Robert McLeod and Martha McLeod

Sep 13, 2011
Outside Magazine

   Photo: David Hanson

Robert McLeod

Martha McLeod

Robert McLeod, 56
Lives in: Tucson, Arizona (born in Oxnard, California)
Profession: Retired Episcopal priest
Favorite part of your work: There was no limit to what I could talk about to my people. Doctors are limited in terms of going deep with people. As a clergyman, you can get deep with them. People have many different problems, but they all have the same cause and the same solution.
Least favorite: Tons of responsibility and no authority. I’ve been chased out of every job I’ve had by sons of bitches, supposed Christians.
What do you like to do in your free time: Rock climb, and I’m a car mechanic. I like old BMWs. I specialize in the early eighties. I bought, fixed up, and gave an old BMW to each of my kids.
If you could travel anywhere: I would like to have a castle in the center of France. My wife and I are going to try to buy a decrepit castle.
If you could write a book: I already wrote one: Everything You Know Is Wrong: The Case for a New Reformation. I’m a theologian, so I’m pissed how the church goes about its business. I think I have some things to add.
The last meal you ate: Just ate a combo of dehydrated food—sort of a chili mixed with chicken rice. After I seasoned it heavily, it was edible.
Are you religious: I’m a Christian. I hate religion, but I focus on the spiritual angle of everything. The church drives me nuts. I try to get things done, which is a problem in the church.
Any regrets: Yeah, I shouldn’t have gotten into the car I got into the day I got hit. My life has changed dramatically. For good and bad, but I’m never comfortable, mentally. Can never be at ease. Always wigged out. A lot of emotional problems. And I’m really careful about hygiene. That’s why I have this toothbrush up here.
Trick of the trade: My mechanical toothbrush. I swear to God. At my age, I don’t like personal discomfort, and I have to keep up with things.

Martha McLeod, 22
Lives in: Tucson, Arizona (born in Jonesboro, Arkansas)
Profession: Graduated from the University of Arizona, studied accounting. Modeled in New York between high school and college and from home during most of high school.
Favorite part (of being unemployed): Being able to go on adventures with the people I love.
Least favorite: No home
What do you like to do in your free time: Run and dance
If you could travel anywhere: New Zealand
If you could write a book: Wear the Heels. My brother suggested this to me out of the blue on the road trip home. I’m a terrible writer, and I would have a sibling ghost-write it. It would probably be a memoir, and the title is a play on the fact that I am rather taller than a lot of men I meet, especially when I wear heels.
The last meal you ate: Same thing as Dad. That lovely corn-rice concoction, which actually has made me a new person, so I won’t knock it.
Are you religious: Yes, Christian
Any regrets: The modeling thing… I went to rehab a few years ago for an eating disorder. I don’t regret letting the modeling career fall away in the face of this eating disorder. I had an awesome modeling job in high school, but I thought I could never be skinny enough, so I started binge eating. That led to rehab, and I stopped modeling and went to college instead. So it could be a regret, but it’s not.
Trick of the trade: A sponge—keeps camp and gear clean. It was a very last-minute acquisition, and it’s better than a towel.

I noticed Robert one afternoon as I walked through the snow-walled village of 14 Camp. He was brushing his teeth with a mechanical toothbrush. That was a new sight. I walked past, then turned around and asked to make his portrait, with the toothbrush. Some people actually take their toothbrush into their basement workshop and saw it in half, then drill holes in the stem to cut weight. This man had a full-length brush, plus batteries. I liked him immediately.

After I photographed Robert, he said I should shoot his daughter, that she’s a model. I thought he meant at some point later in time, but he said she was in the tent. They had just arrived to 14 Camp, and she wasn’t feeling too good, but he roused her and she came out for a photo. Her eyes had definitely looked into a few camera lenses before. She fell naturally into model mode right there wearing wrinkled long underwear and standing in four inches of fresh powder.

A few days later, I saw Robert arriving at 17 Camp. He was alone. He set up their tent, dropped off some gear, and went back down to 14. Father and daughter arrived together the next day, during the first of two days of whiteout and constant though calm snowfall. We got more than 12 inches total, and the Autobahn up to Denali Pass was a bit slide-prone with fresh powder.

Robert said he almost descended on the first morning at 17 Camp after enduring a splitting headache all night. But Martha boiled water for two hours in the morning, and the hydration revived him. They gave it two days, but with the snow unstable and their bodies weak (Martha said she could only stomach a few bars and a liter of water each day), they decided to descend rather than risk exhaustion on the way to the summit. Smart people.

On the way down, they passed Conrad Anker climbing up solo from 14 Camp. He was on the mountain with his North Face ski crew. Conrad walks up a mountain as if he’s walking up the driveway toward the Sunday paper in his bathrobe and slippers. He stopped by our tent at 17 Camp to have some coffee and drop off some frozen chicken breasts and sausage links for us. Then he continued on to the summit, where he took a nap for two hours.

Robert asked me via e-mail if that happened to have been Anker he passed on their way down from 17. I said it was. I said that Anker had dropped off chicken and sausage, then continued on. Robert said he might have made it up, too, if he’d had chicken and sausage deliveries. He’s probably right.

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