Things were grim in Greenland, so Micah Dash’s climbing partners sent him out to collect mussels. It made sense; they were all starving, Dash sucked at fishing, and everyone else (including the fish) needed a break from his incessant talking.
“I’m loquacious and high-strung,” Dash says. “I talk a lot and drive my partners crazy. By normal standards, I’m in a state of constant motion. Physical exercise seems to be the only thing that mellows me out. … Last year [in Pakistan], I filled up all of the empty containers around basecamp with water and created an entire outdoor gym.”
Dash made good in Greenland with a load of mussels; his partners, John Dickey and Evan Stevens, caught a few Arctic char; and they survived—skinny but still psyched. “The Greenlandic weight-loss program is amazing,” Dash jokes. He admits that when planning for this first trip to climb in Greenland, in 2002, he had a little trouble “dialing the Arctic.” He and his friends didn’t bring enough food, but they did carry 30 replacement batteries for their headlamps—too bad it never got dark.
Dash, 30, still sent. He got the first one-day ascent of The British Route (VI 5.11 A3) in the Tasermiut Fjord and an intoxicating look at the right pillar of Nalumasortoq. Less than a year later, Dash was back in Greenland, and with Thad Friday finally put his fixation to bed with the first free ascent of Non C’e Due Senza Tre (VI 5.11+ R/X), also the FA of The Dome (IV 5.10+ X).
These days, an empty stomach is actually part of Dash’s plan. “It’s harder to climb fast with a heavy pack than it is to climb with a light pack while being hungry,” he says. “It’s a suffer-fest, but it gets the job done.”
It must be working. In 2005, Dash climbed the first 32 pitches of the Eternal Flame (VI 5.12 A1) on the Trango Tower in 12 hours—which included an afternoon tea party. “We got to this ledge, and there were 12 Korean dudes who insisted we stop and have tea with them,” he says. Dash, Nick Martino and Renan Ozturk eventually retreated just short of the summit in blizzard conditions.
The next year, with the help of an AAC Lyman Spitzer Grant, Dash snagged the second ascent of the 17,500-foot Cat’s Ear Spire in Pakistan, via a 12-pitch variation to the original route, Super Cat of the Karakoram (VI 5.11+ R A0). He and Eric DeCaria spent three nights bivying on the route sans sleeping bags and with only a few packs of Ramen noodles and a handful of Clif bars.
Most recently, in August, Dash and Johnny Copp climbed the first ascent of the Shafat Fortress (19,192 feet), Kashmir, India, establishing the 3,300-foot Colorado Route (VI 5.11 A1 M6) in alpine style. They spent four days on the wall, including what Copp termed “the heinous bivy” on steep, piled-up ice, and during which Dash led a rotten offwidth chimney in a waterfall. “I had to run it out 25 feet above an ice screw to a Stopper placement that fell out as I climbed past it, causing me to let out a rather un-masculine scream. Then I had to do it again next pitch.”
Dash trained for his international adventures by dirtbagging it in Yosemite, living in his “Technobago,” and working for YOSAR. He approached his Valley time as a disciple of the Yvon Chouinard school of philosophy, and still references a passage Chouinard wrote in the 1963 American Alpine Journal: “Yosemite Valley will be the training ground for a new generation of super-alpinists who will venture forth to the high mountains of the world to do the most aesthetic and difficult walls.” Dash’s El Cap ticks include Native Son (5.10 A4), Lost in America (5.10 A4), Space (5.10 A4+) and a single-push ascent of Mescalito (5.10 A3).
He plans to return to Pakistan in 2008, again with DeCaria, who says the talking actually makes things more interesting. “He has a great sense of humor,” DeCaria says. “It’s fun hanging out with Micah in the shiver bivies. He just looks at me, and I start cracking up.”
HOW DID YOUR TIME ON EL CAP PREPARE YOU FOR YOUR EXPEDITIONS?
There was a point when nothing else attracted my attention like spending a week on some horrendous nailup. … Free-climbing in the mountains, I really draw on my days wall-climbing in Yosemite. It’s what I call that “A5” feeling, a fear that makes the throat dry, pulse rapid, and senses hyper-alert. It’s the same part of the brain that says, “Hello, Micah, just wanted to let you know that the rock you are climbing on is only held together by the ice between the cracks.”
WHEN DID YOU START CLIMBING?
In ’98 or ’99. I was really bad at it, but I have fun in the learning process, and I was persistent. It took me a long time till I was leading 5.10.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT CLIMBING?
I think about climbing. I mean, I love climbing. I love sport climbing, bouldering, climbing in the gym—well, not that much. I probably keep most of my time occupied by climbing or running or training for climbing. Free climbing in the mountains inspires me the most.
YOU’RE BASED OUT OF BOULDER NOW?
For the time being. Grad school ate my girlfriend—I totally want a T-shirt that says that.
A FEW YEARS AGO, YOU WERE IN SCHOOL, TOO. DID YOU EVER FINISH UP?
Yeah. It took me 10 years, but I finally finished. That’s the proudest send I’ve ever had—actually graduating from college.
DO YOU PLAN TO DO ANYTHING WITH YOUR DEGREE?
Not a thing