Category: Climbing

20090905_174aI recently attended an auction for my good friend, David Heyting (#DefeatGoliath), who’s battled a brain tumor for the past 5 years.  He’s had to face many challenges beyond surviving…doctors, insurance, etc.  His advice through all of it has been to ‘be your own advocate’.  You have your best interest in mind and must look at all options and question authority to ensure the path is accurate for your future.

David’s approach applies in all areas of life.  I remember growing up in the small town of Rogue River, Oregon where I was the shortest guy in my class until I was a senior in high school.  Being the little guy, I was consistently thought of as incapable or too young (because I looked really young).  This really shaped my personality where I became my own advocate, working harder to prepare and overachieve in everything, which then earned me positive attention.  This carried on into my military career where I was young-looking and skinny going through some of the toughest Navy training – Air Rescue Swimmer School.  The instructors rode me hard, but I never gave up, knowing that I could do anything if I kept my focus and never quit.  I took the confident perspective that if others could do it, then I could do it…better.  It took me years of accomplishments and letdowns to realize that overachieving wasn’t as important as accepting my strengths and weaknesses.  We are all individually wired differently and accepting that brings peace, which is what I try to model for my children.

You will need to rely on others along the way, but nobody knows you better than you. You don’t need to be self-centered (we have too much of that in this world) or excessively overachieve, but you do need to take control of your destiny.  The small choices you make now can have a great impact in the future.

A commonsense person lives good sense; fools litter the country with silliness. Proverbs 13:16


IMG_2284aI recently posted a poll on Twitter asking who’s ever wondered what it would be like to stand on the summit of Everest. The mass majority had indeed wondered. And I think the numbers would be even higher if people weren’t probably reformatting the question in their mind to whether they would ever attempt it. I ask this question often in my talks to businesses and organizations since it’s an interesting one to ponder. Most people will raise their hands since it’s so intriguing to think about being up there. Even having been there alone on the summit in 2011, it’s still amazing to think back and continually process those brief moments spent on top. It’s the highest point in the world, standing at 29,035’ with only 1/3 of the air as there is down at sea level. It’s a place that very few will ever attempt and much less will succeed in achieving.

Everest Poll

Mount Everest is a pinnacle goal for most mountaineers, but it’s not a possibility for most. And that’s totally fine since we are all wired uniquely and whatever adventures or fitness goals you have, own them and go after them at full force. The current state of the world is very unpredictable and it’s never been more true that you should live each day to it’s fullest.

As 2015 comes to an end, the world’s population will look at the next year to make resolutions of things to stop and start doing. I will get a bunch of people asking if I’ll take them on local climbs, who will end up finding reasons to not follow through once the time comes. The fact of the matter is it’s easy to stimulate excitement in creating a vision of a better self but it’s very difficult to shift our busy schedules and habits to create a new adventurous and healthy lifestyle. I can provide as much guidance as possible but in the end it’s up to the individuals to create change.

Most people are used to seeing my adventures, pics, video and motivational posts on social media. I’ve decided to end 2015 with a new agenda, to provide some simple guidance for 2016. Watch for my posts hashtagged #2016Goals over the next month. Look inward to identify what you want your future self to look like and then create goals and an action plan to make it a reality in 2016!

Also subscribe to my YouTube channel to see new raw footage of my worldly adventures.

Psalm 20:4 “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”

2011-4-25 (84)I get asked often if I saw the new Everest movie and my thoughts so I figured I’d write a review.  In short I’ll say that it was done really well from a filming and experience perspective, especially in comparison to previous ‘cheesy’ climbing movies.  I definitely recommend seeing Everest in 3D IMAX to get the full perspective of traveling up the mountain without actually doing it.  Director Baltasar Kormakur and Cinematographer Salvatore Totino did a great job in providing a view of the mountain that most will never experience.  My hope is that the majority of people leave with a new appreciation of Everest and those that attempt it, rather than more ammo of ridicule for someone’s lifetime goal that they’ll never understand.  Additionally I hope it doesn’t give less-qualified weekend adventurers a false sense of encouragement to attempt the great peak.  Unless, of course, they are willing to spend years to develop the training and experience needed.

Nepal recently said they were going to put rules in place to prevent disabled, young / old and under qualified climbers from stepping foot beyond basecamp.  Unfortunately it’ll be difficult to enforce the policy.  Plus the real issue isn’t with the aged or disabled climbers it’s with the ‘few’ unqualified.  In my experience it’s truly been a small group of people that don’t belong on the mountain, but for the most part the higher, more difficult peaks are scaled by true adventurers following their dreams.  Typical media highlights the bad versus the good.

It was difficult to sit through the movie Everest due to my personal experience there.  In 2011 I ended up soloing the summit, which was short lived since on the descent, due to a goggle issue, I went completely snow-blind.  Hand over hand I made my way down from the summit to high camp.  I took a major fall and ran out of oxygen but after 7 hours, with pure determination and a miracle I made it back to the South Col.  Sitting there in the theater with my wife, JoAnna, was very emotional to see what I traversed without vision.  We didn’t bring our kids as it’s too close to home.  They know what I went through but they are too young still to put a visual with the story.

My personal rule is that if you’re not there then you truly don’t know, especially when it comes to the ‘death zone’.  Many have depicted the ’96 tragedy but only a few were there.  As far as the movie and whether it’s accurate based on the people involved and the discussions that occurred…only those that were there will ever know.  Jon Krakauer had some issues with how his character was portrayed in the movie.  He authored Into Thin Air after experiencing the tragedy.  Many weren’t happy with how he portrayed the event and climbers.  With anything media or Hollywood there are always altercations to entice the audience.  He should know this better than anyone.  Accurate or not, I can’t comment since I wasn’t there in 1996.

The one critique I do have for the movie was that they didn’t focus on the time it takes to acclimate and climb.  They briefly talked about it in the beginning when Rob Hall and crew were briefing the team.  However throughout the movie they did a little climbing and then were quickly heading to the summit.  To someone that doesn’t know about mountaineering they won’t get the magnitude of climbing the highest peak in the world.  At 29,035′ there’s only 1/3 of the air that there is at sea-level.  It takes 2 months to climb, with the first month focused on moving up and down the mountain to acclimate.  This forces the body to produce more red blood cells, which carry more oxygen.  After reaching Camp III at 23,000′ the body is as acclimatized as it can be to climb to the summit.  In the movie they could have easily put a timeline on the different scenes (ex. Day 1, Day 40, etc.).  Small detail that could help educate the audience.

I definitely recommend Everest as it’s the best mountaineering movie I’ve seen to date.  We’ve come a long way in movie making with technology (CGI) and the need for quality over quantity.  As emotional as it was to watch, I’m very impressed with the final product.

If you have any questions feel free to ask through social media or my contact page.

Denali (Mount McKinley) – the great one – the highest peak in North America20150530_258

I love and hate Denali, but more hate.  It’s a brutal peak nestled in the Alaskan Range.  I’ve had 3 expeditions (1 guided and 2 that I led) over the past 6 years and it’s my final summit of the 7 summits.  At 20,320′ I’ve already summited 3 other peaks higher – Everest, Island Peak and Aconcagua, however Denali’s unpredictable weather has prevented me from standing on top.  As a goal oriented person I tend to be full in on driving toward my accomplishments but with experience and respect for the mountains I’ve come to learn that it’s not alway about the summit.  There’s a lot more in life than just standing on top of a mountain, but even falling short is better than not falling at all.  Adventure is vital to our existence.

A couple weeks ago my buddy, Jason, and I flew to Anchorage and drove to Talkeetna to make another attempt (his first) on Denali (McKinley).  We trained hard throughout the year with 70lb+ packs regularly scaling the local Cascade peaks in our backyard.  With any expedition you go in fully prepared with a plan and high expectations that the mountain will cooperate with favorable conditions.  Not the case with Denali, which has a small climbing season each May / June.  This May the mountain saw several teams but sent them all home with their dreams crushed.  Zero summits until the very last days of May.

On May 28th Jason and I efficiently made our way through a series of camps to reach 14,000′ (camp 4) in 4 days.  This is almost 15 miles carrying 50lbs in a pack and 50lbs+ in a sled at altitude.  We cached some gear (food / fuel / sleds / snowshoes) at the 11k camp and did a full carry (75lbs+) up to camp 4 (14k).  We then rested a day, climbing to the top of the fixed lines at 16.5k the following day.  After that we felt fully acclimated to make a move to high camp and a summit attempt.  It was great meeting up with familiar faces from around the world (Chile, Antarctica, Himalaya, etc.), plus the Disabled Veterans group and some Polish climbers.  However our plan was quickly shutdown with a storm hitting the mountain, pinning us down at 14k for almost a week with 2-3′ of snow dumping per day, moderate winds, -25f temps and zero visibility.

On an expedition like Denali you plan out your days with food and fuel rations.  This includes what you need up at particular camps in case weather forces you to stay longer than expected.  We planned for 21 days on the mountain so we were fine for the time being. However you have to plan for weather down at basecamp as well in case planes can’t come to get you.  During the time we were stuck up higher there were 70 people stuck at basecamp for 5 days waiting for a flight off the Kahiltna Glacier.  After 9 days on the mountain, majority spent confined to our tent at 14k, we had a 1 day ‘break’ in the weather.  We spoke to other groups in camp.  All from 17k (high camp) were descending without a summit attempt and the majority at 14k were gonna head out later or hunker down (conservative approach).  A few said they were going to move higher in hopes for a wishful summit attempt.  Jason and I discussed all scenarios and in the end decided it was better to make a break for basecamp rather than getting stuck higher for another week.  It’s a tough decision to make after we’d put so much into the climb and were so close to standing on top, but since our satellite phone stopped working 3 days prior we felt that it was also important to get back to our worried families.  The mountain would be here in the future if we decided to give it another shot in the future.

We packed up and headed down below the cloud layer from 14k to 11k.  With the fresh snow fall we were moving quickly and attentively to avoid potential avalanches, which we heard a few kick off earlier.  Then 40 mins into the descent a whiteout cloud cover hit us without warning.  Visibility went from 100% to zero right after the area called Windy Corner.  I slowed us down and used my Cascade Mountain Tech trekking poles as a probe to check for hidden crevasses as I looked for wands (trail markers placed by GPS coordinates from NPS members).  My pole punched through the glacier with nothing below it and I paused to call out ‘crevasse’.  I slowly crept sideways and forward until a small wand came into view.  At that point above me I heard Jason yell as he partially punched through a hidden crevasse, but quickly removed himself from the danger.  A few yards more he punched through another one.  With each one I stabilized myself down the hill to ensure I had leverage to stop a serious fall.  I was completely blinded by the whiteout at this point and was in constant prayer to help gain guidance to the next wand.  I came down an area called Squirrel Hill and heard an unusually calming yell from Jason.  I looked back and all I could see was his head.  I got down on the ground and quickly placed a picket into the snow and anchored the rope to prevent him slipping deeper into the crevasse.  He stepped right through a bergshrund (area of glacier that separates from the mountain) and was hanging by the rope with 100’s of feet of exposure beneath him.  He said he didn’t mess his drawers but I wouldn’t blame him if he had.  He was able to take his pack off and climb out.  I used a prussik to bring him in closer to ensure he was ok and then talk about the situation.  We were blind moving down to 11k with winds picking up.  We needed to maintain our course and slowly, carefully make our way down the mountain.  I let him know that if it got too bad we could dig a snow cave or anchor the tent down with ice screws in certain areas (I had done this in the same area in 2012 due to different circumstances).

We moved in constant prayer and then out of nowhere I saw 2 skis crossed in the middle of the trail.  I moved toward them then a light seemed to shine down directly overhead guiding a path for us.  One wand appeared at a time as we slowly moved forward.  Then the area opened up as we reached the other side of the snow field.  At this section the winds kicked up to 60mph+.  The ice we stepped on was bulletproof.  One slip could have been tragic.  Then without warning my right crampon popped off.  They were super tight so this came without warning, but it made me pause to put it back on and assess the situation.  The only time this had ever happened before was when I was descending Everest blind down the South Rock Step when I took a fall and the fixed line shock loaded and saved me.  As I put the crampon back on a sense of fear came over me.  I looked forward at the hurricane force winds and signaled Jason to reverse out of there.  We hunkered behind a crevasse berm and waited for the winds to die down a bit.  I could tell he was getting exhausted but I told him he needed to dig deep and move when I was moving.  We could rest at 11k in our tent. After 20 mins there was a small lull in the winds and I said let’s go.  We moved quickly but with deliberate steps as to not trip and pull the other off the side of the mountain (1000’s of feet of exposure…certain death).  We made it down to the platform above our final obstacle before camp 3, which was Motorcycle Hill.  It is plastered with crevasses and overhanging snow / ice called cornices, which broke loose in an avalanche and killed 4 Japanese climbers in 2012 (they still remain in the crevasses).  We rested for a few minutes and switch to ice axes, which made stability worse because of the heavy packs but would give us a better chance of stopping a fall with self arresting on the axe.  We got up and moved, anticipating the high wind gusts and leaning into them then moving with any lull.  We made it up and over the top and descended down, avoiding crevasses but encountering waste deep snow.  It took us an hour to get down through the snow, which would normally take 15 minutes.  As we reached camp an Austrian climber approached us with hot drinks.  The entire camp had been watching us descend and congratulated us on making it through the unexpected storm (unexpected at lower altitudes).  It just goes to show how fast things can change on the mountain and how you have to be prepared to stay calm and react at any moment.

A super nice Swiss couple helped us dig out and build a camp for the night.  We also found our cache from a week earlier and dug it up for our descent. At 3am the next morning we woke up and packed for our 10 mile descent to basecamp.  It was snowing 3′ a night and we took turns post holing through waste deep snow with 100lbs+.  It took over 10 hours to get to basecamp, with one of the most brutal descents I’ve experienced.  Several other groups followed hours later and thanked us for creating a trail for them.  I guess someone had to do it.

In mountaineering there’s so much more than just reaching the summit. Obviously you need a goal, which is the summit, but the ultimate goal is getting home safely.  I continue to learn so much about the mountains and myself.  Through my years of experiences I’ve put less and less importance on the summit and more on the adventure itself.  Denali continues to elude me, but that’s ok.  There’s plenty of other mountains out there and maybe some day I’ll head back.  For now I’m at peace with coming within 1000′ of the top.

“A song of ascents. I lift up my eyes to the mountains– where does my help come from?” Psalm 121:1

2011-04-17 (12)aAfter last years disaster on Mount Everest where a massive block of ice calved off above the Khumbu icefall, killing 16 Sherpa, nobody could have predicted an even bigger tragedy the following year.  After a 7.9 earthquake destroyed several major cities in Nepal, including Kathmandu, another block of ice broke loose on a saddle near Mt Pumori 3000′ above and behind Everest basecamp.  The impact of ice was compared to a bomb explosion spraying rock, ice and snow, killing at least 19 (more unknown) and injuring 120+.  Huge aftershocks kicked off additional avalanches in the Khumbu icefall making it too unstable to climb through. This is truly a unique circumstance outside of mountaineering since it was an earthquake outside of the region rather than an isolated incident like the year prior.  This is also unique in that basecamp is a relatively safe area, providing a central home away from home for climbers for decades.  The devastating avalanche didn’t come from the Khumbu icefall but from the opposite side of basecamp.  The unfortunate campsites closer to Pumori didn’t stand a chance.  This will certainly have an impact on the location and precautions for Everest basecamp in the future, but nobody could have imagined this.  When I climbed Everest in 2011 we got dusted from avalanches on Lho La and Nuptse (mountains framing the Khumbu icefall) but never felt at risk of injury while in basecamp.  I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like to be there.

The next few days everyone at basecamp put their climbing ambitions on hold and took on search and rescue / triage roles.  They were able to use some further away camps like IMG and Himex to put the wounded.  As soon as the weather cleared helicopters started shuttling wounded down to Pheriche to get better medical attention, but those facilities aren’t equipped for this magnitude of need.  They were then picked up on larger helicopters and flown to Kathmandu.  The problem is Kathmandu is completely wrecked with 5000+ dead (this number continues to grow).  The hospitals are completely full and people requiring attention are waiting for help.  It’s a truly horrible scenario.

Back on Everest close to 200 climbers were stranded above the icefall, but fortunately in the safest area of the mountain with plenty of supplies (fuel, food, stove, tents) so most of them would agree that they were the lucky ones.  After a few days they had a good weather window and the highly skilled Nepalese helicopter pilots were able to shuttle 2 climbers at a time down to basecamp.  Only a few remain in the Western CWM at this time.

Although the south side of Everest isn’t officially closed it won’t have the support required to get supplies and to fix lines from basecamp to the summit, thus making it very difficult to climb with only a month left before monsoon season.  Everest is climbed each April – May, just prior to monsoon season due to more predictable weather windows.  A few groups will stick around to see if there’s opportunity to climb, but my guess is they’ll eventually cancel their expeditions.

On the north side the Chinese Tibetan Mountaineering Association officially closed Everest climbing due to the potential of future aftershocks.  I have friends on both sides of the mountain and from all that I’ve spoken with they are ok with the decisions to not climb this year based on the circumstances.  Again this is much bigger than climbing goals being crushed, it’s about a country in shambles after the worst earthquake in 80 years.  1000’s of people dead, lives forever changed, temples (some aging from the 12th century) are gone, villages destroyed or even wiped away in landslides and the list goes on for one of the poorest countries in the world.

So what now?  From a climbers perspective it’s about taking a step back and gaining some perspective.  This doesn’t change the fact that Mount Everest will remain the highest mountain in the world.  It doesn’t remove it from any climber’s life long goal to summit it’s majestic peak. It can be tough in the moment after training for years, being financially and emotionally invested, but out of respect for the local people and the state of the country it’s important to press pause on personal goals to allow Nepal to recover.

What can you do?  It’s easy to see a major tragedy in the news, feel bad for a few moments and then move on.  It’s the society we live in.  For those of us that have been there it’s close to home.  We know how wonderful the people are and how deserving they are to not just get a few sympathy tweets and prayers (please continue praying).  Break that cycle and actually do something.  However be smart about it, do your research and be cautious about who you send money to since Nepal has a history of having a corrupt government and non-profits will turn up in times of disaster to take money without giving to the cause (this world really disappoints me sometimes).  But that shouldn’t discourage you from helping, just be smart about it.  A country is in desperate need.

Here are some viable causes and blogs to find additional information:

World Vision

Juniper Fund

American Himalayan Foundation

Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation

Mountain World Blog – Jake Norton

Alan Arnette’s Blog

“Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love.” Psalm 44:26

The 2015 Everest season is getting underway with teams arriving in Kathmandu.  I have friends making attempts on both sides of the mountain and other 8000m peaks in the area.  As I see their posts and have discussions with them prior to their departure I’m taken back to 4 years ago when I was preparing for the adventure of a lifetime.  There’s a ton that goes into a 2 month expedition logistically, but the most important is making sure your work and family are in order prior to stepping on that plane.  With any adventure, large or small, the anticipation of leaving is worse than actually leaving.  I remember creating spreadsheets with financial and bill information, listing contacts for everything I could think of, hiding gifts with clues throughout the house for the kids and appreciating every second I had with the family.  I also did one of the hardest things I ever did, made a video…just in case.

EverestBlind Descent – Prologue:

In a matter of days, I would set off on my two-month expedition to Mount Everest. It wasn’t the climbing that had me anxious—it was the thought of being away from my fam- ily for so long. When it came to the climb itself, I wasn’t worried. I was in the best shape of my life, and I had planned everything down to the last detail. But I was also aware of the reality that people do die on Everest. No matter how well prepared you are, there are always things that are out of your control—extreme weather, shifting icefalls, avalanches, cerebral edema. Let’s face it, there’s a reason they call the top of Mount Everest the death zone.

As the winds picked up and rain began pelting my office window, I cast one last glance at the darkened face of Mount Si, which was slowly disappearing into the Washington mist. Then I sat down at my desk and powered up my MacBook. After I’d centered myself in the video frame, I took a deep breath and hit Record. I could already feel the tears burning behind my eyes.

“Hello, JoAnna,” I began, a sob catching in my throat. “If you’re watching this, something must have gone terribly wrong, and I’m in heaven now, watching you.”Blind Descent

Fortunately nobody but me as seen the video to date.  I know that each climber goes thru similar struggles of living life as an adventure balanced with the responsibility of having a job, family, friends, etc.  For those far removed from this type of adventure it’s impossible to understand the risk taking, but for those wired to reach great heights…they get it.  Each person, summit or not, will return a little bit different.  Statistically some won’t return and their family and friends may resent their decisions in letting them go.  I pray that 100% return, but for those that don’t come back I hope their family / friends honor and respect their decisions and know, in their minds, they were truly living life beyond what others can imagine.

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14

After 2 unsuccessful summit attempts on Denali, I’ll be heading back in 2 months. Denali or Mount McKinley is the highest peak in North America located up in the Alaska Range. It stands at 20,320’ but due to it’s location so high in the northern hemisphere the barometric pressure makes it feel like 23,000’. It is the last remaining summit for my 7 summits quest – highest peaks of the 7 continents. It differs from the rest in that you carry 50lbs+ in your pack and another 50lbs+ in a sled for the first 15 miles at altitude across some treacherous terrain. The weather is very unpredictable and you have to really plan out your food, fuel and clothing for worst-case scenarios, which tend to come regularly.

My first attempt was in 2009, guided by Alpine Ascents. Most of our team was strong and it took us a little over a week to get to high camp at 17,000’. We were pinned down (couldn’t move) for a week due to high winds and cold temps. In fact it was so cold that I could see the moisture in my breath freeze around my sleeping bag.  A solo climber (not in our group) tried to make the top, was blown off and still hasn’t been found. We made an attempt on the following day with 60mph winds and below zero temps. We came within 1000’ from the top, but decided it was a good day to live and turned back. It was a good expedition since we all made it back safely, uninjured and with several lessons learned.

In 2012 I went back as the leader of a 2-person team. I decided to split-board the route up to 14,000’ then climb with crampons to the top. Split-boarding is where you split a snowboard in half and use them as skis with gripping cloth called skins. This balances your weight and helps you glide while climbing uphill. For the descent you then attach the board back together and snowboard. Sounds good on paper but I ran into some issues where the equipment and friction of my boots caused severe burning of my feet – down to the bone. It was very painful and I decided to turn back after nearly reaching high camp.

Hopefully my 3rd time is a charm. This May, a few days after my wife’s 40th birthday, I’ll be heading back up with my friend, Jason. We’ve climbed Rainier and other peaks together and have a mutual respect for the mountains. We are climbing the West Buttress route on Denali and if all goes well I’ll complete my goal to stand as high as possible on each of the 7 continents. If for whatever reason we aren’t able to summit then, well it’s a mountain and it’ll always be there to make another attempt in the future.

Mountaineering will humble you and force you to either persevere or find another hobby. Just like anything in life I’ve learned more during my failures than my successes. Life can be frustrating when things don’t go as planned but sometimes you have to stop and realize that your life’s plan isn’t truly your plan at all.

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”James 1:12

2015 Personal Hell Week Training (Choose your own adventure)

Courtesy of AIRR Facebook page.

Courtesy of AIRR Facebook page.

Hell Week is generally known from the 3rd week of SEAL training (BUD/S – Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL).  Trainees are put through 5.5 days of rigorous physical, mental and emotional hell with only a few hours of sleep.  In the end it’s not about the strongest person, but the ones that truly want it.  Many other military training programs have unofficial Hell Weeks.  There are several purposes to go through such tough training as it breaks you down (physically, mentally and emotionally) beyond what you ever imagined, but it also gives the instructors a check of who’s worth investing the time and money to take to the next level.  High attrition rates are due to this intense type of training.  If you’re going to quit halfway then you’re just putting yourself and others at risk, which could mean death out in the fleet.

I like the concept for many of the same reasons.  In Aircrew and AIRR (Air Rescue Swimmer School) we had weeks we called “Hell Week”, nothing compared to SEAL training, but it’s all relative.  Most days were hell since we worked to the point of exhaustion before entering the water to conduct multi-victim rescues. In the end it was all worth the pain when the going got tough and we were able to perform in extreme situations.  In mountaineering I’ve continued the same mind-set.  It’s better to train hard and be miserable at sea-level than high on a mountain.  It’s a part of working on the things you can control, since things out of your control (altitude, sickness, weather) will later test your true capabilities.

Since I’m training for another Alaska mountaineering expedition I’ve decided to create a Hell Week in January to develop a baseline of fitness.  You are welcome to join me, but make it your own regimen.  We all have unique training programs so the last thing you want to do is force fit what I’m doing into your schedule.  Come up with a training schedule that compliments your lifestyle, but pushes you beyond your limits.  i.e. If you ride 20 miles a day then increase it to 40 miles and add some additional cross training.

*Disclaimer – you’re doing this at your own risk so please ensure you’re physically and mentally capable.  Safety and self-awareness is important to ensure you don’t injure yourself.  Be sure to properly estimate your fitness ability prior to diving in over your head.

My hell week – 1/26 – 1/31

Here’s my schedule for 7 days:

(Mon – Fri)

Climbing with 60lbs – 5 miles (3-4000’ elevation gain)
100 pushups
100 crunches
100 kettlebells
6 mile run


Climbing with 80 lbs – 8 miles (3-4000’ elevation gain)
100 pushups
100 crunches
100 kettlebells
8 mile run

(Sun) – Rest

Nutrition is very important with any workout.  You burn more calories so you need to eat and drink more. It’s not an excuse to eat unhealthy food, but really hone your nutrition during this week to see how much better you feel.  I tend to eat 3 balanced meals a day with lots of healthy snacks in between.  Figure out what works for you and make it happen.

The key to success is goal-setting, execution and discipline.  Create a lifestyle with no excuses and complete each daily task.  There will be times when you want to quit, but don’t.  No excuses!  We all have busy lives..adjust your schedule…power through it and enjoy the rewards!

Post your regimen and daily accomplishments on Twitter using: #BDHellWeek  I’ll do the same.

Good luck!

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Many talk about what they are going to do but there’s always some barrier (excuse) blocking their ability to accomplish their goals.  This is a major pet peeve of mine, but it also plays into my personality.  I’d rather remain silent and accomplish things rather than boast about them and never do them. To me, that’s embarrassing. For the past month I’ve been traveling a lot and away from my family.  Anyone who knows me or has read my book, Blind Descent, knows that my family is everything. But life happens and since I have to be on the road I decided to create an adventure.  I didn’t really tell anyone (other than JoAnna and a few friends), I just sat down and mapped out an ultra hike in the area I was going to be and then did it.  I was working in Raleigh and potentially had a weekend to blow so I created a plan to hike the highest peak in the 4 surrounding states.

  • North Carolina – Mount Mitchell 6684′
  • Virginia – Mount Rogers 5729′
  • Kentucky – Black Mountain 4145′
  • Tennessee – Clingsman Dome 6643′

Originally I planned to hike 6 states but time didn’t work in my favor so I had a contingency plan.  I’m pretty spoiled living in the Pacific Northwest with our amazing Cascades, but each part of the world has a unique beauty worth experiencing.  I was happily surprised at the beauty of the mountains in this area.  In 2 days I drove over 800 miles and hiked over 32 miles.  Most of the high points are drivable with a lookout area, but that’s not how I roll.  People looked at me like I was crazy as I ran the Appalachian Trail.  I basically drove, ran the trails then drove to the next, etc.  I slept in the back of my rental car at the base of Black Mountain in Kentucky, woke up and ran to the top to watch the sunrise through the dense trees.  The summits themselves aren’t overly spectacular compared to some higher mountains I’ve climbed on the 7 continents, but the journey and experience was worth the effort.  Plus one peak alone isn’t a challenge but compressing 4 in a weekend is rarely heard of.  As I reached the top of Mount Rogers in Virginia some folks camping asked when I started.  I let them know that I began the 6 mile trailhead a little over an hour ago but I had come from Raleigh earlier that morning and already hiked Mount Mitchell in North Carolina. They said, ‘you’re joking right?’

On Sunday I wrapped up my adventure with a 13 mile trail run up Clingsman Dome in Tennessee.  After a little over an hour I breached the area where 99.99% of people drive to.  Sweaty and happy I walked up the spiraling observatory to look out at the foggy Smokey Mountains.  I overheard several people complaining about the struggle of the walk from the parking lot to the tower.  Many kids never even noticed the view because they were walking with iPads covering their faces as they played video games.  On one hand it’s great that they were out there rather than at home behind a TV, but on the other hand the parents weren’t setting a good example.  I’m a big proponent of getting our kids outdoors to experience life.  Put down the electronics and use their imaginations.  Explore life, don’t just exist!

After a few minutes on top I ran the 6.5 miles down the windy road rather than the trail.  As cars passed I stepped off the road to not annoy the drivers, but more importantly to not get hit by distracted drivers.  In the end I succeeded in my adventure.  I didn’t tell others what I was doing (other than my wife and a few friends), I just did it. To me, that’s living life to it’s fullest!

What have you been talking about doing?  Life is precious, tomorrow may never come so start your adventure today!

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22

_mitchell _rogerroger _black _cd



20100723_123The planning phase of an adventure is one of the most exciting parts of the journey.  It’s where you somehow come up with an audacious goal, brainstorm and start imagining the possibilities.  As a fairly big goal-setter I tend to spend a lot of time planning out what’s next.  I don’t limit this to personal achievements but also plan work ventures and family experiences. It keeps me driven otherwise I don’t feel like I’m living life.  Others are fine with regular routines and average / safe life experiences, and that’s great, but that’s not me.

Creating a goal is based on opportunity, timing, ability and finances.  If I’m traveling somewhere for work I try to find something unusual in that area that I can explore, typically in the form of mountaineering.  I have something on the East Coast coming up where I’m planning an ultra climb of multiple peaks in a very small timeframe.  Stay tuned.

Goals create purpose and motivation.  When you live to just survive the week, you’ll probably survive but you probably won’t smile much.  Like having faith a goal gives you direction and a reason to keeping pushing forward in life.

Cliche warning – Accomplishing goals is the ultimate challenge but I don’t feel it’s as important as the journey there.  You learn so much along the way and many times realize your end goal wasn’t even close to what you were searching for.  In the end you develop better habits of small goal creations and attainable accomplishments.  This is a fantastic trait to display by actions to your children to prepare them for the real world.

“For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.” Ecclesiastes 5:3