This is my online home for sharing some of my life's adventures, many of which include family, friends and the great outdoors. Hopefully you find it entertaining, useful and/or inspiring. Some content is meant for me and those close to me. Other content is meant to be used as a resource or inspiration for your own adventures. However you spend your time here, I hope you enjoy it.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Marjorie Jeanne Bettner - A Month with a Beautiful Daughter

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On March 29th, at 12:09 am, Kelly and I welcomed Marjorie Jeanne Bettner into the world.  Life has been especially busy since then.  Having two daughters (one a newborn and the other 1.5 years old) is quite a handful.  So, the ability to take and share pictures has not been as easy as with Marilyn, but we've done our best and captured some images that we'll cherish forever.

Happy one-month to my sweet little baby girl!

Marji was born very healthy and the delivery was much faster/easier than Marilyn's.  Shortly after her birth, however, Kelly had some post-delivery issues that required surgery.  It was scary, but it all went well.  Mom and baby were happy, healthy and reunited within 2 hours.

This is the first picture ever taken of Marji.
Tummy time on mom.

7 lbs 2.3 ounces and 20.5" long at first weigh-in.
Under the heat lamp waiting for mom to return.

First morning "wake-up".
Passing her first exam (hearing test).

Second weigh-in after less than 24 hours.
Marji's first bath.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Top 10 Recommendations For Hopeful Ski Mountaineers

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With prime ski mountaineering season right around the corner for the Rockies, I've been thinking a lot about my start in this incredible sport.  Particularly, I've been reflecting on how much I've learned since I started, and what advice I'd give to an aspiring ski mountaineer.  So, I decided to write a little article about it.  Regardless of your interest/experience in ski mountaineering I hope you find it enjoyable. 

A young man with a dreams.
High peaks, dramatic sky, steep lines, remote wilderness, massive exposure, varying terrain, incredible views...it all adds to the allure of ski mountaineering.  But, if it were an easy sport everyone would be doing it.  Even in an age when social media displays ski mountaineering exploits to a huge audience, the difficulties of the sport have kept the number of participants relatively small.

If it is so difficult, how does one even approach becoming a ski mountaineer?

I don't want to sound pompous, but feel like I'm fairly well qualified to give advice on this subject.  Despite growing up in the rolling mountains of central Pennsylvania (a great place to grow up, but not exactly a hotbed of ski mountaineering) I have become fairly accomplished in the sport.  The transition from a dreaming kid in Appalachia to a ski mountaineer with iconic descents under my belt didn't happen overnight.  It was a long and tricky learning process.

I want to inspire others who, like me, dream of adventure in the mountains.  I have learned a lot over the years (sometimes the hard way) in my pursuit of ski mountaineering, and I'd like to share some of that with you.  So, without further adieu, here is my top 10 list of things aspiring ski mountaineers should do to make their learning process faster, smoother, safer and more enjoyable.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Update: Family, Friends, Work, Fatherhood and Skiing

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Family & Friends

It has been a while since I've checked in.  I've been busy with many things since my last post, but here are some of the highlights.

I missed the big snowstorms in the western part of the country over Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I don't regret it at all.  I was spending quality time with family and friends back east, and it was wonderful.

Classic Pennsylvania day, the day after Thanksgiving.
Marilyn doing her first sledding on Thanksgiving day in PA (top)
compared to her first Thanksgiving in Colorado (bottom).

Marilyn enjoying the colorful presents and Christmas lights.
My dear friend Phil and I with the "Big Uglies." We enjoyed
the PSU bowl game at Yankee stadium.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

First Day of the 2014/2015 Ski Season

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Had a good first day of the ski season with Norm and Eric.  Really mellow terrain, but really soft snow.  Looking forward to a season filled with fatherhood and freshies!

A little snow in the face.
Norm enjoying a little soft snow.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

SKI DENALI - An Expedition to Climb Denali and Ski the Messner Couloir

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I decided to consolidate everything from the SKI DENALI expedition into one place to make it easier for people who want to use it as a resource.  And, since I've been hobbled by an injury for the past week I decided to use some of my would-be exercise time I put together a new, short, highlight video.  Here ya go.

SKI DENALI - Highlights (Summit, Messner Couloir and More) 


Part 1 (Getting to Kahiltna Base Camp)

Part 2 (Ski Hill Camp to Motorcycle Hill Camp to Camp 14)

Part 3 (Skiing Rescue Gully and West Rib/Orient Express)

Part 4 (Summit Cimb and Skiing the Messner Couloir)

Part 5 (Denali Departure and Getting Home)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SKI DENALI - PART 5 (Departing Denali and Getting Home)

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"See 'em sit there, and as they always do for some reason after they touch the yellow gate the last time,
they just kind of, it's like you cut the strings on a - what is it that, a marionette? - they just pfft.
Someone will be there with a chair and they just sit there, and you can see this...
the extremes of joy that can come with sports, that you only get when failure was probable."
-Gary "Laz" Cantrell (race organizer for the Barkley 100)

Joyful in a harsh landscape.

Ski Denali - Part 5: Denali Departure

We had done it.  The years of planning, preparation, learning and training, the long days waiting in Denali's weather, the continual upward push with dehydrated bodies and tired legs had all paid off.  North America's highest point had been reached and descended on skis via the Messner Couloir.  The conditions were what dreams are made of.  We were blessed and we knew it, feeling truly content in what we were fortunate enough to experience.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

SKI DENALI - PART 4 (Summit Climb and Skiing the Messner Couloir)

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"Further up and further in."
-The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

Way up and gettin' into it!

Ski Denali - Part 4: Denali Summit Climb

This was it - summit day.  We had been on the mountain for 18 days and most of those were spent waiting in storms.  So far, all the clear weather windows had been short, and today's was no exception.  After talking with Joel Gratz (meteorologist for OpenSnow.com) the evening before, it looked like we had a weather window of roughly 18 hours before another series of storms was set to blast the mountain.  It was now or never if we hoped to reach the summit.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

SKI DENALI - PART 3 (Skiing Rescue Gully and West Rib/Orient Express)

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Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!"
-Oh The Places You'll Go, Dr. Seuss

On my mountain.
On my mountain.

Ski Denali - Part 3: Camp 14

Planning and patience - key elements for a successful ski-mountaineering expedition.  Up to this point, our entire time climbing Denali had involved storms with short windows of clear weather.  This pattern only continued upon our arrival at Camp 14.  The storminess was a double edged sword.  It simultaneously made the lines we wanted to ski both skiable and un-skiable.  The lines needed snow to cover the glacial ice, but we could not ski the lines (or get to them) while it was snowing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

SKI DENALI - PART 2 (Ski Hill Camp to Motorcycle Hill Camp to Camp 14)

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Ski Denali - Part 2

Ski Hill Camp - Motorcycle Hill Camp - Camp 14

"The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge:
but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
-Proverbs 1:7

The imposing massif of Denali standing more than 12,000' above Ski Hill Camp.
The imposing massif of Denali standing more than 12,000' above Ski Hill Camp.

Ski Denali - Part 2: Ski Hill Camp

Paradoxically, in order to climb the peak with the largest vertical rise in the world (from base to summit that is entirely above sea level) we had to start by going down.  The brisk descent of Heartbreak Hill, roughly 500 vertical feet that separates the main Kahiltna Glacier from Kahiltna Base Camp, was a pleasant way to begin the day.  Finishing the short descent put us at the lowest point of our climb, roughly 6650'.  As we turned north and began skinning up the Kahiltna Glacier we were on the expedition's opening battle against gravity.

This was our first opportunity to test our set-ups and truly feel the weight of all our gear.  Fortunately, from the bottom of Heartbreak Hill to Ski Hill Camp the terrain climbs for ~5 miles at a very mellow and consistent angle.  The heavy loads, although significant, were not a torturous burden.  We made great time as we skinned past those walking in guided groups.  Hooray for skis!

The scale and grandeur of the mountains really set in as we moved up the Kahiltna.  We were surrounded on all sides by enormous crevasses, seracs, cornices, cliff bands and ice-falls.  God's fingerprint is uniquely stamped on this dramatic, severe, no-nonsense landscape.  Listening to what it is telling you, learning from it and acting accordingly is of the utmost importance.

This place will humble you...if you're arrogant you are dead.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SKI DENALI - PART 1 (Getting to Kahiltna Base Camp)

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DIA - ANC - TLK - Kahiltna Base Camp

"May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand."
-Traditional Gaelic Prayer

The Alaska Range rising up to meet us.
The Alaska Range

Ski Denali - Part 1: DIA

Saying goodbye at DIA
Saying goodbye at DIA.
I was ready to go.  This was the moment I had long been anticipating.  I had prepared for years, sorting out the details of what it took and what I needed to climb and ski from North America's highest point.  

It was something that my grandfather had told me about as a youngster. 

It was a life goal I had written down as a Cub Scout.   

I had stared at pictures, read stories and dreamt about it since my childhood.

I had long prepared physically and mentally for the challenges of such an expedition.

I wanted to do it to continue a family legacy and do something that my children can be proud of.

I had an inexplicable feeling that it was something I needed to do.

So why wasn't I thrilled to get started?  The departure is usually when my heart starts to race and I imagine the fantastic adventure that lies ahead.  But, I didn't have that usual feeling of exhilaration as I stepped out of the car at DIA's massive circus-tentesque terminal.

Waiting for the flight...thinking.
Waiting for the flight...thinking.
Perhaps my lack of excitement upon departure was because this trip was different from the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of other mountain adventures I've been on.  For starters, I was now a father and I was about to leave my wife and nearly 9-month old daughter for an unknown amount of time.  Would I be gone a couple weeks?  A month?  Longer...?  I already missed them as the security guard ushered them towards the terminal exit.  Not knowing when I would see them again seemed to amplify that feeling.  Additionally, I had invested so much into planning and preparing for this trip that starting it made me nervous.  What if things didn't go well?  Would I feel like I had wasted all that effort?  Would I feel like a failure?  Would I ever get to attempt this lifelong dream again?  Would my family be disappointed if I wasn't successful?  Would my family be proud of me even if I was successful?