Aspen climber’s book recounts pooch’s prowess

Rick Crandall on Mt. Wilson, a 14,252-foot mountain in the San Juan National Forest.
Courtesy photo

If you go

What: Rick Crandall book signing, “The Dog Who Took Me Up a Mountain”

When: 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11

Where: Explore Booksellers, 221 E. Main St., Aspen


Rick Crandall has been a busy man of late, but that comes with the territory of having just released a book he hopes will inspire readers to embrace a new passion no matter what their station in life.

It all sounds so easy, right? Not actually, and “The Dog Who Took Me Up a Mountain,” which Crandall co-wrote with Joseph Cosgriff, doesn’t gloss over Crandall’s mid-life struggles that got him to where he is today.

The rewards, however, have been priceless for Crandall, a 76-year-old Aspen resident who got serious about climbing when he was 64 thanks to a dog relentless to lead the way.

“Everywhere we went with Emme,” pronounced “Emmy,” as in the Emmy Awards, “she just wanted to go higher,” he recently recalled.

Starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Explore Booksellers, Crandall will discuss and sign copies of “The Dog Who Took Me Up A Mountain,” published by HCI. It’s the first publicity event for Crandall, who said he will be hitting 14 cities to promote the book, which chronicles Emme and Crandall’s adventures that included their bagging 16 of Colorado’s 58 14,000-foot peaks, known in local vernacular as 14ers.

It’s Crandall’s unlikely story that makes it such an interesting one. Here, after all, was a sizable man in his mid 60s lacking in mountaineering experience, and an Australian terrier — not exactly a stereotypical canine climber — that topped out at 20 pounds.

Prior to their meeting, Crandall — a Michigan native who founded the international software company Comshare in 1966 — was a bit down on life, having dealt with a divorce and the fallout of the dot-com bust.

But he fell in love with and married Pamela Levy in 2000, and the two moved to the Aspen area, before Levy, a lover of animals, brought home an Australian terrier in 2001.

“She was certainly one of my favorite dogs,” said Levy, who discovered Emme. “She was special.”

A tiny thing, “one of the smallest dogs I had ever seen,” Crandall wrote, the dog had plenty of pep in its step and an appetite for adventure.

“We would take her on hikes and she lit up like a football field of lights,” said Crandall, who also is chair of the board of directors for Jazz Aspen Snowmass.

Aspen writer Rick Crandall will appear at Explore Booksellers at 5:30 p.m. Friday to discuss and sign his recently released book “The Dog Who Took Me Up a Mountain,” published by HCI.
Courtesy image

The higher Emme wanted to go, so did Crandall. So he became a climbing buff, but not before he shed 25 pounds and worked his way into 14er shape, while educating himself about the state’s climbing trails and the sport’s physical, logistical and mental demands.

Soon enough, he was climbing Colorado’s highest mountains and conquering some of its most technically challenging peaks.

Emme did her part without any aid, Crandall recalled.

“She had the strength and commitment that would not take ‘no’ for an answer,” he said.

Emme has since passed away, living 141/2 years. Crandall has since climbed the remaining 42 Colorado’s 14ers, while these days he focuses on 13,000-foot peaks, which come with their own challenges, he said. These days Crandall is an authority on climbing, and he writes a blog with advice and tips about the sport.

His life-changing friendship with Emme, Crandall said, made him a better person, and he hopes his book can persuade readers that it’s never too early to discover a passion.

“With all of the negativity in the world, there are so many downers that to be able to have something so optimistic and positive, the book says ‘maybe I had some dark days, but I came through them and this is how I came through them,’” Levy said. “I think that’s such an uplifting story to share.”