Jamie Logan ran away from home when she was 14. She’d been feeling lost and confused in Midland, Texas, particularly about her gender identity, so she booked it for a small West Texas town near the border of New Mexico where she found work in a machine shop rebuilding engines for Montgomery Ward. Initially, she’d told the manager she was 15. When he said she needed to be 17, she left, changed clothes, and returned looking different—and said she was 17. She got the job polishing crankshafts. The men in the shop-tested her the first day by grinding the biggest ones they could find, knowing she, who weighed less than 100 pounds, would have to lift them to the polishing machine and hold them there. She did it all day without letting up, earning an invitation to share a beer with her coworkers that evening.
This was not the first, nor the last time, Logan would just launch herself into the unknown. A few years later, she transferred from Midland High School to Fountain Valley School as a mid-year junior admit, where she convinced a Gary Zeigler to sponsor a climbing club, having spent her adolescent years climbing everything possible—trees, buildings, rocks. While on a family vacation in New Mexico, she once showed one of her younger brothers how to belay her—using a length of white clothesline! When she was 11, her parents even lined her up to go climbing with WWII veterans of the 10th Mountain Division who took her to the Davis Mountains. The vets let her lead using an old Goldline climbing rope and soft pitons left over from the war. When she got to the top, she yelled down: “What do I do now?” They shouted back: “Hammer in a piton,” which she did, then clipped in an old steel carabiner and lowered herself to the ground. It was her first lead. On the first day of the FVS climbing club, Zeigler took Logan and one other student out after classes ended for the day to the Garden of the Gods, where she led a climb dubbed Crack Parallel (5.8+). By the time she graduated in 1965, she considered herself a climber, one with enough skills to pursue the sport independently for the rest of her life. Moreover, while climbing she could focus entirely on leading the next pitch, affording her a chance to ignore the challenges she felt socially. “Climbing was just climbing.”
As a child, Logan had always been a voracious reader. At FVS, she took a literature class from English teacher John Raushenbush (whose essay on FVS soccer is also featured in the Winter 2019 Bulletin), where she embraced the rigor of reading and writing while studying dystopian novels.
Reading and being smart, she soon discovered, were “cool” and respected at Fountain Valley.
As a result of the academic rigor Raushenbush’s class called for, she learned to “think clearly” for the first time in her life. For as long as she can recall, Logan has always wanted to be a woman, even when she was attending an all-boys boarding school—FVS. At the time, she was too scared to admit she wanted to be a girl and didn’t even know that it was possible. She was particularly secretive about her desire to dress as a woman, which she worried would be viewed as “weird.” “I didn’t know how to interact,” she remembers now about the 17-year-old person who came to the prairie in January 1964. But going to FVS “meant that I had to deal with these boys as classmates, roommates and dormmates.” “We needed each other,” she recalls of her dormmates in Penrose. Sequestered in the dorm at the end of the day, the boys stayed up late playing bridge and smoking cigarettes. “For the first time in my life, I was part of a crew. I really liked that. It got me through high school.” ”
Logan, who went on to become a pioneer in North American climbing and a noted sustainable construction architect, has lived most of her adult life hiding her true identity. In the last six or so years, with her children now grown adults, she committed to making an open gender transition, step by step, from a man to a woman in Boulder, Colo., where she’s lived since graduating from high school—another terrifying leap into the unknown, more difficult than any alpine climb she did with she was young. Would anyone ever want to climb with her again? And would anyone hire a transgender woman to design a home?The Climb
After graduating from FVS, Logan quickly flunked out of the University of Colorado because all she did was climb. As a climber, she achieved more in just over a decade than most athletes achieve in a lifetime. Her three most significant achievements include the first free ascent of the very physically demanding (and wide) Crack of Fear (5.10+) on Lumpy Ridge above Estes Park, Colo., in 1966; the first free ascent of the Diamond on Longs Peak in 1976; and the first ascent in 1978 of the Emperor Face of Mt. Robson in British Columbia. Her ascent of Mount Robson’s Emperor Face is the most impressive of the three accomplishments. At over 8,000 vertical feet, the route was a coveted mountaineering objective for at least 40 years before Logan’s ascent. Moreover, it was technically advanced for its day with almost no protection for the last 40 feet of the crux pitch, which took Logan six hours to lead in leather boots, old horizontal-point crampons, a Chouinard bamboo ice ax in her left hand, and a shorter Forrest hammer in her right. Fortunate to have a very strong partner in Terry “Mugs” Stump, a rising alpine star of that generation, they had “decided to spend all summer if need be in an attempt.
Writing in the American Alpine Journal in 1979, Logan said that “the real key to climbing the Emperor Face was making a firm decision to try, regardless of the obstacles that nature and our imagination might place in our path.” Logan and Stump did just that—succeeding on a route that was so challenging it wasn’t repeated for 30 years afterward.
From the late 1960s through the late 1970s, Logan made several other notable ascents. Along with Wayne Goss, her long-time climbing partner from Boulder, she made the 13th ascent of The Nose on the infamous El Capitan in Yosemite in 1968 in just three days. Additionally, she made the second American ascent of the North Face of the Eiger in 1972. In 1977, she attempted the Hummingbird Ridge on Mt. Logan, an endless ridge on Canada’s biggest peak, on which she recalls climbing “from dawn to last light every day for weeks” before ultimately descending because the snow had fallen off whole sections of the route. Finally, in 1978, she made an alpine-style attempt of Changabang, which was at the time a visionary approach to such a large Himalayan peak.
During her long and storied career, Logan became an early advocate of clean climbing, switching from steel pitons, which get hammered into cracks in the rock, to passive protection, which gets slotted by hand into cracks and is far less destructive to the rock. She made a “clean” ascent of Grand Giraffe (5.10a) in 1967 with Pat Ament and Royal Robbins, becoming one of the first climbers to use passive protection in Colorado, if not all of North America. Today, at 72-years-old, she still leads 5.12 sport climbs and trains using a regimen that focuses more on technique than strength. She still has her sights set high. In 2007, at age 61, she “redpointed” (led without falling) her first 5.13, dubbed Sonic Youth, in Clear Creek Canyon, Colo., which she had made the first ascent of in 1966 using aid (standing in slings clipped to iron pitons)! In the next few years she climbed a number of other 5.13s—and she still thinks she will climb at least one more route in that grade shortly.
After being drafted into the army in 1968 and serving in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970, she returned to Colorado, married in 1971, and had twin boys in 1972. Then, in a crushing blow, she found herself divorced in 1975 with joint custody of the children. In frustration and anger, she went on a climbing binge for four years. But in 1978, after a harrowing bivouac on the summit ridge of Mt. Robson after finishing the Emperor Face, she gave up high-risk alpinism after realizing how much the then 5-year-olds needed her at home.
While remarrying and having two more children, she worked as a carpenter but soon realized she was “terrible” at the job since she was no good at the paperwork and accounting. After a client asked her if she knew an architect who could draft a plan for an addition to his church, she decided that what she wanted to do was design buildings. Logan’s second wife, to whom she is still married, convinced her to sell their house and invest in undergraduate educations for both of them at CU-Denver. At one point, Logan was taking 15 hours of classes, had 11 carpenters working for her, and was raising four children! “I was not rock climbing very much at the time,” she now admits with a smile.
LEED Platinum house, net zero energy built in 2009
Jamie went on to earn not only a bachelor’s degree but also a master’s degree before getting a job at a big Denver architecture firm. She soon found that she did not like the work she was doing and leapt at the chance to move with her family back to Boulder to do a remodel—from that moment forward, she went for broke as a “green architect,” deciding she would design only sustainable dwellings, something no one else was doing at the time. By the early 2000s, Logan had eight employees working for her architectural firm in Boulder. Meanwhile, photovoltaic technology had finally come of age, making carbon-neutral structures possible. Her firm soon won a contest to design the greenest possible building for a non-profit that wanted to build a visitor center. The members of her firm had a great time figuring how innovative they could be, creating systems to recycle the building’s water and to produce more electricity than the structure consumed. However, when the nonprofit lost its financial support, J Logan Architects had nothing to show for its efforts.
At the same time, the firm was designing the Shambhala Mountain Center near Red Feather Lakes, above Ft. Collins, Colo.. On a drive up there one day, Jamie made a momentous decision: henceforth her firm was going to design nothing but carbon-neutral structures. “What if I just say that’s what we’re going to do,” she recalls. “And maybe we’ll go out of business. Maybe nobody will hire us anymore. It was like we were going to go climb the Emperor Face.” Her firm’s business took off. By 2008, the waiting list was a year and a half long. And her work came full circle back to climbing with a design for Boulder’s premier climbing gym, Movement Climbing and Fitness, which in 2011 held a world cup sport climbing event on American soil for the first time in over 20 years. The building uses no natural gas, just solar power produced on the roof and certified wind electricity purchased from the grid. Now, nearly at the end of her architectural career, Logan has become a volunteer expert on climate change for Joe Neguse (D), Colorado’s freshman representative for the Second Congressional District. She is researching refrigerants for heating and cooling, which are huge contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, to help Rep. Neguse draft legislation to combat climate change. Movement Climbing and Fitness in Boulder, built in 2009, is an all-electric building with a solar array on the roof.
The Next Route
Today, Logan seems serenely at ease with herself as a female, with her drive to climb and her desire to make a difference on climate change. She knows she will be busy learning about how to combat greenhouse gas emissions for the foreseeable future, even as she comes to the twilight of her architecture career. She still deploys the same research skills that she acquired in her FVS history classes! And her climbing remains just as important. She will continue to do what she has done since graduating from Fountain Valley: fearlessly climbing whenever and whatever she can—trees, rocks and 5.12 sport climbs.
The author Dr. Gilbert is an accomplished climber who has scaled both El Capitan and Half Dome, along with many other challenging climbs around the world. He is the Danes’ head climbing coach, leading FVS to several state climbing championships. He has taught history at Fountain Valley School since 1993.