Episode 35: Jamie Emerson — Rocky Mountain Iconoclast

Our hearts and minds, like the rest of the sane nation, are focused on the Black Lives Matter movement. Frankly, along with the implications of Covid-19 and a looming election, it dominates our thoughts and conversations. With confederate iconography tumbling, once-silent voices rising, and police reform seemingly inevitable, it’s no time to lose focus. It’s really all we’re thinking about, reflecting on, and sending our meager efforts towards.

2020 has beaten us down, collectively. If you’re not angry, frustrated, anxious, or famished for change and systemic reform, then you’re not paying attention. But it is exhausting. For every single one of us it’s exhausting, and yet we see you on the streets protesting, on the front lines working double shifts, and fighting for a better America in myriad ways. It’s a marvel and an inspiration to see.

Before this chat with Jamie, we felt guilty talking about a privileged, historically white, and mostly frivolous activity like rock climbing. But as the conversation rolled on, each one of us shed our anxiety and rage for a couple hours. It was almost a physical sensation, like a deflation. It was the first time in a month any of us had just dug in to the ephemera of something so silly while so many others were fighting, at that exact moment, for a better future for the rest of us.

If you feel like taking a break, join us for a couple hours. If you feel like chatting about climbing is anathema to meaningful dialogue right now, we understand that, too, and mostly agree.

Jamie Emerson, through relentless energy and boundless curiosity, has cemented his place in the pantheon of western rock climbers. He’s had a hand in developing some of the most iconic areas in the Rocky Mountain region, from Mt. Evans to Roy to Rocky Mountain National Park to the vast boulderfields of Wyoming. He penned the seminal guide to Evans and RMNP and is working on a second addition right now. He’s a World Cup routesetter, an advocate for sustainable land management, and an outspoken voice when climbing delves into tricky waters.

He was the perfect person to sit down with, to find some reprieve from a brutal news cycle, to give ourselves the gift of two hours of fellowship around something so silly but so meaningful to so many of us. If you need to take a deep breath, have a listen.

You can get ahold of us on Instagram @thethundercling or via email at thunderclingpodcast@gmail.com.

Thanks to Ryne Doughty for the tunes, as always.

We’re with you all the way. We want to be a part of the change. If you have any suggestions or criticisms or voices you’d like to hear from, please get ahold of us. We’re with you.



I feel guilty about reading your privileged, white, and frivolous sensitive virtue signaling. Also ashamed at your advocating spreading covid by protesting. We are Still boycotting the Eastern Sierra in response to you shaming anyone who dares recreate in public lands.

Dave McAllister

Thanks for the feedback, although I’m not sure I follow your criticisms. Feel free to not read or listen to anything you find distasteful or frivolous.


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