Feb 162010
Authors: Matt Minich

The grisly results of one of the most powerful events in Malcolm Daly’s life were hidden from the view of his audience of almost 50 people Tuesday night.

Though he stood confident and upright, behind the podium Daly was resting on only one damaged foot. His right shoe was filled by a prosthetic, a constant reminder of the climbing accident Daly calls “the crux of my life.”

Daly lost the foot, shattered both legs and sustained permanent damage from frostbite after a 200-foot fall from a high pitch on Alaska’s Thunder Mountain. He spent more than 48 hours hanging from anchors high on the face of the mountain while his partner descended to find help.

After his accident, Daly said he struggled to fill the “metaphorical space” opened by the loss of his foot, which jeopardized the pursuit of one of his life’s greatest passions. Though his body has still not fully recovered more than a decade later he is now able to approach the subject with humor.

“I wake up in the morning and my feet hurt, and it just gets worse throughout the day,” he said with an unexpected chuckle. “Sorry ­­–– my foot hurts.”

The 1978 graduate of CSU’s Outdoor Recreation program founded the company Trango Holdings, Inc., which manufactures and distributes climbing equipment and sports bras, in 1991 –– nine years before his accident. Trango has since grown into a multi-million dollar company and does business in 17 countries.

Daly was selected for the CSU Alumni Association’s “Spotlight on CSU,” an honor awarded to autistic animal sciences professor Temple Grandin last May. He spoke for an hour in a conference room at the Hilton on Prospect Road, explaining the ways his climbing career has influenced his approach to running his business.

Despite his success, Daly painted himself as a wholly mediocre student, saying he “stumbled around college for four and a half years” before graduating “with a B-minus average and a diploma no one has asked to see.”

“If you have an idea inside you,” he said, “if you have an idea, if you have a need, then you can be a business person.”
In a slideshow featuring photos from his own experiences –– and a few he confessed to finding online –– he gave pointers on business leadership that could easily be mistaken for rock climbing advice.

Those in attendance were encouraged to “know your route,” “carry the rope,” and even “never take your partner off belay.” The latter, he said, meant that close colleagues should share the trust that is essential for climbing partners –– the same bond that gave him hope while anchored along to the steep face of Thunder Mountain.

After the presentation, audience members said they were inspired by Daly’s blend of humor and insight.

“I feel like you shouldn’t limit yourself to what you think you can do,” said freshman biology major Tiffany Ly, one of the few students at the event.

Ly’s inspiration came despite some candid but cynical response to her request for advice.
“Go to welding class,” he said.

News Editor Matt Minich can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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