Making a Difference

P1020543As we prepare to turn the page on yet another year, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what a wild ride 2015 turned out to be.  It certainly didn’t go as scripted, but rarely do the truly memorable events in life.  From the trek to Everest base camp, the proposal, the devastating earthquake and avalanche, the hasty end to a climbing season and hastier retreat home… to the wedding, the new house, the wedding celebration party, and the imminent arrival of baby McKinley, it was a year of many ups complemented by a few downs (it’s important for the universe to remain in balance, after all, as demonstrated to us all by the seven and counting Star Wars movies)…

dzi logoI feel extraordinarily grateful for all of the experiences that added up to an especially memorable year that was.  And, with Nepal playing such a central role in my life of late, with three major Himalayan climbing expeditions there in the past four years, I am also very thankful for all of the help and support many of you have provided to the people of Nepal in their time of need.  For those of you that generously donated, please know that your donations have had a lasting impact on the people of Nepal and will continue to benefit them for years to come, but don’t simply take my word for it.  Please read the Bloomberg article in the link below about the lasting impact the dZi Foundation, which is where your donations have been directed, is having in Nepal.

For anyone looking to make a final donation in tax year 2015, please consider the dZi Foundation and their focus on sustainable solutions for some of the most destitute and isolated communities on earth.

Finally, we opted to skip sending out Christmas cards this year (as I’m sure many of you were already sick of hearing from us) and decided to wait for the soon-to-follow baby announcements.  So, happiest of holiday wishes to you all, and, in closing, I simply want to wish you and yours a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year.  May your best day in 2015 equal your worst in 2016.

Living Life in Fast-forward

Wedding-589Where to even begin?!?  Upon our hasty return home from Nepal, life forced us to shift gears quickly.  I had booked wedding arrangements in Jackson Hole for a July 1st ceremony well in advance of our departure to Nepal assuming that Carla would say “yes” when I asked her to marry me (which she did a week before the devastating earthquake struck Nepal).  We decided to stick with those plans and to have a small, family-only ceremony since there wasn’t enough time to expect friends to travel to such a distant location on very short notice.  We would then follow that up in August with a big reception-like party in Denver.  So, that’s what we did.  However, as if that wasn’t enough to keep us busy, we knew that we wanted to start a family together as soon as possible given that my thirties were simply a memory and Carla was preparing to join me and begin her fourth decade soon thereafter.

IMG_3164With thoughts of a new, burgeoning Walkley clan on the horizon, we set out to find our “forever home” where we could raise a happy family together.  With a lot of good fortune and fortuitous timing, very early on we stumbled across our dream home in the perfect neighborhood surrounded by nice neighbors and great friends.  Circumstances somehow conspired in many different ways for us to “win” the house despite ours being only one of five offers made on the house in the three days that it was listed, with at least a couple of them being cash offers.

Unbelievably, an interested party made a cash offer for my loft (which had only been listed four days at that point) the very same day that we saw our dream house, which allowed us to remove our contingencies, roll the dice a bit, and make a highly competitive offer.  Carla, being the beautiful and bold Brazilian that she is, decided that we should personalize our offer further, so we also hand-delivered flowers to the then-current owners of the house along with a personal note describing our recent adventures in Nepal and how much we loved the house and that we envisioned raising a family there… a competitive bid, resembling a cash offer, and a very personal plea added up to us buying our new home and we have been happily settling-in ever since.

CarlaandJimArtisanEdit015A very short seventeen days after our wedding in Jackson Hole, we packed all of our things and moved into our new home.  Only a month later, we had 120 of our closest friends and family to our reception/celebration party while hosting 60+ of our out-of-town guests at the new house the night before.  I’ve always said there’s nothing like deadlines to help get something completed.  With many late nights spent unpacking boxes, working on projects, painting, etc., the house was “ready” in time for our guests to help us celebrate the wedding, the move, the next chapter…

CarlaandJim254It was an exceptional weekend.  Our sincerest thank you to all who came to help us celebrate from far and near.  We had guests come all the way from Brazil, Germany, Norway and Panama as well as from all corners of the United States.  It was very humbling and such a special evening that we were lucky enough to spend surrounded by all those we hold most dear.  It was all of you that made the evening so special for us and unforgettable in all ways.  Thank you for coming.  Thank you for helping us celebrate in such spirited fashion.  Thank you for the many beautiful toasts.  Thank you for dancing like no one was watching.  Thank you for indulging my bride’s request for my brief stint on stage.

CarlaandJimArtisanEdit055And, thank you for your generosity.  In lieu of wedding gifts we asked that people donate to help the people of Nepal as they struggle mightily to get back on their feet.  We have raised just over $7,000 thus far, which goes a very long way in a country as devastated and destitute as Nepal, which prior to the earthquake was already the 2nd poorest country in Asia (only ahead of Afghanistan) where the per capita GDP is $500 per year!  This money is currently going toward constructing earthquake-proof schools in the Solokhumbu region via the dZi Foundation, so thank you for all of your help.  You can track donations and the progress the dZi Foundation is making via this link:

FullSizeRender(1)And, as if 2015 wasn’t already memorable enough, we are blessed to be expecting a baby girl, McKinley Elizabeth, in March 2016 (name selected by my beautiful wife, although I whole-heartedly support the fitting choice).  We are overjoyed and beyond excited for this next chapter.  McKinley’s arrival may put the brakes on any plans to return to Chomolungma (Everest) in the near future, however, I will never say never.  There remains some unfinished business there, but I think the mountain and I both could use some time-off to rest and recuperate… and, I don’t expect it’s going anywhere.  Therefore, it’s on to the noble adventure of parenthood.

P1020764So, to recap, thus far in 2015, Carla and I got engaged, trekked to Everest base camp, seemingly got married by Lama Geshe in the Nepalese village of Pangboche, survived a devastating earthquake and deadly avalanche, sold my loft, got married (officially) in the eyes of the state of Wyoming, bought a house, moved, had an incredible celebration surrounded by great friends, and created a life that will soon join us for the next series of adventures…  I think I need a nap.  I suppose I better do so now before the munchkin arrives…  The link below will take you to a bunch of photos from all of the fun had at the wedding and reception/celebration party:

Wedding Photos

Enjoy!  We certainly did.  And, as always, please just keep smilin’…

Skiing Japan and the Colorado Backcountry – Winter 2013

Click for slideshow

The guys at the top of Annupuri Peak on Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan

With the Colorado snowpack well below average for most of the season, I have spent the majority of my ski days in the backcountry this year (i.e. not in a ski resort).  We held a mini-Everest reunion of sorts in mid-January in Winter Park at Mike Moniz’s place.  Craig, Bob, Ben, Tatiana and I all made it there for portions of a 5-day weekend and enjoyed some of the only powder in Colorado at that point in the season.  We used Mike’s snow machines to access some fresh snow north of Byers Peak and to make life easy for ourselves as we shuttled skiers to the top of “our run” over and over again.  Good fun.

That was followed-up by several other days of the more traditional skinning-up and skiing down backcountry outings.  Ben, Scott, Bob and I did an outing to the old abandoned “ghost” ski resort near Allenspark, CO, that has been out of operation since the early 1950s.  Mike and I did an outing on Berthoud Pass near Winter Park, and Bob and I did  an outing on the Swiss Trail above Boulder as well as on St. Mary’s Glacier in 50+ mph winds.  So, although hardly in the type of shape I was in at this time last year, Bob and I signed up for the infamous Grand Traverse race from Crested Butte to Aspen.  This race traverses the imposing Elk Mountain Range, which entails 40+ miles of skiing with 8,000+ feet of elevation gain and then descent.  It starts at midnight on 3/29, so wish us well.  We’re hoping to finish after about 12 hours of suffering.  We’ll see.  I’ll be sure to post an update on that suffer-fest once it’s behind me…

The big trip for this year, however, was the trip to Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, to ski the famous powder of Niseko with all of my buddies from my CU days to celebrate all of our 40th birthdays occurring over the course of this year.  Niseko definitely lived-up to its reputation, as it snowed the entire time we were there, and the skiing was incredible.  It was the best skiing I’ve ever experienced, with knee-to-thigh-deep powder on nearly every run, and we had a great time both on and off the snow.  Chris Peck has been in Japan 13 years now and developed Annupuri Village at the base of the Niseko resort, so we enjoyed 1st class accommodations, access, cuisine, local knowledge, transport and conditions.  An unbelievable trip.  Great times.  My thanks to Peck, Rubenstein, Kinnick, Silver, Ueland, Addlesperger and Biggs for making it a great vacation and terrific way to celebrate the first 40 years of livin’.  Lots more to come, though.  That’s for sure…

There are some great pictures and even some video in the accompanying slideshow (just click here or the picture above to take you there).

Everest Picture

I came across this picture of Everest, taken from Pumori Camp I, yesterday and thought it was worth sharing.  If you click on the link above, it will take you to a gigapixel picture of Everest.  This allows you to zoom to an incredible level of detail.  When I zoom all the way in, I can clearly pick out my personal tent at base camp (my home for nearly 2 months), see climbers in the Khumbu icefall (providing daunting scale to the picture) and see climbers approaching the base of as well as climbing the Lhotse Face.  You can make out the tents of Camp III halfway up the Lhotse Face as well and see the “trail” that has been kicked-in to the Lhotse Face through the Yellow Band and up to the Geneva Spur on the way to the South Col/Camp IV.  Incredible.

Post-Everest Summer

Click for more pictures/slideshowThe first snows have fallen in the Rockies.  The summer is quickly coming to a close.  I’ve been home from Everest several months now and the time simply is flying by.  In some ways it seems as if it was yesterday that I was departing Camp II for base camp and catching a helicopter ride to Kathmandu.  In other ways, it seems like that was a long time ago.  I suppose that’s a good thing…  Regardless, I’ve happily put all the weight back on that I lost in the Himalayas.  It was, indeed (and as anticipated), a fun process.

Soon after returning home, I decided to use some of my free time (i.e. I’m still an unemployed bum) and finally get the dog I’ve been talking about getting for the past 20 years or so now.  Meet Camden (lots of proud papa pictures by clicking the picture above), who is named after beloved Camden, Maine.  He’s getting big fast and is a great pup.  He’s trained me well.  It’s been a lot of fun, although this is as domesticated as I’ve ever been.  It’s eaten into some of my climbing plans, etc., but it’s been worth it.  He’s sleeping at my feet as I write this and will be my good buddy for many years to come.

So, other than a few days on the local crags here and there, I haven’t been doing much climbing this summer, at least until last weekend.  Ben and I headed to Jackson, WY, for a shot at the Petzoldt Direct route on The Grand Teton (13,775′).  It’s a long, fun, technical route.  Unfortunately, it snowed while we were driving up there on Thursday night so our plans changed a bit.  We ended up climbing the Upper Exum route instead due to ice on both the Petzoldt Direct and Lower Exum routes.  It still made for a long, 13-hour day as we climbed the Upper Exum and then descended all the way back to the trailhead in the same day (a 3,000′ technical ascent followed by a 7,000′ knee-busting descent).  We had a great time though (more pictures available by clicking on the picture above).  It was this time last year that I did the Complete Exum route on The Grand with Craig and talked him into joining me on the Everest expedition.  He, of course, summited in good form with an appropriate amount of suffering along the way (that mountain seems to demand it of everyone) and became the only former NFL player to stand atop the world.  Ben and I didn’t come up with anything quite that audacious on this trip, although there seems to be an Ama Dablam expedition potentially lurking somewhere in the future… time will tell.

Otherwise, all is well.  I’m spending a lot of time working on my new venture and am now shifting from the ideation phase to the execution phase.  If things fall right for my partner and me, we should be officially in-market by early 2013, so stay tuned.  Happy Fall Equinox to everyone.

Khumbu Climbing Center Fundraiser Post Mortem – 6.16.2012

The Walkley men at the event (me, Dad, and big brother Mike) – Mom must have been socializing elsewhere at this point! Click the picture above for more pictures from the event.

A huge thank you to everyone who attended the fundraising/celebration event last night, donated generously, bought the great items donated for the silent auction, or donated previously online! Some pictures from last night are available by clicking the photo at left.

We haven’t quite achieved our goal yet (we’re close!!!), but we did manage to exceed my costs of the event by a bit (my personal contribution to the Khumbu Climbing Center was the cost of the party — food, beverages, etc.), and raised nearly $4,500 in total via the auction and donations at this event alone for the foundation. In addition to the ~$2,500 raised via this blog previously, we’ve raised nearly $7,000 for the Khumbu Climbing Center and really made a difference in the lives of the indigenous people of Nepal (and Khumbu Valley specifically).

So, thank you for your support!  Thank you for a terrific evening!!  And, thank you on behalf of the incredible people of Nepal and the Khumbu Valley!!!  The website will continue to accept donations for some time if you would still like to contribute to this important and worthwhile cause (just click the website link below and complete your secure donation via the link below and receive your tax deductible receipt directly in your email account).  It’s never too late to make a difference!

All my best and my sincerest thanks!

Keep Smilin’,


Khumbu Climbing Center II – 6.7.2012

I wanted to publicly thank those who have contributed to my efforts to raise funds on behalf of the Khumbu Climbing Center.  I am holding the official fundraiser in Denver on Friday, 6/15, but several of you have donated generously directly via the website (link below) already, which is truly appreciated.  Many thanks!

Additionally, several local businesses have donated items for the silent auction that will be a big part of the fundraiser next week.  Coohills has been a terrific partner in hosting the event, donating items directly and soliciting additional auction items from partners of theirs. has provided several outdoor gear items as has Cocona, Proximus is providing tequila for the auction as well as our consumption, Beer Stick is providing custom Everest “Sticks” for the occasion, Aramark has provided tickets to a Rockies game in their suite, the Oxford Hotel has provided great room rates for the weekend for out-of-town guests and donated a free night’s stay for the auction, among many others.  My sincerest thank you to all of the local businesses that generously donated items for this great cause.

Above is a rendering of what the structure will look like upon completion, which your donations will help make a reality, contrasted with where construction stands as of today.  Here is more about this important organization, directly from their website, and what your donations will help achieve:

High in the Himalayas of Nepal near the beaten track to Everest, there is a humble pastoral village called Phortse that is perched among the clouds. You may not see it if you trek up the precipitous path more traveled, past Tangboche Monastery and beneath the breathtaking pyramid of Ama Dablam. But look to your left, across the gaping gorge of the Dud Kosi river and you will see a terraced knoll dotted with stone structures. It is there in the shadow of the holy peak, Khumbila, above a quiet birch forest that the Khumbu Climbing Center found a home.

In the spring of 2002, Jennie Lowe-Anker and her husband Conrad Anker envisioned a project for the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation. They noticed the proximity of Phortse to abundant ice and rock climbing. They realized a need for better technical training for High Altitude Porters. Statistics showed that a staggering one third of all deaths on Everest were Sherpa. Few had the skills that most Western climbers accept as foundation. The Khumbu Climbing Center (KCC) was launched in 2003 and over the past nine years has become a successful vocational program for indigenous people. Each winter for two weeks, technical climbing skills are taught along with English language, mountain safety, rescue, and wilderness first aid. Dr. Luanne Freer, who oversees the Everest base camp ER, attests that KCC skills and knowledge are saving lives at the roof of the world.

Over four hundred Nepali men and women have attended KCC but due to limited time and space, hundreds more have been turned away. In 2007, the Nepali KCC board expressed a desire for a building to house the Khumbu Climbing Center, allowing for year round classes in Phortse. Land was donated by two local families and legally secured. ALCF collaborated with Montana State University’s School of Architecture (SoA) to design the structure. Ongoing creative support of the project is part of the SoA service learning curriculum of “Mountains and Minds”. The building will be the first earthquake resistant and passive solar structure in the region. It is open-source to encourage building in safer and more sustainable ways. Once completed, it will house climbing gear, educational materials, an indoor training wall, library, solar showers and community center, providing the capacity to generate income for the KCC program to continue and thrive.

Construction has begun and phase one is paid for and complete. We estimate that $300,000 USD will allow us to finish the building with phases two and three. ALCF has set up an endowment account for any donations above costs to ensure that our programs will continue to educate and benefit future generations of Nepalis. Please join us in building this dream!

Khumbu Climbing Center – 5.30.2012

Sherpas practicing proper belay techniques

We could not even harbor dreams of attempting Everest without the help of our tireless and irrepressibly strong Sherpa climbing partners.  To ensure that both they and their western climbing partners remain as safe on the mountain as possible, they need all the quality training that they can get.  Fortunately, in 2003, Conrad Anker and Jenni Lowe-Anker opened the Khumbu Climbing Center in Phortse (home to most of the IMG climbing Sherpas who made our successful expedition possible).  The Climbing Center’s stated mission is “to increase the safety margin of Nepali climbers and high altitude workers by encouraging responsible climbing practices in a supportive and community-based program.” 

In an effort to give back in a small way for all that the Sherpas did for me on this climb, I am holding a fundraiser in Denver to support the Khumbu Climbing Center.  I know that many of you live out-of-town and therefore cannot attend this humble event, but if you would like to support this terrific, non-profit organization you can make a tax-deductible donation via the website I have set-up to support this effort (weblink below).   All donations go through the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation in the US directly to the Khumbu Climbing Center in Nepal and will be used to complete the actual school structure itself where the training occurs.

Thank you in advance for all generous donations (large and small) to this incredible organization: Khumbu Climbing Center and for helping me give back to those that helped make this trip possible.