The Fun Hogs

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Viva Los Funhogs! That was the motto for five adventurers who traveled 8000 miles, from California to Patagonia, in a Ford Econoline Van during the summer of 1968. Their goal: to climb Fitz Roy near the southern tip of South America - and have a lot of fun along the way.

These weren’t just any five people. This crew included Doug Tompkins, the founder of The North Face, as well as Yvon Chouinard, who would go on to found Patagonia, a name that was inspired by this trip. The team also included Lito Tejada-Flores, a budding filmmaker who produced a movie about the trip, called Mountain of Storms, that went on to become a cult-classic.

In celebration of this epic road trip the climbers have published a new book to mark the 45th anniversary of their big adventure.

Climbing Fitz Roy, however, isn’t your ordinary climbing book. Its set-up is more like that of a slide show, the way climbers used to present their expeditions in order to raise funds to feed future adventures. Interspersed within the photos (slide show) are essays written by members of the Funhogs that provide insights on their thoughts and perspectives on the trip. There’s also an excerpt from the original 1969 American Alpine Journal article, the premiere journal of all things climbing.

It’s a bit of luck that this book was even published. It was thought that all of the photos were lost in a wildfire that destroyed the home of Funhog photographer Chris Jones in 1996. Fortunately the fifth member of the team, Dick Dorworth, found copies he had kept in a storage locker some eight years later.

As the group made their way down through Central and South America, a journey that would take three months, they spent a great deal of time skiing and surfing along the way. Their ultimate goal, however, was to climb Fitz Roy, a daunting 11,289-foot granite spire on the Argentine-Chilean border. The Funhogs would become only the third team to climb the mountain. Despite its moderate height, it’s considered to be among the most technically challenging mountains on Earth.

Climbing the peak took a lot longer than they expected. The Funhogs were forced to wait through 60 days of storms before they could even attempt the climb. This included 31 days of living in ice caves. Finally, on December 20, 1968, they reached the summit during a 30-hour roundtrip trek.

Climbing Fitz Roy includes dozens of outstanding photos. Some of them you can tell have been scanned, while others look like they’ve been taken by modern-day digital cameras.

My only complaint with the book was with Dick Dorworth’s essay. I thought his re-hashing of the 60s (for the umpteenth time!) was mostly off topic. Speaking as a post-boomer, how many more times do we have to be told how great “their generation” was?

If you’re into climbing, or enjoy spectacular mountain photography (especially that of Patagonia, one of the most stunning mountain ranges in the world), this is a great pick.

For a little more perspective on the historical context of the adventure, here’s the original trailer from the film, Mountain of Storms:

Mountain of Storms (Trailer) from Patagonia on Vimeo.

For more information on the book, and to purchase, please click here.

Hiking in the Smokies

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