Malcolm Daly, 55, feeds his soul by feeding his friends—mole, paella, margs; sharing food is his favorite way to develop the sense of community he thrives on. Ever since two near-death experiences rocked his world in 1999 and 2004, Daly has gregariously shared his life and stories with others. These days, the founder of Great Trango Holdings and former avid first-ascensionist still designs equipment as a consultant, but more often than not you will find him publicizing the nonprofit he now directs—Paradox Sports—from behind the grill at climbing events, where he makes a mean pancake.
The pancake breakfasts started in Yosemite in the late ’70s, when my girlfriend and I cooked breakfast for all the Camp 4 climbers who weren’t climbing. The recipe was from Todd Skinner’s family sourdough starter, which they’ve had for, like, 180 years. It took us four hours, making one pancake at a time on our Svea stoves. I revived it in 2002 for the Phoenix Bouldering Contest as a way for Trango to raise money for the Access Fund. Then it became a regular thing at events.
I like being well known in my community. Certainly there is some ego about it—being able to go anywhere and have people recognize you. I also love the diversity of all the people I know.
I celebrate weirdness. It adds to the tapestry of my life.
In the early ’80s, we found all this new rock on Lumpy Ridge that had been sitting right in front of people’s faces for years. I did Between the Sheets (5.11b) in EBs, using RPs I had just gotten. They were perfect nuts for that crack. We also did Dead Boy Direct (5.11+) and Redman (5.12a).
[On the aftermath of a huge lead fall on Mt. Hunter, which eventually cost him his right foot, and almost his life]: I had this bottomless-pit feeling when I untied the ropes and threw them down to [Jim] Donini. He needed them to get to the bottom of the glacier. It was an act of faith and commitment.
I decided to live. It was a very conscious decision. Every time I felt cold or wanted to fall asleep, I would do 100 sit-ups and windmills with one arm. After awhile I could only do 80, then 50, then 10. It became a counting game. That’s how I lived.
[On nearly dying after a heart attack in Ouray, Colorado]: I was belaying when I started to feel this tickle in my throat. Things got worse. We called 911 and an ambulance met us in Ridgway. The last thing I remember after they packed me in the back was looking out the back window. Then my heart stopped. I woke up and the paramedic was holding smoking paddles. He looked at the other paramedic, whose eyes were huge, and said, “Don’t get used to it because this never works.”
I am trying to put a foundation under this movement called Paradox Sports. We help integrate the disabled with the sports communities. A huge proportion of people who participate in our events—both “gimps” and “normals”—leave our events with a modified life mission of some kind.