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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Friday, February 24, 2017

Hal Kanzler's Mission Mountains Map

I was given the above map last week by Lois Crepeau of the Rocky Mountaineers. I've hung it up in my office at the University of Montana and have been finding myself regularly inspired by it. The author of the map is Hal Kanzler, the patriarch of a family that is legendary in the Montana climbing community. Hal Kanzler was a WWII veteran, who found his solace in the mountains and was sufficiently obsessed with the Missions that he made the above map. According to the description in the upper-right corner, the research -- consisting of many climbing trips -- was done by Kanzler from 1954-62. 

Two more consequences of Hal Kanzler's obsession with Montana peaks are his sons Jerry and Jim, who grew up in Columbia Falls and from grade school on climbed with their dad in the local mountain ranges. It is noted in an excellent Flathead Beacon article by Tristan Scott that Jerry and Jim climbed Mount St. Nicholas -- one of the most difficult peaks in Glacier, requiring 5.9 climbing -- with their dad at ages 12 and 15 in 1963 (an astounding feat), the same year that the Mission Mountains map above was published. 

The Kanzlers moved to Butte when the brothers were in high school, and continued climbing. They pioneered routes on several local crags, the most prominent being "The Wedge" in the Humbug Spires (a regular haunt of mine during college), which they named and were the first to climb. Tragedy struck, however, when Hal Kanzler committed suicide in 1967. I lost my father when I was 25, and given my experience with that tragedy, I know that the Kanzler brothers' were traumatized and that their super-charged climbing ambitions were partly a product of this awful event. 

In 1969, at 18 years old, Jerry Kanzler attempted the north face of Glacier Park's Mount Cleveland, one of two of the tallest rock faces in the lower 48 and a dangerous climb. He and his group died in an avalanche on the attempt.  Following his brother's death, Jim Kanzler became obsessed with climbing the north face of Mount Cleveland, which he did succesfully with Terry Kennedy in 1976. The pair then set their sights on the even more dangerous and difficult north face of Mount Siyeh (the other tallest rock face in the lower 48 and also in Glacier), which they successfully climbed, after several years and their fourth attempt, in 1979. In Tristan Scott's article, linked above, Kanzler is quoted as calling Siyeh a "death route" and "the most serious and dangerous climbing I have ever done." Jim Kanzler died in 2011, at the age of 63, which Scott's article says was also a suicide. Terry Kennedy wrote a stirring tribute to Jim Kanzler after his death for the American Alpine Club, which can be linked to here, and he also wrote a story about Kanzler for the magazine Explore Big Sky, which can be linked to here

The story of the Kanzler men is fascinating, inspiring, and tragic. And it has at least some of its roots in the creation of the 1963 Mission Mountain Map. It's easy to imagine Hal Kanzler exploring the Missions doing 'research' for the making of the map, with his young sons in tow, each of them honing their climbing skills along the way, and setting the course for the rest of their lives.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Little Saint Joe's Peak and Ski, Bitterroots

Looking off into the Bitterroot: Saint Mary and Heavenly Twins are on the horizon.
All photos were taken by Matt Roscoe
This past weekend, I went backcountry skiing for the first time in a long time, and for the first time with my new backcountry gear. Matt Roscoe, Paul Jensen, and I skied up Little Saint Joe's, which is on the east-west facing ridge, also containing Saint Joseph Peak, just south of Sweeney Peak in the Bitterroots. We had great skiing and a rejuvenating mini-vacation. I'm stoked to get out into the backcountry more this season and hopefully bag a few peaks along the way.

So far it's been a great ski season. During the week before last, we had a two day storm, on a Monday/Tuesday, yielding a fantastic couple of Snowbowl days. I extended the great powder skiing into the following weekend by hiking TV Mountain a bunch of times. TV is my favorite area at Snowbowl to ski, but it gets good only when it stays cold and snows, as it has this year. The last time TV skiing was any good was three seasons ago.

Anyway, I've been doing my best to enjoy the pleasures of winter.
Morning skinning.
Paul Jensen, a Missoula backcountry skiing/climbing legend.
On the summit
Great snow in the Little St. Joe east facing bowl.
Matt, the photographer, under a bluebird sky.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Two Music Mixes for the Holidays

I've been obsessed with music of late. It aids me in my work, and it's a shared passion with my son, Alex, whom I have debates with - most recently, on the merits of J. Cole, whose song Neighbors is my current favorite, but whom Alex finds too mainstream (he's heard his music played at Frat houses) to be counted among the best rappers currently in the game. I don't disagree - Cole's most recent album doesn't have the overarching vision of the most recent albums of Kendrick Lamar or A Tribe Called Quest - but I still think Neighbors, which is on the first mix below, is a great song. 

I've compiled some of my recent listening into two mixes. The first is of recent releases, all by African American artists, while the second is of tunes from the 70s, some of which I remember my parents playing, but most of which I'm just discovering. It's fun to explore new music and is so easy to do with Spotify.

JB Xmas Mix 2016 #1: Recent Releases, African American Artists

JB Xmas Mix 2016 #2: 70s 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Mathematics and Denmark

Jim Nagy and I in Copenhagen.
Looking back over the path that I've traveled in my career, I often ponder what it was that originally attracted me to mathematics, and then what it was (and is) that kept (keeps) me engaged through the good times and bad. Some things stand out. 

One is my first mathematics professor at Montana Tech, a severe and demanding, old-school Indian man named Dr. Nagendra Pandey. He's since passed away, but I've saved the link to his obituary, which I return to every now and then for inspiration. He was a simple, devoted man who lead by example. After taking his Calculus class during my first semester at Tech, I switched my major to Mathematics and never looked back.

After graduating from Tech, I went immediately to Montana State University and met another mathematician, Dr. Curt Vogel who shares with Dr. Pandy a certain hardness of character. As my PhD advisor, Curt has easily been my biggest influence as a mathematician. He grew up on a ranch in Eastern Montana and once told me that the ranch work in summer was so physically demanding that he would look forward to two-a-day football practices in mid-August as a relaxing break. My upbringing in Butte was, I think, also stark and demanding, though in a different way, and so I connected with Curt. I also clearly look up to, and want to emulate, individuals like Curt and Dr. Pandey. 

Through Curt, I met Jim Nagy, who can be seen in the photo above. I saw Jim (now a Professor at Emory University in Atlanta) give a math research talk at MSU in my first year of graduate school 20 years ago. I remember thinking, "That's what I want to do." And now here I am doing it. Jim was in Copenhagen this last week, where we were both giving talks in a workshop put on by Per Christian Hansen, a giant in the field of Inverse Problems, which is also Jim and my research area. Jim and I have been friends and collaborators since I obtained by PhD in 2002. 

What drew me to mathematics was, of course, a passion for the subject matter, but also, at least as much, the example of my professors. It was a long road getting to where I'm at, with eleven years of study and several kinks in the road, before I got my current job at UM in 2003. When that first spark was ignited in Dr. Pandey's Calculus class back in 1992, I never could have imagined where mathematics would take me, and I look forward to what is to come.
Tivoli Gardens #1
Tivoli Gardens #2.
Tivoli Gardens #3.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Inner World/Outer World/Xmas Music Mix

Chillin' at my birthday potluck.
Jim James concert on my birthday. This man knows about the inner world.

Probably one of the last Mt. Sentinel hikes of the winter.
There's a tension between the demands of the inner life and of the outer life. For me, when the two become imbalanced -- usually due to neglect of my inner life -- I slip, no matter how great my outer life is going. It takes vigilance; the inner life is easy to neglect.

The fall shoulder season is usually a good time for the cultivation of my inner life: meditation, music, long walks, time with friends and family -- we all know the things that feed our soul. Before long, however, I start to feel a tension again, pushing me toward more ambitious outward action.  

Next year, I'd like to be more consistent in the cultivation of my inner life through the year. In 2016, I let it go during the summer, and then paid the price once work started in earnest in September. 

Here's a music mix that I've been working on for a month or so: JB Xmas 2016. It's all music by black artists (no Jim James on this one) released in the last year. So much great music coming out right now!