Eric Frank, 25
Lives in: Washington in summer, car or elsewhere (Las Vegas, Mexico, Patagonia) in winter
Profession: Climbing guide
Favorite part of your work: Sharing what I love with people and the chance to be out in the mountains every day
Least favorite: Having to tell people they’re not going to summit when they really want to or seeing the writing on the wall [that they won’t summit] before they realize it
What do you like to do in your free time: Read a lot, play guitar, surf, cook
If you could travel anywhere: Morrocco. I was supposed to go a couple years ago. There was a state warning, but we were gonna go anyway. We were stand-by. Then there were two American shootings, so we went to Nicaragua and Costa Rica instead.
If you could write a book: Dirtbag Guide to Camping in the Western U.S. Secret bivy locations or a memoir of living in a vehicle for many months.
The last meal you ate: Thermos of Americano coffee. No breakfast yet. I try not to get out of the tent before 10 a.m. It’s cold. Last night we had freeze-dried beef teriyaki.
Are you religious: Yeah, I’d call myself Christian.
Any regrets: No. Living this life always weighs on your mind when you look at your peers and see that they’ve achieved the normal standards of the world: family, property, etc.
Trick of the trade: I always have a thermos, and I always have good cheese—Brie, Gouda—for the unexpected bivies. I like the high fat content, and it always tastes good, even up high.
Eric had what seemed to be a typical Denali guide season, a period of about two months with a few stints on the mountain, some with clients and one with a buddy. Between the climbing, Eric would hang out in Talkeetna, a town essentially built for three things: scrounging last-minute climbing gear at Alaska Mountaineering School’s shop, buying postcards and eating cinnamon buns and ice cream, and getting rowdy at the Fairview Inn bar, where the clientele ranges from the barely 21, international crew of summer hospitality staffers in designer jeans and skater hats to ragged, ravenous, sunburned, and bearded climbers.
So after a night of Talkeetnanigans, Eric and his climbing partner, Andy, flew back onto Denali for a couple weeks of personal climbing. They had a few routes in mind, with the pinnacle being the Cassin Ridge, a proving ground for hot-shot mountaineers on Denali.
Eric and Andy didn’t make it onto the Cassin, as the necessary weather window never materialized. They did get to the summit via the West Rib, and they skied off the Orient Express out of 14 Camp. They also had a semi-epic on nearby Mount Hunter, arguably the world’s toughest fourteener. They made it to the summit plateau in two days but got caught in a weather cap and had to descend via the Ramen Couloir, a somewhat heinous episode of melted-out waterfall rappels down a steep headwall where they had to leave a trail of pins and knife blades.
They eventually made it back to Talkeetna and to the Fairview, where, in summer, the lights never go out.
Eric Frank, 25