Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Ian McRae

Ian McRae was interviewed on August 19, 2000 by Dave Krupa at Krupa's cabin outside Fairbanks, Alaska. Ian provides a wonderful and entertaining window into the "Fairbanks climbing scene," carrying on an eccentric and decades old Fairbanks tradition of pioneering "sloggers" who get up routes via low tech approaches and more grit than gear. He reflects not only on numerous memorable climbs, personages, and epics, but also on the philosophical "games climbers play" in the pursuit of their distinctly hazardous adventures. He broaches the topics of synchronicity, intuition, and even spiritual elements of climbing - often felt, but seldom explicitly expressed by fellow climbers.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2000-17-26

Project: Denali Mountaineering
Date of Interview: Aug 19, 2000
Narrator(s): Ian McRae
Interviewer(s): David Krupa
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
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1) Getting into climbing at a young age in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

2) Deciding to stop playing soccer and go climbing in the the High Sierras

3) Learning to climb in the California mountains

4) His first trip to Alaska trying to climb Mt. Foraker

5) Attempting the West Buttress instead of Mt. Foraker

6) Meeting Randy Waitman who was planning a climb of Mt. Kimble

7) Flying into the glacier on the approach to Mt. Kimble

8) Perfect conditions on the winter climb of Mt. Kimble

9) The long ski out down the Canwell Glacier

10) Finding a cabin at the bottom of the Chistochina

11) The earthquake on the Mt. Foraker trip

12) Being woken up by the rumbling of an earthquak.

13) The geese flying the wrong direction after the earthquake

14) Halting a spring climb in the Talkeetna Mountains

15) Conclusions of the raven story and introducing McGinnis Peak

16) Approaching McGinnis Peak and finding a huge ice cavern

17) Being in the ice cavern on McGinnis Peak and going back a second time

18) Being buried in the high cave on McGinnis Peak

19) Motivating to get out of the cave

20) Spending four days in the ice cave on McGinnis Peak

21) Finding spirituality in the cave and the weather clearing on the fifth day

22) Recovering from the fall and down climbing back to the cave

23) The missing skis in the Valley of Death

24) The crevasse fall and the avalanche in the Valley of Death

25) Commentary on rescues

26) The organization of a rescue

27) Writing as his mentor and relationships with the mountains

28) Philosophical discussion on writing and contributing

29) The evolution of humans

30) The progression of climbing with age

31) The lessons from climbing applying to real life and his mentor Tom Walter

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Section 1: Californian\ climbing\ parents -- backpackers\ Sierra Nevada Mountains\ first ascent -- attempt\ peak -- number\ Bishop Pass\ summit\ parents -- supportive\ climbing schools|

Section 2) soccer\ thighs -- big, heavy\ climb\ music -- Led Zeppelin\ music -- Supertramp\ Kauk, Ron\ Backer, John\ Beckenbauer, Franz\ Memorial Stadium -- Berkeley\ Memorial Stadium -- crack\ Yosemite National Park\ Sierra Nevada Mountains\ El Capitan\ Alaska|

Section 3: Yosemite -- lifestyle\ climbing\ belts -- swamy\ harness\ nuts\ camming devices\ Chouinard, Yvon -- theorem\ climbing -- medium\ rock climbing\ ice climbing\ California\ waterfalls -- frozen\ alpine climbing\ Palisades School of Mountaineering\ storms -- lightening\ avalanches\ skiing\ Donner party\ college -- graduation\ expedition -- Alaska\ T-shirts -- sell\ Mt. Foraker|

Section 4: T-shirts -- sell\ Mt. Foraker\ Kahiltna Glacier\ Bocarde, Gary\ avalanche\ route\ Sultana Ridge\ Southeast Ridge -- Mt. Foraker\ Alaska -- first climb\ climbing -- snow\ Shakespeare -- King Lear\ college -- finals\ Talkeetna, AK\ dissertation\ rope\ Harris, Alex\ National Outdoor Leadership School\ snow pit\ avalanche -- danger|

Section 5: partner -- weakness\ steps\ Harris, Alex\ Mt. St. Augustine\ ash layer\ snow -- depth hoar\ West Buttress\ ?, Dmitri\ basecamp -- Mt. Foraker\ tent\ pilots\ stories -- rookie\ brain -- swelling\ high camp\ gloves\ pills\ Tejas, Vern\ Mt. McKinley|

Section 6: Alaska -- living\ El Capitan\ Mt. Kimble\ Waitman, Randy\ Wood Center -- University of Alaska, Fairbanks\ grant\ Alaskan Alpine Club\ Wumpkees, ?\ Southwest Rib -- Mt. Kimble\ Fairbanksans\ gendarme\ aid -- rotten rock\ aid -- pickets\ gear\ freedom|

Section 7: Waitman, Randy\ King Lear\ trust\ Mat-Su Valley, AK\ partners -- three\ Turecki, Paul\ Alaskan Alpine Club -- board members\ Waterman, John\ winter climb\ Alaska Range\ Wheeler, Harvey\ Sawmill Creek Air\ Chistochina Glacier\ snow\ mountain walls\ Mt. Kimble\ ice fall\ bivouac|

Section 8: seracs\ Alaska Range -- conditions\ snow -- stable\ pickets\ rime\ moonlight\ Mt. Kimble\ bivouac\ snow caves\ high pressure -- winter\ Turecki, Paul\ rock band\ golf ball -- cornice\ gendarme\ tools\ Waitman, Randy\ summit -- rime tower\ rappel -- dark\ anchor -- mud\ bivy|

Section 9: White Noise\ snowcave\ Mt. Kimble\ storm\ oxygen\ Dunlop, Duff\ shovel -- metal\ medical kit\ ski\ Richardson Highway\ Canwell Glacier\ white-out\ winds\ Chistochina Glacier\ temperature\ cabin|

Section 10: Alaska -- dark\ temperature\ cabin\ wood\ stove\ food\ whiskey\ pornography\ Mt. Kimble\ mental -- freezing\ houses\ cars\ girlfriend\ Fairbanks, AK\ winter\ spring\ Mt. Foraker\ Waitman, Randy|

Section 11: earthquake -- 6.1 magnitude\ Chilatna Lake -- epicenter\ mountains\ aftershocks\ geese -- flock\ South Wall -- Mt. Foraker\ Waitman, Randy\ climb\ Talkeetna Ridge -- Mt. Foraker\ camp\ ledge\ cornice\ avalanches\ bivouac -- open|

Section 12: tent\ camp\ valley\ aretes -- rock\ earthquake\ avalanches\ slab -- loose\ mountains\ cornice\ rope -- tie-in\ granite\ sleep -- roped\ whiskey\ California\ boots|

Section 13: carabiners\ boots\ tent\ aftershocks\ mountains -- swaying\ weather -- break\ earthquake\ climbing\ Waitman, Randy\ rope\ geese\ clouds\ Infinite Spur\ Mt. Foraker\ springtime|

Section 14: raven\ climbing -- snow\ Talkeetna Mountains\ couloir -- snow\ aurora\ Farmer's Almanac\ avalanche\ mountain\ ledge -- granite|

Section 15: raven\ snow conditions\ chance\ McGinnis Peak\ Hayes Range\ ski\ Benowitz, Jeff\ Mt. McKinley|

Section 16: Benowitz, Jeff\ ski\ climb -- spring break\ Northeast Ridge -- McGinnis Peak\ McGinnis Glacier\ Valley of Death\ Southeast Ridge -- McGinnis Peak\ Northeast Ridge -- saddle\ ice cavern\ bivy\ bergschrund\ wind\ snow\ snowblocks\ wall -- construction\ bouldering\ crevasses\ defecation|

Section 17: wind\ cave\ mountain\ climb\ McGinnis Peak\ Valdez, AK\ high pressure -- winter\ clothing\ gear -- warm\ summit|

Section 18: mountain\ McGinnis Peak\ wind\ cave -- high\ Sprout, Tim -- KUAC\ lighter -- distended\ oxygen\ snow -- tunneling\ buried\ drift zone|

Section 19: adrenaline -- motivation\ shovel\ storm\ supplies\ fuel\ Northwest Ridge -- McGinnis Peak\ food\ ridge -- technical\ rope\ snow\ ice\ wind\ ice slope|

Section 20: food\ fuel\ cave\ ridge\ blizzard\ radio\ Greeley -- military\ Fairbanks, AK\ Anchorage, AK\ walkman\ radio station -- KUAC\ radio station -- college\ Goldstream Valley\ Gangley Moose\ Marc Brown and the Blues Crew\ sleeping bag\ radio station -- KJNP North Pole|

Section 21: radio station -- college\ radio station -- KJNP North Pole\ salvation\ major -- English\ challenges -- spiritual\ wind\ changes -- pressure\ climb -- technical\ crampon\ snowcave\ food\ Tabasco sauce\ water -- rationing\ harness\ knots\ high pressure\ McGinnis Peak\ fall\ French technique|

Section 22: fall\ climbing -- technical\ top rope\ finger -- black\ cave\ Benowitz, Jeff\ belaying\ axe\ down climb\ bread|

Section 23: McGinnis Peak\ cave -- marking\ Benowitz, Jeff\ apple\ toes -- warming\ avalanche\ Valley of Death\ skis\ Richardson Highway\ Northeast Ridge -- McGinnis Peak\ Southeast Ridge -- McGinnis Peak\ crevasses|

Section 24: Valley of Death -- retreat\ Benowitz, Jeff\ crevasse -- fall\ snow bridge\ weather -- deterioration\ cirque\ crevasses\ valley -- side\ avalanches\ snow -- entropy\ tolerance|

Section 25: wolves\ bivy\ river\ ambulatory\ post-hole\ snow -- windblown\ rescue -- procedures and policies\ information -- vague\ adventure -- maintained\ climbers -- safety\ organizations -- publicly funded\ cave\ boots|

Section 26: return date\ rescue\ heart attacks\ Alaskan Alpine Club\ Echelmeyer, Keith\ airplanes\ Delta River\ ice -- overflow\ snowcave\ raven|

Section 27: raven\ mentors\ writers -- climbing\ library -- Valdez, AK\ University of Alaska, Fairbanks\ Make Prayers to the Raven\ relationship -- predator-prey\ relationship -- climber-mountain|

Section 28: Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle\ Hasten Limit\ Haston, Dougal\ novel\ writing -- outcome\ self-negation\ culture -- production\ industry\ western civilization -- conquer\ wild places\ guide books -- moratorium\ publication|

Section 29: Tower of Babel\ psychology -- developmental\ awareness\ viewpoint\ knowledge\ mountain climbing -- selfish\ monuments\ brain -- evolution|

Section 30: climbing -- socially redeeming\ brain -- expression\ war\ aggression\ mountain climbing\ relationships -- predator-prey\ earth -- cleanse\ extreme climbing -- selfish\ mortality -- understanding\ age -- humbled|

Section 31: climbing -- context\ event horizon\ terra incognita\ rock walls -- anxiety\ adrenaline\ ego\ Walter, Tom\ mentor\ waterfall -- frozen\ Caribou Creek\ Valdez, AK|