Ep.44 Scott Backes

Mark and Michael speak to Scott Backes, with whom Mark climbed some difficult and beautiful routes back in the day, and who Mark describes as, “The wisest man I know.” Despite living in Minnesota, Scott discovered climbing in the ’70s, devoted himself to it and became one of the better, all-around climbers in the world although he would never say so. During the podcast the guys discuss how Scott started climbing, the various mentors who influenced his trajectory as a climber, the power that relationship has on vision, and “taking a knee” back in 1972. Despite their storied career together, much of the “origin” discussion was new to Mark. Scott talks about how he learned to train for climbing — also back in the day — and the impact that had on his climbing ability and confidence, how he started soloing on ice the first season he was exposed to frozen waterfalls, and touches on the difference between being stubborn and being a mystic when it comes to persistence in the mountains. The discussion is not limited to the physical, and the most important topics have to do with the internal, the psychology, self-awareness, and deep, deep self-knowledge both required and developed by climbing. Mark and Scott relate in detail an infamous rescue they undertook with Alex Lowe high on the West Rib of Denali in 1995. As with any episode, there are rabbit holes, passing by way of art and artistry, internet dating, the Tea Party, and of course, music. Mark does admit that, “because we were looking so far into the way back machine we did misidentify one character in the story about our 1989 visit to the Verdon Gorge in France. Scott described an encounter with a climber he remembered as being Shelly Presson, but it was actually Gia Phipps, which we did not remember until after we stopped recording.”

michael blevins