A Year in Review: 2017

Well that went by pretty damn quick… It feels like just yesterday I was putting my touring skins on the wrong way and falling over on the skin track for the first time. This year was the catalyst for some of the best memories I’ve ever made. I’ll go out on a limb here and even say that this has been the best year of my existence (so far). This is mostly due to the overwhelming amount of amazing friends made, walls climbed, lines skied, and trails run. Oh and how can I forget the numerous times I got left in the dust during these pursuits by my inspiring and insanely driven friends? Good work friends, I’ll catch up to you next year.

This past January, I started my second semester as a sophomore at The University of Colorado as an environmental studies major with a minor in geography and journalism. Going on from that, I just finished my junior year fall semester as of a few weeks ago. Ended up writing a senior thesis a year early so that I can hopefully get more days skiing, climbing, and running trails than of class my senior year at CU. If you’re interested in the effects of climate change on Arctic energy and transportation development, feel free to shoot me a line and I’ll email you the paper. This is also the first year that I made the transition into skiing uphill to access all of the amazing backcountry skiing that Colorado has to offer. I’d say that has to be one of the better decisions I’ve made so far. Also discovered that running doesn’t suck if you run trails and lots of mountains.

This was by far the most exciting year for the whole photography thing. I met tons of wonderful people through the lens of my picture making box. From photographing some wild places, to getting a few shots published in magazines, and to gaining a dream client or two, I’d give this year two thumbs-up.

Having said that, I’m particularly stoked for this coming year.

Enough ranting, here are some of my favorite photos & events (January → December).

Lets start with some of my first experiences ski touring

When the snow wasn't great, some spring climbing was in order.

Then a stint in Idaho for a week of touring, getting smelly in a yurt, and drinking plenty of costco whiskey

On to photos from spring to end of summer

Some photos from my first real multi day commercial shoot

And fall semester of my junior year. 

A 2017 Summer Recap: What's to Come

As the sun filled days of 90+ degree heat began to wane and thin, I figured I might as well update my blog for a few reasons. The first being that I have a new website, same url and all, but a new design none the less and I'm quite happy with it. The second reason being to recap the 2017's summer activities that occurred. And the third? I'll be outlining my goals for this upcoming 2017/2018 year and updating the few people that'll read this on whats going on in my life.

Summer 2017 (May - August)

To say the least, this past summer flew by and dragged on all at the same time. I began working at the Patagonia store in Boulder, Colorado and started photographing things a whole lot more. During my first few weeks out of school, I flew home to Davenport, IA for my sisters graduation/graduation party from high school. While at home I met up with one of my buddies Kyle Dietz, who runs trails for Under Armour, and simply realized that if you have a mullet, you're bound to run faster than others. Spent an afternoon in the scorching heat photographing one of his track workouts while he wore WAY too much spandex. 

Mullet Man aka Kyle Dietz runs towards the moon in Davenport, IA.

Mullet Man aka Kyle Dietz runs towards the moon in Davenport, IA.

Upon returning home, I drove to Vail, CO to photograph the Vail Go Pro Mountain Games, specifically the IFSC Bouldering World Cup. While the heat was high, so was the stoke. Throughout my years as a teen, I watched the world cups religiously, always fascinated by the sheer super human power that some of the competitors possessed. This World Cup was no different. 

Chon Jongwon (South Korea) celebrates after completing the final boulder problem to secure him the win at IFSC Bouldering World Cup Vail.

Chon Jongwon (South Korea) celebrates after completing the final boulder problem to secure him the win at IFSC Bouldering World Cup Vail.

The next few weeks consisted of everything from spontaneous backpacking trips with friends to getting into alpine climbing with co-workers. I climbed higher and ran more than I have in previous years and just absolutely loved it. One of the most memorable experiences from this summer was doing a big 1,100 ft climb up in Rocky Mountain National Park, my first real climb that surpassed 500ft. It definitely got me thinking about completing some larger objectives in the upcoming year such as The Diamond and maybe something in the Black Canyon of Gunnison, Colorado.

Riding the wave of climbing, I headed off to Lander, Wyoming to photograph the International Climbers Festival. Let me just put this out there. If you're ever in Wyoming or within a 5-6 hour drive, head to the festival. The week was full of great people, great climbing, great music, and even better beer. From the amazing clinics that were put on, to the pro talks that were given throughout the event, there was never a lull moment. I was lucky enough to stay with a killer crew of previous CU grads that housed me for the week.

Tommy Caldwell cruises up Bobcat Logic (5.12C) in Wild Iris, Wyoming.

Tommy Caldwell cruises up Bobcat Logic (5.12C) in Wild Iris, Wyoming.

After the climbing festival in Wyoming, I headed back to Boulder with no real plan for the rest of the summer. A weird thing then occurred... I started getting into trail running. Since I moved to Boulder two years ago, I would run once or twice every two weeks, nothing serious, just enough activity to keep my aerobic rate up. Then came this summer and I started running a bit more, putting in around 10 - 12 miles a week on the trail. Once I was home from Lander, I started hitting 20-25 miles a week with around 4000-6000ft of elevation gain. I'd always loved the idea of trail running but just never had the motivation to go out consistently. Maybe it was the Salomon Running episodes or the challenge of pushing my limits, but I kind of fell in love with it. Which leads me to the next section of this article; objectives for the year.

Evan Valencia mid-run up South Arapaho Peak in Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Evan Valencia mid-run up South Arapaho Peak in Indian Peaks Wilderness.


This summer, I came to realize that I don't think I've been making the most of my time here in Colorado. Sure, I get out and climb either indoors or outdoors about four times a week, run trails another four times a week, camp around five to seven days a month, and hike around the front range trails a good bit. But to me, that seems like a typical existence here in Boulder, Colorado. While it's a great time and I recognize how lucky I am to be here, I do feel as if I'm missing out on something. Not any physical thing, but more of a sense of fulfillment and an eagerness to see what I'm capable of. That is why this year I'll be attempting some things out of my comfort zone, seeing how far I can not only push my body but also push my creativity through photography and filmmaking.

Since June, I've been on sort of a training schedule. The increase in running, climbing, and participation in strength workouts have been means to prepare for this fall and winter. The goal for this fall is begin to hop on some larger alpine climbs. Taller, longer, more committing walls. Eventually after another two seasons or so, I hope to begin to try my hand at some mixed climbing, with goals of getting into winter climbing. However, thats a bit further. For this winter, I wish to begin the quest of skiing off of some of the Colorado 14ers, getting on some steeper and narrower stuff throughout the state, and trying my hand at more ski mountaineering. While doing this, I plan on attempting to get better at my craft of photography as well. I've always found photographing winter sports extremely tasking due to the variable conditions and brining extra weight into the backcountry, however, I aim to improve on working in those environments.

Now this next goal is kind of the main one for the upcoming year. While it is still far off, I need to have it in writing in a pubic place (such as the internet) so that I don't back out of it. Come next summer, I plan on running a 50 mile trail race. Just typing those words makes me laugh and twinge with fear. The longest race I've ran is a 5k, granted I've ran up to 15 miles in a day, but 50 miles is pretty dang long. I figure with running more in the fall & spring and ski touring a large amount this winter, I'll hopefully be prepared by summer. Also for this fall, an idea is brewing to run the Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R) of the Grand Canyon.

My final objective is to actually update this blog consistently. Ideally, I'll be writing more articles and creating small updates throughout the month. I believe this will actually be the hardest task...