Sam Hennessey Interview

PC: Mark Pugliese

We recently caught up with MAG guide, Sam Hennessey who just got back to Bozeman after spending May and most of June in the Alaska Range climbing and guiding. Here’s what he had to say about his time in the Alaska Range, moonlighting as a janitor, and tacos.

Name: Sam Hennessey

Hometown: Port Angeles, WA

Current Residence: Bozeman, MT

Years Climbing/Skiing: Can’t remember… 12?

Years Guiding: 7

MAG: So Sam, you recently returned from a personal trip in the Alaska Range followed immediately by work in the same range. What was your personal objective? How did the trip go as a whole? Any special highlights? 

SH: Together with a couple friends I was hoping to climb the North Buttress on Mt. Hunter via any route. We showed up in early May to decent weather and conditions, and made several good attempts on the Bibler Klewin, once climbing to the top of the Buttress in 19 hours, but for various reasons we turned around there. My two partners were happy with that, and flew out, but I was lucky enough to randomly run into my friend Michael Hutchins in basecamp, and a couple days later we climbed a route called Deprivation to the summit and back down in only 31 hours, which we were really happy with. Two times up the north buttress in four days was definitely memorable! The highlight was probably topping out just as the sun was setting with no bivy gear… it felt a little out there. Then it snowed for two weeks which pretty much shut down any other plans, and I went to work on Denali.


MAG: What’s up next for you Sam? Any personal trips coming up?

SH: I will be spending the next couple months working, mostly in the Tetons and a bit on Mt. Rainier. Then in September Seth Timpano, Jared Vilhaur and I are headed to the Kishtwar region of India to attempt a peak called Barnaj II. It’s my first trip to India, but those guys have been there before and it sounds incredible. So I’ll be spending this summer trying not to get too beat down by my work schedule, and training as much as seems feasible. After that it’s anybody’s guess, but I’ll figure it out soon hopefully… and of course I’ll be back in the area for November, my favorite month to ice climb.


MAG: Do you remember a specific point in your life where you knew you wanted to pursue a career as a professional mountain guide?

SH: I got into guiding because it paid better than the biological technician jobs I had gotten right out of school, and it seemed like a good way to meet climbing partners, but it didn’t take long to start to think of it as a career. I was lucky enough to have several more experienced mentors as I started, and they definitely shaped my perception of what guiding can be.


MAG: Between guiding and personal trips you spend a lot of time in the mountains. Do you have a favorite range?

SH: Honestly one of the things I enjoy most about guiding and climbing is that I am constantly traveling and never have to choose just one, but if I had to narrow it down to three it would probably be the Absorka/Beartooths, the central Alaska Range, and the Olympics in western Washington.


MAG: If you weren’t a mountain guide, what would you be doing instead?

SH: I have a side career as a Janitor that I’ve put on hold for the last few years, but if times got tough I could probably get that going again.


MAG: Alright Sam, the final question…. You only get 1 meal for the rest of your life… pizza or tacos?

SH: I pretty much eat tacos for most dinners anyways so…

Thanks for taking the time, Sam. Good luck in India and we’ll see you back out in Hyalite in November!