Chris, Cochise Stronghold
“I love it all. Climbing and skiing probably give you the most thrill, and when you’re done, you’re in a really good mood. Sometimes when I do a half day in the morning, I come back and I can’t work.”
I met Chris when he was in the middle of his tour through the state of Arizona for a travel guide book he’s writing. We got together in a dirt lot a couple miles away from the base of Sheepshead mountain in the Cochise Stronghold. The granite dome looked down at us from across the valley, the summit barely visible through an overcast mist. It was colder than all the other mornings I spent in the Stronghold, where I became accustomed to wearing a t-shirt during the day despite it being the middle of February.
With the wind cutting through my jacket I was tempted to stay in my van, but I knew Chris drove over an hour to get there. We figured we might as well start heading down the trail and hoped the sun would eventually come out. After spending a couple weeks in the area, I learned how crowded the routes can get, and found it eerie to be the only ones climbing.
The sun finally made an appearance and our fingers thawed as we climbed the final pitch to the summit. We were met with great satisfaction once we removed our harnesses and took in the panoramic view of Arizona’s high desert. We hiked back to the lot where we pulled out a couple seats, and I asked Chris a few questions about his loves for the outdoors.
When would you say you first had a connection to the outdoors?
My dad was a kayaker so we did a couple trips out west to Idaho, Colorado. I was in a raft and he was in a kayak. I just loved the space; it gives you a certain sense of peace.
[I first climbed in] 1993 in the outdoor club in Colorado in the South Platte—beautiful area.
You mentioned earlier that safety standards weren’t great when you started, how has it changed since then?
The knowledge wasn’t as distributed; it was mostly word of mouth. Then it was maybe someone you knew had a book. Now you can look at pictures of different anchors online and read about all the different ways to set up an anchor.
Do you have a favorite outdoor trip you’ve been on?
Utah is really cool; it’s a fun place to explore. My son and I did a backpacking trip down Paria Canyon to the Colorado River. That’s an amazing four or five day hike in a very remote, steep canyon. The scenery’s amazing and nobody’s there.
Did you move to Colorado mainly for access to the outdoors?
That was a main component. Before, my family and I lived in Paris. Very urban, very concrete. If you look at it from satellite images, it’s just solid grey. So we decided to move back to the US, which gives the kids an opportunity to have that access.
It sounded like you developed a passion for the outdoors through your father, are you trying to pass that on to them?
[More of] an appreciation. It’s such a digital world now, so it’s good that they have that outlet to get out of the virtual world.
Do you have any long-term goals with skiing or climbing?
To enjoy myself and not get injured [laughs].
What do you love about spending time in the outdoors?
I love it all. Climbing and skiing probably give you the most thrill, and when you’re done, you’re in a really good mood. Sometimes when I do a half day in the morning, I come back and I can’t work.
This interview has been trimmed and edited to fit this format. If you would like to access the unedited interview audio and unposted photography, see my Patreon page.