Timmy O’Neill

Climber/Lunatic

Says Timmy: "I love life. A life lived on mountains and in rivers, on beaches and in oceans. A life lived in front of laughing audiences and behind a rocking drum kit, in front of an adventure-capturing camera and behind a keyboard punching out stories. I love people. People who help me achieve my dreams and goals and the people whom I help achieve theirs. People who join me on new journeys and journeys to new people both culturally and geographically. I strive to be healthy in body, mind and spirit, to live as much of this single life as possible, and to not sub-contract it out to convention and comfort. I accept and celebrate that darkness defines light. I commit determined acts of service and endeavor to give back to the outdoor community even more than I have received. I love reading, writing and public speaking. I am a communicator. To love, laugh and exercise your mind and body is my message."

Timmy lists among his accomplishments 50,000-miles on the Greyhound (The Dog!); his twenties spent living in the dirt at Joshua Tree, Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks and the American South-West; his thirties spent traveling the globe ascending massive stone mountains and descending powerful rivers in North & South America and Asia; remaining alive, and beating the odds even with nicknames like Young Stupid Tim.


Hometown: Boulder, CO

Years Riding/Ripping/Climbing and Shredding: 35-years white water kayaking; 20-years rock climbing and alpine climbing; 5-years banging the skins.

Earliest Memory of Outdoor Adventure: 5-years old spinning in circles in a Perception Mirage kayak on the Brandywine River, PA and crying in frustration due to my inability to join my brothers and uncles as they paddled away; 7-years old on the deck of a tall ship at Penn’s Landing, PA climbing the mast and being castigated by the captain, “Get the hell down from there now.”; 19-years old escaping Philly for true wilds and wilderness in the West.

A Wildly Weird and Memorable Experience: In January 2011 while climbing at the astonishing sandstone towers of the Hand of Fatima in Mali, Africa my clumsy partner accidentally dislodged a large block, 400-feet above the ground. The deadly missile barely missed a young Fulani/Basque climber named Yaye and myself, first striking our belay ledge before sailing below. I admonished the above “Bozo the Climber” to be more careful as Yaye quickly recounted, in Spanish, the fire danger caused by falling rock. As I considered the unlikelihood of this scenario, Yaye bolted upright and shouted “Umo!” I looked down and saw the plume of smoke that alarmed him. The fire, caused by a spark, spread quickly through the tall, dry grass at the base and I instantly lowered Mr. Bumbles to the belay. Yaye, assumed the lead, raced up to an escape ledge with the trailing lines and we soon ran down to aid the local villagers in extinguishing the burgeoning inferno.
Soon the fire was declared, via 4-languages, to be under control. While two locals stayed to finish the task, the others descended in twilight, and I left to capture a spectacular full-moon rise. An hour later I traversed to the descent tail. As I rounded the toe of Kaga Tondo, the worlds largest freestanding sandstone tower I noticed in confusion that the fire was still going. I whipped out my video camera to capture the exploding flames and realized that no villager remained and the fire had rekindled and was growing fast with no sign of abating. “Uh oh.” I made my way to the crackling heat and considered my options: film, attempt to beat out the fire or run. I filmed as the flames climbed up the wall consuming the desiccated fuel. The whole scene unnerved me and I thought of running but instead climbed a tree and broke off a branch, and in attempt to emulate the local fire fighters I had seen earlier I swatted at the burning chaos. It didn’t work. I only increased the size of the blaze. With each up upswing I was tossing candles of flame around me, in effect encasing myself in an immolation birthday cake.
Just as I was about to bolt back to camp and get help, I saw a pair of eyes appear out of the African darkness. Using his hands he furiously scrapped at the stony ground, collecting dirt to smother the fire. I scanned further afield and considered many things concurrently: “Holy smokes, numerous village man have once again run up the massive talus cone to combat round two.”; “Boy, I wonder if they’re going to be pissed.”; “How, do I tell them that Bozo did it, not me and what if Bozo blames it on me because he can speak French and I can’t.”; and finally, “Where the heck is Bozo, he started this flipping conflagration.” After 45-minutes of stomping, smacking, and smothering the flames we had it under control. It was then that I witnessed the coolest agricultural fire fighting technique ever. A resourceful villager cracked open one of the numerous miniature wild melons, grasped the rind and ground it onto the glowing end of an upturned stump, like making Cajun style grapefruit juice. I instantly split one open and joined in on juicing the embers.
The next day under the shade of gnarled, thorny Acacia tree we sat quietly, sipping bitter coffee, with the tribal elders. Yaye interpreted their succinct Fulani to Spanish and French and Bozo and I understood our fate. We paid an equivalent fine of $23.00 US to the tribe, for the extra work caused by the accidental fire. In turn, they would not mention it to the warden stationed in the nearby hamlet Hombori and we could continue to climb as long as we didn’t cause more calamity. It was the second time in as many weeks that a payoff was extracted due to climbing, (the first one took place in Nigeria and involved machine guns, handcuffs and screaming) and I got the feeling that it wasn’t going to be our last. We shook hands and smiles with the chiefs, and then along with Yaye ascended to the Hand for another climb on the fingers of fate.

Videos: Interview- Timmy O'Neill
A Day in the Park

In the Musical Mix: Spoon; Arcade Fire; Black Keys – I love Pandora.

What's Timmy Been Reading? Just finished “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder, “Two Years Before the Mast” by Richard Henry Dana and “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese.
Favorite ficition: “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy;
Favorite non-fiction: “Song of the Dodo” by David Quammen and “Cadillac Desert” by Marc Risner

Favorite Quotes: "Live life as if you will die tomorrow and learn as if you will live forever." Mahatma Ghandi
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou

Additional Sponsors: Patagonia, Osprey, Petzl, Native Eyewear, Earth

>> http://www.timmyoneill.com/

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