Visit Alaska through extreme adventurers
Alaska is a state, sure. But it is more than that: It is vast, wild and dangerous. It is our country’s last great wilderness frontier, home to supersized salmon, caribou herds in the thousands, and bears that will eat you.
For many people, Alaska is on the bucket list of Places I Must See, and most are content to enjoy the scenery comfortably through the windshield of a camper ambling down the Alcan Highway or from the deck of a luxury cruise ship.
But few have experienced Alaska the way Jim Hale has. He was born there — before Alaska was even a state — and climbed, guided and hang-glided its most treacherous terrain.
Hale recounted his years of death-defying exploration in “An Alaskan Life of High Adventure.” Published in 2012, the book has led to an increasing number of interesting speaking engagements for Hale.
“Basically what’s happened in the last year is I’ve had the opportunity speak in a whole wide variety of settings,” said Hale, who now lives in Palisade. That includes a presentation at a church during the Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride with climber friend Dan McCabe.
Both Hale and McCabe have had near-death experiences. Hale’s was a turning point in his life. He went into the ministry and now is the senior pastor of Spirit of Life Christian Fellowship, 2923 North Ave., Suite 3, in Grand Junction.
Hale’s wife, Roni, also is from Alaska and shares her husband’s spirit of outdoor adventure. She explains the dual meaning of the book’s title in the foreword:
“I spent the early part of our life following Jim up ice falls, sea-kayaking, and climbing high-altitude mountains. Climbing rock for an afternoon jaunt was our idea of rest. ... The title of this book, ‘An Alaskan Life of High Adventure,’ has two meanings. One is about the joy and terror of going beyond the limits of one’s self in exploration. The other is the spiritual High Adventure that comes as revelation in the midst of impossible situations by a living God who watches over us.”
The combination of themes of extreme Alaska experiences, resiliency in the face of adversity and a spiritual awakening has led to a wide variety of audiences for the book, Hale said. He’s spoken at schools, libraries and churches, and his story has been featured in print, TV and radio.
When he gives presentations, accompanied by breathtaking photos in a slide show, the audience often wants to talk as much as listen, Hale said.
“People love to talk about Alaska.” Many also are moved to share their own stories of spiritual awakening.
“It’s just kind of amazing to me, the stories that people share with me. You don’t hear them normally without some kind of catalyst, and this book seems to serve as that kind of catalyst.”
The book has received “really good response from people,” Hale said. “Many people who buy them ending up buying additional ones for friends.”
“An Alaskan Life of High Adventure” is filled with the types of Alaska stories you would expect — single-engine plane crashes, creaking glaciers and high-altitude rescues. Hale has a remarkable recall for detail and the ability to make the reader believe he or she is right there on the mountain with him, such as in this passage:
“Moving rapidly on our small, lightweight showshoes, we came to the base of a broad slope leading up to the Northeast Ridge at around 11,500 feet. Looking at the slope, we picked an icy section that would provide the best access to the ridge above. Taking off our showshoes, we took the time to tie them together and leave them at the foot of the climb and use our crampons to ascend. I led on up the slope, kicking steps in the firm, iced over snow.
“Step by crunching step we were rapidly gaining altitude when I stepped up and onto a different kind of snow. Suddenly I became disoriented. Everything was moving around me. I was losing my balance and said to myself, I’m falling! Too late to shout a warning, I realized a dreadful fear, avalanche! The whole slope above was sliding down on top of us.”
Hale will give a free presentation titled “East of Everest” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the south ballroom of the University Center at Colorado Mesa University. It is part of the Wednesday Night Wanderings series organized by the university’s Outdoor Program.
“An Alaska Life of High Adventure” retails for $15.99 and is available at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Crystal Books and Gifts and highadventureliving.com, where an ebook can be purchased for $9.99.