Climber has a taste for glaciers

July 07, 1997


Staff Writer

SMITHSBURG - Some adventurers like to climb trees, some like to climb mountains. Chris Ferro, 28, likes to climb glaciers.

A few years after graduating from Smithsburg High School in 1987, a friend of Ferro's, Marcus Folger, of Emmitsburg, Md., introduced him to rock climbing.

"Marcus took me climbing, and I liked it so we started climbing together about seven years ago," Ferro said.

He said he likes to take at least one big trip a year. This May, Ferro went on a two-week expedition to Alaska with a climber who had advertised for a partner on the Internet.

Ferro said that Chuck Wild, of Altoona, Pa., was looking for someone to go glacier climbing in Alaska with him.

Ferro wanted to go, so he wrote Wild. He said their next step was getting used to climbing with each other.


"In the winter, we went ice climbing in New Hampshire," Ferro said. "Chuck and I got along real well, so we decided to make plans. We did research, called the rangers in Talkeetna, Alaska and put messages up on the Internet. We decided to do a mountain called The Moose's Tooth."

On May 2, Ferro and Wild left from BWI and Pittsburgh Airport respectively and landed in Anchorage. He said there was a shuttle service at the airport because of the volume of climbers that arrive there. The shuttle took them to Talkeetna, and a single-engine plane flew them to the glacier.

"Starting May 3, we had perfect weather for four days. We did it in three days - two days up and one day down. We climbed the West Summit of The Moose's Tooth," Ferro said.

He said they had planned to climb the harder side of the mountain, the East Summit, but as they were climbing up to it, his 200-foot rope wriggled free of his climbing pack, and fell 3,000 feet. Since they needed that rope for the harder climb, Ferro said, they had to climb the West Summit.

"Without that rope, we didn't think we had enough gear to repel (what climbers do to get down)," Ferro said. "Other climbers had left anchors to repel down the West Summit, but we were 30 feet short of each anchor because our ropes weren't long enough."

As Ferro and Wild climbed up the mountain, they passed an overhang, called a cornice. Two hours after they passed it, a large part of the cornice broke off. He said they felt something they thought was an earthquake. When they passed by it on their way down, they saw their tracks and then a large part was missing and then their tracks continued on the other side.

He said that to the left of the cornice, there was a 5,000 foot drop, but what was important was that they weren't there when the cornice broke.

Ferro has seven years climbing experience, and whenever he's not working, he goes to a climbing gym in Columbia, Md.

Ferro is a grip, part of a lighting crew, on movies, television shows, documentaries and commercials. He said his job allows him the time off needed to climb mountains. His next stop is another adventure with Folger, the friend that introduced him to climbing.

"In August, Marcus and I are going to do the Grand Teton in Wyoming. The Teton Range has 13,000 foot mountains, but they are mainly all rock," Ferro said.

"I want to go back to Alaska next summer to do McKinley. It would take a month to climb. It's hard to find a partner who has enough gear, money, time and interest."

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