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About Mingo Morvin
Mingo in Yellowstone “Glad to see that you are alive. To tell you the truth, Janet and I thought that you were not going to make it back alive. I have always thought that you have a great mind for knowing when you are in deep sh** and reveling in towing that thin but thrilling line between pushing yourself and being stupid. The others have obviously shown what side of that line they walked on. I am envious that you tried and wish I could have been with you on it. In fact, I told her just the other day that I thought if you didn't make it that you would have been happy that you bit it trying your best to outsmart the impossible. I don't know if I would have had the courage to go at it alone.

Anyway, I am happy that you are going to be with us for a while. Hopefully, we can get together and do some hiking or some other kind of hanging out.”

This is an email that I received from a Marine Corps friend of mine when I returned from the 2001 James Bay Expedition. It sums up much of my life and gives some insight into my character and ability.

I have dedicated much of my life to the mountains and wild places of our country. I have been fortunate to have explored seldom seen lands and experienced expeditionary experiences that were incredibly thrilling and some that brought me within minutes of taking the long ‘dirt nap’. Many of these efforts have been solo and unsupported in very remote and difficult regions. It has been an honor to be given the psychological and physical gifts to push many of these outdoor expeditions. I am pleased that this sporty and exhilarating ride continues even to this day.

Winter Mountaineering

Winter mountaineering, both solo and with a small climbing team, is a difficult but completely enjoyable endeavor. Well, completely enjoyable is not quite the complete truth. My early years on small peaks in Southern California taught me the basics of how to stay alive and the basics of altitude and cold. Winters and summers in the Sierra’s of California were quite an upgrade to the smaller southern mountains. These taught me that mother nature could be a cruel master when the learning curve was behind the lesson. Mt Morrison, at almost 13,000 feet, was a difficult physical challenge but a very enjoyable and memorable solo climb. Climbing a 2,000 foot wall clad in snow and ice is challenging and quite sporty. Doing it solo just brings it to a higher level of intensity. My two winter solos on Morrison will always be some of my best experiences in the Sierra’s.

My solo winter climbs on Glacier Peak were very committing and extremely remote. I remember thinking, after being in snowshoes for over a week, what is fun about this? The work and danger from being avalanched were extreme. Climbing from base camp to the summit and looking at the world from that place was the answer to all the work and danger. The beauty of being alone in deep wilderness allows one to get to understand himself. The beauty of the surroundings changes you for life. This is just another drive for trying to outsmart the wilderness and sometimes the impossible.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is actually one of my more sane and safe activities. It is very enjoyable to climb with friends, relax with friends who do not climb and climb with some very good climbers including my two daughters. I started climbing in Joshua Tree in 1972; I figure that I have climbed well over 2,500 routes in Joshua Tree National Park. This includes about 25 first ascents in the Park. One of my favorites is ‘Bambi meets Godzilla. It is now rated 5.8 but when we established the route we rated her at 5.9 plus. Protection has gotten a lot better since those early days. On the upper headwall, I broke my hand in a awesome jam. It put me out for a couple of months but I did finish the route and my partner named her. I still love that rock.

I have also soloed many technical routes in Joshua Tree. This is climbing a technical route without a rope and gear. The beauty is in your supreme confidence in your ability. Death is not thought of, just the contact between a shoe and paw on steep rock and friendly cracks. My hardest solo was a climb called Legolas on Echo Rock. This was a fairly stiff 5.10 C. I loved this but decided that anything harder was out of my range. Even I have limits, and I do adhere to them. I still climb but seriously limit my solo climbs to easier 8’s and 9’s occasionally. My love of my friends and rocks will always lead me back to climbing. Plus it is so enjoyable to be a lizard on warm summer rock. Joshua Tree will always be a special place for me.

My heart, however, was in climbing new routes in the Sierra’s on virgin rock. I established over 100 first ascents with various partners. My hardest were 5.10c and 5.10d’s at an altitude of over 11,000 feet. One of my favorite Sierra routes was a route we called the Direct North Face of University Peak. This route extended 2,500 ft up the north face. The route went 5.8 and gave us incredibly beautiful views of the Sierra’s. The teamwork and tenacity of Barb and Matt was incredible. This is what climbing is about, friendship, dedication to a concept, teamwork, and the beauty of the natural world.

Kayaking

Kayaking has become one of my favorite sports. ‘Yakking,’ whether I am doing this for fun in the ocean off Southern California or risking it all in arctic waters, is a riot with some seriously sporty times. My boat, the Minnow, has weathered some tough conditions in some seriously bad weather and this does not even take into account James Bay.

Kayaking in San Diego during a storm, purposely for training, the Minnow and I ran into 12 foot waves in the main Mission Bay channel. Open ocean breakers were about 14 feet and running hard. The channel was wicked and it felt like I was kayaking in a washing machine. Waves were bouncing off both side walls and converging and crashing everywhere. The Minnow would crest a wave and bury her nose in the trough. The wave would continue over me as her nose climbed the next wave. Sporty, but oh so much fun; great times in the continuing search for excellence. The Harbor Patrol kept a wary eye on me and we had a talk when I returned to the inner bay. I thanked them for their concern and diligence in a tough job. I love San Diego for its waters and its culture. After each training day, a visit to one of the many wonderful restaurants was in order. Not much is better after a hard day on the water.

James Bay Expedition

The James Bay Expedition was my search for my own limits and my ability to live in the impossible. Until my solo kayaking expedition on James Bay, no one had paddled on those waters and survived. As far as I know, even to this day, I am the only one. James Bay is notorious for fast arriving and deadly storms. The bays tides move at 4 knots and faster with vertical gains of 10 to 12 feet. The water is a balmy 38 degrees even in the summer - bathing water temperatures for a beluga whale but not for this desert-dwelling, Hawaiian warm-water lover. My survival time was about 15 minutes if I went in.

During my second trip to James Bay, the Minnow took some tough damage to her Kevlar hull in one very serious storm that just about did me in. James Bay was close but not close enough to deliver a dirt nap to this Marine. I took this storm on at night and navigated only with a compass mounted to the Minnow’s hull. The tides dictate life itself on these cold waters. With cold waves breaking over my boat, winds howling, and the rain driving sideways into my face, one can only ask, why? Enjoyment, commitment and a love for all that nature can muster to spoil your day. Days like these make living more intense and more passionate. They bring life to its lowest common denominator, breathing. Does it get any simpler? Does it get any more majestic than that?

I did survive kayaking almost 150 miles on the Bay during my second trip. Not a complete success based on my initial plan, but getting off James Bay and breathing is a monumental achievement. Please read my James Bay analysis for more on this true adventure.

Photography

The past few years I have intensified my fieldwork for my wildlife photography. I spend many days in the field working with lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Well, how about bears, moose, elk, wolves, antelope, and bison. Actually, if you visit my photographic gallery, you will see even more animals. My Canon cameras are often lying in the dirt for hours waiting for an animal to pass or being hiked around the wilderness to some wonderful spot just in time for a beautiful sunrise. I love my time in the wild, cruising with my critter friends, and understanding them in their homes. It is a great privilege to be able to visit with these animals and share these visits with all who want to see and enjoy my images and dreams.

Attu's Adventures

A special dream of mine is to bring and share my world with others, especially children. That is why I have teamed up with Attu to bring to write a series of books about on nature and animals. Attu’s Adventures is an educational series that shares Attu’s discoveries while visiting our National Parks and other recreational lands. Attu teaches children about natural biologic and geological processes as well as shares information about history, the environment, and, of course, his favorite pizza parlor near each Park.

As Attu visits each Park, he provides children with a wonderful overview of the Park from his perspective. All the books are filled with photographic images to illustrate the things that Attu teaches. The pictures also show Attu at play and at work in a way that kids of all ages can relate to. Our dream, Attu’s and Mingo’s, is to bring the outdoors to children everywhere, to share what we see and experience, to share a dream with all children!

When I’m not on an expedition, in the field playing with large critters, climbing or hanging out with Attu, I can be found at home in Rim Rock, Arizona.