Valley People: Multi-sport maven Malcolm Daly is still on track | Features

Outdoor entrepreneur, guide and multi-sport legend Malcolm Daly and his wife Karen signed a contract to buy a house in Hailey about two years ago on the hood of their car in the Albertsons’ parking lot. They were in their new house only about an hour when an earthquake trembled through town and toppled well-known climbing features in the distant Sawtooth Mountains.

The Daly’s less than auspicious arrival in town would portend even greater challenges that lay ahead, but Malcolm had grown accustomed to overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities within the unpredictable and often unforgiving realm of the great outdoors.

Daly, 66, is a noted alpinist and the founder of Great Trango Holdings, Inc., which began as a start-up to purchase the assets of Lowe Alpine Systems and now includes Stonewear Designs and e-Grips, a maker of urethane climbing holds.

Daly was described by Outside Business Journal as “an outdoor industry treasure.” He is a founding board member of the Access Fund, where he served 13 years working to make climbing areas accessible to the public. He also co-founded Paradox Sports, which makes climbing accessible for climbers with disabilities. He is also a founding board member of the nonprofits No Barriers and the Action Committee for Eldorado.

Paradox Sports grew out of an ice climbing fall in 1999 on Alaska’s Mount Hunter that left him stranded on a ledge for two days and cost him his right foot. Later, in 2004, he suffered a heart attack while ice climbing in Ouray, Colorado. Paramedics revived him after his heart had stopped, giving one another high-fives.

“They said, ‘Whew, that was close,’” said Daly, who was fitted with a pacemaker and soon back to climbing, cycling and kayaking.

Daly grew up sailing Ensign sloops and hiking solo in Connecticut. He traveled as a youngster to Hong Kong, Japan and Brazil when his father worked for the State Department.

“My father worked for the CIA, but he never talked about it,” Daly said. “He was a spy, but they called him a diplomat.”

Daly tried climbing back east with the Appalachian Mountain Club, but was disappointed. Then, he wound up in the Tetons on a weeklong climbing road trip.

“I took a climbing lesson as part of the program, then took another, then another,” he said. Eventually, Daly settled into Colorado State University for a degree in outdoor recreation. He spent his free time climbing in Eldorado Canyon, Estes Park and elsewhere.

“I got into ice climbing in 1975 when a friend dragged me out to give him a belay,’ Daly recalled. “It was cold, I got pumped and it was waaay scary, so I was hooked.”

At a time when ice climbing technology had a long way to go, Daly modified a spark plug socket wrench with a welding torch so that he could ratchet in the screws instead of levering them in with the shaft of his ice axes. One spring day he and a friend from Boulder, Colorado, named Will Gadd did 16 self-supported sports in one day, everything from ice-climbing and skiing to road biking and kayaking.

“For extra credit we mowed Will’s lawn because his in-laws were coming to town,” Daly said.

Less than two years after moving to Hailey, Daly had a stroke after returning home from an e-bike ride. When he arrived at the hospital he was paralyzed on his right side, but his mobility and dexterity were completely restored after the removal of a blood clot.

Daly, a noted extrovert, speaks haltingly following his stroke but laughs often while his wife Karen helps him search for words. As he continues to cash in on what remain of his nine lives, Daly remains upbeat and apparently determined to hold the course he set out on long ago.

“I’ll be Nordic skiing in winter and biking in summer,” he said.

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