Aaron Mulkey on the first ascent of Tapout in Ten Sleep, Wyo. Mulkey will describe many of his first ascents at Neptune Mountaineering on Thursday evening.
Aaron Mulkey on the first ascent of Tapout in Ten Sleep, Wyo. Mulkey will describe many of his first ascents at Neptune Mountaineering on Thursday evening. (Courtesy photo/Tyson Bednarz)
If you go

What: Aaron Mulkey rock and ice climbing slideshow

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: Neptune Mountaineering, 633 S. Broadway

More info: http://neptunemountaineering.com/events.aspx

A aron Mulkey grew up hunting with his father, traveling for miles to find the most secluded patches of land. His father reveled in being alone in the wilderness, miles from civilization.

Now Mulkey, an avid ice climber and kayaker, finds that same solace in hiking for miles to find first ascents and first descents, often not running into another person for hours.

Mulkey will talk about the joy of being completely alone in nature at Neptune Mountaineering on Thursday evening as he describes the many first ascents he's completed on ice from Wyoming to Norway.

 

Kayaking and ice climbing seem like two opposites. What drew you to both?

There's not a lot of people who do the crossover between kayaking and ice climbing. I'm definitely the opposite. I learned how to rock climb in Boulder, and I rock climbed as much as I could, and just started ice climbing. I remember doing my first lead ever and it took me like two and a half hours. People were yelling and screaming at me. It must have been really dreadful.


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I moved here (Cody, Wyo.) and a friend of mine kayaked and I just started kayaking I fell in love with it.

How do kayaking and ice climbing balance each other out?

I realized how nice it was to have the break in seasons. By the time ice climbing season is over, I'm not as energized as I was at the beginning of the season. So now when I kayak, ropes and climbing are in the distant past and now it's all about kayaking. It's kind of a different mental game, different perspective, and that way when I come back to climbing I'm really jazzed. It's kind of like two sets of friends, kayak friends and climbing friends. We all go into hibernation at different times.

 

What is it about first ascents and descents that motivate you to hike for miles?

It still for me is the passion for just finding things that have never been done. First ascents and first descents -- there's an energy that builds up for it for me. Going to these places that no one's ever been to or climbing a piece of ice that no one's ever seen. We go a long ways back in the middle of winter so you do feel like you're in the middle of nowhere. I wouldn't say I'm the hardest climber in the world but I'm definitely motivated to go find stuff and that's really my passion.

It's much more of an internal thing for me. It's the same thing with kayaking. You go down through these canyons where nobody's ever been, maybe someone's peered over the edge, but that's a unique feeling. You get the jitters as you're like, "What's around the next corner?" (It's like) a kid on a treasure hunt, it keeps you going.

You mentioned loving the solidarity of hunting with your dad as a kid. Why do climbing and kayaking alone appeal to you?

I'm so used to climbing by myself or kayaking. Maybe your partners are there, but there's nobody else. You end up doing things purely for yourself and not because there's a crowd around. It's definitely a much slower pace of life (in Cody). I appreciate the wilderness and how much terrain there is out there to still be explored. It's not the social life, that's for sure. It's all the things that I want to go out and explore.

What do you have planned for this season?

I am heading back to a secret, unknown island in Norway this year. That trip is definitely one of the big ones, and then I'm planning on going back to an area here in Wyoming (South Fork) on horseback. We'll ride horses for about 10 miles and drop camp there. Live out of wall tents and climb for a week.

 

--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.