MichaelgSeamans's Blog

Illiterate ramblings from a photographer.

Two Climbers, Two Feet and Two Mountains: The Idea

with 18 comments

Chad Butrick removes his prosthetic limb after a day of ice climbing in Ouray, Colo., on Feb. 18, 2010

With the new year came a new direction for my professional photography career.  In August 2009 after two years on staff with the Gannett owned daily newspaper, The Coloradoan, I lost my job. At the time I was devastated now I’m thankful.

Chad Jukes leads a pitch in the Ouray Ice Park on Feb. 16, 2010.

I spent nearly four months trying to find a place in the growing freelance market in a declining newspaper industry that was already saturated with many talented, out-of-work photographers. It was a simple trip over the New Year holiday to the mountains in Ouray, Colo., to get away, go climbing and clear my head that turned into a story opportunity that would satiate any photojournalist’s thirst to tell a meaningful story.  A story opportunity that would bring my two passions of climbing and photography together, again, .

As most of my friends and colleagues know, I am always looking for a new documentary project to occupy my life for a few months. In early January an old friend, climbing guide and co-founder of the non profit organization, Amped Outdoors, Mark Miller, approached me with an ambitious climbing trip to the Ruth Gorge in Alaska. The idea; two climbers, three technical ice routes on two formidable mountains, unassisted deep in the remote Alaska Range in just a 12 day window. The magnitude of the proposed trip took on a new dimension when Miller told me the climbers are both right leg  amputees below the knee. The proposed trip and time line is ambitious for any able climber with full use of all limbs never mind two disabled climbers with only two left feet between the two of them. Miller then asked me, “would you like to document it?” DUH, no brainer! YES!

Above photo: Chad Butrick, 33, left and Chad Jukes, 25, right, enjoy a beer at O’Brien’s Pub after a day of training in Ouray, Colo., on Feb. 9, 2010.

The climbers: Chad Butrick, 33, of Arvada, Colo., lost his right-leg, below the knee in an automobile accident in Missouri in 2005. Chad Jukes, 25, of Logan, Utah, lost his right-leg below the knee while serving in the Army in Iraq in 2006 after his vehicle hit an IED berried in a pot hole that severely fractured his leg.

Fast forward a month. On Feb. 8, 2010, Chad Jukes, 25, of Logan, Utah and Chad Butrick, 33, of Arvada, Colo., traveled to Ouray, Colo., to meet each other and begin training for the daunting climbs they have set for themselves in May. Jukes and Butrick were brought together by Amped Outdoors for this climb to highlight the progress in prosthesis technology and more importantly the triumph of the human spirit. Or better stated by Butrick, “to highlight the huge progression and recent developments in adaptive sports by taking the ice climbing skills learned in events such as Gimps on Ice, (A WORKSHOP FOR AMPUTATED ICE CLIMBERS RUN BY AMPED OUTDOORS) or through adaptive educational programs like Amped Outdoors; then implementing the use of the developed expertise on ice routes located deep within the wilderness of Alaska. This progression illustrating the value adaptive programs can provide to instill self-reliance, confidence, and technical skills to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.”

Jukes and Butrick plan to spend the next two months preparing and training to operate in the harsh and remote Ruth Gorge in the Alaska Range and I plan to document every step of the way. I hope, through this blog that I can keep people informed on the progress of the climbers’ training and the process of documenting the first all disabled unassisted climb of the North Coulior on the Mini Moonflower and the Moose’s Tooth in May 2010 as the sole photographer. So if you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear it.

special photographer’s note,

I’m holding my show stopper photos off the blog site in order to publish later. Click on image to view large.

Chad Butrick leads a pitch in the Ouray Ice Park on Feb. 16, 2010.

Chad Jukes leads the third pitch of Horsetail Falls on Red Mountain Pass south of Ouray, Colo., on Feb. 18, 2010.


Written by michael G. Seamans

February 28, 2010 at 4:36 pm

18 Responses

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  1. Right on, Michael G. Seamans. Looking forward to the series.

    Jamie F

    February 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm

  2. Dirtman… we’re so proud of you; what an awesome opportunity for all involved. Can’t wait to watch this progress. love, Tom and Sue

    Sue Poulin

    February 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm

  3. Great job, good writing style (a couple of spelling issues) but great story & beautiful pictures = as usual!!!!

    Mom S.

    February 28, 2010 at 6:10 pm

  4. Wicked!! I look forward to reading more.


    March 1, 2010 at 6:25 am

  5. Love it!!

    Summer Moore

    March 1, 2010 at 1:17 pm

  6. Mikey!
    Hey stud. Thanks for the “where’s Mikey now” update. What an adventure – must be a beautiful place too! Looking forward to the unfolding story.
    Take care my friend.


    March 2, 2010 at 7:16 am

  7. Go, Mike, go!! Okay, I know ya want some PR from the King, so get ahold of me some other way than Facebook. I am 51 (tomorrow), you know!


    March 2, 2010 at 12:29 pm

  8. Thanks everyone for the comments and support. Share this story with anyone you think would benefit or enjoy this adventure.

    michael G. Seamans

    March 2, 2010 at 1:09 pm

  9. Mike, this is a great way to kick the story off. I enjoyed reading the blog and getting insight into these two determined climbers. I’ll be staying tuned. Carry on – Rich A.

    Rich Abrahamson

    March 2, 2010 at 6:48 pm

  10. Wow awesome story! I can’t wait to hear more, I will definitely stay tuned in.

    Jake Oudheusden

    March 2, 2010 at 7:53 pm

  11. Hey Mike! Can’t wait to read and see! Keep me posted. I think you can get my email addy from this message in your control panel, please email me, I would like to check in with you!

    Kevin Ellingwood

    March 3, 2010 at 3:07 pm

  12. I knew losing your job would lead you to a much better place! Sounds like you have your dream job now! Good luck and come say Hi sometime 🙂


    March 5, 2010 at 5:29 am

  13. What a great story and opportunity for you mike, i’m
    so happy for you. looking forward to hearing more.
    cheers brother!


    March 6, 2010 at 6:47 am

  14. […] here and here to get back blog post for Two Climber, Two Feet and Two […]

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