Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chokin Down Some Oatmeal For the Greater Good

It's been a couple weeks now since Erik, Rob and I returned from our oatmeal session in Canada...and I still have a bit of a hard time not gagging when I watch my son gobble up his tasty bowl of Maple and Brown Sugar oats.

We really did have a great spite of the wicked cold temps and howling winds. Despite the bowl after bowl of once delicious oatmeal, the experience was a great one.

You should start seeing a version of the commercial in a "Supergrains" series in January and then the full Quaker oatmeal add sometime in February.

Below is Erik's recap of the adventure... in his words:

Recently, I returned from a unique adventure in Canada where we filmed a television commercial for Quaker Oats. I had spoken a couple times to the Quaker team, and told them that we religiously ate oatmeal at midnight in our tent before a big climb. It’s light to carry, easy to heat up, and fuels you for an amazing day ahead. So simulating this ritual was the plan for the ad.

I was joined in front of the camera by my friends Jeff “No Limits” Evans and Rob “Are You Going To Finish That?” Raker. Behind the camera, it seemed like dozens of people were involved over the two full days of shooting, from production managers and the awesome lady who coordinated our clothing and gear to the snow mobile drivers and caterers. Our safety rigger was famed ice-climber and wild-man adventurer Will Gadd, who holds records like paragliding 423 kilometers and ascending and descending a frozen waterfall for 24 hours non-stop as a fundraiser.

The shoot took place at a closed ski resort 70 miles west of Calgary called Fortress Mountain under some very brutal conditions. The weather was cold and the winds were absolutely howling—well over 100 miles per hour up high! I was really impressed at how hard working and hardy the entire production crew was in the face of this adversity: setting up shots with numb hands, cooking steaming pots of oatmeal with the wind almost taking down the tent, and carrying tons of equipment up and down the mountain.

The first day, we left before dawn and took snowmobiles up to the top of the resort where we set up “camp.” For the purposes of filming, both ends of our tent were wide open so the wind was gusting through and depositing several inches of snow inside. But the effort paid off because I’m told they got some spectacular sunrise scenes as we were eating oatmeal.

We sat around with our sleeping bags wrapped around us for much of the morning, about six hours, eating spoonful after spoonful of oatmeal. Jeff regaled us with stories from his randy bachelor days, which had Rob and me cracking up. But we had to do a bunch of reshoots because Jeff kept talking with his mouth open!

Rob, who is a cameraman himself, demonstrated his lack of acting skills with some corny overly-dramatic head-nodding as he looked out towards the rising sun, but he redeemed himself by teaching me a new skill. Since I can’t see, getting the perfect scoop of oatmeal that wasn’t too large proved quite a challenge; as I brought the spoon towards my mouth, oatmeal often dribbled onto my down parka, oops. Fortunately Rob taught me how to make the perfect spoonful on the edge of my cup so I could direct it into my mouth with no spillage.

That afternoon, we walked up and down a ridge while an amazing helicopter pilot hovered above us to blow wind and spindrift snow in our face for dramatic effect for the camera. It made us all a little nervous with the rotors spinning fifteen feet off the side of the ridge, and eventually the winds proved too fierce so we all retreated to the comforts of a nice hotel and awesome dinner.

The next day, the winds were at their full fury—one time Rob was picked up and thrown twelve feet, landing on his butt. Normally, we’d never climb in this kind of weather but it made for great filming! So we ended up changing plans and moving over to a nearby rock face.

The problem with alpine climbing from a filmmaker’s perspective is that it’s usually a very slow deliberate process, especially when you’re climbing a rock face with tons of huge loose rocks and you’re blind. Will came up with a solution by setting up some fixed lines on which we could use ascenders so that speeded things up and looked more exciting. Well sort of…Mountain Man Jeff had forgotten how to rig his ascenders properly and was having a mini-epic. He ultimately figured it out after some teasing from me of course, and they got some incredible shots with the helicopter coming around the mountain to see the three heroes ascending up three fixed lines, all nicely spaced, on a big rock face with a steep vast snowface below.

Eventually we retreated to the tent for more shots of us eating. Lucky thing I love oatmeal because I got another tent session, taking bite after bite for another hour. Sometime next year you may see our bearded mugs on your television.

In exchange for my participation in this commercial, Quaker Oats made a significant donation to No Barriers USA. Many thanks for supporting this organization that helps people with significant challenges shatter barriers to live more active and adventurous lives. Currently, we’re recruiting a team of disabled soldiers for a life-changing program called, Soldiers to the Summit.

The majority of the fees for the shoot were donated to non it was a win for everyone. Now go out and eat some Quaker oatmeal!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day Read...Soldiers to the Summit

Veterans Day 2011...the most appropriate day to repost the Outside Magazine article on our Soldiers to the Summit climb last year in Nepal.
This article, written by Brian Mockenhaupt, himself an Iraq war veteran, provides great insight into the trip itself but more importantly the struggles that veterans face on their return home from combat. It's not easy and there are many struggles for certain. Our attempt at using mountains as a medium for therapy is front and center. We use the framework of the Heroes Journey for these soldiers as they return from battle.
These S2S expeditions are so much more than climbing a peak. We are challenging these men and women to look inside and see what's still available and how to access it.
The film that was made on last year's climb is close to finished. We hope that High Ground will also be a wonderful rehabilitative tool for use at Warrior Transitional Units around the country as well as an opportunity for civilians to get a look inside the head of a returning veteran.
Thank a Vet today. Because of them, we walk, talk and act with freedom.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Service and Gratitude

When Veterans Day rolls around every year I always feel the same few emotions begin to surface. Every year...same ones.

I always feel very fortunate and blessed... that I was simply, out of mere dumn luck, born in a country that provides basic needs to MOST of it’s inhabitants. Where I can enjoy the freedom to vote, to outwardly quench my spiritual thirst without fear of condemnation as well as make a living by doing something as ridiculous as climbing mountains and talking about it to companies. Not many countries in the world where all of these pursuits are available to it’s citizens. For that, I am grateful.

I always feel a great sense of gratitude... to the “greatest generation” grandfather and his colleagues. Men (as well as their families that supported them) that fought against tyranny with a sense of bravery that we very rarely see anymore. It was because of their actions that we live the way that we do. They were selfless and committed to a cause that was far beyond them as individuals....before the era of social media and big screen documentaries. They are how I define hero and I feel we owe it all to them.

I always feel a sense of regret... wondering what my life would have been like should I have chosen to enlist out of high school after many meetings with the recruiters. This was Top Gun flying jets in the Navy sure seemed like a cool job. I think I was scared. Scared of what it would take to make the military my life...perhaps I wasn’t strong enough or brave enough to see it through. Watching my cousin Jean fight like hell to become one of a handful of female fighter pilots in the Air Force proved to me that with an extreme level of dedication as well as what can only be determined a high level of skill, one can achieve those far off dreams. Jean went for it and was rewarded with countless hours of flying some of the most sophisticated machines that we have ever built. I am awed by her commitment to her career and part of me wonders...what was keeping me from following that same path (one clear thing is, Jean is smarter than me by an order of magnitude).

I always feel a great sense of respect... to the men and women that have recently or currently serve. Without a draft, everyone that wears or has worn the uniform in recent decades signed on the dotted line and committed to put service before personal needs. I respect the sense of loyalty to the guy (or gal) that serves right next to you. How it really all comes down to putting your team before your own aspirations and in their case, safety and wellbeing. I respect and honor what it takes to be away from family for months on voluntarily put yourself in harms way, although service men and women do it for a far more honorable reason than simply climbing a big peak.

For all of these reasons, I know that I need to do something to say thanks in the only way I know how... to take some of these remarkable folks up to the high places and provide them the venue to challenge themselves and in some cases reclaim what was once theirs.

Last year’s Soldiers To The Summit (S2S) project was born from all of these emotions. Erik Weihenmayer and I, with the help of World TEAM Sports and some of our Everest buddies, brought together a group of injured vets to climb a big Himalayan Peak. The resulting documentary, High Ground should be released to the public next summer and will capture the challenges that many injured vets experience when they return from combat.

We are currently in the planning stages of the follow up on last years project that will take place in Ecuador. We will be bringing a few of the participants from last year’s climb to serve as mentors for a new group of injured soldiers that represent the spirit of S2S to climb Cotopaxi in December 2012.

If you happen to experience any of the emotions that I mention above when this day of recognition rolls around and would like to show your own gratitude...our S2S project is a great opportunity.

Do you know an injured vet? Send him/her over to the S2S website to apply for one of the spots for next year’s adventure.

Do you have a relationship with a company that is looking to participate in a social responsibility project with a backbone to it? There are many ways in which corporate America can get involved in our project...sponsor a soldier, promote the trip, secure corporate relationships... and the list goes on.

To show gratitude is important...saying thanks is great. Acting on it is felt deeply. Tell a veteran that you are grateful in a way that is impactful.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Eye Care and the Himalayan Stove Project

I just returned from Chicago where I provided a keynote presentation for the United Eye Care Professionals annual conference. In this case, the parallel between my life's work as "guide to a blind guy" and that of the optometrist and ophthalmologist and their role of improving visual acuity to their patients is fun to draw out. It all comes down being the "eyes" for the people around you....providing clarity and Vision for your team or in their case, their patients. It was a great event with Vision and Teamwork being the overriding themes.

I also had a captive and interested audience regarding the Himalayan Stove Project that I am so committed to and serve as a board member. I knew that this group of professionals would rally around the idea of improving eye health in a remote part of the world that suffers from many ailments that are a direct result of inefficient burning cooking stoves in their homes.

In poverty-stricken communities, inadequate housing ventilation and improper cooking stoves pose a danger to all inhabitants but primarily women who do most of the food preparation. Dangerous smoke released from burning unclean solid fuel sources often has no direct path out of the house due to unflued stoves. One study found that less than 20 percent of homes in poor areas of northeastern Brazil and central Mexico were safe to live and breathe in. This is because wood smoke contains many chemical products such carcinogens, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons that are bad for human health.

Many people in the Third World are forced to use such fuels for cooking because of deforestation, population expansion, and degradation of agriculture and land. In fact, nearly half the world's population prepares meals with wood or wood-replacement fuels on primitive stoves without chimneys.

Indoor air pollution takes many forms, ranging from smoke emitted from solid fuel combustion during cooking to complex mixtures of chemicals present in modern buildings. In many households, everyday exposure to air pollution may contribute to an increasing prevalence of asthma, cancer, and cataract....which is where a group of optometrists really come in.

At the Himalayan Stove Project, we provide clean cookstoves to individuals and families living in the Himalaya who now cook with traditional, rudimentary cookstoves or over open fire pits inside their homes, consuming excessive amounts of precious fuel and polluting the indoor air to dangerously unhealthy levels. Our goal is to deliver 10,000 clean cookstoves within five years.

I have spent a good deal of my life in the Himalaya and have woken up in many a smokey teahouse with my eyes burning and lungs heavy with particulates. By simply improving the efficiency of the wood burning technology, we can touch a community on so many different levels...

  • Environmentally. By implementing a more efficient burning stove we are able to minimize the use of organic local fuels, therefore minimizing clear cutting and scarce wood consumption.
  • Socially. By cutting down on the smoke in the room, families are more apt to gather together for meals and socializing in the main living room.
  • Physically. A more efficient burning stove diminishes the incident of pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease and cataract.
At the HSP we have established a simple supply chain format. For $100 we are able to take one stove from production line all the way to home implementation in the Himalaya. It's cheap. It's simple. It's effective.

As I cruise around the country providing keynotes to Fortune 500 companies I am constantly encouraging corporate America to get behind a socially responsible project that provides immediate results to families in the Himalaya.

However, you can help too. Our donations page allows you to make any level of contribution. But think of this... for $100 you will provide an extended family a piece of technology that will dramatically improve their physical, social and environmental well being...with a few keystrokes on your computer.

Make a difference today!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sherpas...The Supply Chain of the Himalaya

Last week I had the opportunity to provide the closing keynote for the Global Conference of Supply Chain Professionals in Philadelphia. This was the annual gathering of 3,000 of the folks that bring all of the products from manufacturer to consumer everyday of the year. From produce and apparel to computers and soft drinks...these are the individuals that work within their respective industries to deliver items to our store shelves.

Clearly we take for granted the ease with which we can walk into the grocery store and purchase a banana from Guatemala for cents on the dollar. The execution and planning that goes into bringing that banana from tree to store requires an immense amount of planning, communication and commitment to deliver in the way that we as the consumer expect it to be delivered.

In preparation for this event I did as much research as possible on the roles and responsibilities of the supply chain professional and it quickly became clear that these folks are truly the Sherpas of consumer based industries. Committed, selfless and a strong desire to see a project through to it’s end. The right way.

As most of you know, the Sherpa community has been instrumental in my life. I have tremendous respect for the men that have helped me and my teams to the summits of many Himalayan giants. We depend on the Sherpas to help us with so many of our tasks while climbing these huge peaks...from assembling camp to cooking the food and even establishing the route on very dangerous sections of any given mountain. Critical to our success for sure.

But beyond their commitment to helping their teams, the Sherpa embody an attitude of “get it done”. You will never hear a Sherpa complain about a task being too hard or too long or too heavy. They are work horses and know that in order to get their job done they have to take the skills they have, knuckle down and just get it done. It is quite simply, the Sherpa Attitude. They don’t care about their own summit aspirations. The accolades that follow the successful summit of a huge peak mean very little to them. They are committed to getting their team to the top.

It’s all about accepting a chore. Strategizing on best practices. Surrounding yourself with like minded, hard working folks. And then executing. With loyalty, integrity and gumption. No whining. No complaining. Just get it done.

I believe that each of my new supply chain friends from the event the other day really related to the role of the Sherpa. They know that their job is to selflessly provide their team an end result...every time.

The Sherpa attitude is proud. It’s time to Sherpa Up!

Go fight the good fight!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Quest for Dirt Biking Glory...(tongue in cheek)

I just returned from our annual dirt biking pilgrimage to the Crested Butte region....and the smile on my face has not diminished even one small bit with thoughts of blasting through the woods on my sweet machine with my pals. Check out the very tongue in cheek "movie trailer" from the trip.

Every year I come home from that part of Colorado convinced that it is one of the most magnificent destinations on the planet. It offers such a wide range of activities, stunning landscape panoramas, sick dirt biking and close in opportunities to swing by one of the coolest towns around for a beer, burger and run ins with the colorful local Crested Butte community.
But enough of that from the CB Chamber of Commerce...

The real issue that I keep thinking about as this foray comes up every year is how doing trips like this rejuvenate my soul with a confirmation that aging does not equate to submission. As I get older it becomes clear that in order to retain my youthful perspective, I have to continue to challenge myself both physically and emotionally in ways that I used to a decade ago... albeit with a somewhat realigned level of acceptable risk.

I understand that the healing process is a bit more lengthy than it was a few years back (a few more Ibuprofens than I used to take)... and I understand that getting injured in a way that would keep me from work would be a huge hit to my family.

But what would be a worse alternative would be for me to walk around wishing I still "got out there" and had fun in this adventure filled world we inhabit. Complacency would lead me to be a grump... which I know absolutely no one would appreciate.

To feel my body sore after expending so much energy is a very satisfying sensation. To feel sweat pouring from my brow and stinging my eyes gives me a sense that I am doing something worthwhile. To crash my dirt bike on a rocky trail, pick up all 230 lbs of it again and again reminds me that I will not give in to the wonders of aging. I will face it head on and challenge it to knock me down. Ultimately I know it will win, but I will not go down without a fierce fight. My call to adventure will continue in spite of what the calendar tells me.

Life has a way of conspiring us into complacency with work, tasks and commitments. It's easy just to allow it all to envelop us and pull us away from the arenas that provide us the wonders of adventurous challenge.

Fight it! Seek out opportunities to challenge yourself in the outdoor realm. It calls to us. It's up to each of us to answer.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What's Next...

Now that Expedition Impossible has run it's course, I have been giving a lot of thought to the idea of "What's next?".

I answered that a lot after Erik and I climbed Denali 16 years ago. Then after we climbed El Capitan 15 years ago, the same question surfaced. Then of course after summiting Everest 10 years ago I was hit with that inquiry on an almost daily basis for several years. I knew that I would be unsatisfied allowing the climb of one mountain to define who I was...I had to "answer another call".

For those of you that don't already know, I am an avid fan of Joseph Campbell's "Heroes Journey". Without getting too cerebral with the concept...the basic cliff note is that every myth and story throughout the history of humankind follows a few basic principles and through this universal synergy, we as humans are linked in what drives us. Taken a step further it creates a fraternal link between all of us regardless of race, culture, era or gender.

The concept fundamentally is that each of us is a "hero" and that we each have our own "call to action". We may choose to answer this call and take on the inevitable struggle that will ensue or we can "disregard" the call which many folks do for countless reasons.

If you elect to answer your call to action you will be faced with a certain "battle". For me this has taken the form of mountains, rocks and adventures around the world as well as medical school, writing a book and raising a family. Whether "victorious" or not, what is important is to answer the call.

It's clear to me that many folks choose to not answer their call. Perhaps they are scared of failure. Perhaps their support network is not substantial enough to provide the "safety net" we all hope to have in place. Or maybe complacency has got them by the neck and they are paralyzed with their current auto-pilot status. There are a myriad of reasons to not answer...some of them valid for that particular challenge and as many calls as I have answered, I have also disregarded as many. I have used all the same excuses that I presented earlier. It's easy to do. Accepting the call is intimidating and takes a substantial amount of effort.

I have been so inspired to read and hear so many messages generated from watching No Limits on the show each week that essentially translate to, "watching you guys has inspired me to...", you fill in the blank. This is the call to action! Many folks have answered their call and are taking on their challenges right Whether it's to quit smoking, climb a mountain, reach out to their estranged sister, walk one mile or perform at a higher level at work...I love hearing about how folks are answering and kickin "it's" ass.

Campbell finishes his concept by describing "re-entry" for the hero as being immediately faced with a share his new found knowledge or to keep it to himself. It may seem like a given that once an individual returns from "battle" that he will unconditionally "share and impart" the "gifts" that were obtained. This is not particularly easy to practice however. Exposing oneself to others regarding an event that in some cases was painful or humbling is difficult to say the least. It takes energy and courage to share events and pearls that were gleaned in battle.

If you buy into Campbell's premise, it becomes clear that each of us walks a challenging path should we choose to do so. Perhaps it is easier to sit back and watch others answer their call. Could be that you answered a call awhile back and have decided that you have done your's up to someone else now. It's easy to think that way...I did it immediately following our successful ascent of Everest.

However I am not willing to sit back and watch. It is important to remember that we are faced with many calls...perhaps even daily. Everyday I choose to actively parent my son is a "mini call to action". I could elect to put him in front of the TV and check out. It's much easier to do so....however, being present and actively parenting requires more bandwidth and energy. You have to actively accept the call to be a good parent.

Then professionally for year I will lead the second round of Soldiers to the Summit where we will climb Cotopaxi in Ecuador. A soldier returning from battle is the epitome of a person returning from the Heroes Journey. I look forward to this adventure on many levels.

I will also look to help other folks answer their calls as we trek through Peru in July on our "Friends and Family" trip. And then again on my annual Kilimanjaro Grand Expedition in August.
Then of course the one most folks want to hear about...Erik and I are currently in development with an adventure show for next year loosely based on "The Call to Action" concept.

What is your Call to Action? Are you prepared to answer it? Are you ready to take on your adventure? Go get some!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2nd Place Never Felt So Good...

The night before the final stage of Expedition Impossible I remember still feeling a bit of a tingle from our come from behind victory on Episode 9. Racing to the finish to beat the Cops had both invigorated and inspired us but clearly it sapped a bit of energy from us as we poured everything we had into surviving that near defeat.
Now it was time to push that aside and focus on the all or nothing stage that was right in front of us...put up or shut up. The four remaining teams were in it to win it and there wasn't a slouch left in them. Even though we had cut Ike's pointless cast off, we still knew that we would be beat in a footrace and had to hope we could over take the other teams on water and perhaps the ever present cerebral challenge.

Our Final Four Last Supper was a wonderful "calm before the storm" event that we all sincerely enjoyed....both the honest fellowship that was felt as well as the ridiculously tasty Moroccan meal that was prepared for us were a welcome respite prior to the hurricane of competition that awaited us the following day. The best meal we had had in over a month left plenty of speechless moments as we slurped and gobbled the amazing locally prepared dishes.

The air that morning was thick with tension as we prepared our gear and our heads for the big day in front of us...even between us and the Gypsies. Everyone was tense. Not many words spoken. The production helicopter made at least a dozen passes over our camp which just added to the surreal energy of the scene. With camp sitting on the edge of a fairly massive lake, it was no mystery that we would be hitting the water pretty quick of the start. Once we lined up with Dave to get our "Never Give Up" speech, we hear that one team will get the boot "at some point during the day".
I could sense the overall group heart rate go up by several beats a minute. If possible, it got even more tense. I'm quite sure I glanced over at Akbar as he clenched his jaw with the look of an NFL lineman and you could almost hear him say, "I'm about to tear some shit up". Alright we go.

We got the go from Dave and down the hill we bounded...Team No Limits hobbling as best we could with a blind dude and a guy with a sprained ankle. Although we got in the boat dead last, we knew from spending the past month with them, our friends the Footballers were not going to perform well on the water.

Initially Ike took control of the oars of our Moroccan tin boat...however, after a few minutes of spinning and lack of smooth movement, I took over and started pounding the crappy little oars with all I had. Ike manned the back of the boat and provided micro adjustments and distance alerts as Erik sat behind me (in the front of the boat) and made sure I drank a ton of water and fed me energy gu packets every 1o minutes or so.
As I was hammering the oars with a frenetic pace, I remember thinking "This is the last day. I can dump everything I have into this. Save nothing", and I did exactly that. My teammates hollering words of encouragement over and over as we fought against the wind towards the next checkpoint on the far away river bank.

About an hour or so later we hit ground and started to move up the hill to the next check point. As I climbed out of the boat I realized my back was in full spasm from all the heavy rowing. For the first time in our month long odyssey, I was leaning on Ike and Erik as they assisted me up the hill while I was bent over in pain. We were a motley sight I'm sure....Ike limping on his ankle, Erik navigating blindly, and me...holding on to both of them as we struggled up the hill.
The only good thing to note here was the fact that the Footballers were not even in sight on the lake behind us. In fact they were so far back we were convinced they had run into some sort of problem with their boat.
No time to think about them...we had to move.

Our next challenge was to sift through a massive pile of gravel with a shovel to locate 2 different geodes. Now, I have built enough snow caves and igloos with Erik over the years to know that he can't shovel worth a shit. That being said, my back was in full lock down and Ike couldn't be expected to do all the shoveling himself, so we needed to empower Erik to at least throw some gravel around while Ike and I rested. The editing made it look like Erik just spewed his shovel fulls in chaotic fashion and although this is essentially the truth, he did get the hang of it at one point and provided several dozen effective shovels. Best blind shoveler the world has ever seen.

We found our amethyst geodes and motored off to the "horse corral" to secure our undoubtedly scary, stubborn and powerful Arabian Stallions. It was here that we were informed that once done with the horses at the next check point, the last team to arrive would be eliminated and it would be down to 3. With a healthy lead over the Footballers I reminded my team that we had to stay cool here and not get injured. A runaway horse or another horse throw and we would lose our lead and be hoppin in the red bird.

Ike lead us out with his horse experience...too fast at some points for the two non horse riding dudes of the group. He is so comfortable on horses. We were in full gallop for much of the 5 miles we had to cover on the horses. I enjoyed very little of this section. Horses kind of freak me out. Riding them at full gallop across sketchy terrain is very intense and I knew the whole race could be lost with one mistake. Fortunately we pulled into the horse finish in 3rd place and remained alive. The Footballers were out and it was down to three now for all the marbles.

Our Football friends were extraordinary athletes all of them. There were several occasions we thought we could just "burn them out" by running at full speed for miles straight. No such luck. You don't play American football at the highest level by being a sissy. Even though these guys, Rob, Ricky and Akbar had essentially zero experience in the wilds of the world, they performed like champions. I am proud to have raced beside them.

At the restart we had to sprint up a hill about 3/4 mile to the Explorers and drive for 22 miles to the edge of Marrakech. This was awesome...we got to rest for about an hour in the truck (all but Ike as he drove the SUV quickly in line with Fab and Gypsies in front). Once we arrived at our parking point, we came up on 9 camels ready for action. Awesome. Camels. Hate camels.

The 20 minute camel ride into the Djamaa El Fna - Square never made it to the final cut simply because there was no change in the order of the team standings. It was just a bunch of white folks bouncing on camels around the city streets of Marrakech. I was actually glad to see this segment didn't make the cut as I remember constantly groaning with each lope of the camel. It was uncomfortable as hell and we were essentially at the mercy of the camels throughout the ride. Hanging on and waiting for it to end.

And then it was....dismount the beasts and charge in to the chaos of the most famous market in all of northern Africa. After being in the mountains, rivers and dunes of Morocco for almost a month now, entering into the frenetic craziness of the market was a bit overwhelming and we all became rabid.

No Limits fell behind as the Gyps lead out with Fab close on their heels. We ran and we ran hard...ducking, bobbing and weaving through the throngs of merchants and tourists trying to step on as few people as possible. At one point I could see up ahead that Ike had caught up to the other two teams. At first I thought this was a good thing...we are still in it. But my adventure racing experience told me that "blindly" following teams in front without being confident in your own directions was a recipe for failure. At one point during the chase I looked for confirmation from a security guard that we were on the right path. Although there was a lot lost in language, he looked at my directions and clearly said in Arabic, "you don't want to go the way those other teams are going. You want to go this way" with a point of his finger. At that point I tried in vain to get Ike to come back sensing this was a turning point...who better to know the area and where we needed to go than a security guard. Ike was obsessed and unwilling to let go of the teams in front of him so we blazed ahead...following the teams in front unclear of our own directions. It all became clear a few minutes later when I approached Gypsy John and he confirmed that we had in fact not reached a previous checkpoint and were missing a critical map.

In retrospect, it's easy to question my actions as I sit comfortably in front of my computer and remember that crazy day. Ike was laser focused and I didn't process clearly enough the need to stop us from our blind chase and recalibrate. I know now that if we had gone back the way the security guard said, we would have found that map and been heading towards the last challenge potentially 15 minutes faster and most likely changed the final finishing order.

But in the heat of it all we kept firing. Once I got us back on track and had the map in my hand, I continued to ask directions as time ticked by unaware of the position of the other teams. It finally occurred to me to ask the demographic that knew those streets better than anyone...the kids. Magically enough, a cute little girl in an orange shirt quickly identified the specific door frame pattern and began leading us through the maze of streets, alleys and dead ends. It was all coming together and we were running hard to find our last challenge.

Through the designated door, onto the roof and a look down on to the garden area below proved that the only team to have arrived were our Gypsy bros. No sign of Fab 3. We were in second and they weren't that far in front. I strained to look at what it was they were working on and I finally got a glimpse...a traditional Moroccan Puzzle Box. Haaa!

Just before departing for Morocco I had googled "Moroccan puzzles" and guess what came up on youtube? A video showing how to open the box. Ike and I watched it a few times....guessing that we would most likely be confronted with one at some point on the journey. Little did we know it would be the final challenge of the entire Expedition.

The 3 of us blasted down the steps below and came up to the surface with our nice little puzzle box, ready to put our skills to work. Since we weren't allowed to start opening the box until we surfaced back on the patio level I watched with a sense of disappointment and pride as my young pals unlocked their box, retrieved the key inside and began moving their ladder over to the other wall to win first place as the sun was setting.

Ike and I finally solved the puzzle right around the same time we heard the massive cheer go up on the other side of the wall from us. They had won it. The Gypsies had one the inaugural year of Expedition Impossible. I was so happy for them. They had dominated the adventure, winning every stage but one. They deserved to win. Strong. Smart. Kind. Intuitive. I think they represent the spirit of this journey so well.

We crossed the line in proud fashion. Happy for our friends and proud of our effort. Folks had counted us out from the beginning and we surely had to deal with a fairly tough set of additional challenges that no other team had to even consider. We just kept charging... staying focused and determined. Supporting each other and believing that if we put good energy out there it would circle back and lift us up when things got dark.

The most amazing part of this experience has absolutely been the wonderful feedback the 3 of us have received via Facebook, Twitter and email. Countless (and I mean thousands) of notes from folks about how our efforts on the show have inspired them to be better, stronger and more excited to embrace challenge. The parents that have told us that they have been able to have very meaningful conversations with their children about surrounding themselves with friends that will never let them down...those are powerful.

It's not over folks. We are in development right now with some very creative and influential folks that want to showcase us taking on challenges and adventures around the world for a new show next year. Stay tuned and thanks for your support.
Be Strong. Work Together. And Never Give Up!!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No Limits T Shirts

Here they are...No Limits T shirts. Proceeds go to our Project MountainVision Foundation which assists with our community service projects on each of the MVX adventures.
we expect to be shipping at the beginning of next week.
In the meantime, see you on Thursday for the Finale.
Never Give Up!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

And Then There Were 4....

And No Limits is one of them!

As much as Erik, Ike and I wanted to provide an exciting finish for Episode 9, we didn't expect it to be quite the nail biter that it all out sprint to the finish line against the Cops.

Episode 9 began the following day after our dramatic finish to oust the Cali Girls at the conclusion of Episode 8. So our excitement and sense of disbelief in how it all went down left us a bit drained, I believe. That being said, we were still committed to give it our all in Episode 9 and finish like men.

Paddling for hours in fast, large rapids was a ton of fun for us as well as ground we didn't have to run/hike on Ike's sprained ankle. We made up some time on the Footballers and found ourselves heading up the hill to the first challenge in 3rd place behind the Gyps and the Fabulous Crew. At this point it was clear to everyone on board that there was a split in the camp based on general disposition and approach towards the entire adventure experience. The Footballers and Fabulous Crew were cuddling up with each other and then of course we were very tight with our Gypsy bros. This was the way we broke down at the end of each day at camp as well as how the "hook a brother up" moments were distributed. We saw this illustrated clearly during the challenge that took place at the top of the hill with the word decoder. The Fab Crew straight up told the Footballers the answer (banks) and Taylor from the Gyps gave me a huge hint (where do you put your $). So...even though we weren't in to the "alliance" aspect of the game, it was taking place organically simply because we truly respected and enjoyed spending time with the Gyps...slightly less with Football and honestly, not at all with the Fabulous Crew. That being said, I did respect them for the job they were doing out on the course and actually mentioned this in my best Fab imitation on this episode. Some thought it was funny. Some not. I don't care either way.

Once we hit land...just as in Episode 8, No Limits was not willing to concede, however we were hobbled by Ike's ankle sprain and knew that it was going to take another colossal mistake from one of the other teams to keep us in it and our will to charge hard at all cost was not reasonable to ask of Ike. We watched again as all the teams passed us and we accepted our fate as best we could.

Then comes the caves and tunnels. Super fun and very Indian Jonesish. While scrounging around in the cave in search for one of the last remaining pottery jars, I watched as Rob from the Cops scooped the appropriate pot and jetted past me on his way to seal up the last remaining spot for the Final 4.

It was what it was though...

I continued my search, found the last pot and rallied my team out of the cave, across the water and overland towards the finish and probable showers and beers that night.

As we were loping towards the finish line I caught a glimpse of the strangest thing...the Cops, coming back towards us. Unexplainable. They should have crossed the finish line by now. They had at least a 15 minute lead on us. Why would they be coming back the other way...away from the finish. Well...something strange was taking place and I was going to gather my team and high tail it to the finish. See what happens.

As we picked up our pace we noticed the Cops were right on our asses...running as hard as they could. Which in turn made us fall into a full on sprint (as much as a blind dude and a guy with a cast on can possible sprint). Ike was like Forest Gump charging towards the line...bumbling along with his cast splitting into pieces as he ran.

Our finish in 4th that afternoon was one of the top 5 most exciting moments of my life. Pure joy and satisfaction...rolled in to a Jeffery victory dance inclusive of GPS spike on to the ground (much to the chagrin of the production staff at the loss of their $400 piece of equipment that I used like a football). It was intense and I have received countless emails, messages and tweets about how cool it was to watch a grown man do a celebration dance on national TV. My happiness was uncontrollable. We had done it again...pulled off the unlikeliest of all "victories" and were moving on to the Final 4.

And now we have come down to the final episode. An odyssey that began months ago has now come full circle. We will battle it out this Thursday with the remaining 3 teams to see who will take the prize.
So here comes the exciting part...
We will be hosting a Finale extravaganza with our Gypsy brothers here in Boulder to celebrate both teams making it to the finale. We could think of no other way to spend this exciting night than with 500 of our closest friends, family and Gypsy Bros. Executive Producer Lisa Hennessy will be joining us. Multiple bands, lots of beer, food, silent auction items and 6 dudes telling all sorts of EI stories...most of them true. And the best part about all of this...ALL proceeds go to our Soldiers To The Summit project as well as the Gypsies non profit of choice, Feed the Children. We are fired up to funnel all of this finale energy into efforts that are bigger than us as individuals and perpetuate the goodness that has brought us to this point in the adventure.
Please find all the info necessary to purchase tickets on our Finale Party link or if you are unable to come, simply make a donation.

Thanks for all of your support over our journey this summer. It has been such a hoot to watch it play out with all of you.
This will be one for the ages. I can't wait to see what happens!!!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Never GIve Up...

I guess we all hear that growing up...

“Come on Son...Don’t give up....Keep pushing.”

And I have clearly had to use this phrase as a mantra MANY, MANY times during some of my more miserable and lengthy climbs over the years.

But never has that phrase ever played out so clearly than during last night’s Episode 8.

The last episode had us in the hospital dealing with Ike’s sprained ankle and receiving the news that they were going to require that he be placed in a cast for the rest of the race. I assumed this would be a death blow for our chances to continue as there would be no way we could keep up the established frenetic pace of the remaining 6 teams. But hey, we would at least go out proud and holding our heads high with the way we performed.

Then we got the gear list for the first day of the stage and on it was pfds...this meant that we would encounter water at some point during the day...which translated to time OFF of Ike’s ankle. Our host/pal Dave Salmoni took me to the side and said “Listen, this stage will suit you. Don’t give up. Trust me on this...just hammer at it and you can stay alive”. Good advice Dave. We took it to heart.

After a very cool rappel down the ancient walls of a weathered kasbah, we hobbled down to the shore of Lake Bin el Ouidane where we saw the inflatable rafts and I immediately realized that this would be our daily salvation....water = ankle rest.

By the way...2 dudes (one of them blind) in a ‘duckie’ is not easy to paddle in a straight line. Even though it looked the Football Players where the only ones spinning in circles, in fact all of the 2 person ‘duckies’ were struggling to hold a straight line.

About an hour later we arrived at the island and found the fixings to build this supposed catamaran. I love Akbars comment “First....what IS a catamaran?” Seriously. I have done a lot of adventurous things in my day, but sailing is not one of them. And to really emphasize that point, all of the directions where written in sailing terms...”Booms”, Jibs”, “Masts”, etc. Huh?

I just looked at the pictures and Ike, Erik and I seemed to get it together pretty quickly.

Our maiden voyage was not pretty...our sitting configuration was awkward and inefficient. And I distinctly remember Ike having a HUGE rip down the back of his shorts so that his ass cheek was right in my face. I immediately suggested we make a strategy change. Erik moved to the left and paddled. Ike moved to the right and manned the sail. I moved to the back and used the paddle as a prop. This made all the difference in the world. We actually started sailing. Pretty cool. Another bonus...I didn’t have to look at Ike’s ass cheek anymore.

Approaching the next island a couple miles away we were neck and neck with the Cops, as the Gypsies uncharacteristically drifted off in the wrong direction. Rob, Danni and Jim from the Cops were straight up gamers. Even though this was just an overnight camp we all wanted that win somethin fierce. They would not be denied.

Both teams hit the beach simultaneously and the race up the bank was on. Ike took off. Erik grabbed my pack and we ran. I looked to my left in time to see Rob trip and stumble sprinting up the hill and suddenly the absurdity of this scene struck me and I started laughing hysterically in the midst of a heated race. We were all going for it with all we up a scrabbly hill to win a mere 3 minute head start the next day. Now in reality we all know it had nothing to do with that puny lead out the following morning. It was all about being a hard charging winner... putting everything out there in the spirit of competition. As we pulled in and Danni drew very close to Erik and I, I’m embarrassed to say I actually elbowed her right in the nose. Uncalled dirty redneck! Sorry Danni. She graciously accepted my apologies, understanding that in the heat of battle...shit goes down. Plus, she is a tough as nails Boston cop. That helps.

So there it was...we won a “stage”...albeit an overnight camp stage. We were psyched. Blind dude....busted ankle with a cast on...and we come in 1st. Awesome!

Off camera....that night we experienced a fairly significant storm filled with high winds (around 70mph) and violent lightening. It lasted for a solid hour and there was actually talk of evacuating us off the island...which seemed a bit over the top. But just as quickly as it started, the storm passed. Many of the teams had not constructed their Berber tents in a bomb proof fashion that afternoon and the wind toppled them down like toothpicks...with our sweet Cali Girls being one of the homeless groups. We offered them some tent space and they took us up on it. Was nice having someone other than stinky dudes in our tent for once. They are a class act those gals...each one of them. All destined for greatness.

The next day’s stage proved to be a hard one to swallow as we watched the excitement from the previous days win get washed away within 20 mins of the starting line. Every team passed us with ease as we were limited to Ike’s hobbled cast. Although we were not “giving up”, we knew that we would be unable to keep up with the pace that we watched fly by us. Erik and I tried to comfort Ike in the fact that later that day we would be drinkin beers and showering our stinky bodies. Ike would have nothing of it. “we are not giving up”, he kept saying....surrounded by hours of silence. It left Erik and I to listen, feel and taste the hills of Morocco like we had not yet experienced up to that point. Everything slowed down for the first time. It was beautiful and bitter sweet at the same time.

Hours later as we were rounding a corner towards what we knew would be close to the finish line we walked right next to the lake. I remember Erik saying, “Hey, since we’ve lost, why don’t we take a dip and just enjoy this last hour”. I replied, “let’s just round this corner and see if there is anyone at the challenge area”. Sure enough we rounded the corner and there were 3 pink figures in the far distance. Holy shit are you kidding! How could that be? They had to have been there for over an hour. Well surely they will figure it out any minute and be on their way. Let’s go have a look.

Once we arrived at the challenge point we read over the instructions and they just made sense to me...unlike the Moroccan rope lock...unlike counting the cobras. I just got this one. Give me a map and a compass and I am generally gonna be OK.

Much to the chagrin of our recent tent mates, we rolled in and just nailed it...ran up the hill and came in 5th for the day to send them home.


It was ridiculously exciting for Erik and I to watch the finish last night with our friends here in Boulder. We were there and knew what happened, but I couldn’t sit down, it was so tense.

We know the idea of Never Give Up is something that should exist in all of us. We know that you are never really out of it if you just give yourself a chance. Well....last night proved that to me in a way that I never thought possible.

Friday, August 5, 2011

This Is Loyalty

Episode 7 was a tough one to watch.

I knew this was where we would see Ike go down and I remember the anxiety we all had for him as, in spite of his injury, we continued to put dozens of rugged miles behind us....potentially exacerbating a previous injury and causing Ike life long repercussions.

It started out simple to the other side of the Kasbah (foreshadowing!) and locate a symbol “hidden in plain view” somewhere in the chaotic yet beautiful city landscape. After about 10 minutes of looking around with the binoculars I finally catch a glimpse of it on the side of an ancient looking stone structure and we are off to the trucks and down into the hustle and bustle of the city.

Arriving at the souk (Arabic for market) we hop out and begin to navigate through the sweet sounds and smells of an enchanting Moroccan flea market...the kind of place I would have loved to have spent a morning strolling and perusing. Instead we are at a half trot, trying hard not to bang into the Moroccans and their wares. This was one of the many times during the Expedition where I desperately wish we could have just called a “time out”. Let’s all just put the race on hold for an hour and enjoy this magical place....see it... smell it....taste it. Although we had been charging through the dynamic northern African countryside for weeks at this point, we had not had much of an opportunity to really “feel” Moroccan culture from the inside and I know from many years of travel to far away places that a flea market...a place of trade and barter... is exactly the kind of place where you can see how a culture truly engages with itself.

But alas...this is a competition and we have to keep the pace at a high level if we expect to stay alive. So we weave and bob...cutting around piles of herbs and antique metal features trying to be as respectful as a bunch of Americans charging through a market can possibly be.

“Sorry....excuse me...whoops...Shukran (Arabic for thank you)”.

I have to say, it’s not exactly easy to guide Erik through such chaos without occasionally bumping or stepping on something or someone. Throughout the market jog we were met with a variety of smiles, looks of curiosity as well as a few Moroccan phrases which were clearly along the lines of “Quit stepping on my shit!”

Check point cleared, one-way “airline” ticket secured and we were back through it again and over to the waiting Explorers... and here is where the game a big way.

As I got in the backseat of the SUV I saw Ike disappear from view as he was getting in the passenger side door and I thought nothing of it. Once we rolled out I could see that Ike was grimacing and clearly in pain. We had been charging through countless miles of super rocky and bumbly terrain for weeks now...where an ankle or knee injury was a high possibility as evidenced by Gypsy John’s twister 2 episodes ago as well as several others. But in the most unlikeliest of places, Ike rolls his ankle getting into the car. And it’s the same ankle that he fractured while serving in Afghanistan a few years previous. Well....this sucks. Ike’s a tough guy and he seemed to be in a lot of pain. Erik and I probed Ike with questions and I took a look with the eyes of an ER physician assistant and it sure didn’t look good. He seemed to have laxity in the joint with lots of swelling and tenderness throughout. Game changer.

The timing was good however as the next challenge was to put me up in an airplane and get saddled up to my good friend Rashid and spill out the door and fall to the ground. Ike had about an hour to rest and be evaluated by the medical staff.

Time out....

one of my favorite lines of the show so far, “I’m skydiving in Morocco. Sick!!”

Back to Ike... once I’m on the ground I am informed by the medical staff (who are all quite aware of my Emergency Medicine experience) that his ankle stability is questionable and he will need to be pulled from the race to obtain an Xray. I have recently discovered that Executive Producer Lisa Hennessy trumped the med staff decision and allowed Ike to make the call himself.

At this point we all know what kind of man Ike is. He is a man that has structured his professional life around “doing it all for his team”. This is the kind of guy that you want on your team. He will not let you down. He has served in combat zones that would make a brave man retreat in a hole. He has committed himself to always being there for the men and women around him. He surely wasn’t going to let some ankle injury keep him from staying up with his boys. At one point I’m quoted “You would have to literally cut Ike’s leg off to stop this guy”. Once Lisa gave him the go (thanks Lisa!), there was no question we were gonna fire and see how it played out.

Miles of rocky terrain, cliff faces and one perplexing challenge later (another Kasbah), we rolled into camp in 2nd place. Amazing effort on Ike’s part. Erik became the 2nd most inspiring person on Team No Limits that day. I was surrounded by 2 men that are as tough as they come. A true honor. Ike is the perfect embodiment of a soldier...brave, committed and tough as nails. We are lucky to have men like him protecting our country.

We all stood nervously near the finish line waiting to see who was going to by taking the flight out that afternoon. I’m not gonna lie to you, I was so hoping to see my Country Boys round that corner. All 3 of these men are stand up, strong, considerate southern gentlemen that I will call friends for the rest of my life. Good ole boys that are a great example of considerate, mature and genuine young men. I was very sad to see them go. That being said...there will be other Country Boys appearances in the world of MountainVision at some point in the future.

Next week will push us beyond what we thought was possible. We are hanging on for dear life at this point. Join us for the rest of the journey.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Now That's Trust

Imagine this scenario...
You are blind. And I mean lights out blind. Not visually impaired. Not, "I can see some shades of light, maybe a few shapes". are dark as night blind.

You are told that it's time to jump off a cliff into some water below. Initially you are unclear as to how far the jump is. Maybe it's 10 ft...perhaps 20 at the most. No big deal. Kind of like a high dive at the pool. You've done that before. You can do this.

Then your buddy tells you to follow him to the edge of said cliff. You can hear the raging water below. It sounds like it's REALLY far down there. Like REALLY far down. You can feel space all around you...below you. Your buddy scoots up to the edge of the rock to take a peek down and spurts out a "Well alrighty's like a 40 footer...but it's cool, its cool."
"It's no problem dude. You will do this. You will do this. Chances are good you're gonna live through this."

Any rational person would say "you are absolutely out of your mind". I mean come on... I can't see where I'm going to land. I might flip over and land on my back or head. 40 ft is a LOOONG way down. A lot can go wrong in 40 ft. No way man.

Well I suppose Erik IS a bit irrational. He's also got balls of steel and trusts his bro unconditionally.

I have been guiding Erik on mountains and rock faces all over the world for close to 20 years. Together, we have navigated what many folks would consider some of the most challenging and deadly terrain on the planet...much of it requiring VERY precise communication, a profound level of trust and a willingness to execute with everything we've got.

You scootch over to the edge. Stand up. Hold your buddy's hand and count it down...3. 2. 1. Launch!
Commercial break.

This was a great episode of Expedition Impossible...lots of drama, excitement and fun challenges. The production staff did a great job putting this all together (shout out to you Shooter). You can imagine the complexity of putting together such a huge operation. Quite impressive.

After the jump we moved on to a very cool zip line and straight into a very sneaky challenge where attention to detail was mandatory. Ike took this challenge on and as he headed off to retrieve the key I hollered out to him a specific detail about our symbol. Turns was a critical piece of the puzzle. Ike nailed it and we were off to the 4th class rapids.

Going in to the rapids was the only time during the entire adventure that I was actually a bit nervous. The water safety guys had come to me prior to the put in and stressed very clearly that there were MANY opportunities for folks to get hurt on the upcoming stretch of water...and more specifically, Erik could get in big trouble here. I would need to be razor sharp. I wasn't worried about me being able to navigate the water....however I was genuinely concerned whether I would be able to get Erik through it cleanly. Well...our descent wasn't particularly pretty...Erik did take a few swims...but we made it down. And we passed a few teams along the way and came in 3rd for the stage. Not bad for such a challenging stretch of racing.

As we came across the finish line, Erik's voice was still trembling with adrenaline. I had lost my voice from hollering out commands on the river for hours. Dave says that Erik is a real life action hero...and right on cue I put out a "yep...he's Superblind". Straight up.

Previews for next week show someone sustaining a significant ankle injury...speculation that it's broken. Ladies and my man Ike. He's a stud and you are about to get to know him. It's getting real now.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Shedding A Tear For All To See

When I agreed to do Expedition Impossible with Erik I knew I was going to be exposing myself on national TV for better or for worse. I knew that the "redneck" that hides inside of me would surely make an appearance along the way (and it has). I also knew that my foul mouth would probably surface at some point as well (and it has).
What I didn't expect or count on was having a good solid cryfest in front of millions of people. But just to keep my pride in check, there it was... Jeff, Erik and Ike all crying like a bunch of housewives watching Oprah together.

I had been dreading this episode ever since we returned from Morocco as I knew that showing 3 tough, mountain climbing, salty guys unabashedly sobbing with the cameras rolling would make for TV gold. That being said, if I'm going to cry about anything it will only be over my beloved son, Jace. Crying over fatigue, frustration or illness is for folks that haven't spent 20 years suffering in mountain ranges all over the world...not me. But when it comes to being a father... I am a helpless little puppy and capable of welling up at the slightest thought of Jace.

So when we heard there was going to be a "reward" for the team that came 1st into the overnight camp we all knew it was going to be some sort of contact with our families and that was enough of a catalyst for No Limits to push even harder to get a chance to speak to our loved ones. At the start line I told Erik I was going to push him harder than I had up to that point and in typical Erik style, he agreed with me completely and was game to charge hard. Little did we know that the days terrain would be the absolute worst possible bit of course that could have been laid in front of us. Countless miles of rocky, bumbly riverbeds punctuated by a few more miles of rocky, bumbly riverbeds. I can get Erik across essentially any stretch of ground on the planet...but when it comes to long sections of ankle to waist high rocks...we just can't move that fast. It was what it was.

Now why did we leave the fish fossil behind and not bring it with us to trade for the fish? Because the instructions did not clearly say to do so. I was reading each of those instructions in a very literal interpretation. Only good thing that came out of that whole screw up was my consideration of just "grabbin a fish and start runnin...but that was the redneck in me". Classy.

The fact that our boys the Gypsies gifted us the reward was an absolute huge move. At the halfway point in the Expedition, we had already spent 2 weeks together suffering separately during the day and then rehashing it at camp every night. We were feeling close to several of the teams (although not all)...but primarily we were developing a strong affinity for the young Gypsy dudes as we saw a bit of ourselves in them and knew that their hearts where in the right place with regards to this crazy adventure. They weren't reality TV mongers. They weren't whining or complaining. They were just out there having fun and getting it done. We liked their style. And by giving us the chance to talk to our families it just cemented their character and as a result we will always be fans of John Post, Erik Bach and Taylor Filasky. Good guys.

Another touching moment that deserves comment is my man Akbar throwing all sorts of high praise over to Erik regarding his athleticism. Ak has played football at the highest level with some of the most extraordinary athletes in the world, so for him to say that Erik is superior to all of them is just a remarkably inspiring thing to hear. Another class act, Akbar Gbaja-Biamila.

Sorry to see our friends the Firemen go home. When you look up "real American dude" in the dictionary...these are the guys you find. They have a service approach mentality. They care for people... which was illustrated in the help they provided the Cali girls in last weeks episode. And beyond that...they are just straight up funny guys with a razor sharp, Yankee style of humor that had me belly laughing on many a Moroccan sunset. I will drink beers with them at their firehouse at some point in the future.

We are halfway now with this thing. Only 8 teams remain. Next week we will be paddling some real rapids. The last paddle section was tame...somewhat boring. Next week is real. Class 4...hard...scary. The only time over the entire expedition that I was nervous was just prior to putting in...about to guide Erik down this river section. Should be fun to watch.

Friday, July 15, 2011

If You Aint First, You're Last...

Well...clearly the past week has been full of texts, emails and calls from friends saying some iteration of "If you guys don't win this mountain stage, I'm done watching." Expedition Impossible Episode 4 took us into the Atlas Mountains of Morocco...obviously the terrain that everyone expects us to dominate. We gave it everything we had...and 2nd was as good as we could do behind those little Gypsie jackrabbits.

Erik, Ike and I knew we would be expected to do well on this stage. In fact, essentially every team approached me asking "which way are you going to take up that mountain?" and "what layers are you gonna wear for the day". Clearly the other teams knew our experience in the mountains and although it was a competition, I was happy to give them honest and sincere recommendations. Seeing folks succeed makes me happy...however in the case of this race...I just want them to find success after we do.

A strange thing occurred in the course of this race...we got very close to each of these teams. The further we got in the competition, the more mutual respect we developed for each other.
Especially our Gypsy Bros...

My favorite line of the episode is when Gypsy Eric tells me "Jeff, if you get a key on the first try, I'm gonna punch you in the face" response, "well then, you better knock me out on that first punch". The rest of that line that didn't make the edit is always, "cause I'm gonna come up swingin for the fences". At least a bit of the No Limits/Gypsies banter is making it in the finished cut. It's clear that there was a lot of love between our two teams. We genuinely like these guys and although we are in full on competition mode with them throughout...there was a lot of help and nurturing along the way. We are currently in the process of combining team forces to create some really worthwhile future projects.
That being said...I'm very competitive, so I was fairly pissed with a 2nd place finish on the mountain stage. You heard it from Erik as he's interviewed by Dave at the finish line, "We wanted first, but I guess we'll take 2nd". We were wanting better.
Next week's episode is titled "A Blind Man's Nightmare"....hmmm. Sounds tough.