John Stamstad lives to push limits. He earned a spot in the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame after completing the first crossing of Australia by bicycle, going 65 hours straight without sleep to win the 350 Iditasport Extreme in Alaska, and fueling up at gas stations on blocks of cheese, Little Debbies, and Spam to finish an unsupported ride of the Great Divide. Now, he's ultrarunning. We caught up with him to find out his pick for the best emergency endurance fuel in a pinch. --Heidi Volpe
What do you do? Well, I am a sales rep in the bike/run/outdoor market and I also do some product development for companies like Patagonia. I am enjoying running right now, it's so simple and I have great access to trails.
How is endurance riding different and similar to ultra running? It is about the trail, not the mode of transportation. Running is nice because it is so simple; mountain biking is great because the gear is complex and fun to tinker with. I really like both extremes.
When was the last time you ate Spam for fuel? I haven't eaten spam since I choked down a whole can cold in Montana while riding the Great Divide Trail. It was the only thing I had left to eat so I had no choice, but it was not pleasant. When I say I forced it down I really mean it, that was a bad night.
Last week I posted a review of "The Ledge", co-authored by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughn. It generated a lot of interest so I'm following up with a short interview with Davidson.
But first, a few words about his co-author Kevin Vaughn, who is currently a staff writer at The Denver Post. Formerly with the Rocky Mountain News, he is an award-winning journalist and in 2008 was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. He is not a climber but was captivated by Davidson's story. When asked about a movie, Vaughn simply says "I think there is a movie in there."
I hope so. --Alan Arnette
Would you tell us how this book came about? The seeds of this book were unknowingly planted in the summer of 1992, just a few weeks after I barely escaped that crevasse on Rainier. I was weighted down by the memories of that horrific, surrealistic day inside the glacier. So I sat down with a tape recorder, and spilled out everything I could recall of the accident. I filled more than 10 hours of tapes and those recordings were the start of this book.
Formally, The Ledge started in the fall of 2008 after Kevin Vaughan did an extensive series of articles for The Rocky Mountain News about Mike and I on Rainier. Right after those articles published, we knew that we worked well together, so we decided to co-author this book. It took about 2.5 years from the day we shook hands, until The Ledge hit the book stores in July 2011.
Was it difficult to ask for Mike’s parents’ blessing to write and speak about the experience? Yes, it was. From the very first day I met Mr. & Mrs. Price, just a few days after Mike died, they have been kind and gracious to me. We have kept in regular touch over the years. So when I was ready to speak publically about the accident, and later when Kevin & I wanted to write about it, I sought their consent both times. It was hard to ask, yet they quickly agreed. I believe that they know our aim is to share the memories of their son with the world, and to provide some strength to those facing tough challenges. So even though it is hard on them, they generously agreed to us sharing the story.
Did the 1992 Rainier experience change your approach to climbing? I am perhaps a bit more cautious, and I plan for contingencies more often. I mostly keep it to myself, as you need to be thinking UP the mountain, not down. But I often ponder "What will we do if...?" I always carry a piece or two of protection right on my harness too, as you never know when you might need a fast anchor. I try not to get separated from my pack.
What do you think Mike would think about The Ledge? I like to think that he would find it a gripping adventure tale, but one with broader depth and greater value than a typical climbing story. Mike had a master's degree in English, was very well read, and loved discussing humanity and literature. So, I think he would enjoy The Ledge, and I hope that he would feel that the book portrayed the story accurately and well.
Is there a moral or lesson from this story for your followers and readers? Yes. In essence, the lesson we share in The Ledge is this: no matter how scary or impossible a situation may seem, humans are so inventive and resilient, that a solution can be found. You can survive a tragedy, and later rebuild a meaningful and rewarding life.
It used to be that work was what happened to you when you were busy making other plans (climbing Everest, floating the Nile). No longer. A new generation is finding ways to turn their passion into a rewarding career. Here are ten career-switching case studies of people who made it happen—and how you can, too.