I met Mark and Janelle Smiley in Vegas in 2009 while Mark and I were training for our rock guide exams. One day we climbed the ultra-classic route Epinephrine, a 15-pitch 5.9, with Chris Simmons. The day was fun and smooth and we hoped to climb together again soon.
Mark leading his block of five pitches. Mark won the ro-sham-bo for the coveted chimneys.
Chris and Mark simul-following near the top. I climbed Epinephrine with John Radick in 1993 while prepping for the Texas Flake on The Nose. In the intervening 15 years I learned that Epinephrine is a REALLY good route, unlike many routes at Red Rocks that are indistinct pitches of edge climbing.
Now, Mark and Janelle are passing through Anchorage on the Smiley Project. They are attempting to climb the Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, from the legendary 1979 book. Nobody has climbed all 50 classics. The list contains alpine moderates, such as the North Ridge of Mount Stuart in Washington, but the list also contains monsters, notably the unrepeated Hummingbird Ridge on Mount Logan. Earlier this season the Smileys climbed the West Ridge of the Moose's Tooth and the Carpe Ridge on Mount Fairweather. Mark and Janelle are methodical and driven. The Smiley Project is worth following.
Before heading to the Cassin Ridge on Denali, I joined Mark, Janelle and my neighbor Dave Bass for a crack at Bird Peak, the elusive 5,505-foot summit between Girdwood and Bird.
After six hours of hiking, we got our first view of the face. Dave was on a 5pm curfew for El Parsones rehearsal dinner. In this photo Dave is running various time algorithms on his dingle phone. "I don't have to shower, but I have to change. That's four minutes, thirty seconds," Dave says.
"You better listen to your wiffy," I say.
"We could speed up," Janelle says. Janelle is the top skimo (competition ski mountaineering) racer in the US.
Janelle bailed with Dave since her ski boots were acting up. Mark and I bombed into the approach coulie.
After seven hours Mark and I stand below the 3,000-foot north face of Bird Peak.
Topping out on the face.
Sorry Mark. It's not a 50 Classics.
Mark diagonal skiing for sluff management.
Fifteen hundred feet into the coulie, avoiding the leaden sluff.
Mark with his super-speedy, 160cm, 60mm underfoot, 680-gram, skimo skis at the head of California Creek on the way out.
Our fifth and final run of the day. We logged 11,000 vertical feet over 16 hours. Mark figured it was good training for the Cassin.
Good luck on your project Mark and Janelle! I'm cheering for you. But I kind of hope the Classics in Alaska give you the runaround so you'll keep visiting and playing with me!