Local author wins recognition for lifetime of writing
Geof Childs’ two lifelong passions — climbing and writing — have earned him national acclaim for his ability to combine them effectively for several decades.
Childs, who lives in Winthrop, has been awarded this year’s American Alpine Club’s (AAC) H. Adams Carter Literary Award. The annual award is bestowed by the AAC for excellence in alpine literature and goes to recipients who have contributed extensively over many years to mountain literature.
Past winners of the award include heavy-hitters of alpine and climbing prose, such as Jon Krakauer, John Long and Royal Robbins.
Childs has lived in the Methow Valley full-time for the last 25 years, having moved to Winthrop with his wife, Diane, in 1995 (their son, Toby, is a Liberty Bell High School graduate). He had been a regular in the valley before that, working seasonally as guide at Liberty Bell Alpine Tours (an early iteration of the North Cascade Mountain Guides) and as an outdoor educator at Outward Bound. His writing career continued along the way.
Childs grew up in Detroit, then moved to New York City for college, where in 1973 while shopping for supplies at an outdoor store in Manhattan he saw a flyer for a new publication called Backpacker magazine.
The publication happened to have offices above the gear shop. Childs hiked up the stairs, met with the editor, and left with a few assigned articles, launching his career as a writer. Since then he’s been featured in many of pillars of the climbing and outdoor publication world including Rock and Ice magazine, Climbing magazine, and the late Mountain Gazette.
The climbing life
His first book, “Stone Palaces,” was published in 2000 by Mountaineers Books, and is a collection of fiction and memoir writing revolving around climbing and mountaineering, with the Methow Valley a prominent setting. The AAC noted, “[‘Stone Palaces’ is] a vision of the climbing life that is insightful, true, and beautiful.”
Childs started climbing in 1972, while living on the East Coast. He took a seminal trip up to the famed Shawangunks in upstate New York where, “From that first time [climbing], it really made sense to me,” Childs recounted.
Climbing took over. Childs started taking annual trips to Yosemite and in 1976 on his way back to the East Coast from California he made a stopover in the Methow.
“We were just astounded to come upon Washington Pass,” said Childs. “We did the [Fred] Becky route, be really we had no idea, we just sort of followed our noses up the route … From the top you look right across the valley to Cutthroat. The next day we went and climbed that. You could climb here forever.”
Or at least for the last 40 years. Childs has climbed all over North America, Asia and Europe (he lived in France for a few years), and the desire to write followed him wherever he went. He never made a full living from writing but, like climbing, it called to him.
“I’ve always written,” said Childs. “There’s just not enough money in it … the periodicals only come out so often, and the pay is never very good.”
Childs is still writing, but his focus has shifted from climbing to conservation.
“After this long there are really only two climbing stories to tell, either we went and we made it, or we went and we didn’t make it.” He said. Childs is focusing his writing more as a means to promote environmental and social change. He’s now working on a book about travel adventure with a focus on social and environmental responsibility.
Childs will attend the annual AAC awards dinner in Denver on March 14 to receive the AAC award.