What is Mountain High Adventures? That is a great question, one that I am still figuring out the answer to. It’s an idea. It’s a motivation. It’s a description of what I do. It’s my creative outlet, manifested in a physical and spiritual connection with the outdoors. I climb mountains, run really far, and I am a medical marijuana patient.
I’ve always loved being in the outdoors. My dad used to take me camping and fishing on the weekends and I remember learning to water ski at the age of 6. I grew up in Oklahoma but my grandparents had a lake-home in Wisconsin that we would spend weeks at in the summertime. I would take trips to Colorado for spring break to go skiing. Then my older brother went to college in Montana, and after visiting him up there, I followed a few years later. That’s where I fell in love with the mountains. I snowboarded in the winter and mountain biked in the summer. It was all fun, I never thought of it as training. I just enjoyed being out there. I started hiking and backpacking too.
As life would have it, I felt the need to get my education and have a career. So I got distracted by college and the pursuit of a degree. I had a hard time in the academic classes but found that dance was easy for me being that it was based in movement. Ive always been super active, and sitting still through class was always a challenge, but dance was different. I was very engaged and interested in creating movement. I focused on pedagogy and choreography. I graduated with a BFA in dance and moved to Seattle to become a professional dancer. I pieced it all together barely for a few years before making the decision to go back to school for a graduate degree. That took me to Oregon. Rainy Oregon. I got my MFA again focusing on Dance and Production. The rigor of the program and hustle of life got to me. I got burned out.
I moved to Las Vegas on a whim with some friends and started a professional poker dealing career. Poker always paid well, its a fun social game, and its a super easy job once you know what you’re doing. Its not really that inspiring long term tho. Its been great and paid the bills, but I’m about done. Its not who I am.
Fast forward to today. Here I am, in Las Vegas, Nevada, 8 years later. Burnt out on poker, and piecing together part-time jobs. Here I am with a ton of motivation to be in the outdoors and to do what I love, to run and climb. Here I am at 40, in the best shape of my life. I have such a passion for being in the mountains and I can’t help but believe that if I follow my heart I can create a decent living for myself. I don’t have to work at a “job”, I don’t have to “clock-in”. I can be a professional athlete and a writer. I can follow my dreams and share the process and that can be my vehicle to a sustainable living. I believe that I can make it happen.
I am so excited to start this new journey and I hope you all join me. We are going to go to some amazing places and do some amazing things. I look forward to your feedback and support. Come along and enjoy some Mountain High Adventures!
We’ve all gone down at least once. Faceplant, superman, digger, fall, trip, crash, slip, wipeout, whatever you want to call it, the trails sometimes reach out and grab us, pull us down to the earth, and give us a nice face hug. This article is gonna be 5 trail running tips to keep from smearing your cheeks on the trails next time you go out for a run.
Pick up your feet! Yeah, no-brainer right? Well, catching a toe is the biggest culprit when it comes to face planting. It sounds easy enough, just lift up your toes, but when we get into a run lots of things can distract us. The best way to implement this into your stride is to take exaggerated high steps. Especially for beginners. It is best to develop a habit where you are lifting your feet slightly higher than you need to when you are starting out. Safety first. Over time you will find that comfortable stride without too much extra lift, but better safe than sorry!
Scan the terrain with your eyes! You are probably already doing this, but be extra observant. Scan anywhere from 3-15 feet in front of you for big rocks or other large obstacles. Seeing a step up or drop off a few extra steps early will pay off huge in saving your face. Noticing a turn or switchback before you get right up on it can save you from veering off trail to more uneven terrain. Look for tree branches and anything overhanging too, I’ve tweaked my neck trying to dodge a tree branch last minute, and could have completely lost my balance.
Hands in front of you while climbing! You might be more worried about falling while going downhill, but our bodies are already on extra high alert when descending. It’s when we are pushing our strength on the uphills where our stamina is really tested. We also let our guard down a little when moving slower uphill, and that’s when we go down. When running or hiking up steep hills, keep your hands out in front of you. This will serve two purposes. First, having your hands in front of your body will pull your center of gravity forward, thus helping you climb up the hill. Second, if you do happen to catch a toe and trip, your hands will be right there to catch you.
Don’t go too fast! Slow down! Again, safety first. Getting out of control is the best way to take a digger. Whether we are in a race or just bombing our local trail, it is fun to go fast. We tune in to that primal mode and really want to turn it on. Go for it, but save a little energy in case something goes wrong. The slightest little balance shift or rock slip at high speed can be disastrous. I pride myself in being one of the best technical downhill runners in my community, but I always leave a little room for error even when trying to set a record, I never max out completely.
Push-ups! Haha, yes, that’s right, Push-ups. Heaven forbid you do catch a toe and go down, having a little upper body strength to catch you may just save your lips. As careful as we are, there are still those times when the stars line up just right, and the world goes into slow motion as you realize you are careening toward a rock head-butt. Being able to catch yourself with your hands and lower your body gently to the trail could save you from a trip to the hospital. Now, we all know its never gentle, but with a bit of upper body conditioning you may be able to soften the blow.
So there you have it, 5 trail running tips to keep you from falling on your face. We all love getting out on the trails and letting loose, but making sure you don’t take a spill will ensure your safety and keep you coming back for more. The 3 rules for Mountain High Adventures are…in this order…1. Safety 2. Fun 3. Speed. Now, go be the best version of yourself that you can be.
I have been trying to launch a business over the last several months. It has had me searching far and wide for financial answers. All I want to do is to be able to pay my bills and support my little family, but it seems to be increasingly harder as time goes on. I am just realizing what a terrible place I am in financially. I’ve been so focused on getting my blog and videos up that I have barely come up for air. Now it is all hitting me as I try to plan for 2019. I have never been business savvy, I got two college degrees in the arts. I’ve never really understood how money works, but I was always very creative and active. So, naturally, I followed my passions and tried to make a living at it, but I didn’t ever get any coaching on how to manage my money. I didn’t even know that I was doing it all wrong. No one told me when I was younger that I needed a 401(k). No one told me to save my money, or have a nest egg. Maybe my parents did, but they didn’t really show me how to do it. I’ve fallen into the financial rollercoaster of any low-middle class American. I have pretty much lived paycheck to paycheck my whole life. There have been two times in my life when a decent amount of money fell into my lap. Both times I was able to dig myself out of debt and get back on my feet for several months, but not before falling right back into the same old patterns. I’m scared. I don’t want to go back to the same cycle.
I have identified that my financial struggles are twofold. One, I have never had a significant source of income. Sure I have had some decent paying jobs, but they really have only been enough to get by comfortably. I have never had income that was significant by any means, so I have never had any extra money to even decide what to do with, much less take care of all my financial responsibilities. It gets overwhelming really fast. I know I am not the only one too, the statistics show that 62% of american’s don’t even have $1,000 in a savings account. I don’t. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
I wiped out most of my debt earlier this year. It felt great. I had been drowning for awhile. Unfortunately, I didn’t get rid of all my student loan debt because I couldn’t bare to watch such a huge chunk of money all go away at once. So lets take a look at how bad my financial situation is.
Like I said before I don’t have a ton of debt right now. I still have some student loans I am paying off, and I have a truck payment. Other than that I don’t owe anyone any money, except rent each month, and my other recurring monthly bills to simply live my life. I live fairly cheaply. I’m on about a $4000 a month budget. That’s about what my bills come out to. That budget only includes my current bills and food. That doesn’t give me much extra. So let’s take a look at this. If I need roughly $4000 a month take home, then that means I need to be making more like $6000 a month, because we all know Uncle Sam wants his share. $6000 a month net income, that’s $72,000 a year.
Ok, so we have a target number to get by financially in the sense that I could pay my bills. I need a job that pays at least $72,000/year. But if we look at the big picture, I probably need a little bit more. I havn’t taken into account that if something bad happens I need a safety net. If I were to get into a car accident and need to hire legal representation, I would be in big trouble. So what do we say is a fair amount of “emergency situation money”? $10,000? $20,000? For legal representation in our country it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. We need protection from stuff like that though right? If we want to rest easy at night knowing we are financially secure even if something bad were to happen, we need a legal plan which requires money. So lets say we need at least $100k in the bank for legal security. What if I were to get hurt? I am super active, what if I fell down and broke my leg? Since my divorce earlier this year I havn’t had health insurance. I can’t afford it. I resigned from my last job so I would have more time to try to establish my own business, so I havn’t even had access to it, unless I wanted to pay a private party, which is astronomical. Just for giggles lets throw some numbers out there. I would be willing to bet that as a private consumer I would have to pay in the ballpark of $500 a month. So lets add that to my monthly budget. $4500.
I have a beautiful and energetic 6 year old daughter. Luckily she is pretty cheap to take care of. She doesn’t eat much and she hasn’t gotten into expensive clothing yet. I do have her enrolled in Ballet and Gymnastics which cost about $150/month together. But, if I want to consider her future, I should probably be saving some money too. I would love for her to go to college and get a good education. I should be investing in that now, so that it is manageable when the time comes. I could easily put $350 a month into a college fund and that would only be worth $50k when she’s 18. Enough to cover her first year maybe. +$500/mo for my daughter. We are up to $5000/month now.
Looking into the future it would be great to have a retirement account. More importantly even would be to have a small savings account right now. So on top on the $100k we need for legal security, we need at least another $20k in personal savings. What if we want to take a vacation? Or buy my daughter a car in a few years? I need to be putting money into a personal savings account every month and for it to be anything significant it has to be at least $10k a year, which is another $830 month. $5830. Honestly, $10k a year in savings is not that much, in 10 years it will only be $100k, which you could lose easily in a legal battle. This really is just scraping the bottom of the barrel, this is the bare minimum to even begin to feel financially secure. Back to the retirement account. How much do you put in there? It may not have to be as big of a contribution if you are putting money into a savings account also, but you might spend some of that savings from time to time but you will never touch the retirement account. Let’s say $500/month for retirement? I’m 40, if I put $500/month into a retirement account for the next 20 years, it will only be worth $120,000. I can’t retire at 60 with $120k in the bank so it will have to be more than that. Sure it will compound over time, but I will also have to pay taxes and all that. For good measure lets say double that for retirement, $1000/month. Now we are up to $6830 a month I need in gross income. This will pay my bills, set some money aside for emergencies, and provide a retirement. Remember this is just a snapshot of what it takes to be the at the bare minimum of financially secure and responsible in our world today. So if I need $6830 each month in gross income, that looks more like $10,250 a month in net monthly income. That’s $125,000 a year. How many people do you know that make $125,000 a year? That’s a well respected Dentist’s salary who went to medical school for a number of years. That’s the construction Foreman, who has been in the industry for 20 years. That’s the Casino Vice President of Gaming’s salary, a position that takes a career to get to. These aren’t jobs that you can just go apply for. So what is a guy supposed to do?
I am trying to start a business where I show people, by example, how to live a healthy and active lifestyle. I am creative in my approach to being fit, and I have a lot to offer. This is what I am good at. This is my zone of genius. This is the best I have to offer this world, and it’s worth far more than $125,000 a year. If I can help enough people get healthy it could be worth way more. Putting in 40 hours a week at a casino job to earn a paycheck is not the best I have to offer this world or the best use of my time here. If I provide and share my best skills and what I am most passionate about, you all will benefit the most. My community will benefit from my leadership and inspiration. I want to make an impact.
So here I am at ground zero. I have no savings, no retirement, no income and I need to somehow drum up $100,000 to put in the bank as a safety net, and I need a little over $10,000 a month to get by and begin to provide a secure financial future for myself and my daughter. Ok, I got the number. I know what I need. Now I need a plan to get there. That, my friends, is where you come into play. I have never been coached on how to aquire money and how to handle it. This doesn’t mean I don’t deserve a financially secure future though. I am ready, I need someone to show me the way. I am well educated and I learn quickly. I don’t have 10 years to build up to this, I need to have this in place now. If you can help me, please reach out. If you can’t help me, please think if you know anyone who can. I have a lot riding on this and I am asking for help. I wanted to do it my way, but I have come to a place where I honestly don’t know where to turn and I am asking for help.
I have been feverishly trying to start my own brand and develop my community presence. I have a lot offer. Again, I am asking for help. I can’t build this anymore on my own. It is ready for the next step. I need major financial backing in order to reach a broad enough audience to really have an impact. My GoPro 5, and my iphone 6 aren’t gonna do the trick forever. I need better equipment, and I need the time to produce my outdoor adventure content. I have everything in place to do what I want to do. I have the basic tools, and I have been in the creative mode for the last few months. The ball is rolling, it is no longer just an idea anymore. It is real and developing everyday. I am on the path, but to continue I need support. Again, I am asking for help. Direct financial security is the first priority, and then I will need some guidance along the way to help maintain everything. If you can help, or know someone who can, please reach out to me. You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are many other ways to get in touch with me as well. You can message me on facebook or instagram, or even shoot me a text or call directly. 702-480-7330. Thank you for anything you can offer!! Let’s take Mountain High Adventures to the next level!!
If you would like to support me directly here is an opportunity.
If you would like to support Mountain High Adventures here is a direct link.
“I can candidly say that I have never seen , nor do I expect to see, a picture so varied, so sublime, so awe-inspiring, as that seen from the summit of Mount Whitney.”
-Anna Mills, the first Woman to climb Mount Whitney
As we approach the end of 2018 I wanted to take a look back and do a review of all the big mountains I climbed this year. I have no way of distinguishing what a “big mountain” is in my book, but it’s basically anything that took a decent effort to get to, and stands pretty tall. Prominence is one way to define a big mountain, which means how big it is in relation to the land around it, versus sheer altitude at the peak. My list is putting heavier value on altitude, because I climbed a considerable amount of peaks in the 6-8000′ range, and some even had significant elevation gain to reach the summit, but I am leaving those out. In my loose definition of a big mountain one qualifier for this list is the peak had to be at least 10,000′ above sea level. These are the big mountains in my book. The alpine. The peaks where its hard to breathe at the top. That’s where I like to go. I am drawn upward by the ridge lines and jagged peaks. I want to know what the world looks like from up there and what it feels like to stand on those summits. This is what Mountain High Adventures is all about. This is where it all started. A love for big mountains and their peaks.
Over the past several years I have really broadened my activity base. I used to simply hike all the time. I just liked being out in nature. Then I started climbing and running. Trail and Ultra running have become big part of my life and that takes a lot of time and energy. I have been willing to put in the effort because I knew the net result would be much better fitness, which would allow me access to bigger mountains and objectives. The way my perspective has changed is incredible. I have developed such strong endurance that I can look at tackling high elevation peaks in a matter of hours instead of days. It blows my mind what the human body is capable of. I like to use the Mt Charleston example. Mt Charleston sits at a proud 11,916′. The tallest mountain in southern Nevada by a long shot. The shortest trail to the top is at least 8 miles and climbs well over 4000′ in elevation gain. My first effort was a solo backpacking trip overnight. It took everything I had in me to reach the summit on that trip and the whole thing took over 24 hours. This summer on a training run for a big mountain ultra, I did the Mt Charleston loop, about 18 miles, in a little under 4 hours in shorts and t-shirt. Both approaches to reach the peak of this big mountain are absolutely legitimate, and neither is “better” than the other, but I have to say that it is pretty damn exhilarating to cruise over a huge mountain peak in a matter of hours and get back down safely. I love having days where I go slow and take in the scenery, but nothing beats the feeling of moving quick and efficient in the mountains and covering lots of terrain in a matter of minutes and hours. I feel a very strong sense of connection to the land and my body when I do this. So, here’s the 2018 Mountain High Adventures Top 10 Big Mountain List! They are not in chronological order, they are in order from lowest elevation to highest.
10. McFarland Peak. 10,742′. Spring Mountain Wilderness, Southern Nevada. October 1st, 2018. Beautiful fall day. This is a fairly obscure peak in the Spring Mountains and the shortest trail to the summit is over 6 miles. When I did this peak I set the FKT (Fastest Known Time). My stats were 13.36 miles, 3,773′ elevation gain, in 3:23:26. It’s since been beaten by my friend who I stole the record from. He reclaimed the title. It is now 2:59.
9. Telescope Peak. 11,049′. Death Valley National Park highpoint. February 16th, 2018. My climbing partner Punan and I backpacked up toward Telescope Peak. We camped about 2 miles and 1000’ below the summit. We woke early for an alpine start. Raced the sun to the summit. The ridge up was rather steep in sections but the snow was in good condition for cutting steps. We reached the summit about 7am, about 15 minutes after the sunrise. It was gorgeous in all directions. We could see Mt Charleston and Mt Whitney at the same time in opposite directions, and the shadow of Telescope out to the west was epic!
8. Timpanogos. 11,752′. Wasatch Range, UT. August 23, 2018. I had been backpacking in the Wind River Range in WY, more on that later, and on the road trip back to Vegas stayed a night in Salt Lake City, UT. I had my eyes on Timp, the second tallest peak in the Wasatch range and one of the few ultra prominent peaks with over 5,000′ of vertical prominence. I did this as a summit attack adventure run, fast and light. Stats were 14.35 miles, 4,091′ elevation gain, 3:59:01 car2car. The summit was full winter conditions with high wind and sleet, and it was beautiful and sunny down near the trailhead, crazy big mountain experience.
In my short running career I have had some amazing moments. My running joke is that I don’t even like running, but I can’t seem to live without it. It’s a very human thing. We are physical beings, and as babies, not long after we learn to walk we learn to run. It’s a very natural movement, close to our ancestral core. Running is our rite of speedy locomotion. Somehow it eluded me most of my life. In our day and age, especially if you live anywhere halfway civilized it’s pretty easy to live a life without running. I mean its possible if you have enough money to never even leave your house, much less run or even walk. But I digress. Anyway, as much as I always fantasized about running several times a week throughout my life, I never did it. Until 2 years ago. Through hiking and other outdoor adventures I began to consider running. Just to test things out I started going for short runs around the block. a mile. a mile and half. Eventually I began to get curious enough to try to run further. 2 miles. 3 miles. That’s when I decided I needed to enter a race and see what the hype was about. I thought it was fine and dandy to cruise around the block a couple times a week, but what if I committed to a race and actually took it seriously? What would training look like? What would the race be like? I signed up for Trails of Glory 8k, a local Las Vegas community trail race put on by Desert Dash. 8 kilometers is about 5 miles, and at the time of the race it was about as far as I had ever run. 8 kilometers. That seemed so far. In my mind that was an ultra marathon. That was in December of 2016. I’ve come a long way since then and this article is going to be a resume of all the races I’ve entered. Don’t worry, my resume isn’t that long. Yet. So here we go…
Trails of Glory- December 17, 2016. 8k. (5 long miles). 45:32, 8th place overall out of 91 finishers. This race had a dramatic finish as I approached the finish another runner came up from behind fast trying to pass me, we went into a dead sprint for the last 50 yards and I held my ground by about one body length. I was hooked.
Beginner’s Luck- April 8, 2017. 11 miles. 1:32:16. 12th place overall out of 47 finishers. I had way too much gear for this race. My pack was a full size camel-back and stuffed with a jacket and loads of other stuff. I could have camped overnight with what I had in my pack. Again at this point 11 miles was the furthest I had run, it seemed like an ultra. I was nervous I didn’t bring enough with me. I took my first fall in this race, I clipped a toe and everything went into slow motion as I lurched forward. I tucked my right shoulder as I struck the ground and curled up. Somehow I rolled across my back, bounced off my huge pack, and landed back on my feet without missing a stride. I thought I should stop and make sure everything was okay, but I literally was back to running before I knew what happened. I just kept going without looking back. I didn’t have a scratch on me.
Flight of Fire- May 6, 2017. 13.1 miles. 2:12:47. 10th place overall. This was the longest I had ever run at once up to this point. I walked the last mile and half because I was so worn out. Somehow I got a special finishers award for 3rd in my age group.
Grand Canyon Ultras- May 27, 2017. 55k. (32.4 miles). 6:17:35. 31st place overall out of 120 finishers. North Rim of Grand Canyon. This was 3 weeks after my first 1/2 marathon. Yes, I jumped from a 1/2 to an Ultra in 3 weeks and I didn’t die. I had gone out to the race to volunteer to get to know the race community and get some race credits and just happened into a bib for the 55k. I knew to take it super easy in the beginning and I told myself the whole time that it was just a long hike. My calves were pretty sore for a couple days, but all in all I held up pretty strong. I was hooked again.
Three Degrees of Hell- July 7&8, 2017. Race series of three 7 mile races in 24 hours. 1) 1:02:30 16th of 83. 2) 58:25 14th of 80. 3) 1:02:22 16th of 72. This was especially hard because of the heat. 7/7/2017 in Las Vegas. The start of the first race at 7pm was 113 degrees out in the desert where we were running. This is a niche event.
Tushars Mountain Runs- July 29, 2017. Marathon. (26.2 miles). 7:23:48. 35th out of 128 finishers. This was by far the hardest race/run I had ever done to this point. Huge elevation gain, over 7,500′. I fell in love with this race. The Tushars Mountains are big and they have some beautifully rugged trails. For some reason I enjoy testing myself in this mountain range. I went back the following year, more on that later. I almost took a fall during the last mile to the finish. While trying to keep from falling I tweaked my spine and I would sustain a lower back injury that took months to work through as a result.
Trails of Glory- November 4th, 2017. 40 miler. 8:50:31. 6th place out of 25 finishers. I did well in this race considering I wasn’t fully recovered from my lower back issue. I suffered a strained calf after this race and had to rest for a couple of weeks. Great story to have gone from the shortest distance offered at TOG in 2016 to the longest distance offered in 2017. 5-40 miles in one year. My body was paying the price though because I wasn’t properly addressing my issues.
Trail Trashed- March 24, 2018. Trail Marathon 26.2 miles. 4:00:22. 2nd place overall out of 35. First official podium ever! PR at this distance still holding til today. This was a dream race. I went super light, shoes, shorts, and handheld. Ran it like a 5 miler the whole way, foot on the gas and cruising. I was hooked again.
Wild Wild West Ultra- May 5, 2018. 55k. (34.5 miles). 6:24:46. 10 place overall out of 92 finishers. I got off course for about 2.5 miles and half an hour. Still got an award for 3rd in age group. This race is cool because you run up to the Whitney Portal and then down through the Alabama Hills to Lone Pine, CA. An epic journey. Burnt up the calves on this one too, clipped a series of sub-7 min/miles on a downhill section. Had trouble walking for 2-3 days. Then I was strong AF.
Night of Fire- May 12, 2018. 1/2 Marathon. (13.1 miles). 1:56:39. 2nd place overall out of 37 finishers. 2nd official podium. This was big for me coming off of an ultra the weekend before. This race is in Red Rock Canyon, which is my home, so I knew I could push hard. I walked the last mile and still got 2nd.
Tushars Mountain Runs- August 4, 2018. 70k. (42 miles). 11:52:51. 6th place overall out of 29 finishers. This was my biggest ultra yet. Huge, over 12k feet of climbing. I trained well for this race and paced myself very well. I finished strong passing 4 people in the last 10 miles. A day or two of stiffness but other than that I felt great after this race. Again, I felt comfortable pushing myself in these mountains, they are rugged and beautiful and huge. I will be going back next year for the 100k, mark my words.
Moonlight Madness- August 28, 2018. 1/2 Marathon. (13.1 miles). 1:50:40. 3rd place overall out of 89 finishers. Really fun local race at night under the glow of the full moon. Very cool vibe and great event. Stoked to have stood on the podium in such a big field of local trail runners.
Stagecoach Line Ultra- September 22, 2018. 55k. (32.6 miles). 5:31:00. 13th out of 52 finishers. Had some stomach issues during this race. Could shave half an hour off this time on a good day. Legs held up great.
Deadhorse Ultra- November 17, 2018. 50 miler. 9:11:00. 43rd out of 169 finishers. Longest ultra yet. More stomach issues and foot issue slowed me down. Could have run sub-9, but very happy with this result. Big day running through Moab, UT.
So there you have it, 2 years if trail running wrapped up into 14 races. I am proud to say that I am an ultra runner and that I have never DNF’ed (Did Not Finish) a race. Obviously my resume is not that long yet, but I have run some significant races and held myself together fairly well. For me, running is not the end game. Again, I don’t even really like running. My end game is big days in the mountains. Running supports that 100%, so for that I tolerate running in my life. It has made climbing mountains so much more accessible, and I have discovered an amazing community of people that I am so lucky to get to call myself a part of.
Looking forward, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), gets me more than anything. I see these amazing friends of mine signing up for these ultra marathons and I just can’t help but want to join them in the suffering. So I have signed up for my first 100k at Black Canyon. It is February 16, 2019. I have a little over 2 months to train. I’m not looking forward to it, but I know I will learn a lot about myself in the process and Ill develop some more great running friendships along the way. Join me for the journey to 100k at Black Canyon.
Over the past few years I have gone through some major shifts in thinking. I have considered over and over again what is important to me. What feels right? What feels natural? I had been living this life where I was dealing with things as they came instead of planning ahead, and eventually I wound up with this life that was a random assortment of things that I didn’t necessarily want. Things I had chosen and things that happened to me by default because I didn’t make a choice. I would solve one problem with a solution only to create another problem. So I kept finding solutions until I was so far away from the type of life I wanted to live I was lost. How could I be driving around town for multiple hours every day when I have terrible road anxiety? And why am I paying other people to parent my child when my parenting strategy is to be present with my child and teach her about the world we live in? How could I be spending 40-50 hours a week at a job that had no growth potential? That’s what I was doing. I was commuting all over the city, dropping my daughter off at daycare, and going to a job that was going nowhere. You’ve probably heard a similar story before. I had to reevaluate. I had to reorganize my life so that I could spend time with my daughter when she is with me and share my skill set with my community in an effective way so that I can build a successful career. I took some time off after resigning from my job earlier this year to shift around my priorities. You see its not that I don’t want to work or that I don’t have a skill set that can produce a healthy income. I’m highly educated and fully motivated. I was just in a place where I wasn’t using my best gifts to create my living. I knew somewhere deep down that I would be the most fulfilled if I shared my passions with others.
As I have been re-organizing my life it has been a process of eliminating things that don’t serve me and finding more time for the things that do. As I have moved through this change I have been open to what feels right and what doesn’t. I am in love with the natural world and want to live a fulfilling life where I feel like I am being my most authentic self. I have done so much personal work over the years and I really have honed in on what makes me tick and what is a sustainable life for me. I prioritized the important things in my life and considered how it all could work. The ultimate goal is to live a happy life doing the things I love and creating a comfortable living doing it. So this is where I am at right now. I feel like I have it all figured out, I just need to set it all in motion and hope that my dream manifests.
First and foremost I feel as though health is the most important consideration in life. Health is life. Health is about feeling good. I like to say if you feel good you will do good. I used to be a dance teacher and one thing I always expressed to my students was that dance is more about how it feels than how it looks. If your dance feels good, it will look good. Life is the same way, if we feel good during our life, it will be a good life. For me, health has taken center stage over the past few years. I lived a very reckless and generally unhealthy life for a lot of years. In my youth I tended to feel invincible and that my actions didn’t matter in the long run, but I was setting myself up for bad habits later in life. I lived a self-destructive life for many years. It wasn’t until I got into my mid-30’s that I ever even considered what I was doing with my life in terms of health. I had lost my father years before when he was only 53, basically due to natural causes. I was 22 at the time. He suffered from heart disease and it killed him before we even knew about it. But it was his unhealthy lifestyle choices that put undue stress on his heart and body. My Dad simply lived through his whole lifespan in 53 years. I believe if he had made better life decisions and had been more health conscious he would have lived longer. That thought put a bit of fear into my head. I thought that if I lived the same lifestyle as my Dad I would also die at age 53. Like I said earlier I started having these thoughts in my mid-to-late 30’s. That only gave me about 15 years to live. That’s not very long. I wanted to live longer than that, so I realized I had to start making some changes. The kicker here is that I feel in the past few years I’ve just finally started to live my life. Before I was stuck in this endless cycle of addiction and self-destruction. So now that I’ve finally found a healthy, sustainable, happy life, I don’t want it to end in 15 years. So health is number 1. And for me that looks like a very active lifestyle with a healthy diet. This is the most important thing in my life. Without my health I have no life, so this has to be my number 1 priority. Now I am reaping the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. I have been making healthy choices and I feel the difference it makes in my day to day life. I feel alive and it feels amazing. I know I am on the right track with my health, I feel it on the inside. It feels right.
The second most important thing is my daughter. She really is the most important thing in the whole wide world to me, but again, if I’m not alive and healthy I can’t be there for her. There has been a couple of times in her life where I took a step back and wasn’t around as much. Her mom and I separated when she was 2 years old for about 3 months. I still saw her every week, but she didn’t ever spend the night with me or stay with me for any period of time. Every night I would stay up thinking about her and how I wanted to be around her. Then recently this year, after my divorce, I took some time off and set out to travel for awhile. My plan was to be gone for several months and maybe check in Vegas every few weeks to see her. I quickly found that I can’t be away from her for very long. My heart would ache. She is my everything. I think about her all the time. I realized I had to be in her life on a regular basis, I don’t want to miss out on anything. She is 6 and a smart 1st grader. She is active like her Daddy. I currently have her enrolled in Ballet and Gymnastics, two physical activities that I think will help her to understand how her body moves in a strong and confident manner. I am not married to her Mom anymore so we have a 50/50 custody arrangement. I get my girl for a week, then she spends a week with her Mom, and then back to me again. So, I am a part-time full-time Dad. When she is with me I am a full-time Dad for that week, and she is my main focus. I love being a Dad. It is the hardest but most fulfilling role I’ve ever played. I want her to have a happy and wonderful life. I found that when I was working a ton of hours doing jobs that I didn’t want to be doing, I wasn’t able to be a very good father. First of all, I was at work all the time so I physically wasn’t around very much. Then when I was around I wasn’t able to be the best Dad I could be because I was too busy trying to figure out how to relieve myself of all the stress and discontentment with my jobs. It was demoralizing that I had to be gone all the time, commuting around town, going to these jobs that paid the bills but were not fulfilling in any way. So it was bad on two fronts. First the fact that I’m gone doesn’t allow me to even be present, and then when I am around I’m not happy, so I cant even show up for her emotionally because I’m not grounded myself. So I realized that in order to be a good Dad I have to have a fulfilling career that gives me the flexibility to be there for her. When she is with me, I need to be able to focus on her 100%. Is that too much to ask for? I think not. I am not okay with settling for anything less anymore. Taking her to safekey before and after school and daycare when she’s not in school is not how I want to raise my daughter. I want to be the one taking care of her, it doesn’t feel right anymore to pay someone to take care of her. At one point in my life that seemed like the answer though. My thinking was that if I paid someone to watch her then I could go to work and make a living. But I realized I was just missing out on parenting my child, and that’s not something I am okay with anymore. I want to be the one there teaching her about life and answering those big questions for her as they come up. I don’t want someone else doing all that for me, shes MY daughter! Okay, so you get the point, I want to be there for her, she needs her Daddy.
The only other piece to this puzzle is money, or the financial side. Life is not free, we have bills to pay. So figuring out how to make a living doing what I love that allows me the flexibility to be a full-time Dad every other week has been my biggest challenge. I believe it is possible though. I’ve been spending the last 6 months trying to get everything set up. I have a plan. I have been defining my skill sets, and building new ones this year. I needed to know what I was working with, and how I could be the most useful to my community. Part of that meant figuring out who my community was. I have found them. They are the outdoor people. The ones that like to adventure. The hikers, trail-runners, and rock climbers. That is my tribe. As someone who has studied how the body moves for most of my adult life, I am a huge resource when it comes to safe and efficient movement. I can help people meet their movement potential. So these are my parameters for work. I need to have the flexibility to be there for my daughter when she is with me, and I need to be providing a service to my community to help them to be the best movers they can be in the outdoors.
So I have my priorities lined up. Health, my Daughter, and a Career. In that order. It feels right to consider my health and my Daughter before everything else. I hope more than anything I can create a life that allows those two things to be my two biggest priorities. Of course I need income also, but I believe as long as I show up everyday and my intentions are to help those around me, I will be able to sustain a living. So what does this job/career/income look like? It looks like me coaching others how to be strong movers. It looks like me making videos to share health and safety tips about moving in the outdoors. It looks like me teaching people how to live a healthy and active lifestyle like I do. It looks like me walking the walk. It all makes sense in my mind, and I am working hard to make it all become a reality.
I want to make a difference in peoples lives. One of the best versions of myself is when I am helping others, and I feel the best when I am doing that. So why not re-organize how I relate to the idea of work versus income and try to situate it so that I can derive an income from the skills I am sharing with my community? I will feel good about myself on the inside and my community will benefit from my education and skill sets. It makes sense for me to share my knowledge, passion, and experience with others to help them achieve their own goals. That sounds like a fulfilling career. In return, they pay me for my service. Simple model, but hard to actually set up a system like this from scratch. Because of my specific life limitations, I need to be able to relate to the world in a certain way and at certain times. It’s not as easy as “just go get a job.” I have medical issues that require a certain lifestyle, and I have family that requires a certain time commitment. Those two things I cannot compromise. I also know that if I put those two things first, and get that in alignment with my values, then I will be present and effective at engaging with the world around me. I am trying to foster a feeling of fulfillment in myself first, that way I always have a full cup to share from.
So then the questions becomes what does this “career” look like? What is the work? There’s several jobs in the outdoor industry that allow one to share their passion with their clients. Guiding is one of these jobs categories. I’ve been an outdoor guide for the last two years, and as great as it feels to show someone a new place, it also takes a lot of time and energy. You can only guide one or two adventures a day. It simply takes a lot of time to get out there and have an experience in the outdoors. So in a way it is somewhat of a limitation. If that was my “job” my income would be limited to a few clients a day. Also, this model requires a certain amount of commuting around town to make it all happen, picking up clients and taking them out to the trails. It uses a lot of resources. Another career in this field is being a personal trainer. This is another great way to help others in a one-on-one situation, or even small groups, but very limiting at the same time as far as the number of clients I can serve at once. Being a Mentor, on the other hand is a slightly different role. A Mentor leads by example. A Mentor shows others what is possible by leading a consistently inspiring life. A Mentor teaches and coaches others without having to be there day in and day out to hold their hand. I believe this is the ideal role for me. I have tons of motivation to get out and lead a healthy lifestyle. If you look at my daily life over the past several years you can see that I am very active in the outdoor adventure space and I’m always going out and exploring the world around me. I have no problem with stoke for life. So it makes sense to use this as my skill set and make it my career.
I don’t have the time and the resources to be commuting around town and meeting up with lots of clients, or teaching at various studios. It’s simply not efficient. But I can provide content of my skills and knowledge through the internet. We are only a couple of clicks away from each other at any giving time. I can lead daily stretch and strengthening routines, and go on training/adventure runs and share the lessons I’m learning through video content. I love taking pictures and video and creating visual representations of what I am doing. I also love telling stories, and I am able to do that through trip reports and race recaps on my blog. In comes Patreon. Patreon is an online platform that will allow me to share all of my content in its various forms, and it will allow you to support me in the process thus completing the cycle of service from me to you. You can simply go to my Patreon page and join our community of outdoor adventurers. There are several tiers of membership to suit your needs. Here is a link to my Patreon Page. https://www.patreon.com/mountainhighadventures
This is where I ask for help. I can’t do it all by myself. I am asking for you to join me on this journey. Become a patron of mine and start, or continue, on a path toward adventure in the outdoors. I have put a lot of thought into this life and I finally feel as though its making sense. I am intentionally designing my life to be as optimal as possible. A life that puts value in my priorities and enough structure to support my career. Please follow along and help me spread the good word of a healthy lifestyle through outdoor adventure, and if you or anyone you know needs some movement guidance let me know. I got you.
If you would like to support me directly here is an opportunity.
On April 20th, 2018, I linked up 3 of the biggest peaks in Red Rock Canyon in one long sustained scrambling route, Wilson, Rainbow, and Bridge. I named the route the Red Rock Triple Crown. I believe the route to be a first ascent in the style, route, and speed in which I did it. In fact, speaking with historians in the area, there are only a handful of people who have attempted anything like this. Thank you to Harlan Stockman for helping me dig up the history on this route. It sounds like there have been 4 parties who have completed the objective of standing on these 3 peaks in a day. Harlan Stockman led a group in 2008 from Rocky Gap road, starting with Bridge and working south, but he wound up being the only one to stand on all three peaks that day. He used the limestone ridge east of the escarpment to connect the peaks. Bruce LaCroix had apparently done it the week prior in the opposite direction, but again using the limestone ridge, and making it a point-to-point route, having a car spotted at Willow Springs. A climber by the name of Jerry Handren had supposedly hit the 3 peaks in a day as he traversed the limestone ridge from north to south. He bivvied for a night and continued south the next day trying to hit the other sandstone peaks as he went. The closest trip report I’ve found to my route was a pair of runners from back in 2002. They parked at the exit of the loop, ran the road through the park to Lost Creek, climbed up to North Peak, then proceeded south hitting Bridge, Rainbow, and Wilson, eventually coming down First Creek Canyon and out to Highway 159. They followed the highway back to their car at the park loop exit. I had no knowledge of these climbs when I developed my idea although I imagined someone else had probably done something similar. My route was unique that day in that I climbed each mountain from bottom to top, hiking, scrambling, and climbing, and I linked them all together on foot making a complete loop out of the route. I’d like to document the route I took for historical purposes but also to share what an incredible experience I had that day in Red Rock.
First I’d like to define the idea and where it came from, and how I decided on the exact route I chose. Hopefully this can shed some light on the magnitude of the project, and the seemingly impossible undertaking that my dream required.
I moved to Las Vegas in 2010, and had been out to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area a couple of times, but something really started to pull me out there a few years later. In 2014 I visited the park more often and really started to fall in love with the terrain. I enjoyed exploring in the vast canyons and scrambling up and over the big boulders that lined the washes. In 2016, I set out on a project to hit as many peaks, high-points, and prominent ridge lines in the area as I could, systematically starting at the southern end of the escarpment and working my way north toward the park throughout the year. There is a long limestone ridge that runs north and south behind the Sandstone Escarpment of Red Rock, and my vision was to some day traverse the entire ridge and link up all the sandstone peaks in one long multi-day backpacking thru hike. I didn’t realize how big of an objective that was. At the end of that year over my birthday weekend, I did the traverse, but was not able to scramble out and hit any of the sandstone peaks. I stayed on the limestone ridge the whole way, and it took two long exhausting days of hiking and route-finding to make the full traverse.
At that point in my life I had also started rock climbing. I was going to the gym a couple times a week and learning the style of climbing known as bouldering. I also got into sport climbing and even a bit of trad climbing. My adventure partner Punan and I naturally became climbing partners and started to take our new skills outdoors. We started bouldering around Kraft, moved up to some sport routes around Calico, and eventually some longer classic trad lines in the bigger canyons on the west side of the park. I was getting to know Red Rock really well.
We became big fans of Alex Honnold, a professional rock climber known for his bold ropeless free solos in Yosemite National Park. I could never imagine climbing vertical rock without a rope, but the magnitude of his objectives and the style in which he would link up climbs was very inspiring. In his book “Alone on the Wall” he describes what he called the “Triple” in Yosemite where he linked up 3 of the biggest walls in one ultimate push of solo climbing to complete it all in one day. I was inspired.
The wheels started turning in my head. If that’s possible in Yosemite, what is possible in Red Rock? I remember being at the climbing gym one day and talking about Honnold’s “Triple” and trying to think what the parallel would be in Red Rock. Not that they are anywhere in the same ballpark as far as size and notoriety, but what if you took the idea of connecting the three biggest mountains in a park, and applied in to Red Rock Canyon, essentially my backyard. The three biggest mountains out there are Mount Wilson, Rainbow Peak/Wall, and Bridge Mountain. From almost any vantage point in the park or even looking at a topo map, those three mountains stand out as the most prominent. They are the centerpiece of Red Rock Canyon. I thought how could you link up those three peaks into one big push? Sure there’s some multi-pitch trad lines on each of those mountains but nothing really direct and sustained from bottom to top on any of them except Wilson. Because of my limited experience as a climber the idea to try to link up trad routes to connect these peaks just seemed too daunting. I much prefer scrambling and wondered if I could find a line to link up these three big peaks in one long scrambling route. I had been inspired by Honnold and others who link up beautiful land features into epic routes through the mountains, but I wanted to create an adventure for myself that was more my style and within my skill set, while still being a very big objective. The idea was forming.
By this point I had hiked to each of these peaks individually. There are multiple hiking and scrambling routes to each of them. Most are not very direct and require miles of hiking deep into the canyons. My challenge became finding the most direct routes to the peaks while staying within a difficulty level that I was comfortable with. Otherwise the sheer mileage I would rack up would just be too much for one day. If you took the easiest hiking route to each peak from inside the park, out and back, and then linked them together on foot, I bet you would travel well over 40 miles. With quite a bit of it being scrambling through canyons lined with boulders it would take a long time. I hate to say things are impossible but that seemed beyond my capabilities, I needed a shorter route. I began to look at each mountain separately and examine the possibility to traverse from one side to the other, looking for the most direct routes. I had multiple solo adventures on each of the mountains route-finding and figuring out what worked best for me. In the end I wanted the final route to be a full loop. There is something really satisfying about completing a big loop and ending where you started, and I don’t like going over the same terrain twice on the same route if it can be avoided. So those were my parameters. Make a complete loop linking Wilson, Rainbow, and Bridge, climb each mountain bottom to top, try not to cross the same path twice, follow the most direct scrambling route to each peak, and put it all together in one push, hopefully completing it within 24 hours. I began to piece it together.
The project was never really at the top of my priorities until the beginning of 2018, but it was always lurking around in the back of my mind and it had a big influence on what types of adventures I was doing. The year before I dove into trail running and soon became an ultra distance runner. I’ve said this before, but I really don’t even like running, but its played an important role in me developing the endurance I need to take on projects like this, and now it’s become a big part of my life unto itself, as I’ve started racing and being competitive. I knew to be able to tackle an objective as big as the route I was imagining, I would need incredible endurance. The year and a half leading up to this I hiked/climbed each individual peak multiple times finding the best routes and becoming more familiar with the terrain. As I dialed in each route I was able to complete them as individual loops in about 6-7 hours consistently. It seemed each time I did one of them I found a slightly different route down, but it was coming together. I was beginning to visualize putting all three peaks together in a row, one after the other.
Aside from knowing the route and being able to physically accomplish it, there were several other factors I had to consider. Weather and conditions were two of them. I had slim hopes in the fall before this year to try this route, but I just didn’t have it dialed in well enough. As the winter came we got some bad weather and the mountains got a dusting of snow. So I had to wait til early spring to get back out there to start working through it again. Then life started getting in the way. I was working a lot and going through a divorce, but still, every free moment I had I was either training or route-finding for this project. I estimated it to be at least a marathon in distance, and over 10,000′ of climbing. I ran a local trail marathon race in late March and had the run of my life, finishing in 4 hours flat, and coming in 2nd place overall. I was also in the climbing gym at least once or twice a week. Even through all the distraction I was feeling prepared.
The final piece to the puzzle was making sure I had enough food and water. The idea in these big objectives is to go as light as possible so you can move more easily and naturally. Sure, I could lug a huge pack with me, carrying several liters of water and enough food for a whole day in the mountains, but then it would take me forever to climb being bogged down with pounds of dead weight. I needed help. I got Punan on board. He knew what I was up to and is always happy to help with my projects. For one, I had yet to do Rainbow Direct alone, and I still didn’t feel 100% on it. I wanted him to do that section with me. So we devised a plan. He would park at Pine Creek Trailhead in the park on the morning of the climb. I would give him two separate bags, one to bring with him to our climb of Rainbow, and the other would wait in the car for me to get between Rainbow and Bridge with a full food and water re-supply. I would do Wilson solo, then come down into Oak Creek Canyon, where Punan would be waiting after hiking over from Pine Creek TH with my first bag. We would climb Rainbow Direct together. Then after Rainbow, I would stop by his car at Pine Creek TH before going up Bridge. This way I could do each peak carrying just enough food and water for that peak and I would be able to refill between each one. Everything was in place, now I just needed a day off from work and the right weather.
As serendipity would have it one week in late April things started to look like they were going to fall into place. Friday April 20th would be the day. If you know me then you know why that happens to be an important date. I woke up early, around 3am. I had given my two bags to Punan the day before to take with him out to Pine Creek. I headed out to Red Rock and drove all the way to the First Creek Canyon Trail-head. I left my ultra-running pack hanging on the fence. In it was 2 liters of water and enough snacks for 5-7 hours. Then I drove back down the highway and pulled into the parking lot at the exit of the Scenic Loop Drive. This is where I would start/finish. It was 4:15am. I took a few deep breaths and set off at 4:20. It was 46 degrees. I was going to make a huge loop through the park and hope to get back to my car within 24 hours. I had a thin running hat on with a headlamp on my forehead, it was still dark. I had a light running t-shirt and a super lightweight long sleeve hooded shirt over that. On my legs I was wearing long running tights, as it was still chilly in the mornings. For shoes, I had specifically chosen the 5.10 Access approach shoes. They had proven to be the best all around scrambling shoe with plenty of comfort for longer days and trail miles.
The first objective of the Triple Crown was Mount Wilson. The route I had chosen I call the Wilson Traverse. It is going to become a Red Rock Classic if it’s not already. It starts at the First Creek Trail-head and goes up the left side of Wilson, past White Pinnacle Peak, Dead Horse Point, the Twin South Summits, over the top to the main Summit. Then it goes down the Clever Crack route (4th class) into Oak Creek Canyon on the north side. It basically traces the outline of Mount Wilson starting on the left and going up and over the ridge to the right. So my journey started with a run down Highway 159 from the exit parking lot to the First Creek Canyon TH, which wound up being 2 full miles. It was eerie running down the highway in the dark. I could see the silhouettes of the mountains off to my right. I could see the glow of Las Vegas behind the rolling hills off to my left (east). I even turned off my headlamp and ran in complete darkness and silence for a moment. I couldn’t believe the day was here and I was actually going for it. I had thought about this day for so long wondering if I would ever feel ready for such a big undertaking. It was a special moment, scary and exhilarating at the same time. Looking back at my Strava track for the day, the second mile I clipped under 8 minutes. It was on road and slightly downhill, but that goes to show that I was all business that morning. I was pumped and ready to take on the challenge. I got to the trail-head and found my pack hanging on the fence where I had left it. I saved myself the trouble of carrying it while running down the highway by leaving it there ahead of time. I strapped it on and headed across the desert toward Mt Wilson.
Once I got to the mouth of First Creek Canyon I headed up the steep right shoulder into the gully toward White Pinnacle Peak. It was still dark. I was a bit leery of heading up into WPP gully in the dark. I wasn’t really worried about the climbing because I had done that section more than any other on the entire route. There’s 3 difficult boulder problems on this section, but two of them are protected by hand lines, and all the moves are totally secure. I was more afraid of running into some kind of critter. The gully gets narrow up in there and I would freak out if I came across a snake or a set of eyes in the brush. Luckily, just as I was getting up into the gully, the dawn glow began to penetrate the canyon.
I headed up quickly. Just as I was getting past the first big boulder problem I heard some peculiar noises from down on the shoulder below. I heard a loud squawking or burping sound. Almost like a bugle. It was really loud and only a few hundred feet away. I heard it twice, but both times that I stopped moving it was just a second too late to hear it clearly. I continued on. The climbing up WPP gully is some of the best of the entire route. Its steep in sections and I’ve read some even consider the final 100′ or so to be 5.2. I think it goes at 4th class at the hardest, but its a blast to go up because there’s no real exposure. Not until you reach White Pinnacle Peak. Then there’s some major exposure.
Mount Whitney stands as the tallest mountain in the “lower 48” at 14,500′. That makes it a big target. Countless hikers, mountaineers, climbers, and trail runners alike have made single day ascents of America’s crown jewel. It’s sort of a test piece for anyone looking to see where their fitness and endurance levels are at. You can’t just roll off the couch or slide out of your office chair and walk to the top. Reaching the summit of Mt Whitney takes some good ol’ fashioned grit and determination. To do it in a day from Whitney Portal is a feat.
I’d like to share my experience on the mountain that day not to brag about how fast I did it, although I am proud of that and more on that later, but to show an example of what’s possible. I’m nothing special, no Killian Jornet so to speak, I’ve only been a runner for a couple years. A hiker for a few before that. But I want to show what’s possible for an average guy who shows some dedication for something that makes him happy. This is what’s possible for anyone who puts their mind to it. Mount Whitney in a day.
Preparation is key. I’ve been running in the mountains all summer in Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. Some races, and lots of adventure runs. So I had great physical fitness. My body was ready for a challenge like this. I snagged a nice campsite at the main Whitney Portal Campground. It was one near the entrance so not as far down the creek as some. The evening before I hiked from my campsite up to the Portal to make sure I knew which trail and to see how far it was. The trail wound up being the one we used to access the Portal in the WildWildWest Ultra that I had run earlier in the year, so I knew right where I was at. It wound up being about 3/4 of a mile and around 250′ of elevation from my campsite to the main Mt Whitney Trailhead.
Most start a Whitney day hike somewhere between 2 and 4am. Leaving enough time to summit and get off the ridge before the afternoon thunderstorms tend to come in. I planned for my ascent to be much quicker and I didn’t want to miss too much scenery in the dark so I waited til about 5:30am to take off. I had woken up around 4am but tinkered around my campsite for an hour before I realized I should get going. I wore a headlamp to start because it was still dark. Up the trail I went to the Portal.
I wore running tights because the temps were pretty cool overnight, around 50 degrees or slightly colder. I also knew that on the summit it would be pretty cool even in the sun. It just doesn’t ever get that warm at 14,500′. Also it can be windy up there and that can blow the warmth right out of you. On top I wore a running t-shirt, and a light alpine fleece hoodie. I would also generally take a light wind/rain jacket to a summit of this magnitude but the forecast had been absolutely clear all week and continued to look the same. I wore a trailrunning vest with about 4 bars and 4 gels, a small water filter, fleece gloves, sunglasses, and about 1.5 liters of water. Normally I would carry more water, but with a filter and going into the alpine, I prefer to go light and fill up as I go. Plus the alpine water is so refreshing.
About .8 of a mile up the main Whitney trail the north fork of Lone Pine Creek breaks off and you can head up toward the E-ledges, a series of 2nd and 3rd class ledges with some nice exposure. The route is fairly easy to follow if you know the general direction to travel. There’s cairns along the way to mark the trail. With a full pack this section can be pretty taxing, but I flew right up with ease in my light kit. It was about here that I realized that I had left the permit, which I had spent the whole day prior waiting around the visitor center and going through the lottery system to obtain, in my truck at the campsite. I considered going back for it, but I was well over 2 miles up the trail and over 1000′. Well, I thought, I hope I don’t pass a Ranger. And if so, I’ll just tell them my story, they can look it up in the permit system I’m sure. But, luckily I didn’t have to have that conversation.
Next up was Lower Boy Scout Lake. I always feel like I’m going to see some wildlife here, it’s so pristine and calm. No signs of any big animals though. On up to Upper Boy Scout Lake. I almost bypassed this one completely because I had stayed way left heading up before that section. Between the two Boy Scout Lakes there’s several trails going up, and I stayed way left on the high side. I ended up way up the shelf above Upper Boy Scout Lake by the time I ever saw it. So I proceeded on toward Iceburg Lake. I passed several parties heading up this section and I took a steep wet ledge system up before the main trail makes its way up to the lake. It was here that I stopped to refill my water supply. I pulled out my filter and proceeded to filter almost 2 liters of water. I knew I wouldn’t get to another water source til I came off of Trail Crest and down to Trail Camp on the other side after summitting. After filling up, I made a few tough moves that would probably be considered 4th class because the rock was wet and a slip would have been bad. I made sure I felt solid before I did any moves and made it up without a problem, although once I made it up I realized I had taken a tougher route than necessary.
There was Iceburg Lake and the Mountaineers Route to the summit of Mt Whitney. I didn’t waste any time, I headed over and started up the steep chute. It goes at 2nd and 3rd class most of the way, although the middle of the chute is loose scree and talus. I tried to stick to the left side which was more solid rock and felt more secure. I really slowed down here for several reasons. First of all I was well above 13,000′ now, the air was getting thin, and second, the loose terrain made progress slow. I was careful not to step or pull on anything loose because I didn’t want to cause any rockfall and I didn’t want to waste any energy. It was just at this point where I had a frightening experience. I was getting closer to the “notch” which is where you can finally see out to the west. It’s also the lowest place where air can pass through and it can create quite a wind tunnel. I remembered the first time I climbed the mountaineers route it was in April and covered in snow. It happened to be really windy the morning I summited and several times on the way up the wind gusts were so strong I had to hunch down and hold on to my ice ax very tightly to hold my position. Within a few seconds the wind would let up enough to continue upward progress, but each gust was strong and created quite a loud noise in the chute. The experience felt much more full-on than the climbing actually was simply because the wind was howling so loud. So here I was on this beautifully calm August morning, perfect conditions, heading up the mountaineers route when low and behold, I begin to hear a loud gust of wind. It continues to get louder and louder coming down the chute. It starts to get so loud that I instinctively begin to crouch down close to the ground and hold tight to the rock. Just as it gets super loud it flies over and I realize it’s a military jet. Whoa! Totally freaked me out. A few moments later another went over and scared me just as bad. I had to literally take a moment to catch my breath from hunkering down so hard. I couldn’t help but think they shouldn’t fly that close to the summit, but from their perspective it’s probably cool to fly right over the peak. Anyway, I recovered and I kept moving along at a steady pace and made it up to the “notch.” From here one can follow a faint trail west around the back of Mt Whitney or turn left and head straight up the last 400′. The chute that goes up is 3rd class and the rock is mostly solid. I chose the scrambling. Just before I reached the summit plateau I had to make a few harder moves to avoid some thick ice. Then I pulled up onto the plateau and made my way over to the actual high point. The summit of Mt Whitney! Woohoo! I started to take some pictures when I realized I had cell service. I snapped only one photo of Mt Russell and then decided to call my brother to tell him I made a successful summit. As we made the connection over the phone, my battery died and we were disconnected just as quick. All I heard him say was hello, and when I tried to respond my phone completely died. I don’t know what happened because I hardly took any pics or video on the way up. Maybe it was a combination of the cold air and the altitude? At any rate, that was all my phone had to offer so I decided to have a quick snack and then make my way down. I wasn’t trying to set any records, but I like to move quickly in the mountains. No more pictures meant no more stops except to fill up water again. I was looking forward to 11 miles of gradual downhill running on one of America’s most epic trails! I signed the summit register just outside the hut, then down I went.
The descent off of Whitney is mostly gradual downhill trail. Coming off of the summit is a bit of talus but most of it is smoothed out nicely. I was able to maintain a nice trot even though the elevation was making it difficult to breathe. Most people I passed seemed blown away that I was running. I wish I could remember all of the comments as I passed hikers on their way up. I mean on the way up it is so hard to breathe and each step is so laborious, and then to see someone just jogging by on their way down it must seem crazy, but it sure was fun! Hitting Trail Crest was cool, the view out east opens up, and the whole way down the switchbacks I was in the zone. I turned on some music which I rarely do when running, but I let it play out of the speakers so I could still hear everything around me. I’ve never run with actual headphones or earbuds, it seems dangerous to me to not be able to hear what’s going on around you. Anyway, I felt like I was dancing down the switchbacks. Hopping and jumping down steps and rock drops. I wasn’t trying to go fast or slow, just feeling it out and having fun. I tend to move pretty quickly like this, as I am well within my comfort zone and I ride the line between fun effort and a steady pace. Each mile my breathing got progressively easier and my pace picked up slightly. I refilled my water just below Trail Camp around 12,000′. I timed it. It took me 5 minutes exactly to refill my bladder with about 1.5 liters of freshly filtered alpine creek water. The final few miles began to wear on me a little, but I maintained a solid pace. Hitting Whitney Portal is always epic after a summit, you kind of feel like you’re touching back down to earth after a trip to the moon, but I knew I still had 3/4 of a mile to go. I was making good time and cruised down to my campsite just inside of 7 hours of moving time. 8 hours total. Strava gave me credit for 18.5 miles and 6,200′ of elevation gain. 6:57. This is by no means a record of any kind but it shows what is possible for me. I could probably do it faster if I really wanted, but this was a fun and challenging pace for me at this point in my life. I enjoyed pushing a bit and testing my fitness against the tallest mountain in the lower 48! What a fun Loop. I had a spectacular day up there, and I can’t wait to do it again someday. Please leave any questions or comments that you might have below. I love to share my experiences and talk about the mountains. Mountain High Adventures!
I worked so hard for so long to get myself situated in what I was calling freedom. The idea to get rid of most of my debts and things and live simply was the driving force. I was sick of being busy. I had stretches of days in a row where every single minute was accounted for. Not a bad thing if you are living the life of your dreams. But I wasn’t. I was just doing what I had to do each day just to get by. Going to the same jobs and making just enough to pay all the bills. All so I could have a few hours on the weekends to do what I wanted. I loved my adventures and the more I did, the longer the list of new objectives got. It grew into a deep rooted passion. All I could think about was getting out in the mountains and running and climbing. I learned a lot about myself and I built a lot of mountain skills. I became consumed with it all. It got to a point where I had to reorganize my life so I had more access to the things I loved. All I needed was the freedom to do so. Freedom to me meant the time to get out and chase peaks and enough money to support myself while doing it, so I had enough time to actually enjoy my trips. Phase 1: simplify and find freedom.
So there I was working frantically trying to stay caught up on all the bills. I went through a divorce earlier this year, and I got the house and all of our debt. She got a clean start with the little savings and retirement I had built up. I had some options. I could stay where I was but that required tons of work hours. Not to mention the commuting involved, and then all the upkeep on the house while being a part time Dad and everything else. Too much work and coordinating and arranging. I made a decision to change my relationship to time. I wanted time on my side, and to be able to do with it what I wanted, instead of always wanting more. Given my situation I had a pretty great opportunity. The house had gained a lot in value and I had made some serious upgrades while living there. If I sold, I stood to make a nice chunk of change. That meant freedom. I set the wheels in motion…
But how will you sustain a living without income you ask? Well, that’s a great question. I plan to build a business with the skills I already have, and the skills I will be developing this fall. I am investing in my future self by spending time acquiring skills and experiences that will directly relate to how I can provide a service. I plan to become an outdoor adventure coach/guide/mentor. You see, my passion isn’t just getting out into the Wild and climbing mountains, I want to help other people find the joy and freedom I find out there. I am not the fastest ultrarunner, or the best climber, but I do have a unique perspective on it all, and I am very well educated on how the body moves. I have a Master’s Degree studying how the body moves, albeit through dance and the arts, I did take many a kinesiology course. I feel like I can really help people find their physical and mental potential through outdoor adventure and a healthy lifestyle to sustain it.
Phase 1 was getting rid of the house and all the possessions and the busy lifestyle. We did it. We achieved freedom. Phase 2 is building our resume so to speak. This fall I am taking a Wilderness First Responder Course, attending an Outdoor entrepreneur Festival, and attending the first ever Cannabis themed Trail Running Retreat. I am also going to be entering several Ultrarunning races and climbing some iconic mountains on the west coast this fall. All in hopes to become the most well rounded, knowledgeable, and dedicated Mountain Badass.
Phase 3 will be actually starting Mountain High Adventures as a legitimate regional business helping people find their way in the outdoor adventure space.
Family and friends, you all have helped me become who I am today. You all have shaped me into the outdoor madman that I am. You all showed me what was possible and told me I could do it too. Now I am going to take some time to develop myself further with some deep mountain knowledge and when I start Mountain High Adventures as a business I’ll be qualified and ready. Please stay tuned and follow along, we are going to some High Places!
Somehow I arrived at 40 years old in pretty darn good health. In fact, I’m probably the healthiest I’ve ever been. But that all depends on how you define health I guess. I’m somewhat of an anomaly. I’m a medical marijuana smoking ultra-runner. I’m actually a lot of things, but when you look at those two together it sure raises some questions. That can’t be healthy can it? How can a runner smoke? Why medical marijuana? Where do I start? Here goes…
Since I can remember I’ve had a lot of energy. As a kid it was easy to excuse my behavior as just being a hyper child, but as I got older the extra energy became harder to control. Seeking help from doctors led to questions of ADHD and other behavioral conditions. That buzz inside me became more of an anxiety as I entered adolescence. When I was a teenager I was a passenger in several automobile accidents, one of which left me with some serious PTSD. My parents divorced when I was 9 and my Mom remarried when I was 15. So there was a lot of back and forth between homes as I grew up. I also lost 3 of my 4 grandparents within a year of each other. I was close to all of them. Uncertainty and loss were commonplace. I felt inside that I wasn’t going to live a long life. Why bother? Death seemed imminent. That is when I found alcohol. I drank like an alcoholic from the beginning. I blacked out and threw up all over myself in my bed. I could have died from choking on my own vomit. I was 14. Each subsequent time I drank wasn’t much better, but I learned how to control it because it made me feel better temporarily. It took that uncomfortable feeling away. I got in a lot of trouble as a teen and had many run-ins with the law. My family finally held an intervention and sent me off to treatment when I was 18. I had no choice. I finished high school in a half-way house 2000 miles away from the friends I grew up with. They said if I stayed on the same path I had been on it would lead to jails, institutions, and death. I was 2 for 3 so far. I bounced in and out of jails, detox centers, and rehabs for a number of years. Somehow I survived, always just skirting this side of catastrophe. When I was 22 my Dad died an early and unexpected death due to heart disease. I was devastated. My drinking got worse. AA and 12-step programs never seemed to have a lasting effect. Group therapy didn’t work. I could never be honest with psychologists because I didn’t trust them. I seemed to be one of those cases that just didn’t have a cure. I didn’t want to drink anymore, but I couldn’t figure out how to live without alcohol, it was the only thing that took that inner conflict away. I was just too uncomfortable inside to deal with it. Suicide always seemed like an option. In fact that kept me going for a long time. I knew if it ever became too much to deal with, I would just end it all. As it got more serious I began to put more thought into how I was going to pull it off. Not wanting to hurt my family was the only thing that kept me from doing it all along. After so many years of the same cycle I became cynical and was just waiting for that one situation that pushed me over the edge…literally. I knew which bridge I was going to jump off. It was gonna be easy, I just needed the right excuse to do it. I was ready to go join my Dad in the next life. Luckily, nothing was ever quite serious enough. Fast forward 20 years. I got married and had a child. I had been sober for a couple years when she was born, but I began drinking again, and it was bad. I wasn’t going to last long. Something had to give.
I didn’t want to drink anymore, but I was caught up in the addiction cycle once again. I began researching alternative recovery methods. I couldn’t stand the idea of another recovery center or rehab clinic. I thought there had to be something different. I stumbled across the philosophy of Harm Reduction. Basically the idea is:
A purposeful choice to try to reduce negative outcomes of substance abuse instead of condemning the behavior altogether
A solid understanding that there are safer ways to use drugs
Focus on a safe and quality life rather than abstinence
This had me thinking a lot about weed. I smoked a lot of weed in college, but had tapered off as I had gotten older. I had always loved weed, but I had been brainwashed into thinking it was as bad as alcohol. In fact, I was told it was worse because it was a drug, and it was illegal. But I was curious enough to start researching it a little bit. I thought “what is medical marijuana?” Could a different attitude and relationship with cannabis be the answer? I felt like I had ventured down every other avenue I could think of in the years I had been dealing with PTSD, Anxiety, and the eventual Alcoholism that developed from it all. This was my last option. I knew suicide would work, but I would try this first. This was a last ditch effort, and I was all-in. I decided to try Medical Marijuana.
Somehow it works. Medical Marijuana works for me. Changing my attitude toward it opened the door for it to become a healing herb instead of a “drug.” I began to look at it as medicine. It’s OK to take medicine, but it’s not OK to drink alcohol until you can’t walk or talk. Taking away the shame associated with having to “treat” my condition also helped. I was always ashamed of going to rehab or AA; I mean you don’t wind up there if everything is going well. But medical marijuana was a healthy choice for me, and I became proud of the fact that I had found a safe alternative to alcohol. I began to feel good about myself. Medical Marijuana, or cannabis as its also called, made me feel better and it was also something that I didn’t mind talking about. I didn’t feel the need to hide it. I had always hidden my alcoholism, and the subsequent treatments. It was my big secret. It was almost always a story with a bad ending. Cannabis is different. Not only does it make me feel better, but it seems to inspire healthy choices within me. Furthermore, I have to report that I have little-to-no side effects from cannabis. If anything, my short term memory is effected. I might be slightly prone to forgetting things, or to losing my train of thought from time to time. But given the situation, it is a miracle I’m still alive. If being a little forgetful is my new burden, then I will take it. That is a much less serious condition to deal with than rampant alcoholism. Harm reduction at its finest. Now my energy has come back, but it’s in the form of motivation for running. “You smoke and run?” you ask. Well, I don’t smoke and run at the same time, but I do sometimes smoke before I go for a run, and definitely afterward to promote relaxation and the recovery process. I thought I might have to give it up after awhile, but I don’t feel it is hurting me in any way. Seriously, I feel strong and healthy. It’s not like I’m out there coughing up a lung on the trails. You could take a look at my Strava account, I have gotten consistently faster, and able to run longer distances over the course of the past couple years. I’m not smoking all the time either, I also consume cannabis in other forms like edibles, topicals, and tinctures. It’s all about balance. With legalization has come a whole plethora of cannabis based products. Having options is awesome! I can really dial in on my symptoms and get quick and effective relief using the cannabis plant in its many forms. The benefits I receive from consuming cannabis far outweigh any negatives. In fact, I believe my life wouldn’t be possible without it. Crazy, right? I really can’t believe I’m writing this, but it is true for me. My life has taken a dramatic turn for the better ever since I began using medical marijuana. A few weeks or even months could be written off as good luck or the better part of variance, but I have been a medical marijuana patient for over 4 years and my health has gotten consistently better.
I’ve always used my body as my vehicle for physical expression. I used to be a dancer and always took pretty good care of myself. I always thought I was in pretty good shape, but I never would have imagined the level of fitness I have developed at the age of 40. Now I climb the biggest mountains I can find, and I run ultra-marathons. Mountain High Adventures! This is all done while using cannabis as a preventative measure of harm reduction. It fits in my life like all other foods, drinks, and vitamins. It also helps with other common ailments. In fact, cannabis helps with a lot of issues that athletes deal with like pain, inflammation, and joint aches. I now believe that cannabis is not a harmful drug in any way, but more of a non-toxic healing herb capable of treating many common maladies with little-to-no harmful side effects. I am a true testament to this. Cannabis has strong health benefits. I ask…if cannabis was harmful, would I have been able to train my body to not only run ultra-marathons in 18 short months, but to actually be competitive at it? No way. I’m not superman. If I was drinking alcohol everyday to achieve the same effect I would have poisoned myself to death by now. Cannabis has given me the mental freedom to follow my passions and the physical health to support them.
I know I am a special case. This approach may not be for everyone. It would be easy to say that now I am just addicted to cannabis instead of alcohol. I’m not sure I can argue against that. However, I can say that my quality of life is way better than its ever been before, and I feel good about who I am today. I like the choices I am making, and I feel happy and healthy. If this is what addiction to weed looks like then so be it. Maybe I am a Weedaholic now, or maybe I just matured a little bit and started to take a healthier approach to treating my conditions. Whatever it is, I’ll take it over all the alternatives I have been through. It’s definitely a much safer substance to use than anything else I’ve ever put in my body. Let’s not forget it’s a plant. It grows straight out of the earth. A key factor that I have found is that dosage makes a huge difference. First off, you can’t die from an overdose on cannabis. Worst case scenario if you consume too much is some nausea and a long nap, or maybe some paranoia. Consequently, I have found that very small doses are effective. I don’t need to smoke a whole joint or take a bunch of bong hits to get the desired effects. A couple of small hits will generally do the trick. I can’t believe that it is this easy. I wish I had known this all along, but I am so grateful now that I have found something that is able to treat my conditions without making me sick or ruining my life.
I feel like I am on the right path. I kept waiting for cannabis to cause harm like every other substance I abused. It just simply doesn’t. It’s my version of healthy. My life is under control. So now I can’t help but think I am making the right choice for me. Being a medical marijuana patient has changed my life and oddly enough I have become a runner in the process. As a child, aside from doing laps around the playground and some conditioning for sports in high school I never ran. I didn’t ever run track. I don’t even like running, but somehow, with the addition of cannabis to my health regime, I have developed a major motivation to run. Part of it is a health choice, I know it’s good for my body, and it’s a great way for me to burn off my excess energy. I also love being in the outdoors, especially the mountains. It started with a mile around the neighborhood. That turned into a mile and a half, then two miles. It felt exhilarating. Running had always seemed so hard-core to me. I thought you just ran as fast as you could as far as you could until you couldn’t breathe. But I learned that if you dial back your effort you can actually enjoy it. Running doesn’t always equal sprinting. A steady jog is enough and then you can run for longer distances. So as time went on I began pushing myself to see how far I could run. I began running on trails and in the mountains. Now, in the last 12 months, I have run 2 full trail marathons and 3 ultra-marathons with tons of training miles in between, and I feel great. I was lucky enough to place 2nd overall at two local races this Spring. I don’t even like running, but it has taken me to some amazing places. I’ve run races on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Tushars Mountains in Utah, and in Red Rock Canyon Nevada, just to name a few. I have also met some amazing people through its social circles. I run with doctors, teachers, and professional athletes. Our local weekly group runs are a blast! I don’t even like running, but I’m not going to stop until it starts to diminish my quality of life, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I keep getting stronger and faster. I haven’t even reached my full potential yet, I’m just getting started. So that’s my story, I am a medical marijuana smoking ultra-runner, and I couldn’t be healthier! Oh, and did I mention I used to be asthmatic? I was hospitalized several times as a child with bad asthma attacks. Strenuous activity always aggravated my lungs, and I couldn’t go anywhere without my inhaler in my pocket. After all of this cannabis and running, my asthma is gone.
Check me out on Instagram @mountainhighadventures or catch me on a local Vegas mountaintop. If you would like to follow along in my day to day journey, join me on Patreon, where you can become a part of my outdoor adventure based community.