Thirty-five years ago, no one could have known that the order of birth of a pair of identical twin boys in Minnesota would lead to an almost poetic, mountain-climbing themed coincidence.
The twins are Eric and Adam Knoff, who grew along the St. Croix River in Stillwater, Minn., and who both now live in Bozeman. As kids, the twins earned the nicknames K1 and K2 — Adam being K2 since he was, by a few minutes, the youngest.
You can see where his nickname might intersect with the world of mountaineering.
Indeed, Adam Knoff is about two weeks away from leaving on an expedition to climb the world’s second tallest mountain, the 28,000-foot K2, his namesake.
“Every single thought I have is connected with the anticipation of going on this trip,” Adam said.
The road to the rocky K2 started back when the human K2 was a teenager. Adam and his brother would head down to the St. Croix with their friends to swim, but they soon noticed all the people who came to climb the local cliffs.
It looked like fun, so their mother signed the boys up for a one-day climbing class. After that day, it was only a few weeks before the boys were recruiting their friends and piecing together enough equipment to keep them on the rocks all day.
“Adam and I found ourselves climbing everything,” Eric said.
“Climbing was empowering and different,” Adam said. “We developed an early adrenaline addiction.”
Their addiction escalated. Soon, K1 and K2 were climbing mountains and spending all their free time — outside of classes at Montana State University — in alpine territory. Both later became guides on Mount Rainier and followed their passions to mountainsides in Alaska, Nepal and South America.
But in 2006, after a few years of enjoying the vagabond life, a family emergency brought Adam and his wife back to Bozeman.
“That really began the setting of roots,” Adam said. “I really started to rethink what I wanted to do with myself.”
Adam started looking for a real job, and, finding that he didn’t really like desks or working for other people, he decided to start his own business. He recruited his brother from Utah and, without any restaurant experience, founded K2 Cafe and Deli in 2008.
“We thought there would be a lot more flexible time in the restaurant business,” Adam said, explaining the dreams of leaving one brother to run the business while the other had fun in the mountains.
“How wrong we were.”
Fourteen month in, Eric was restless.
“It was a pretty intense year for me,” he said. “I had to relocate my whole life from Utah. It kind of wore me down.”
So in September 2009, when Eric was offered his dream job, a chance to work at the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, he took it.
Adam understood completely, but it also signaled that his own days as a restaurateur were numbered.
“That left a void. No matter how much we hated working in the restaurant, we supported each other 100 percent,” Adam said. “When he left, I knew I wasn’t going to make it a whole lot longer.”
Eric said he feels fortunate about how the restaurant adventure has panned out.
“It’s kind of funny how diving into this world of the unknown, an endeavor we had no idea about, worked itself out to some thing both Adam and I are happy about,” he said.
Adam sold the restaurant in February, and he’d been happily floating until the opportunity came to climb K2, an adventure that will keep him away from his wife and baby for up to eight weeks.
On one level, Adam said, it’s hard to leave his family for so long, but he also said it’s the adventuring that makes him who he is, and his wife understands.
“She’s always had the big heart to accommodate the unpredictability of my schedule,” he said, “to understand that the adventure we’re about to take is instrumental to who we are. It’s in my skin and in my blood.”
Do you do something, own something, like something or know something that’s a little weird, out there or off the beaten path? Send your story ideas to Michael Becker at [email protected] or 582-2657.