Edward Earl - Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor recreation constitutes the most extensive genre of all of my hobbies. As such, this site contains a large quantity of information about these ventures.

Click here to see lists of peaks I've climbed, tried to climb, or want to climb.

Personal History

I first dreamed of climbing mountains when I was a child. The earliest indicator of my interest in climbing was that I was an avid tree climber throughout my childhood, as was my brother Jim, who shares my interest in climbing. My dream of climbing mountains grew gradually over a period of several years. It is not clear at what age range this occurred, but it probably happened from approximately my fourth to my seventh grade years. When I was in my early teens, I read a lot about many of the expeditions on Mount Everest. At the time I made it a lifetime goal to climb Mount Everest someday. Although I later rescinded this goal, I have climbed some very major peaks, such as Chimborazo (20662') in Ecuador, Mount McKinley (20320') in Alaska, and Aconcagua (22841') in Argentina. Other major peaks on my wish-list include Mont Blanc in France and Kilimanjaro in Africa.

My first real outdoor experience came in the eighth grade, when a member of the church I attended at the time organized a two-day backpacking trip for the church's youth group. Several more similar trips followed over the next year and a half, but interest in them dwindled to the point that they were discontinued; in fact, I was the only participant on one of them. Although I realized that a routine backcountry camp in a southern Appalachian forest cannot be compared to a strenuous climb of a major peak, I recognized it as a start, and I was determined to continue developing my outdoor recreational skills and experience.

Throughout high school, I never had the opportunity to pursue any outdoor activities, although a latent interest remained. When I entered college, outdoor recreation resumed when I joined the school's outing club. Throughout my college years I occasionally hiked and climbed in the southern Appalachians with friends and with Jim, who had joined the Explorer Post.

But greater dreams lay beyond. The mountains in the western United States are considerably larger than those in the east; I desperately wanted to climb higher than North Carolina's 6684-foot Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River. I also wanted to climb in colder and drier climates so that my views of the surrounding landscape would not be blocked by vegetation, to experience a greater diversity of natural history, and to see more exotic scenery. The advisor of the Furman University outing club had shown me and others many slides of several previous trips he had taken to the western United States, which greatly sparked my interest in taking just such a trip. And so, the summer after I graduated from college, Jim and I set out on a 9-week "grand tour of the west" in which we spent most of our time hiking and climbing. That trip represented the culmination of many years of pent-up dreams for both of us.

Several weeks after completing that trip, I began my graduate studies at the University of Utah. Now I was really in my element; having a mountain playground in my backyard influenced my decision to enroll there, as I had turned down more prestigious institutions such as M.I.T. and Caltech. For the next six years I could, with only a few hours' drive, climb thousands of feet, trek an alpine lake and tundra basin, or explore an alien landscape of arches, buttes, canyons, and needles. During this time I added many peaks ranging up to over 13000 feet in elevation to my list of successful ascents.

It was painful to leave Utah for San Diego to take my first real job as a computational chemist. But what I lost in proximity to the things I like to do most was repaid in other ways. It was here that I met my good friend Adam Helman, who shares my passion for climbing mountains. It is largely through my acquaintance with Adam that I have scaled many peaks I might not otherwise have climbed. The most significant of these is Aconcagua (22841'), the highest peak in South America (in fact it's the highest in the world outside of the extended Himalaya).

The Call of the Heights

Different people have many different reasons for climbing. Some do it for sport, others for solitude, and still others are "peak baggers" (peak bagging is loosely defined as the practice of climbing mountains because of their superlative statistics). I do it for the scenic vistas, the personal challenge, and the sense of accomplishment following a successful ascent. To a considerable degree, I like climbing mountains for the same reasons I like flying.

There are many kinds of mountains with many kinds of climbs. Contrary to many people's realization, many mountains require nothing more than a good pair of legs and the desire to use them to reach the summit. Many require good physical conditioning. Some require prior experience in their key technique, such as snow and/or glacier travel, ice climbing, rock climbing, high altitude, backcountry camping, or complex topography and navigation skills. A select minority demand a combination of many superior skills possessed only by the elite, e.g. professional guides. Any person, however, can find any number of climbs that suit himself or herself. Although mountain climbing can and will demand anything of anyone who answers the call, it all starts within the head. The only essential ingredient of EVERY climb is the will and the desire to give what it takes. A person who starts with this attitude can and will reach the top safely and successfully, with only a very occasional turnaround when better judgement dictates. Climbing is open to even the handicapped. In 1985 a female amputee reached the 20320-foot summit of Mount McKinley.

Some useful climbing links:

On to my list-of-climbs page

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