Huntley Ingalls


Photo by Cody Blair

Desert Pioneer, Tower Master, Cave Explorer, Geophysicist, Mathematician; Boulder, Colorado

Stop to chat with the desert pioneer Huntley Ingalls and you quickly sense the lifelong hunger for exploration that fueled his 50-odd first ascents. In 1956, working for the National Geological Survey, Ingalls discovered the untapped potential of eastern Utah’s vast desert. He met Layton Kor in 1959, and the pair went on to first-ascend such formations as: Castleton Tower’s Kor-Ingalls (III 5.9; September 1961); the Titan’s Finger of Fate, (IV 5.8 A3; Ingalls, Kor, George Hurley; May 1962); and Monument Basin’s Standing Rock (IV 5.7 A3; Ingalls, Kor, Steve Komito; October 1962). A transplant from Potomac, Maryland, he learned to climb in the nearby Potomac Gorge (and at Seneca Rock) in 1953, moving in 1959 to Boulder, Colorado, where he worked six years as a mathematician at the Bureau of Standards (now National Institute of Standards and Technology). Today retired yet still active in the mountains (just hiking, no climbing), Ingalls has become a fixture at the North Boulder Café, where he can be found at lunchtime, always with his ham omelette. 

Huntley Ingalls 7/02/08 Interview Transcription 

Climbing: So I’ve got oodles and oodles of questions so you’ll have to let me know when you’re done for the day.

Ingalls: That’s fine. That’s how you get accuracy. You know, when I read something, I like to believe what I’m reading. So I’m glad you’ve got so many questions instead of a bunch of vague, made-up things.

Climbing: So I was reading that you were surveying the land at the time you first saw Castle Valley. What was your job title for the US Geological Survey?

Ingalls: Nothing much impressive. I was a field assistant.

Climbing: Okay, so what job were you doing at that time, then?

Ingalls: It was a gravity survey. Shall I explain that? Basically I used an instrument called a barometer that measured to a very fine degree. It was so sensitive that if you took a reading on the floor and then another one on the next story, or even on the table here, you would get a different reading because you’re that much farther from the earth’s center. It’s a remarkable thing. So then, the idea was to make a map of all these readings so you can get a good idea of the rocks around, in particular, they were looking for uranium. They were mapping out the whole Colorado Plateau. It was a wonderful, fun job.

[Ordering food]

Climbing: Okay, so when you first saw Castle Valley, specifically Castleton Tower, what was your first impression of it?

Ingalls: Well, I guess my first impression of it, was…well I guess it was that I was startled that there could be such a thing. And that it was a beautiful tower. I immediately thought of what it would be like to climb it. So it struck me as a classic.

Climbing: Had you climbed a lot previous to this?

Ingalls: I had done some climbing, I had climbed Ship Rock a bit, so that was fun. That was extraordinary as well.

Climbing: Were you more drawn to tower climbing, more so than big wall or other types of climbing?

Ingalls: No, I tend to like summits. I wasn’t too into wall climbing. I tended toward the larger summits. Especially summits that no one else had climbed. And these things were just there for the taking.

Climbing: When you guys had gotten to the top, did you find evidence that anyone else had been up there before you?

Ingalls: No, no, we were definitely the first. There were no pitons or hangars, or any evidence whatsoever that anyone else had been up there.

Climbing: What’s that feeling like of doing a first ascent? What is going through your head?

Ingalls: First of all, that you are pioneering something that hasn’t been done before. The feeling of being a pioneer and the tremendous privilege of being the first. So it’s somewhat like the feeling of an explorer comes to a new land or a river or a valley. It’s a feeling of exploration and privilege, first, for me anyway.

Climbing: Do you know how many first ascents you’ve done over your whole climbing career?

Ingalls: Oh I don’t know that. It depends on what you consider significant. Would these little cliffs be counted in there?

Climbing: Well, my personal perspective on it would be yes, I think in all climbing, any first ascent would count.

Ingalls: Well then. Maybe about 50 or so.

Climbing: Do you know how many of those might be specifically for towers?

Ingalls: The most significant ones were, Castleton Tower, of course, and then the Titan, that was a big deal. And then, North Six-Shooter Peak and the Standing Rock. Those were the important summits. There were a couple in the Black Canyon, but they weren’t that difficult though.

Climbing: That leads into another question for me then. Between Castleton Tower, North Six-Shooter, the Titan and Standing Rock, which one was your favorite?

Ingalls: Well, for pleasure it was Castleton Tower, but for challenge, it was the Titan of course. And for simply being plain wild it was Standing Rock.

Climbing: What do you mean by wild?

Ingalls: Well it was something like so out of the ordinary that most people would actually try to avoid it. Have you seen pictures of it?

Climbing: Yes

Ingalls: Well it’s 40 feet wide and 200 feet high and very rotten. So it was wild in the sense of danger.

Climbing: So going back to Castleton, how did you convince Layton Kor to climb it with you? What were his reservations to not doing it?

Ingalls: First of all, no one knew anything about that area. And so I talked a lot about it, and it was a long ways away and there was loads of climbing around here to be done. And his reservations simply were that it was out of sight, out of mind for him. One day we were climbing up on the Ten Sisters there, and on the way down to the car, he said “say, let’s go down and try that tower you’ve been talking about.” It took me two years to persuade him to go down there. And now he’s climbed all over the place. But it took two years to get anyone to even take a look at it, for a first ascent.

Climbing: That’s amazing. And you know, in my mind, I would think such a first ascent, everyone would be jumping at the opportunity.

Ingalls: You would think so, but you know what they were all interested in? Eldorado! And that’s just one little canyon! They all wanted to just do first ascents in Eldorado Canyon. In fact, I remember someone telling me that Castleton Tower and desert towers were wonderful things, but that the reason no one was interested in them was that there were climbs to be done in Eldorado. And I just don’t think that was anything significant when compared to such a beautiful climb like Castleton. Have you ever seen it?

Climbing: I have actually, from a distance though. Other than that, I’ve only seen the pictures of it. It’s a very affecting tower though. It makes you stop.

Ingalls: Yes, it’s arresting. That’s the word.

Climbing: Exactly, that’s it. Mmmk, well I remember reading an old issue of Climbing magazine, from 1989, you had written this short piece for the mag about Castleton Tower, and in it, you ask yourself ‘How would it feel to reach the summit?’ so when you actually did summit the tower, did you think about the next climb, that moment, the approaching storm?

Ingalls: Well we were certainly concerned with the storm approaching because you see, this approach took two days. The first day we got half way up and a storm came along and we had to get off of there. It’s a dangerous place for lightning, very dangerous. And then when we got to the top, another one was coming. And we had to race the storm on the way down. But of course the main thought was of the satisfaction of having done it, it was just the wonderful feeling of satisfaction and then worry about the approaching storm. In fact, we mentioned that in the summit register. And do you know that some people have stolen the summit registers, they’ve taken them for themselves. I think it’s disgusting. The original summit register should be in a museum if anywhere.

Climbing: Yeah, you know, I was reading about the tower and that the most recent account of how many ascents it has had is over 1000, just for the Kor-Ingalls route alone.

Ingalls: You talking about Castleton now? Oh yes, it’s had over 1000 ascent a long time ago. They stopped counting after it got over 2000. It’s probably around 3000 or 4000 by now. It’s amazing.

Climbing: I’ve heard that it is the most climbed desert tower out there.

Ingalls: Yeah, it is. That’s true. Because it has good rock, that’s unusual for the desert. And it has an incredible view from the top.

Climbing: So, what was the hardest part of the climb for you?

Ingalls: The hardest part was, uh, was getting into that offwidth chimney, and the stretches were about, 30 feet or so. That was hard for me at the time.

Climbing: Had you done much offwidth before?

Ingalls: I had done offwidths. Didn’t have much trouble with it. It wasn’t much of a worry. You see, you had to get one shoulder and one arm inside and then the other hand and foot out there. There wasn’t much up in front. You just kind of had to wiggle up like a worm, you had to scrape up the rock, you see. There wasn’t any worry, definitely just a thrash. Made worse by the hail, when you have to wiggle up there.

Climbing: Yeah, I read in your little piece for Climbing, that you got ground shocks during that storm too.

Ingalls: We were racing the storm down and it caught us on the last rappel, and Layton had gone on down and I picked up the rope and a ground current caught me through the rope. So I’m glad that I didn’t have both hands on the rope…so I just stopped and I got soaked, I mean really soaked.

Ship Rock, New Mexico. Photo by Cameron M. Burns

Climbing: How did that affect your view of Castleton, of the whole route?

Ingalls: That was just part of it, that didn’t affect me at all. It is all just part of it, of the adventure. It really didn’t have any effect at all, other than to be careful.

Climbing: So how long did you climb with Layton Kor overall.

Ingalls: Overall, let’s see…about four years.

Climbing: What made him such a good partner?

Ingalls: Well, ah, his tremendous energy and ability. And also he had a…in general, his spirit and enthusiasm. He had a tremendous ability, tremendous life force, I mean, he was just uh, full speed ahead, you know.

Climbing: I think I read that you met him at a party.

Ingalls: Sort of, it was an outdoor party up on Flagstaff Mountain. One of those stoner parties. I was immediately just struck by his force and we immediately got along very well. …Where’d you pick up all this stuff?

Climbing: Research. I’ve been going through all of our back issues, everything online, anything you could possibly imagine.

Ingalls: Well, you’ve done a good job, I can see why you’ve got the job. You’ve really done a good job here.

Climbing: Thank you, I really appreciate that. Yes I have to admit that I was quite nervous to come and talk to you.

Ingalls: Oh come on, I’m harmless.

Climbing: No, I mean to me, there are so many amazing climbers out there. And to have them up there on a pedestal for me, it’s a good thing because it gives me something to look up to, you know.

Ingalls: I’m very approachable. I’m as easy to get along with as a friendly kitty-cat.

Climbing: That’s true. See, for me, it’s about once I bring them down to a human level by talking to them, it changes my perspective of them, not in a more negative or positive light mind you, just different than before.

Ingalls: I’ll tell you, I don’t have anything to prove, I’m not interested in a big ego and all those things. I just enjoy things, and uh, I’m not out there to prove anything or to posture or anything like that, I don’t need it.

Climbing: Yes, I’ve noticed that about the first generation of climbers versus the climbers of today. It seems that the first generation was a lot more humble and they were doing it really for the enjoyment.

Ingalls: Right, well I’ll tell you that the big difference, one, is that each one was an individual. They weren’t trying to go forward with a certain style, or use the right kind of jargon, and wear the right kind of clothes. Each one was self-contained and unique, and they really enjoyed climbing. I mean there was some competition, up to a point. This business that if you can’t climb a 5.14 then you’re an inferior form of life, it’s not so good, I tell ya.

Climbing: It’s amazed me, how climbing is becoming more of a sport.

Ingalls: Yes, I think it has definitely spoiled the spirit of it now. Of course, there are two reasons for that. First of all, there are so many climbers now that you have to do something really extreme to stand out at all. And the other thing of it is, the frontier is pretty much used up. There’s hardly anything left that can be a significant first ascent. And so there is no frontier so they turn to competition because that’s all they have. And it’s a pity because they are extraordinarily good.

Climbing: You’re right, there is amazing talent out there.

Ingalls: The talent is incredible, but I would still rather do something pioneering. There is a good reason to climb now, and that’s simply to enjoy it.

[eating…]

 


Castleton, the Rectory and the Priest, Castle Valley, Utah. Photo by Bruce Willey / brucewilley.typepad.com

Climbing: So, I was thinking about you and Kor, and from what I’ve read, it seems that you were the more conscientious of the two when it comes to safety. You know, he seemed, like how you were saying earlier that he had a lot of energy and it kind of seems like he was the type of person to just go and think about the safety part later…is that true?

Ingalls: To some extent, but he wasn’t reckless. He was bold, not reckless. But of course he liked to tease his climbing partners, stuff like “watch out now, if I go, we both go.” Which was typical. Sometimes it was true, but he was just bold, not reckless.

Climbing: So when you two were climbing Castleton, what equipment were you using?

[30 MINUTE MARK]

Ingalls: Well, you know, most of the stuff hadn’t been invented then. We did have nylon ropes, we had pitons, wooden blocks…most of which you had to get at the hardware store. And these other fancy things hadn’t been invented yet. Even nuts hadn’t been there.

Climbing: So how did you use these wooden blocks?

Ingalls: In wide cracks. You’d drive them in and they’d hang there pretty well.

Climbing: Did it have a wire through it?

Ingalls: It had a hole drilled through it with a piece of nylon rope through that.

Climbing: So, uh, what kind of climbing shoes did you have?

Ingalls: We had … shoes and they were awful. The thing we did then was to get them a size too small so you could edge in them. The just tore your feet up, they were so awful. But we did hike in there and then change into the … shoes, cause that was the thing then. Have you seen Layton’s book Beyond the Vertical?

Climbing: I know of it, but I haven’t read it yet.

Ingalls: There’s a picture of me on top of Standing Rock and you can see those shoes we had to wear. Oh I know, have you seen the National Geographic article? Well high on the summit you can see the shoes there too. You know, some of these shoes were so small they would pull up your fingernails.

Climbing: I know, some of the shoes nowadays that people get two or more sizes smaller, it’s almost like Chinese foot binding.

[eating…]

Ingalls: So when’s the article coming out?

Climbing: Umm…it will still be a couple months so most likely in the fall or winter. Yeah, I was actually going to ask you, if you are interested in me doing a Perspectives piece on you. You know, at the back of our magazine, it’s kind of like a profile. There will be more questions, so we’ll have to do another interview at another time. We also do a profile picture as well, so is that something you’d be interested in?

Ingalls: Yeah, yeah, sure…

[eating]

Climbing: So, going through my research, I actually found a couple of articles you wrote, this one that I have: … “the consciousness…”

Ingalls: Well you really have been nosing around, haven’t you?

Climbing: Yes, I must admit I gave it a once-over and didn’t understand half of it, although I am intrigued, because I wouldn’t think that a field assistant for the geo survey would be writing articles such as this. So what else have you done? Work-wise?

Ingalls: What else have I done? Well that article, I wrote it for a magazine called the Skeptical Inquirer.

Climbing: Well, so I think that things like this, you know, things in your life other than just Castleton, will be in the perspectives piece.

Ingalls: You know, I think…I mean, I wrote two other articles. I think they’re on the internet too, but maybe they’re not there anymore. One was on the brains of whales, did you see that one?

Climbing: Yup

Ingalls: Really? And then the other one is a bit more technical, something about the sensory spaces.

Climbing: Yeah, the first is called… and the second is… - I tried to read them a little before I came, but I couldn’t follow them completely.

Ingalls: Well, I guess I don’t have any secrets then. Quite nosy, you are. But that’s good, that’s good, it shows you are a good researcher then.

Climbing: Yes, actually you were one of my harder subjects to research as everything is all online now. So the farther I try and go back, the less I find.

Ingalls: No, I don’t think that’s so good. To find everything online, I mean. I simply don’t like it. I mean, there’s nobody in the world who doesn’t have a few blemishes. Absolutely no one. Well, I think you are doing a good job though. I really respect accuracy. You know, I can’t do everything so I like to believe what I’m reading.

Climbing: So I was going to ask, how do you feel about Castleton Tower being used in the car ads and such?

Ingalls: I don’t like it at all, I don’t like it at all. As a matter of fact, I’ll let you in on a little something. I and two other climbers, I won’t name names here, anyway we were so outraged, we were going to go down there and push the damn thing off there. But they took it off before we could.

Climbing: Didn’t they leave it up there for a short while.

Ingalls: Well, yes, it was a matter of several days and they left it up there, they didn’t take it off right away. I guess they, uh…well, we were just completely disgusted. It just sort of destroys the whole mystique of it. Yeah we had a whole team ready to go and push the damn thing off. We didn’t care if we would get arrested or not, we knew that the, most of the public would be on our side and we would probably get off with a good wrist-slap.

Climbing: Yes, well I’ve noticed that you are pretty active with the preservation, er, the conservation, of the tower. I heard that it was the largest Access Fund drive/charity event in all of AF history. They got donations from around the world.

Ingalls: Are we talking about Castleton now? Uh yeah, I didn’t think they were going to make that much.

[intermission – 43 minute mark – other climber “Tom” comes and talks to Huntley for a few minutes]

Ingalls: Yeah, there are a lot of good climbers that come here. That man, Tom, he’s climbed in Patagonia you know.

Climbing: Have you ever climbed outside of the country?

Ingalls: Um, actually no.

Climbing: Have you climbed in Canada at all?

Ingalls: No, I haven’t climbed there either. Just about all of my climbing has been in the Western United States. I learned to climb back in the Potomac Gorge in Maryland, you know. They’ve got a lot of granite there, some hundreds of feet high.

Climbing: So are you originally from Maryland then? Or from the East Coast?

Ingalls: Yeah, I’m originally from Maryland.

Climbing: So when did you come out to Colorado?

Ingalls: I came out here in 1956.

[eating]

 


RECENT UPLOADS: Kor-Ingalls (III 5.9) - Castleton Tower, Castle Valley, Utah The desert spire that helped launch a revolution - Photos from PhotoPost's Classic Climbs - “I WAS STARTLED THERE COULD BE SUCH A THING,” says Huntley Ingalls, the first climber to spot the 400-foot (now) desert icon Castleton Tower. Read more about the Kor-Ingalls route HERE.

Climbing: Are there more specific types of climbs that do that to you?

Ingalls: No, not so many. After that time in Glenwood Springs, I just didn’t like it. That dread. I didn’t think it was interesting or beautiful or anything. You know, Layton liked it because he had read a lot about climbing the Dolomites, you know, and he thought it resembled a lot the Dolomite mines. But I would say that the Titan inspired the most dread, the feeling of something very serious. But at the same time, they were so extraordinary that it was very attractive. And so, it was like…like meeting some terrible animal, like a dragon or something, you want to know more about it, you want to see more, but you’re scared.

I remember once when I was in the India, they said there was a leopard that came through near there [the town I was in] and I had gone up all by myself and I thought ‘gee I really want to see the leopard’, but then I thought ‘oh g-d, suppose I really do see the leopard?’ I didn’t see the leopard though. But if they want to get on your case, there’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing really. So I really wanted to see that leopard but at the same time I was really worried about seeing that leopard.

Climbing: It really seems that the amount of adventure seeking you had, is unparalleled, that when you saw this tower, and how you said it was a mixture of anxiety and excitement, well today, I really don’t see that in a lot of climbers.

Ingalls: Well, to me, I saw climbing as adventure and exploration. I never thought of it as something to put somebody else down with. Adventure and exploration. Yeah there was very much an adventure, it was very exciting. And boy, to get off of work on a Friday afternoon, drive until midnight to get to Moab, then climb all day Saturday and partly the next day and come back Sunday night to get up and go early to work the next day. It was really very exciting you see.

[ONE HOUR MARK]

Climbing: So did you live in Colorado at the time? And then just went out on the weekends to climb?

Ingalls: Mm-hmm.

Climbing: Did you climb during the week?

Ingalls: Didn’t have time.

[eating]

Climbing: So most of the rest of these questions are generalized, so if you want to keep going we can, or we can stop for the day.

Ingalls: We’re here today, as long as you can hear over the noise.

Climbing: Sure, that works. So how long have you lived in Boulder?

Ingalls: Since 1959, except for four years.

[moved to a quieter spot in the cafe]

Ingalls: Have you had any published articles so far?

Climbing: Um, a couple. None really for Climbing yet. Most of my published work was for my university, the college magazine there. Pretty basic stuff. I’m really looking forward to doing a whole feature piece for Climbing magazine now. But I have to start online for them. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen them, but on climbing.com, there is what’s called the Hot Flashes, basically up to date climbing news hits. I’ve been able to do a couple of those so far, but I actually don’t do too much writing. I do a lot more editing. Which is good, because I’m a lot better at editing, but I want to work on my writing as a result. I’m really lucky to be able to do this Perspectives piece on you actually, because that is my foot in the door in this business.

Ingalls: Well, that’s good, that’s good then. OK

Climbing: So what was your climbing like, or your climbing experience prior to Castle Valley?

Ingalls: I had climbed Ship Rock and Independence Tower. Where I learned to climb was Maryland and West Virginia, did a lot of climbing over at Seneca Rock, remember I was telling you. That’s about as much I really did. Seneca Rock is full of rock called quartzite, about 20 feet wide and a couple hundred feet high. Really good climbing there.

Climbing: So what kind of climbing do you like best?

Ingalls: First ascents to a summit. I like climbing to difficult summits, that’s what I like.

Climbing: Have you ever done, like, big wall climbing?

Ingalls: I did some in the Black Canyon. That’s pretty big. Have you ever climbed in there?

Climbing: Nope.

Ingalls: That’s immense. Black Canyon, the whole thing.

Climbing: Do you remember the name of the climb you did there?

Ingalls: Shining Buttress. Have you seen the guidebook to the Black Canyon? It’s in there.

Climbing: Yeah, what do you think of the names? The names of the routes that everybody gives them now.

Ingalls: Uh, they’re clever. Overall, they’re clever. I think they’re pretty spirited over the whole. Some of them I don’t get, but the whole I think they’re spirited.

Climbing: Did you ever boulder? Instead of just rope climbing?

Ingalls: Oh yeah, I did that. I love bouldering. But to me, bouldering is just a way of learning skills, not a thing in itself. I can’t get excited about climbing boulders, just to be climbing boulders. But it’s a good way to refine your skills.

Climbing: Can you tell me how you see yourself fitting into the desert climbing history? Or climbing history in general?

Ingalls: Primarily, as a pioneer. I discovered a number of these climbs and I brought them to the attention of the climbing world and so, primarily as a pioneer of sorts. But my whole view of climbing was about adventure and exploration. Rather than competition, or collecting thousands of climbs.

Climbing: Do you think at that time, when you started climbing, especially in the desert, how do you think society saw you? Outside of the climbing world I mean.

Ingalls: They were impressed our boldness and drive, but they thought we were a little crazy. There was an article in Climibng magazine about seven or eight years ago about the Titan, have you ever seen that? There was a picture of it on the cover. And the guy that wrote it, said that when approaching the Titan, he said, it gives you an opportunity to think about the Titan pioneers “half brilliant and half quacked.” Haha, somebody said that and I think that sums it up pretty well. Half inspired and half crazy.

Climbing: Yeah, I would say that my father would agree with that. He’s always looked at climbing as supportive for physical aspects and whatnot, but he still looks at me like “what are they thinking? What are you thinking?”

Ingalls: Well, I made a reconnaissance trip in there, in Nov 1961. To look those things over. They were just appalling. There was a party of climbers at the Mountain Motel, there at the end of Arapahoe street. And all the local climbers were there and I showed these pictures of climbers there and the consensus was that they were crazy, that it wasn’t even climbing. And there was only a couple of climbers that thought it was stuff not to be ridiculed for. That’s just how much things have changed, now things all over are being climbed.

 


The Kor-Ingalls (III 5.9), Castleton Tower, Utah: the climb follows the central, stair-stepping left-facing corners to the open book in sun/shadow. Photo by Andrew Burr / AndrewBurr.com

Climbing: Why do you think people said that stuff was un-climbable?

Ingalls: First of all, because it was very rotten. And second because it was obviously quite dangerous. The danger and the rottenness and the sheer outlandishness.

Climbing: How do you compare climbers of the 60s or the climbers of your time, to climbers today?

Ingalls: Well I sort of hate to do that. First of all, I’m not into the climbing scene at all now and I have opinions on that, but I don’t…first of all, let me say that they are far better than we were, they are incredibly good. But I prefer climbers as they were because they were more individualistic, they were more into it for adventure and pleasure, and it wasn’t so intensely competitive as it is now. But I don’t want it to look like I’m putting them down. They really are very good. And if they did have some pioneering o do, they would be right there. So, they are just in a different culture now, a different climbing culture.

Climbing: There’s so much climbing in different countries, so do you see climbing as transcendent of cultures as well? Meaning that it’s something that pulls together people from all over the world.

Ingalls: Well, yeah I think it transcends cultures. I think climbers all over the world understand each other and have a natural affinity for one another. Yes, I think that’s true.

[Waitress points to photograph we are sitting next to and tells me that Huntley named those towers and took that photo.]

Ingalls: Isn’t that a wonderful picture? Taken on Halloween and that’s on top of one of the Fischer Towers. This particular one is called the Gothic Nightmare. It’s a very difficult climb. Here’s a little bit of the Titan peeking around. And so, he comes in here quite a lot [referring to the climber in the photo] and so we put him in a Halloween mask and on top of Gothic Nightmare and I think it makes a pretty good picture.

Climbing: So are these the types of summits that you prefer? Only a couple feet wide?

Ingalls: Yeah, I like summits that really are summits. The Titan has a big summit, you could put a cabin up on there. But there’s one thing about the Titan and that is that it hangs down on all sides. So you feel like you’re standing on a stone saucer.

Climbing: When did you start climbing?

Ingalls: When did I start? I started climbing about 1953.

Climbing: So did you have a mentor? Did somebody teach you?

Ingalls: At first I just went and climbed and nearly got myself killed so then I figured I better find some people who knew what they were doing. But I at first just went out and solo climbed, and I got in a terrible scrape and just barely got out by an eyelash, and that sobered me up. So there was the Appalachian Mountain Trail back then, that I would go out on the weekend and find things to climb.

Climbing: How many years did you climb?

Ingalls: Um, serious climbing about nine years, then after that, let’s see, then about another dozen years of just dabbling. But the last serious climb I did was in 1962. After that, I just dabbled around. Although, I did get a pretty good scrape up at Shark’s Tooth in the park. Have you done that? It’s about a 400 foot climb. We got caught in this big lightning storm and we were rappelling off there for our lives. But after 1962, up until the early eighties, I just dabbled. Course I can’t do any of that now. Then I started to get this horrible arthritis. But like I say, my heart, gizzard, and brain are okay.

Climbing: Do you have a family? Wife and kids.

Ingalls: No, I’m single, always have been.

Climbing: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Ingalls: Two sisters.

Climbing: Did they climb at all?

Ingalls: No, not at all. That is completely alien to them.

Climbing: How did they view your climbing?

Ingalls: Impressive, but crazy.

Climbing: Sounds like that was the mantra of the day. Is there a certain climb, yours or another’s, that you’ve done, that sticks out most in your mind?

Ingalls: I suppose the Titan. Because it was both pioneering. At that time, that was the outer limits and was considered a very extreme climb for the time. And its aura of danger and mystery, and its size. Of all the climbs, that one seemed the most mysterious and most dreadful, but at the same time, attractive since it was so strange and different.

Climbing: So what is/was your favorite place to climb?

Ingalls: Favorite place? Oh, I suppose, up in Rocky Mountain [National] Park. But the most exciting place to climb is in the desert.

Climbing: So it seems you are more drawn to desert climbing, obviously. Did you ever consider moving there?

Ingalls: No I never considered moving there, because you have to earn a living, you have to get an education and I never considered moving there.

Climbing: How long did you work for the US Geo Survey?

Ingalls: About five months. Well in the field yeah. I was with them for about a year, but started out in Washington, but only in the field five months, and total time was about a year.

Climbing: So what did you do in Colorado? Meaning what job(s) did you do here?

Ingalls: I was a mathematician at the Bureau of Standards, now called NIST. I was a mathematician there. Doing research, upper atmosphere.

Climbing: Well I think that was the majority of questions I had.

Ingalls: Well I’m impressed at your thoroughness, that’s great.

Climbing: Well, thank you. That’s something I work toward. Accuracy.

Ingalls: Oh when I say you’re nosy, that’s just lighthearted teasing.

Climbing: Do you regret climbing at all?

Ingalls: Only for this [gestures with hands]. I really would like to have my hands back. I would not regret it except for what it has done to me physically, and so, that part is a regret, but the rest of it no. Incredible adventures.

Courage is glorious, but it’s dumb to squander it.

 




Comments

Leave a Comment