The snow covered peak of Mount Elbrus in the distance.

Mt Elbrus

Mount Elbrus, the tallest mountain in Europe, had been on my mind ever since climbing Africa’s Kilimanjaro. So after a lot of talk with climbing buddies, a group of us rallied and set out for Russia and another of the 7 summits in 2012. Before every climbing expedition I go on, I do my absolute best to understand the mountain, weather, gear required and whether or not I am physically & mentally prepared too climb. The military taught me a lot about risk assessment, training and gear required to get the mission done. Maybe this is one of the big reasons I pursue wild outdoor adventures.

Most would think after a serious injury sustained during military operations, a person might decide to mitigate risk & danger from their activities. For me I just think harder about what I am going to pursue, and I than try to analyze the benefits of participating in the experience. Climbing is an interesting thing. Why climb a rock in the middle of nowhere? Well, climbing seems to be very comparable to life and the ups and downs we all experience, basically a metaphor. In life we climb high, or at least we try to climb towards our goals & dreams, but we also descend. I believe there is no way around the descent, we sometimes descend back into our normal moods, or in certain situations we may descend into a depressive state of mind.

In the end its all about the journey, right? Well, wherever you decide to go, however you decide to live life, I feel that the descent and adversity we all encounter truly pave a path towards happiness and great accomplishment. What’s that quote I’ve heard in a movie before, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity”.

I bring up a lot of philosophical things in this blog post because this climb on Mount Elbrus was very dangerous and adventurous. My buddies and I were trapped in a white out in a crevasse field on the flanks of this mountain, and at times I really thought I was a goner. I had put a lot of trust into my climbing friends, who were just as blind as myself in the snow storm. We all forged ahead and made the necessary navigational adjustments to move out of the crevasse field and down out of the storm back to our base camp.

Follow the below link to read an article by my friend Brian Mockenhaupt about our adventure on Elbrus:

http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/outdoor-skills/survival/Crossing-to-Safety-When-Danger-Stops-Being-a-Thrill.html

Mount Kilimanjaro and clouds line at sunset, view from savanna landscape in Amboseli, Kenya, Africa

Mount Kilimanjaro

After climbing in Nepal in 2010 with the Soldiers to the Summit gang, I was motivated to climb another big mountain in the world. Kevin Churilla, a mountain guide and new friend I met on the Nepal trip had spoke about his organization K2 Summits and a trip to the roof of Africa. Kevin told me about this trip to climb the tallest mountain on the African continent, he explained that it would be an amazing experience and a trip that I should plan for the future. I told him when we were still deep within the mountains of Nepal that I would definitely be interested and would let him know as soon as we left the Himalayas.

When I arrived in Tanzania, my friend Brian Mockenhaupt and I were shuttled off to the lodge we would be staying at before the big climb. Brian had climbed with me previously on the Soldiers to the Summit expedition and would be guiding me the majority of the time on Africa’s tallest peak. The place we were staying at reminded me of a lodge I stayed at 10 years before when I first visited Africa. In my mind I visualized a rustic and wood constructed building, simple but strong and sound. Circling the main lodge building were the smaller designed living quarters, all equipped with toilets, showers and beds. The beds were sealed behind a thin light weight curtain, which protected us from insects as we slept during the night. All in all, the lodge was very modern and comfortable, a nice place to relax and prepare for our Kilimanjaro climb.

Before the climb we did some humanitarian and volunteer work in a city named Moshi. Moshi, Tanzania is located not far from Kilimanjaro and the Kilimanjaro airport. To this day I will never forget the sound of kids and people singing in the street as we approached the small school. Each one of the volunteers/climbers had a specific role to accomplish, whether it be administering medical aid or stocking the newly constructed medical building, there was something for everyone to do. My job was to hand out goody bags to the kids and as I did, I listened to each of their responses closely. The kids were not used to receiving gifts, especially gift bags that had a mirror within them. All I remember of that specific experience was the excitement and cheerful laughs from the kids examining their new gifts. If someone were to ask me, what was your favorite thing about your climb on Kilimanjaro? I would tell them about our volunteer trip in Moshi and the wonderful kids who greeted us when we arrived in Africa.

Brian wrote a great article and there is some video of the climb on Chicago Magazine.


Special Thanks to the following people and organizations for making this trip possible:

Brian MockenhauptKevin CherillaKristen Sanequist, my guides and all of the 2011 Kilimanjaro team