Take It To The Top: Q&A with Austin Lines continued

As you saw on our Take It To The Top page, our mechanical engineer and mountaineer Austin Lines is undertaking a trek to the top of the never-summited Pt 5318 Kyrgyzstan mountain with five VICE Expedition team members.

Here's the rest of that Q&A we promised.

Austin Lines and Jimmy Voorhis climb all the gullies in Mt. Washington's Huntington Ravine in one day.
Austin Lines and Jimmy Voorhis climb all the gullies in Mt. Washington's Huntington Ravine in one day.

Q. So, you and your friends started VICE in college. What's the VICE inception story?

A. There’s a Tufts mountain club and the mountain club is kind of a group of people that like outdoors stuff, but “outdoors” is very vague. It’s like “I like swimming in lakes” or “I like hiking”. So the two seniors when I was a freshman were kind of unhappy with this happy go lucky feel that they got from it. They wanted to start a more intense “pushing yourself in the outdoors” versus just being in the outdoors, so they started this ice climbing club. And, beyond ice climbing, we wanted to push ourselves so we started mountaineering.

Q. What's the difference between ice climbing and mountaineering?

A. Ice climbing around here, around the North East, is kind of like sport climbing so it’s more of short cliffs and just going up and down - and some people see that as their be all end all. But a lot of us just see it as training for the bigger mountains. So we get into ice climbing and then mixed climbing, which is what you encounter a lot in mountaineering trips; you’re climbing an ice face and suddenly it turns to rock. So you’re dealing with that. It’s pretty fun though because we’re all rock climbers and ice climbers, but when you’re mixed climbing you’re rock climbing with crampons and ice axes so it’s a totally different kind of rock climbing because you’re using these pointy, sharp tools. 

Q. Your itinerary says that in your downtime, the team will be removing mining debris. Can you explain that?

A. There are some small mining towns in the area so people went hiking around and just left all their stuff there. We’re not certain how much stuff there is, but we’re hoping to follow the leave-no-trace principles, which is not only don’t leave a trace yourself but also try to eliminate traces of past expeditions or past societies. Climbing has progressed from people leaving pitons in the rock, which are pieces of metal that they used to anchor off of. They’ve gone away from that style and moved toward a clean style of mountaineering and climbing, which is removable protection that will be cleaned up by the follower when he follows up the route. We’re hoping to, if previous expeditions have left anything, clean that up too.

Q. What's going through your mind in the days leading up to the event?

A. I’m both excited and nervous. It’s helpful that I have things to do – not only work things but also planning things like packing and getting everything organized so I’m not focused too much on what it’s gonna be like - but it’s exciting. My parents were not too happy. I think it helps that I describe it more as my age of exploration, what we do, then they’re like “Oh, that’s kinda nice”, but then they think of the logistics of everything and they’re kinda nervous.

Q. Who or what is your inspiration?

A. I would say these other guys that I’m going with. They’ve taught me everything I know about mountaineering and climbing, especially the two guys that started VICE (Jeff Longcor and Ed Warren). They’ve kind of pushed me to do these new things and to really challenge myself.

Q. Can you describe your position at KMC Systems?

A. So far I’ve been working on testing systems that other people have designed, and now I’m moving more from a supporting role into more of the leader on this project that I’m working on: so, designing and getting everything organized - getting all the requirements in place.

Q. What are your other interests? Favorite music?

A. I like jazz music, funk music. It’s a secret goal of mine to be able to play the bass really well. Climbing and work take up most of my time. I would say [climbing] gear in general is an interest of mine. My friend is starting a gear company and we’ve been working together on it. He’s been working on hammocks lately, so I’ve been helping him design a hammock buckle to have a quick attachment for the hammock and support the load of the hammock. It’s kinda fun.

Q. Can you share an interesting or surprising fact about yourself?

A. I was in an opera when I was six years old. I was just the little boy in Madame Butterfly so I didn’t have any lines or singing parts. I just had to be there. [The play] was pretty big. It was in Salt Lake City. I think my mother just put my name in some casting call and a lot of kids dropped out, and they called me in and I just kinda sat there and didn’t cry or anything so they were like “You’re in!”

If you missed it, catch the rest of the Q&A on our Take It To The Top page.

Take It To The Top: Medical Manufacturing and Mountaineering

KMC Systems medical device contract design, manufacturing and support engineers Take It To The Top - of medical engineering and mountains! As Mechanical Engineer Austin Lines takes it to the top of an unsummited mountain, his fellow engineers take your medical device to the top of ISO 13485 and FDA medical equipment standards while saving you time and money through our KMC360® program. For more information, download our KMC360® Brochure.

Download the KMC360 Brochure

Topics: KMC360, KMC Systems, Take It To The Top