I got into climbing late, in my mid-twenties. And maybe it
was for the best, as I'm still excited about it more than twenty years later. It
was moving away from the Canadian Rockies to the flatlands of Chicago, where I
went to grad school, which got me into climbing. There were no mountains to
scramble, so I started rock and ice climbing on small Midwestern cliffs. These
days I'm comfortably settled back in Calgary, on the doorstep of the Rockies.
Fortunately my job as a physics professor leaves me lots (but never enough!)
time to play in my favorite mountain range.
It's a good thing I like winter, because it's really, really
long here. There's so much you can do: ice, mixed, ski … and sometimes, when
the motivation's high and avy hazard low, even winter alpine. Don't get me
wrong though, I love our summers too. High in the shadows of a big limestone
north face, looking down on sunlit glaciers and forests far below, is one of
the best places I can imagine being.
Ten years ago I discovered the great peaks of the Pakistani
Karakoram. There's something among those giant pyramids of granite and ice,
rising above arid, brown valleys, that I haven't found anywhere else. Whatever
it is, it's drawn me back time and again.
product: Phantom Guides. Light, warm and comfortable. My go-to boot for ice and
SCARPA product do you use: It's a long list. For skiing, the Rush; for rock,
the Feroce; for expeditions, the Phantom 6000; and for running around, the
influence growing up: My dad. He's been climbing since the 1950s and he's the
one who got me into the sport.
Biggest idol in your sport growing up: George Lowe, the
What age did you start climbing: In my mid-twenties.
How would you
describe your style: Technical. Definitely not powerful. Lots of stems and
knee-drops, even on ice.
What can't you live without: My music, Old goth and
What keeps you
motivated: Simply how much fun climbing is. If ultimately it wasn't fun, I
wouldn't do it.
If you could be
a super hero who: I've never been into superheroes. I like my heroes human.
Having to overcome your fear makes what you accomplish much more impressive.
Guilty pleasure song: Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance"
medical issue: Starting up a single-push ascent of the Cassin Ridge on Denali,
I was peeing red. I was freaking out, thinking I had internal bleeding. It
turned out to be the antibiotics I was taking.
Favorite junk food: It's not exactly junk, but I love dried
Favorite post activity
drink: Coming down from a big alpine climb, I've been known to drink a whole
carton of orange juice, preferably with lots of pulp.
Best excuse to skip
training: "It's been a long day at the uni…" But in the end I'm always glad I
hit the gym.
Go-to dance move: The drunken sway.
Favorite ice cream: Good vanilla.
Coffee or tea: Both. For coffee, only espresso, though.
What do you do
on off days: I don't take many. I never train very hard, but I like to do
something, whether a trail run or some plastic bouldering, every day.
Last movie to
make you cry: I honestly can't remember. Music-wise, the last movement of
Mahler's Eighth Symphony always comes close.
Favorite classic movie: The Evil Dead trilogy.
What's on your
ipod: Rammstein. Nachtmahr. Skinny Puppy. Chopin.
Hidden talent/party trick: Front splits.
What kind of
car do you drive: A wannabe sport car, a two-door Honda Accord.
Personal Blog: Raphael Slawinski's Blog