MISFIT MOUNTAIN

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We had internet, and these guys wanted to watch movies; they would come over and we would have tea. They asked if they could use my Facebook. I said yes. The real beauty of it was the access I was given to their lives. It was an exercise in intimacy; it taught me about getting close to people. Making those kinds of pictures was becoming my driving force. On an expedition that Richards joined and photographed for National Geographic, a scientist scales a rock face to reach year-old caves in Mustang, Nepal.

My first magazine assignment was to the border of Nepal and Tibet, to an area called Mustang. We were climbing to reach complexes of caves, thousands of them dug into cliffs about feet above the valley floor.

Rock Climb Misfit, Durango

They could be treacherous to access: Once as I was trying to climb into one, a foothold broke and I fell maybe 20 feet, injuring my back. We were going into those cave systems to peel back the layers, to look into the mystery. And teeth have strontium, an element found in tooth enamel that shows where you were born on the planet, based on what you and your ancestors were eating and drinking. To Richards, this photo of a polar bear on Rudolph Island epitomizes the affects of climate change in the Russian arctic.

Why is that important? Why do we need to look into our past? So we can start to understand where we thrive, and where we screw up. We are an exploitative species and if we exploit our resources too much, things tend to fall apart. When humans make mistakes, our mistakes are not just ours; they impact everything around us. One of my next assignments was to a place called Franz Josef Land which is an archipelago in the Russian arctic. Instead, we found a polar bear standing on one of the last patches of snow. Another assignment started in the highlands of Angola. The country had been embroiled in a year, very bloody civil war which actually had preserved the ecosystem by keeping people and wildlife out of some areas.

Our charge was to descend 1, miles of an unexplored river catchment; it started as a six-week trip and ended up being four months. The conflict had kept this environment safe but as soon as the landmines are taken out of the ground, people move in and they start exploiting it, extracting resources. Why is a river catchment in Angola so important? Almost every single ounce of water that comes into the delta is fed from the Angolan highlands. We are not independent of one another, so we have to make better collective decisions as a human family.

After a panic attack ended his attempt to climb Everest, Richards was evacuated from the mountain. In the field, I felt so connected to everything. I felt myself withdrawing further and further into this very deep sense of loneliness, and I felt like the darkness inside of me at one point had somehow erupted and now was the darkness all around me. I tried to climb Everest in and I failed because I had a massive panic attack down low on the mountain. Like so many people do in these situations, I started to drink really heavily.

The time of day kept moving down. But I kept drinking to get away from everything I was feeling. But eventually, even going into the field was insufficient escape. Climbing the granite and glaciers was the second obstacle; the first was getting to the peak, by crossing miles of dense jungle.

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On that walk, I had countless sweaty hours to ruminate on what I was using alcohol, and other addictions, to avoid. My life started to come into sharp relief. I was scared to be back in the mountains, scared to be climbing, scared that I would let everybody down.

All the insecurities that I had gone to the mountain to get away from came flooding back. After 40 days through jungle and 10 days of climbing, we finally saw the summit for the very first time. But less than 24 hours later, we bowed to the brutal terrain and weather, and turned around.

You & This Route

We failed. I failed. When I looked long and hard at my life, I saw a whole bunch of big failures that ended up in little successes. Behind the appearance of a thriving career, I was falling apart. People saw my exploits on social media, Snapchat, Instagram —but they never saw me drunk in a hotel room alone after giving a talk. I knew I had to return home to a marriage that I had neglected, and that was failing because I was a bad husband. I had cheated, a lot. I was deeply unfaithful, and then I lied about it.

I tried to drown my shame about that in alcohol, and I tried to drown the shame of alcoholism in the affection of others. It just kept getting worse and worse. In the space of one month, I detonated my marriage, I destroyed a relationship with my primary climbing sponsor, and I left my production company that I started with my two friends. I burned my life down. And I felt very much like the kid I once was, the kid who bucked the system and was homeless at 13 years old. I was alone and it was dark and I was just searching for answers.

And then, providentially, the same lifeline that I grasped in childhood was extended to me in the present. I was asked to go back to Everest. It all started to connect. In May I went back with a new climbing partner, Adrian Ballinger. We aimed to bring people to the Himalaya with us via social media. On Snapchat, EverestNoFilter amounted to Adrian and me being jackasses half the time, but it gave us a vehicle to tell an authentic story.

Think about that: How much more do people connect when we stop showing only the beautiful stuff and start sharing the real stuff? Before the pair went to Tibet for their Everest climb, Richards photographed Adrian Ballinger acclimatizing at 19, feet in the Khumbu Valley across the Tibetan border. We aimed to reach the summit of Everest—8, meters nearly 5. When Adrian was struggling at about 8, meters, he selflessly chose to end his attempt and let me go on.

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It was his decision to turn around that allowed me to summit last year. This year, my chief goal is helping him reach the summit. Then, when I got up there—this is what it looked like—I opened Snapchat, and my phone died. Edsel was not one for production work and so he turned out a limited number of very unique instruments during his life time.

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At one point we had nine of them. That's simple. Each one was a work of art; different woods, different shapes and different carvings at the tuning end. If you happen to be a mong the lucky few who happens to own one, then hang on to it. We currently own four of them. One of our dulcimers is a double dulcimer also know as a courting dulcimer. It is the very first one that he ever made.

We had a second one made for a friend and to our knowledge, he never made another double dulcimer. A number of famous people have purchased one of Edsel's dulcimers. Bob Hope owned one.


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We used to love our visits with Edsel. For four days, we would sit around the fire roasting potatoes, playing music, and talking about what we were going to do on the fifth day and then on the fifth day, we would sit around the fire roasting potatoes, playing music, and talking about why we didn't do it. There are many interesting and amusing stories we could share with you about Edsel Martin if we were sitting around the fire, roasting potatoes, making music, and talking.


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  • Click here The remarkable Marcus Martin Family. Click here The remarskable Martin Brothers. If you would like to contact us, we can be found at chipanddale yahoo. Edsel demonstrating his carving skills at a Crafts Fair in North Carolina. Edsel demonstrating his carving skills at Bloomingdale's in New York City. Edsel fascinated a group of school children carving a block of pine. When he was in New York. Here he is in the General Assembly meeting hall in the United Nations building. Edsel's friend, clog dances. You could always tell where Edsel has been. These are the hands that that carved dulcimers.