Many years ago, I saw Jack Tackle give a slideshow in Anchorage. I was in my early to mid-twenties at the time, and mountain climbing was the only thing that mattered. That evening, I listened intently as Jack described icefaces, corniced ridges, and run-out pitches that had long captured my imagination.
But I was also impressed by the life-wisdom Jack imparted. His laid back style, coupled with a philosophy about the importance of vision, commitment and trust, resonated in a way that made sense to me. I remember walking away that night feeling inspired, and ready to apply some of Jack’s hard-earned wisdom into my own climbs.
But it’s funny how life works. Shortly after the slideshow, I sustained an injury climbing, that effectively ended my career, and irrevocably changed my life forever. Although I went on to make a new path in art and music, I can say without a doubt, that my life was never the same without climbing.
Jack too, experienced life-altering injuries that could have ended his climbing career. In 2000, while guiding in South America, he contracted Guillain-Barre, a rare and sometimes fatal disorder in which your body's immune system attacks the nerves. Although Jack eventually regained his strength, the disease created lasting effects, some of which still linger today.
There was also the accident on Mt. Augusta in the Wrangell-Saint Elias, where jack was struck by a falling rock. The impact broke his neck, leaving him paralyzed on the face, and stranded fifty miles from the nearest road. The ensuing high-stakes rescue would become the stuff of legends in the mountaineering world, but for Jack, it was an opportunity to move forward in life, with a new perspective.
Fifteen years later, and despite some limitations from his injuries, Jack is still climbing at a high level around the world. Over the years, I’ve watched his career from afar, and often wondered how his brush with Guillain-Barre and the accident on Augusta affected him.
That’s why I felt fortunate to sit down and have a face-to-face conversation with Jack this last fall. We talked at length about his climbing career in Alaska, the Himalaya and elsewhere. But we also talked about his life outside the mountains, and how he’s managed to navigate thru challenging injuries and situations. Turns out, if it weren’t for his friends, family and partnerships in climbing, he wouldn’t be where he is today.