Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Colorado High Ground Screening

When High Ground had it’s world premier in Boulder, Colorado this spring, tickets sold out right away–and the film was voted People’s Choice award at the Film Festival! Since then, there have not been any public showings of this incredible movie in Colorado.
On November 2nd, Coloradans will have another chance to watch High Ground at a very special event at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden. The night will start with famed author Jon Krakauer introducing the film. Afterwards, John Meyer of the Denver Post will moderate a Q&A session with filmmaker Michael Brown, myself, and other members of the S2S Lobuche expedition.
This event is a fundraiser for Soldiers To Summits. Tickets cost $20 and may be purchased at Bentgate Mountaineering in Golden or online. Please help spread the word.
See you there!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Taking The “No More Adversity” Pill

Just wrapping up our 2nd weekend of training with our new Soldiers to Summits crew and as expected, I walk away with a profound sense of admiration and a great deal of respect for this year’s group of men and women. I can quickly tell that, even more than with our inaugural 2010 group, this assortment of soldiers and marines has reminded me that although I am the guide… one of the supposed experts in our endeavor…  I am truly the one that is learning and expanding through my participation in this project. Each of them has dealt with a tremendous amount of adversity and is attempting to stand back up in both the physical and emotional sense.  As I have engaged with them throughout both of our training weekends I am reminded how resilience lives and breathes in these dynamic and thought provoking individuals.

This round of training was primarily geared toward the physical and technical training that will be required to ascend our ultimate goal this December of the 18,000 ft volcano, Cotopaxi in Ecuador.  Two full days were spent up in the cold at the base of St Mary’s Glacier (approximately 11,000 ft) both dialing in crampon and ice axe work as well as collectively scaling a nearby 13,800 ft peak.  The cold and altitude were a constant reminder for the team, that we are preparing for a mission that will require each of them to dig down for an objective that is, at times, somewhat uncomfortable. And although none of them have any experience in the realms of climbing and high altitude, they each know that anything worth doing is going to require some suffering along the way.

One of our discussions on Day 2 revolved around adversity. This has always been one of the most compelling themes that I reference in all of my keynotes and teachings. I have learned much about how I personally deal with adversity in the 20 years that I’ve been guiding my blind buddy Erik on mountains, rock faces and adventure races around the world. Together we have been kicked around on multiple occasions…consistently being required to find ways of dealing with ass whoopings. Erik has always been a beacon of how to use adversity as fuel…turning a clear, life-numbing event into a catalyst for success. I have learned much from him on how to be an “alchemist” with turning challenging objectives into summits of success.

Our facilitator that day posed to the group a hypothetical question as he was wrapping up the topic of adversity. He asked each member of the group whether they would, if given the chance, ingest a pill that would guarantee a life void of adversity. Take the pill and you will never again feel pain or inconvenience.  No more red lights, hairs in your pasta or flat tires. No more cancer, trauma or mortgage defaults.

On the outset it seems a no brainer…who wouldn’t want to walk through life never having to deal with the daily bullshit that we all encounter.  You would be squeaky clean…permanent vacation. Easy Street.

Now clearly this exercise is to prompt the participant to delve into the fact that adversity is a good thing.  After some contemplative thinking and group discussion, one would say, “No, I wouldn’t take that pill. I need adversity in my life to make me strong.” We are prompted to conclude that without some hardcore adversities along our paths we would become complacent and listless.  

I’m confident that up to that point in his career, our facilitator had received this same answer in all occasions up to now…until he ran into this group.

The first person to speak up against the accepted paradigm was an amazing young man named Kevin. We all listened to him lay out exactly why he would choose to take the pill. He clearly and succinctly explained how he had experienced enough adversity in his short life and how, if given the chance, he would swallow that pill down in a second and apologize for being late.  “I don’t need anymore adversity to get strong. I’ve been through enough and I’m good with sailing on the rest of the way without pain and sorrow.”

A few more folks spoke up in this same fashion and those that didn’t say so in the big group setting volunteered the same response to me later in the weekend. It was unanimous amongst the group that the “No Adversity Pill” would be a big hit amongst this crew.

What I concluded that day was that in some cases, enough is enough.  We can all agree that the adversities in our lives help to weave our thread count into the characters we are. How we handle the daily grind challenges as well as the life changing, monumental throw-downs is what defines us as individuals. But perhaps there is a point where we have experienced plenty of hardships to provide us the fuel we need to combat complacency. I doubt there is a limit on what we can take…but perhaps there is a limit on what we need to be great.

On our final night, we sat around a campfire and swapped some of our favorite quotes.  All of them were meaningful and thought provoking, however one stood out to me and I’m still blown away by its timeliness and relevance. John Masters is one of our 2012 S2S class and his Teddy Roosevelt quote is the embodiment of our mission with S2S from the beginning.

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

I am fired up about our upcoming adventure to Ecuador with these outstanding men and women. And although I know we will encounter some adversity along the way, I’m confident this group will handle anything that comes there way like the true heroes that they are.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sometimes The Wrong Route Turns Out To Be The Right Route

My new friends at 19,340 ft

It’s been a couple weeks now since I came down from my 12th ascent of Kilimanjaro…literally and figuratively.

You’d think after a dozen trips up the same hill one might not have much original to report on.  Well… the mountains remind me again that we are merely passengers on the kinetic train that is the alpine landscape and we should never forget to listen to the lessons they provide.

This trip started like any other as my 17 new friends (clients) and I arrived without much ado into Arusha, Tanzania. I always love the excitement amongst the group just prior to jumping into a new and challenging adventure.  Over the course of a few meals, team meetings and gear check the anticipation builds until we are finally on the trail.

The first three days moving up the flanks of this magnificent volcano were smooth and easy…like the other side of the pillow. Everyone finding his or her groove and pace. I’m still amazed at how this mountain invites you to experience her moods and stages of emotion. One moment you are swaddled in dense cloud layer down in the jungle and the next moment the clouds break and you are treated with a panoramic vista of deep valleys and rugged ridgelines. And then the summit shows its face…tempting, almost palpable…but yet, still a lifetime away.

I had built in a rest-day on Day 3 of our journey on the immense and beautiful Shira Plateau at around 12,000 ft. This would be a nice location for the crew to relax and give their bodies an extra day to acclimatize to the ever-burgeoning altitude.  In the world of mountaineering, a “rest-day” is actually a misnomer. Laying flat on your back during a scheduled rest-day is counter productive. The idea is to get up, walk, take photos, get you’re blood flowing.

After a pleasant walk over to a smaller satellite camp our expedition team was treated with one of the most meaningful events I have ever experienced in my years on the flanks of mountains. Two of our team members, Robin and George had decided that they wished to express their commitment of love to each other by exchanging vows on Kilimanjaro while in the midst of their grand climbing adventure.

And guess who they asked to perform the service?

I have done a lot of things in my life…acting as a “stand in preacher”…now that was a new one. I was honored and humbled to be asked to be such a big part of this special event, so of course I said yes. Now I just had to figure out what to say…
I decided to stick with what I know…teamwork, allies, seeking out your bliss and dealing with adversity.

It was a beautiful ceremony complete with champagne (non alcoholic of course…better for acclimatization!), a personalized cake and best of all…lots of singing and dancing with our African staff of sixty.  Everyone on the team participated and added their personalized wish to the new couple (who by the way had been a couple for 13 years…but had waited until the “right” moment to seal their love with a ceremony).

“By the powers vested in me…by the majesty and brilliance of Mt Kilimanjaro…I now pronounce you…”

The next couple days we slowly cruised up the mountain to higher elevations…getting in position for our ultimate summit push from Arrow Glacier Camp at around 16,000 ft.

Prior to embarking on this particular trip I had explained to the newly minted clients that we would be attempting a route on Kili that is undoubtedly a bit harder on summit night than any of the “standard” routes. The Western Breach provides a more direct access to the crater rim at around 18,000 ft. By ascending this more direct route, one is required to do a few “scrambly” moves up several chest high rocks. I had done this route 4 times in the past and consistently got great feedback from clients as they descended the “normal route” that they were so glad we had chosen the steeper, more involved summit route.

The Breach had been closed down in recent years following a tragic rock fall incident that occurred down low on the route, which killed and injured several climbers. All reports were that this particular group was traveling in the most dangerous of areas in the heat of the day, which put them in a marginal situation. Years later it became clear that groups traveling through the fallout zone in the cold of the night would be “relatively” safe from rock fall. I decided it was time to start taking groups back up the Breach.

As we were getting settled into our high camp at around 16,000 ft, it was brought to my attention that there would be a German team ascending the Breach the same night we were.


Should point out that only a couple dozen groups attempt the Breach every year since the rock fall incident. OF COURSE a group of Germs were headed up the same night we were. I so desperately wanted to holler out across the camps something about Normandy and kickin ass…but I thought the better of it.

More in the role of the consummate guide, I headed over to chat with the team leader for the Germs…who happened to be Tanzanian. We discussed the need to keep a solid distance between us as the potential for rock fall was noteworthy and dangerous. He agreed to have his team leave at midnight and we would leave at 1am. What I would realize 24 hours later was this Tanzanian guides’ curious omission that they were actually attempting a much more technical variation of the Breach…one that would be made much safer with items such as crampons, harness, ropes and helmets. Seems logical that it might have occurred to my new Tanzanian friend that we would actually not be close to each other due to our route variations and we could depart camp anytime either one of us wished. Well…that information wasn’t shared, so I retreated back to my camp confident in the distances we would maintain throughout the night and therefore a solid safety buffer.

One of the first things I noticed as my alarm went off around midnight was how ridiculously warm the ambient temperature was. Couldn’t have been lower than 40* F. Crazy warm. Balmy, if you will. On summit night my mood always changes from jovial and perhaps even likable, to downright militant and sharp. Things get a lot more serious on any mountain for summit night. It’s game on. I feel it and want my clients to know that chinstraps need to be buckled and I expect focus.

Prior to our departure I had established “teams within the team of 17”. Groups of 2 and 3 would be cruising together on summit night to ensure a buddy system for both safety and cheerleading effect. I then separated my staff of African guides within the small groups to provide some local support throughout the night. I placed my second-in-charge African guide Dustin out front. I have done at least 10 Kili expeditions with Dustin and trust him immensely with my people. He is solid for sure. I knew that he would set a good pace and provide front-of-the-line confidence for the folks as the night slogged on and folks got tired. I kept my head guide Godlisten towards the back with me as a “floater” should someone need additional assistance during the night.

I watched as the German team cruised by silently at 12:20am… they build some pretty awesome fast cars, but punctuality…not so much.

An hour later, we headed out from camp with Dustin out front… the German’s headlamps flickering well ahead on the upper flanks of the Breach.  Dustin headed us up the same path that the headlamps had taken. Far left of my previous approaches to gain the Breach…but I thought nothing of it.

Two hours into it and all was going well. The air remained warm. The wind calm. My people had started out of camp a bit chatty and excited and now the expected quiet had taken over as everyone realized around the same time that this was going to be a very long night and they should conserve their energy.

Then I began to notice a bit of a traffic jam forming up in our group of 23. It seemed as though the solid pace my group was maintaining had come to a stop to navigate over some harder terrain. As I got closer I saw that folks were justifiably slowing to gingerly traverse across a fairly tilted snowfield.

Well, this was interesting. I’ve never encountered snow on the Breach. Guess it’s a variation in the trail to avoid that historically dangerous rock fall out zone.

As I got in position underneath the middle portion of my group to spot them as they made their traverse, I took a gander down the slope to see where we would end up should one of my pals take a slide right into me. We were looking at least a 70ft slide down into a rubbled up choss pile. The resulting carnage would not have been a pretty sight. Not good. I was concerned.

Well, OK. Get that out of the way and we will be clear and free. I thought to myself how strange it was that the new route would direct folks through such a potentially dangerous section. At our next group dog pile, I assured my peeps that it would be OK and that we were done with all that mess. Hydrate. Nutrition. Back up at it.

An hour later…an identical snow slope with a left to right traverse. Again. Same potential outcome.

We were off route and this was serious.

I huddled up with my African guide team and tried to figure out what was happening.  They agreed with me that we were not on the conventional Western Breach Route.

Now that we are in agreement…

Dustin then admitted to me that he had been following the Germans up to that point. It appears they were taking a different route and now we were up in it. No shit.

I did think about turning around. Then thought the wiser of it. Down climbing is significantly harder and more dangerous than ascending. Not an option. Up it is.

Over the course of the next 4 hours, my new friends charged hard like I’ve very rarely seen in the mountains. Most of these good folks had never experienced any terrain like this in their lives. They did not sign up for this terrain and yet here they were, being asked to traverse and scale sketchy, hard 2,000-year-old ice with life threatening consequences.

Not one of them froze. None of them complained. They got their asses kicked and they kept forging on. I was so ridiculously proud of each of them.

I could finally breath again once we arrived on the crater rim at 18,000 ft. No one had fallen. We had all arrived, albeit just a bit worn out. I had some tired folks on my hands but they were all alive and thrilled to be done with the most challenging section of earth any of them had ever encountered.

Another hour slog up a slope put us all on top of Uhuru Peak together…unified…as a team.  We hugged, laughed and cried on that summit… all of us knowing we had just shared something remarkable. It was my 12th time to stand there on that 19,340 ft summit but I have to say, it was the most remarkable. The pride and relief I felt were deep and fulfilling. I took in the images with my new friends and we began the 6,000 ft descent to our last camp.

We arrived to camp around 4pm (15 hours after we started), completely gassed, but over the moon excited about our experience.

That night at dinner, I owned what had happened. I explained in great detail how the night had gone down. I described exactly how each of them was put into such a challenging scenario. I told each of them how proud I was as the emotions surfaced up from me in front of the group. I felt a deep sense of appreciation for the character that was called from each of them. People stepped up in a way that neither they nor I could have probably ever imagined.

It is because of scenarios like this that I seek to take groups out into the mountains. We go on a journey together where the alpine world requires each of us to pull from something primal…perhaps go to a place that we have never been. This place is sometimes dark when you are in the middle of it…but more times than not it is replaced with light in the end. A realization that we as individuals can access physical and emotional strength from deep inside… from a place that perhaps we have never pulled from ever in our lives.

If you canvassed each of the folks that were on this trip if they would electively choose to do that same route again, I’m sure you’d receive a resounding “Hell no!”. But I’m guessing if you followed up that question with a “Would you have done it any different?” I’m confident each one of them would proudly say “Hell no!”

I found out later that day that the German team had with them the necessary gear to do the route…crampons, harnesses, etc.
Ultimately, as a leader…this one is on me.  A leader has to own his management team’s decision making. My guys made some bad decisions that night, but ultimately it all falls on me. We are all fortunate it ended the way it did…with all of us finding our bliss.

Folks ask me from time to time…”Don’t you get tired of doing that same mountain over and over again?”

No way. The journey is always different and the experience is always precious.

Sometimes winding up on the “wrong” route is often times just the route you were looking for all along.

Climb High!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

CU Alumni Magazine On A Dirtbag Hippie Climber Guy...Me

Check out the article on yours truly in the most recent issue of the University of Colorado alumni magazine....
Although there are a few glaring mistakes...
1)Erik and I only climbed Everest once.

2)We didn't take the blind Tibetan kids up Everest...it was a satellite peak called Lhakpa Ri.

3)I wouldn't call myself a devoted liberal... let's go with socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

Otherwise, it's a fun read on the history of a self prescribed dirtbag hippie.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Making Friends With My Nemesis

Sitting in my tent at 19,000 ft in the middle of the Andes Range in Argentina, I remember coming to the realization that the wind is my enemy.  We were not friends and we would never be.  Seventy mile per hour constant winds were pummeling my tent with unbelievable and unrelenting force. This had been going on for 2 days now and I was convinced that it had become personal. A gloves off, ass kickin, vindictive battle. And as much as I didn’t want to admit it…I was going to lose.

And this disdain was fostered early on…
As a child, I remember riding with my parents in my Dad’s T top Camaro with the windows down on a summer day. My parents seemed to be embracing the wind blowing around the car, enjoying the warm breeze. But I clearly remember worrying that the paper and objects in the car were going to blow away…maybe even me from the backseat. I didn’t like the chaos that came with heavy wind. Around that time I also remember being made very aware of the wrath of a southern summer time thunderstorm.  Immense lightening crashing all around, buckets of rain filling the woods and of course…my soon to be nemesis, the wind…just hammering the house with what felt like hurricane force power.

I have never liked the wind and throughout my mountaineering career this animosity has been nurtured with countless events that have supported my contempt. I have had dozens if not hundreds of summits rejected due to high winds. I have returned to lower camps on mountains from up high only to find my tents and gear throttled beyond recognition from a recent windstorm. I have retrieved bodies that were cast down the glaciers of the Alaska Range like rag dolls by the high winds. 

No, the wind I were not friends. And we would never be.

One of the things I have realized in my path towards middle age and the slight bit of wisdom that comes with my quickly populating gray hairs is that I refuse to foster negativity. I am realizing how important it is to surround myself with positivity…with clarity and goodness. And I mean exclusively positive.  By doing that, it becomes so very easy to push away objects or people that exude toxicity or anything of the Darth Vader ilk.

As I inventoried the good and the bad…I started on my culling process…jetting the bad and nurturing the good.  Some were clearly defined on one side or the other…some a bit more vague.  Some required a change in my own perception…some just required getting closer to things/people that I felt held promise.  Some required cutting the lines completely.  It’s been like Spring-cleaning of the soul. I recommend just such an exercise. It’s enlightening and cleansing to say the least.

Mountaineering and climbing were at the top of my list of “What brings me joy”. As I reflected on my 20-year mountaineering career though, I realized that the wind was a variable that was the yang in my alpine yin. I knew that it was a vital force in the construction of the very mountains I was climbing and through its forces, vital weather patterns were born. I knew that it had its place and appreciated its presence. Just not while I’m high on a mountain please.

So I decided it was time to become friends with the wind. I thought on how to go about doing this. I had paraglided quite a bit a few years back and although that was flying and dancing with the wind it was more about thermals and floating. There was way to much sitting around with paragliding.  Too many other variables in play. I wanted to harness the wind…I wanted to seek out the wind and desire it’s presence. I wanted to hunt the wind instead of being hunted.

Then it occurred to me as Merry Beth, Jace and I were planning for our inaugural trip down to Baja in 2010. We were heading to a small little fishing village on the East Cape of Baja that sits on the Sea of Cortez. Los Barriles was known for fishing in the summer but it in the Mexican winter it became a hotbed for this crazy sport called kiteboarding or kitesurfing. This wasn’t windsurfing with all of their cumbersome and unwieldy gear. This was a dude or dudette flying across the water, on a board under a huge, beautiful kite…being powered by the wind and the wind alone.


The more I studied it and learned about it the more it turned me on. Within 24 hours of stepping foot in Baja I was in lessons. A week later (and dozens of epic crashes) I was finally getting up on my own and flying across the ocean.


Two years later I have now kited in Florida, Colorado, Texas, South Carolina, Haiti and next week, the Dominican Republic.  I have not only made friends with the wind but now we have an intimate relationship. I seek her out. I look for her on websites. I jones for her when she goes away.  I follow her to remote places.

I would encourage everyone to do a soulful recalibration. Bring in the good. Dump the nasty. Embrace the things that scare you and don’t be afraid to face the dragon. Joe Campbell would be proud.

Me and my new friend the wind will tell you…
Its time to fly!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Sweet Walk Through Big Mountains

After 5 days of cruising through the deep Andean mountains, today we arrived in the holy city of Machu Picchu. Ear to ear smiles on 30 faces leaves me satisfied with how this trip of friends came together and went through without a hitch.
Tonight we take showers, eat good food and sleep in beds for the first time in a week.
Much more to come.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fellowship in the Andes

It's that time of year again... when my guest bedroom gets a gear bomb dropped right in the middle of it.
Duffel bags, electronics, solar panels, packs, sleeping bags, layers and layers of well broken in clothing, boots with the last trip's dirt caked in the tread... spread from wall to wall.
It's time to put my work clothes on and head out.

It's also around this time I do start to get a bit antsy...ready for an adventure...primed to breath some foreign air. I'm convinced that I'm genetically wired to implode if I don't escape the confines of the US at least once every 3 months. Can't say that I've tested out this theory in the past 20 years...but I'm guessing if I pushed the 3 month limit, something would would happen akin to the dude that had the creature pop out of his belly in Alien. I'll just continue to not test it.

As I've returned from expeditions over the years and recounted tales of adventures from far away lands, one comment has been repeated to me countless times from many of my good pals... "Dude, I want to come with you on one of your trips some day. No, seriously...do a trip sometime that I can join you."

Well, I listened and here we go...
Last year I laid it out there to a circle of my good friends that I would be putting together a trip to Peru to do our "Hidden Inca Trail" trek for exclusively friends and family...not knowing what kind of response I'd get. Be careful what you ask for.

This weekend 30 of my good friends and I will depart from our respective home airports and head for Lima, Peru with what will unquestionably be one of the most rowdy groups to ever set foot in South America. We will spend the next 2 weeks exploring the ancient city of Cusco, tromping through the rugged peaks of the Andes, getting our hands dirty with a day of community service in Chilipaua and most likely drinking a fair share of pisco sour along the way. My shaman friend, Sebastian will accompany us as a beacon of goodness throughout our journey. This man is pure magic with just thoughts of him making me feel cleaner and more grounded.

One of the joys of my job as an expedition guide is providing a venue for like minded folks to come together and bond over powerful experiences. I have been witness to dozens of life long relationships that were galvanized on the flanks of great peaks around the world. Climbing a mountain or trekking through remote alpine valleys places individuals in a wonderfully insulated world that requires bonding on a level that is difficult to attain in the ho-hum civilized world we walk around in day to day. As we sweat together weaving up and down these deep gorges and high passes, we go through our Heroes Journey together...establishing alliances, facing the dragon and sharing our tales. It is through this process that only we know...our own little secret that can never fully be told through photos and videos... that we are bonded forever.

I will watch with great joy as friends from my different worlds collide in one beautiful blend of adventure, culture and fellowship...forever to be linked by our shared walk.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Traffic Jam on Everest

Been reading quite a bit about the sketchy situation that is taking place on Everest this season. I just contributed to a NBC Nightly News interview with Brian Williams, so I thought it time to chime in here.

Four folks died last weekend as the first short weather window appeared on the mountain and created a "mad dash" attitude amongst the hundreds of commercial operations up there. A veritable conga line of folks were strung along the Lhotse Face all jockeying for position up at the high camp. The next night, the masses took off from 26,000ft towards the 29,035ft summit. Due to the excessive lines, inability to pass, extreme altitude and cold temps, folks were forced to essentially "stand around" for upwards of 3 hours waiting their turns. The four that died are suspected to have perished from altitude related illness and exposure, surely in part to standing in place for hours at a time at over 8,000 meters.

There are several well documented variables that are playing out there this season that are cumulatively at least contributing to most of the deaths there this year (10).

Primarily you have a large demographic of folks that have a strong desire to knock off the "7 Summits", which by default includes Everest. The only problem with this is many of the folks that seek out that objective have summited a total of 6 peaks...EVER...by the time they get to Everest. Many peak baggers these days fail to put in their apprenticeship prior to venturing up to the icy slopes of the Himalaya and arrive at Basecamp with minimal experience of how their bodies will react at extreme altitude and stress or even how to properly use their gear.

Now, I would never fault someone for setting a very high goal and set out to achieve it... but what is important to remind these folks is that lofty goals deserve a diligent amount of effort and work. Dozens of years in the mountains is important...understanding what altitude does to your body. Making decisions when you are ridiculously depleted. Establishing a sense of self reliance. These skills are only learned from years of working in the big hills.

Most of the Everest peak baggers are lulled into a sense of ease and complacency due to the fact that there are dozens of commercial guide outfitters that, for a lofty price tag will do everything for them except place their feet on the ground. This sets up a challenging dilemma for everyone. The Nepalese Ministry of Tourism will never turn down the huge money that Everest brings in to their impoverished nation (this year the Nepalese government reportedly issued around 340 permits at $10,000 each). The guide companies also have a hard time turning away such big $$$ (ranging from $25k up to $110k). And most frighteningly, the clients feel comfortable allowing the guides to do all the work and make all the decisions. There are plenty of stories out there about some dude or dudette with very limited experience making it to the top with just sheer conditioning and drive. What is typically not stated in these cases is how the guide provided all the critical decision making, life saving moves and logistical coordinating...which is what guide services do. I'm just not sure it's wise to coddle someone at 29,000ft.
You have the very young (13) and the very old (73) and I even heard...and I just can't believe this...a BLIND GUY summited Everest. What the hell? Must be easy.

Take all of the above issues and saddle them up with the fact that this season has been extraordinarily dry and windy on Everest. This has lead to very rocky conditions and lead to an excessive amount of rock and snow fall from the higher slopes which in turn has lead to several rock fall injuries this season as well as several abandon attempts simply due to the fact that the "route just wasn't in". My pals from the Eddie Bauer First Ascent team were attempting the very little climbed West Ridge and found the conditions to be horrific...mostly from poor snow coverage and high winds. That being said, these guys were bad ass for simply getting way up there and trying something VERY hard. Kudos to Charley, Jake, Dave and Brent.

The only humorous issue for me in this whole story is how on our summit night on Everest in 2001, all the other teams made it VERY clear they did not want to be around our team with Erik...assuming the blind guy would slow everyone down. Little did they know that Erik goes just as fast as everyone else on the type of terrain you encounter towards the top. I remember our expedition leader, PV telling the other teams..."yeah, you may want to avoid the night of the 24th. We might be really slow." That was some solid gamesmanship right there. We had summit night to ourselves. The only other humans we saw that night were these two guys that summited from the North side right around the same time we did. Otherwise that mountain was ours.

In any case, tonight another 100 or so folks are going for the top. I will send good warm and open space vibes to them as they push on.  May the stop lights remain green to the top.

Check out my contribution to the NBC Nightly News that aired on the 24th.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A CALL TO ADVENTURE Announces First 2012 Hero’s Journey

Press Release

Chiquita Brands International executives to participate in Sedona, Arizona May 10-13, 2012
Denver, Colorado, April 19, 2012:  A Call to Adventure, the partnership between MountainVision Inc, The Institute for Applied Human Excellence, and Summit of Everest Group LLC, is pleased to announce the confirmation of the first of its 2012 “Hero’s Journey” expeditions taking place in Sedona, Arizona on May 10-13, 2012.

Executives from Chiquita Brands International will be participating in the journey that includes personal, interpersonal, and team based adventure challenges including a summit attempt of Mount Humphreys, Arizona’s tallest peak.  The mountains will be the medium as they explore these themes and their effect on each individual and their respective lives.  Upon conclusion, each of the participants will have developed their own, personal “Hero’s Ethos” to help guide how they want to live their lives.

A Call to Adventure is currently accepting applications for our 2012 Colorado expeditions July 31st – August 3rd, September 11 – 14th, and October 9th – 12th.  Private expeditions are available as well.  Contact us at www.acalltoadventure.com for more information.

About A Call to Adventure
A Call to Adventure is a partnership between MountainVision Inc., The Institute for Applied Human Excellence, and Summit of Everest Group LLC.  We believe we are all leaders to some extent in our lives, butheroes are something more. More importantly, anyone can be a hero in his or her own life.  Decided and committed to the exceptional, they are on a journey to develop and live an ethos that guides their behavior on an individual, interpersonal and team, organization, and community levels. For those who wish, A Call to Adventure uses the mountains and our professionally designed programs as the medium to lead you through this journey and develop your Hero’s Ethos.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Flip of a Coin and Your Life Goes…. This Way →

One of the many good things that came out of Expedition Impossible was getting to reconnect with a number of old friends from back in the day that recognized that scrawny, tattooed redneck running around Morocco with a blind guy on TV.

Perhaps the most remarkable was hearing from my pal Mike Morgan…an instrumental person in my life. Mike and I just spent a couple days together recently and had a blast reminiscing about many of the countless situations we found ourselves in, back in the day. One event of chance though, was perhaps the most critical in who I am as a person today.

At the ripe age of 18, Mike and I were attending East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN with a number of other guys of our similar ilk. What is that ilk, you ask? Well, let’s just say that we spent a significant amount of our time that year in J. City pretending we were in some country music video…chasing the “Ws”…whiskey, weed and women.

Oh, and going to class? That was optional… at best. I followed my stellar 1st semester academic performance of a 1.2 GPA with a “is that really possible” 0.6 my 2nd semester. Needless to say, it was clear that ETSU wasn’t going to ask me back for my sophomore year.

As that underachieving end of my first year of “higher” education was coming to a close, the restlessness that I felt brewing inside was also felt by Mike Morgan, one of closest pals on “Team W”. We had discussed on many occasions the fact that we needed to get out of the south. That we needed to explore and adventure. That we needed to see what else was out there. We didn’t know what any of that meant in terms of how to execute, but our intentions were clear. We wanted to go and do something.

After a few weeks of discussion and a VERY small bit of research, Mike and I had determined that snow skiing would be the activity that would guide us to the promised land of adventure. I had been skiing since I was 13 (thanks to my parents noting my interest after a church group trip to Snowshoe when I was a wee kid). Mike had in fact been racing on a ski team in the rugged hills around Gatlinburg for almost a decade. We both loved skiing but knew that it was only a catalyst in getting us out on the edge of something we had yet to see and feel.

To that end result, we had narrowed our landing spots down to one of two places… Vermont and the northeast slopes Killington, where we would only be a day drive from the safety of our family network should we decide to tap out at any point. The other option was the vast unknown of Colorado and the clear umbilical cut that comes from moving ¾ of the country away from anyone you know. Just the thought of “goin out west” at the age of 19 to ski and explore was enough to stand the hairs up on our necks. I bet between us we had less than $500, a couple of vehicles held together with some duct tape and bailing wire and some ski gear. We weighed the pros and cons of both locations for what seemed like a fairly substantial amount of time (considering we were still very busy in our pursuit of the Ws, and clearly this was very time consuming). We were torn. Vermont vs Colorado. It seems clear now that the decision should be a no brainer… but at the time, it was tough.

Then, as all good life changing decisions do, it came down to the flip of a coin.

Heads = Vermont

Tails = Colorado

I remember it as clear as yesterday, Mike and I sitting in a fairly deserted cafeteria on a beautiful southern afternoon around 2pm (we had just woken up).

Quarter comes out. Mike flips it and I watched, somehow knowing that my future was very much wrapped up in which way the coin landed. He held his hand over it, painfully extended the delay. Both of us smiling at what would dictate at the least, a year of our life.

And there it was… tails. Colorado. Oh shit. Should we flip it again? See if we get the same answer. That’s a long way from here. Other than some guy Mike had met once from Gatlinburg, we didn’t know a soul in Colorado.

We giggled a bit and decided we had to listen to the coin flip forces that be.

A month later our cars were packed, our families were kissed and we began our drive west.

The subsequent 23 years have been eventful to say the least. Colorado is my home. Boulder is as a part of me as any place that I was raised. Clearly my career, my family and my happiness have been, in part, defined by Colorado and the proximity to these wonderful mountains and lifestyle that exists here. This venue has been instrumental in how it has sculpted me.

That quarter landed on tails for a reason. In my humble opinion, random chance doesn’t exist. We make our own paths and then we walk on them. The way we walk down these paths is entirely up to us.

Go ahead and flip a coin. Perhaps a roshambo …but I’m pretty sure that the result is not random. Hard sayin.