In April 1989 – six weeks shy of my sixth birthday – my father, Bill Holland, was killed while attempting an unroped descent off Slipstream, the 3,000-foot frozen waterfall along the eastern face of Mt. Snow Dome in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.
Due to a massive storm system that settled into the area the afternoon of his fall, a search party was unable to conduct a proper rescue until almost a week after the accident. By then, the snowfall had been so significant, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Parks Canada were unsuccessful in locating his body or equipment. In all subsequent rescue attempts, his body was never found.
At the time, my parents and I lived in Gorham, Maine just outside Portland. After my father’s accident, my mother and I relocated to her hometown of Walla Walla so she could raise me with the support of her family. Eventually, I returned to the East Coast for college, and, after graduation in 2006, moved to New York to pursue an acting career.
I was on my way to rehearsal one afternoon in August 2010 when Mom called with the news that my father’s body had been discovered at the base of Snow Dome. Due to the immense glacial recession of the Columbia Icefields over the past twenty years, my father had been carried nearly a mile from the estimated site of his initial fall. And because he had been buried in snow and ice for over two decades, his body was more or less perfectly preserved.
Spindrift is a memoir about my coming to terms with my father’s death. As a child, it's difficult to understand the concept of loss, and without a body, it was easy to question what had happened to him up there on Slipstream. The part of me that desperately wanted my father to come back wondered if his disappearance had been purposeful, and that perhaps he'd run away.
The news of his recovery in 2010 was the first time in my life I could fully accept the story for what it was. Yes, my father had made a poor decision at the top of Slipstream – and one he paid dearly for – but he hadn’t lied and he hadn’t run away. Suddenly, after two decades of denial and doubt, the myth that he might come back had ended. And for the first time, I began to grieve.
This book is the story of a formidable alpinist, a cherished friend, and a fierce intellectual whose disappearance carved a great void in the lives of those he left behind. But Spindrift is also a story of things universally human. It is about how we choose to accept or deny, how we reconcile our losses, how we find loopholes in doubt. It is about the myths we attach ourselves to and how, ultimately, we let those myths go.
When I decided to begin work on this project a year ago, I had no idea how difficult the writing process would be. One of the greatest challenges has been simply finding (or, rather, making) the time to write while maintaining all my part-time jobs in New York. But now more than ever I’m realizing how much I need to focus on this project so it can be completed -- and, more importantly, be shared.
In its current form, Spindrift is a third complete. My goal is to finish the manuscript in the next 6-9 months so that I can shop the completed rough draft to publishing houses. This requires further research in the form of interviews with my father’s former climbing partners, close friends, and work colleagues. This will require travel to Canada as well as parts of northern New England where my father climbed and where many of his friends still live.
The amount I’m trying to raise through the Spindrift Kickstarter campaign would cover travel expenses and contribute to the cost of living while finishing the manuscript.
If this fundraising endeavor for Spindrift is successful, it will give me the gift of time.
Thank you for your support.
- (30 days)