily basis will greatly increase my level of acclimatization and fitness prior to my departure on April 4th.  With our aggressive acclimatization and climbing schedule for the upcoming expedition, any benefits gained now will only help my efforts in April and May in the Himalaya.  However, as you can see, it’s not always pleasant up high, but I think the pup is enjoying our mountain time (at least most of it).  We refer to enduring harsh conditions as “conditioning” and climbing to altitude “training.”  Fortunately, here in Colorado, it is fairly easy to train and condition simultaneously on any outing if one chooses the right location.  Climbing/skiing on Berthoud Pass, particularly on the upper portions of Colorado Mines Peak, which is right on the Continental Divide and directly in the path of the prevalent westerly winds, almost always affords this luxury (this is just one of the reasons that, as climbers, we don’t linger long on the summit of most peaks).

IMG_1820And before anyone calls the SPCA, what a difference a day makes.  You can see that conditions, although still windy (look at that thick fur flowing with the breeze), aren’t always intolerable!  Even with bluebird skies, the wind is nearly always whipping above treeline on the Continental Divide.  At least he has that substantial coat to endure the “conditioning” portions of our outings… Unbelievably, he won’t have to endure, or be able to enjoy, our outings much longer.  It’s hard to believe that we move back to Denver in only 3 short weeks and that I depart for Kathmandu days later… 25 days from now.  Wow.  It is hard to reconcile exactly where all the time has gone since this trip was first discussed as a possibility a year ago with the fact that it is nearly time to pack bags, say “see you soon” to friends and loved ones, and head back to give the Himalaya another go… Regardless, I’m ready.



“Denver Broncos team photographer, Erik Bakke, left, with Carla Favaro and Jim Walkley. Walkley has climbed all but one of the highest peaks on each continent; he’ll climb the seventh, Mount Everest, in the spring.” (Photo: David Zalubowski, Denver Post)

I was very humbled recently when asked by good friend, Scott Esmond (who chairs the CO Make-a-Wish Foundation), to participate as a “celebrity waiter” for a Make-a-Wish fundraiser.  I was, of course, happy to help in any way possible for such a noble cause, but was a bit nervous about being touted as a “celebrity.”  Mostly, I was self-conscious of disappointing any big donors that would be “stuck” at my table vs. another, perhaps more-worthy-of-the-title celebrity.  Fortunately, Peyton and some other big, local stars weren’t in attendance, so that helped ease the pressure a bit.  Once I realized that my table was stacked with friends, I was able to relax and fully enjoy the evening.  I suppose it’s easier to “disappoint” those you know well as opposed to complete strangers!

Regardless, it was a terrific evening.  We ended up raising $220,000 in total for a great cause, significantly exceeding the initial $60,000 goal.  I am proud to have played even a small part of such a great event.  Special thanks to Scott & Laura Esmond, their wonderful parents, Ben & Suz Focht, and Rob & Annie Campbell for making it an extra special night.

President’s Weekend

IMG_1752We put in a relaxed training weekend in the mountains over President’s Weekend.  Although it is typically one of the busiest weekends of the year in Colorado’s high-country, we managed to avoid the crowds for the most part and enjoy a fun weekend of skiing, snowshoeing and relaxing (I am happy to report that it is actually possible to watch the entire 2nd season of House of Cards in a single 3-day weekend if one should be so inclined).  Carla and I headed up with the pup and spent a luxurious weekend at the Holiday Inn in Frisco, CO (that’s where you stay if you book late for the busiest weekend of the year).  We got in a great ski day at Breckenridge on that Saturday as we were pummeled by the high winds that make Breckenridge famous (aka “BreckenFridge”).  Perhaps, it was those winds that limited the crowds to a manageable level and allowed us to enjoy a day on the slopes without the typically horrendous lift lines.  Regardless, we were grateful.  We also got in a great snowshoe outing up Mt. Royal, between Frisco and Copper, and you can tell from the picture above just how much the pup hates the snow (snow baths rule!).

IMG_1777We also had the pleasure to catch-up with friends while we were in Summit County for the long weekend and helped good friend, Ryan Chreist, usher in his 40s.  Don’t worry, Ryan, I hear 40 is the new 19.  It was great to see Ryan and his wonderful wife, Liz, as well as Bill & Dana Licko, Robb Moody, Randy Chreist, Adam Sexton, Amanda McAllister and everyone else.  I only wish that we had planned our day better so that we could have stayed longer to enjoy the good times a bit more.  Hopefully, we’ll have the chance to all celebrate together again before too long (certainly upon my return in June at the latest!).

Catching-up w/ Family and Friends

IMG_4088I had the opportunity to catch-up recently with the immediate Walkley clan (pictured at left in Telluride this past summer) over a frigid weekend in Minneapolis at my brother’s place.  We survived the sub-freezing temps and even got to watch my 10 year-old nephew dominate his basketball game (they won).  Thankfully, the game was played indoors!  It was great to see everyone and I certainly appreciate my parents flying in from temperate Charleston, SC, so that we could all be together for the weekend.  I look forward to seeing everyone again in Jackson, WY, over the 4th of July.

IMG_1736I was also fortunate to catch-up with childhood friend, Michael Rhea, on his company ski trip to Vail.  It had been so many years since we had last connected in-person that we couldn’t remember when the last time was that we had crossed paths (“at someone’s wedding at some point in the past” was about as close as we could surmise).  Michael had generously invited me to present my “Seven Summits” adventures (the climbing expeditions I’ve done on the highest peak on each of the seven continents) to his GE Capital team and their key clients.  We had a great time and then the next day skied an aggressive 20,000′ of vertical on great snow under bluebird skies.  What a great couple of days.  My thanks to Michael for putting it all together.  Hopefully, we can do it again next year! I’ll try to bring back some good photos and stories from this go-around in the Himalayas to warrant a repeat performance.