It pays to have badass friends. If they’re rich, so much the better. I came down to Silverton for an avalanche instructor-training course, stopping off in Ridgway to see my bud, Philippe Wheelock. While The Dirty Frog (TDF) isn’t wealthy, he does possess an uncanny knack for hanging on to ice tools–and he makes a mean biscuits ‘n’ gravy.

In this photo, Philippe crushes the first pitch (WI 5–maybe R).

Not only did TDF ropegun the three pitches of Ames Ice Hose for me, he also cooked and took me to the hot springs. No, we’re not dating.

In this photo, Philippe crushes the second pitch.

Ames is the kind of climb I would’ve never led on my own, but had a blast following. In short–free guide day, courtesy of my bald-headed, muscular little amigo. Come to think of it, my only “tip” was crashing on his floor and not whining too much on the last (wet) pitch.

Me, non-crushing the final pitch (WI 4).

From Ridgway I headed down to Silverton to do my instructor-training course with the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE). This will allow me to teach with Alpine World Ascents this year, rather than doing the apprentice/tag-along/underpaid-goon routine I’ve done in the past. Barring severe mishap today (the final leg of the course), I will be an AIARE-qualified Level 1 instructor. Wish me luck, amigos.

And big thanks to Philippe “The Dirty Frog” Wheelock, for a rippin’ stay in Ridgway and a bunch more nutso stories from horseback alpinism in Kyrgyzstan to pygmy-chillin’ in Zaire to mixed-madness in Skylight. Thanks, brudda!