What's going on with Jeff Evans and the world of MountainVision... Here you will find my own personal diatribe regarding thoughts and stories I encounter in the world of adventure travel, climbing and mountaineering...infused with the themes that are the cornerstone of my MountainVision message...Teamwork, Vision, Commitment and Leadership.
Typically when a team arrives on top of a well-earned
mountain summit, the moment is met with a loud chorus of yee-haws, high fives
and bear hugs. I’ve been a part of many of those scenes on summits all over the
world over the past 20 years.
Not this time…
The 2014 Soldiers to Summits capstone expedition culminated
last week with a summit of Mt Whitney in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.
At 14,505ft, it stands as the highest point in the contiguous United States.
When I first accepted the role as the expedition leader for this years capstone
trip, I have to admit that I was a little uninspired with the choice of
Whitney. Clearly it doesn’t carry the allure or prestige of a Himalayan peak or
the exotic nature of a mountain down in the Andes. However our main sponsor,
Wells Fargo, had requested in their support of the expedition that we keep our
training and peak objective within the borders of the lower 48 states.
You bet… we can do that.
In preparation for our final expedition in the Sierras, the
team came together for two separate training exercises in the Rockies of
Colorado. It quickly became very clear to me and my leadership team that this
year’s group of injured veterans was remarkable. We had selected well. Each of
them embodied the characteristics that we strive to recruit for each of our S2S
experiences… maturity, a willingness to grow and heal as well as a solid,
collaborative energy. More so than any of the past iterations of S2S, this team
was ready to charge forward with solid intent.
We came together as a team during our trainings… we came
together as a family while we were trekking towards Whitney.
The week we spent together deep in the Sierra backcountry
gave us the opportunity to embrace the mountains and each other…learning, growing and healing along the way.
The mountains don’t always give us what we want but they always give us what we
As the morning of September 11th dawned, all
twenty of us stepped on to the summit of Whitney just as the nautical twilight
was starting to cast its glow over the horizon. We took those final steps and
gazed east, watching the day dawn over a country that is still hurting from
those devastating events 13 years earlier. We paused to remember those that
were lost both on that day and as a result of conflicts that sprang from the
events of 9/11. In fact, the vast majority of the men and women on this trip
had enlisted or were brought back in to active duty as a result of that
horrific day…. their lives changed forever.
I’ve been on bigger and bolder mountains. I’ve been on tougher
and colder mountains. But I have never been as proud as I was that morning
standing on top of that mountain with those men and women. Quietly. Solemnly.
We hugged each other… one by one. Very few words spoken.
Many subtle smiles exchanged with a knowing glance. We knew why we were there.
We were there to remember. To honor. To heal.
Because it’s not about the mountain. It’s about the people. Climb High Jeff