MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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June 2, 2009

Confessions of a climbing addict...

Ok, so it hasn’t always been that way, I was once a bit more portly and a bit less vertically inclined; indeed satisfied with my desk job and slowly shrinking, damn those cleaners, office attire. I had always thought people who pushed the limits climbing, bungee jumping, parachuting and the like were simply “short a few screws”, perhaps “one shy of a six pack”…little did I know spare parts and five packs would soon start showing up in my life as well.

It was in the middle of one of those coffee cake, quadruple venti mocha induced moments that it hit me…ok, it wasn’t quite that dramatic. I was sitting through an Ed Viesturs presentation, by election mind you not by choice. Viesturs was droning on and on about climbing, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention given the more important task of brushing crumbs off my trousers and trying to quietly sip that last little bit of mocha up through the straw without drawing unwanted attention my way. He said something about climbing Mt. Rainier 100 or 200 times, I wish I had been paying more attention, and that is when I looked up and saw the pictures on his presentation. It drew me in; I realized he was talking about my neck of the woods here, the Pacific Northwest….hmm, time to pay more attention. I listened intently to the rest of his presentation and noted his discussion about Mountain Madness and the surrounding events on Everest.

When I left the presentation I decided I would pick up one of those “Into Thin Air” books and perhaps do a bit of investigation into this mountain climbing thing. That night I went home and talked it over with my wife, crazy talk she said…basically it was the adult version of the Christmas Story “you’re gonna shoot your eye out”, only a bit more dramatic in her mind than that. Luckily for me she had, over time, become use to my wild ideas that would eventually fade into imaginary glory with not as much as an actual finger of effort being put into the idea along the way, such as the time I decided I could insulate and sheetrock my garage on my own, yet 3 years later the house would be sold with a pile of sheetrock still in the garage just waiting for me to put it up. Well, this time I wasn’t going to go down so easy!


I read “Into Thin Air” in one day, it was like “popping the seal” on a good night of drinking…or so I hear. The books and movies started flowing in, whatever I could find on eBay or Amazon that looked remotely interesting I purchased, much to my credit card company’s pleasure I’m sure. I researched climbing trips on-line, called several guiding companies and started formulating my plan for re-approaching the wife. How was I going to sell this to her without immediately getting the look of “he’s finally come up with a mid-life crisis”. I sometimes under estimate the degree of patience and understanding shown by my wife, it wasn’t difficult at all, if I wanted to do it she would support me, simple as that.

With that new bit of information my search was turned up a few notches, what was I going to climb, who was I going to climb it with, how much would it cost, how much training would it take… I started by picking a mountain that I had always found interesting, Mt. Baker, this is the mountain my wife and I were married on and it was a mountain I had grown up seeing out of my bedroom window for 15 years, yep that was going to be the one, now for the rest of the questions. There comes a point when you reach the end of your research phase and you simply need to talk it over with someone who has been there, done that and taken some names along the way. I called all of the local guiding companies and started asking questions. I was looking for a company that was as interested in helping me as I was in climbing with them. It wasn’t long before Mountain Madness percolated to the top of the pile.

When you call Mountain Madness you never know who is going to pick up, perhaps a guide, perhaps the owner, perhaps the bookkeeper, it doesn’t matter, they are all willing to help and answer whatever questions you have. My mind was set; they had that small company, yet ultimately professional feeling that I liked. I signed up, just a few months until my trip up Baker! Time to get in shape!

Up and down Mt. Si, around and around on the treadmill, pumping weights (ok, let’s not get carried away, you can only go so far with cable weights). After countless trips to REI, and quite a few conversations with Mountain Madness guides and staff the day came. I met up with the other climbers and our two guides, Ian Nicholson and Dave Ahrens, early on a Saturday morning. Three days later we would be basking in the warmth of the Mountain Madness van on our way home, happy to have graduated from hikers to true mountaineers, having stood on top of the great Bakerhorn. The trip was fantastic, the food was great, the guides were better and the other clients were soon to become partners for future adventures.

So, what do you do once you have accomplished your goal? The answer was easy for me; you plan your next trip! Here it is, less than a year later and I have attempted Mt. Shuksan in the dead of winter (ok, I might have jumped the gun on that one but Mountain Madness led me safely up the mountain as far as I could go), climbed Mt. Baker a second time, gone rock climbing and signed up for trips up Rainier and Adams later this year. All with Mountain Madness you ask, of course. I have now climbed with a variation of Mountain Madness guides and have been amazed at how professional, safe, caring and dedicated they are about what they do, truly world class and certainly the provider of a service that I believe helps set clients apart from the ranks of those who prefer that portly, safe office environment that I once so cherished.

There was an old joke in my office, every time I asked someone to perform a task I would say “Do It”….now the joke goes more like “Make it Happen”… if they only knew…

Tom Tucker