May 4, 2011


"They just HAD to sit in the same chair."
Photo: Sandra and John Christopherson
More than anything else, partnerships are the dominant factor dictating survival, success, and enjoyment in the realm of first ascent alpinism in remote environments.

The photo above is a depiction of probably the longest lasting non-familial partnership that I have experienced: About 31 years by my count. The tyke on the left is myself. On the right? Rune Christopherson. His parents still live in this house. My parents still live 8 blocks away in their house. We made our own radio shows, rode our bikes all over, built forts, wrote thousands of consecutive integers on graph paper, listened to superman records, sang Bruce Springsteen, laughed, got in fights, yelled, said sorry, did it again. The most important piece? We never gave up communicating, which is probably why it still feels like the bond of our friendship is very strong despite the fact that we don't see that much of each other anymore. 

Rune and his fiancee Shelly just had their first baby, Lucia Lakshmi Christopherson. In June, they will be taking the big step and recognizing their love with a formal ceremony in the small Alaskan town where they met: Hope. Hope is a place laden with vivid memories from our families' shared childhoods and growth as individuals, and as families. In Hope, as in the birth of their Lakshmi, Rune and Shelly will be marking the end of one stage in their lives, and the beginning of another.

In a reflection of the ebb and flow of living systems, this is a time of great change in my life. After four and half years together, three and half of it married, Wendy and I have come to the decision that our journey together is at its end. Though this was a difficult and drawn out decision, we feel that we have explored all of the healthy alternatives available to us and have parted peacefully, with love still in our hearts. My thoughts also go out to my friend Jeremy Frimer, who is experiencing his own great life changes. We hoped to find rebirth together somewhere between the stars and the dust, but an accidental physical injury has commandeered this plan.

This will be a summer of great explorations and reconnections. My coursework will be all but complete, and work energy can turn toward creative and purposeful motion in the direction of research. I will be working to reconnect with myself and those whom I love and enjoy, as well as reconnect to that mountain self that has been waiting for an opportunity to revisit its full expression. Hoping for some time to create art in the mountains and in my home. This summer I will hope to strengthen old alpine partnerships (Ryan Hokanson, Ben Chriswell), forge some new ones (Aaron Thrasher, Jason Stuckey), and build on my portion of the web of relational existence. Wendy's energy? It seems it is already returning to her passion for running up mountains and to her family, two places of peace and connection for her. Perhaps you and I will share a moment or a thought. Only time will tell. Best wishes to you all as you enter this special time of year.


  1. There is a great deal of hard-won wisdom in these words of yours, Sam. Wishing you and Wendy all the very best as you embark on separate journeys; these things can be unspeakably difficult, and yet your words and thoughts shared here are full of dignity and grace.

    Travel well and enjoy every moment as you reconnect with friends, adventure new routes and build new partnerships.

  2. Thanks Ti! I hadn't even planned on posting anything this week, but when I got this photo in my email as a birthday present, the themes were impossible to resist. I have grown a lot the past few years at Wendy's side, and look forward to taking my new knowledge and awareness back out into the world.


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