I started out climbing as a way to get out of the house and start to view the world around me. In the 32 years prior I had never really taken the time to appreciate the world for what it was. I had no clue where it would take me, or what I would learn, but I did know I was sick and tired of sitting around saying "there's nothing to do".
My climbing career thus far has been an interesting one. In the first 6 months I sustained 2 knee injuries, multiple bear and snake encounters, traveled damn near across the country, and yet the worst thing I faced was looking back at me in the mirror. I have always been a quitter. Plain and simple. I'm a spoiled little brat. I had to have people around, I couldn't do anything too hard, and my mind was always telling me I wasn't good enough.
You can't quit in the backcountry. Well, you can, but I have harmed enough people in my life, I wouldn't do that in my new found venture. So when I was 8 miles out in the woods, I had to walk 8 miles back. Commitment; success number one. Though the woods gave me a sense of oneness with my Creator, I still had that inner battle and would just 4 months in to my climbing career be contemplating suicide yet again, for the umpteenth time over the course of 22 years. I finally broke down and went and saw my doctor. He prescribed me with an anti-depressant and told me to keep active.
At the time I was jobless, I knew without a miracle I was to lose my house. I had already blown up one vehicle and my second one was on it's last leg. I took the meds and headed back in to the woods. 3 weeks later, after bagging Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, the highest point east of the Mississippi, I promptly blew out my knee on the descent. Sidelined, I can't even catch a break in life. Yet I continue with the meds, and tried to stay as active as possible. A few weeks later it occurred to me that I was sad. I sudden sense of relief came over me. I was sad. I was sad!!! I had never felt sad before, just depressed. I was the happiest sad person to grace this planet.
For the first time in my life I was down about something, but knew it would get better, and even more so, I didn't think about eating a bullet sandwich. I celebrated by continuing on the meds and began rehabilitating my knee. It finally healed and my mind began healing as well.
Enter 46 Climbs. 46 Climbs is a national event where people pledge to climb certain mountains to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Now here is something I can get behind, or in front of. I immediately signed up and went to work trying to raise funds. I figured I'd kick it off myself and donate $25 to my fund. I made Facebook post after Facebook post, and slowly the dollars started coming in. Mostly family and my closest friends, but they came in. I found a greater purpose than myself. I know how it feels to be doing everything and still be hopeless, I also know how it feels when they finally goes away. I want others to feel that too. And here is my chance.
Last Friday we set out for the Adirondacks for my climb. I was $116 shy of my goal of $500 but that didn't matter, I was heading to the place I love, the mountains. My climbing partner and son in tow. What more could I ask for? As we headed up the road I got an email saying I had another donation. I checked and it was the final $116 needed to hit my goal. I was elated. I had never done anything like this before, and here it was being a total success. In to the woods we go!!
We climbed our hearts out and bagged 2 of the 3 peaks I was hoping for. Due to circumstances we had to leave the 3rd, another thing I've learned, it's ok to fail. But did we fail? We made the effort, I raised the money, my entire climb was devoted to a stranger, someone I may never meet, but someone I could help by living. And living I did, and continue to do. I came home with a new attitude toward climbing. Remembering what it has done for me. Where it has taken me. Who I have met, and who I have not. The mountains are big, the challenge is hard, sometimes you fail, sometimes you succeed, sounds a lot like life. I will continue to climb, and I will continue to take part in 46 Climbs. I will continue to pursue foundations and causes to help. These mountains have saved my life, why can't they save someone else's?
The 2019 46 Climbs season consisted of over $1,100 raised and 3 summits of Old Rag mountain in 1 day. The 2020 season is gearing up to be a special one so stay tuned!!
Any and all donations are very much appreciated. You can donate directly to my 46 Climbs fundraiser which all proceeds go to the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, or you can donate to help us get out and spread our message of hope. Non 46 Climbs donations go towards website costs, literature, travel, and other expenses.
I struggled with substance abuse and depression up in to my 30s. After getting sober I still struggled with the pains of depression, after hard work and lots of help I have found hope in life through recovery, mountain climbing, and sharing my story
Each year I set a fundraising goal through the annual 46 Climbs event. During National Suicide Prevention week I attempt different climbs in which I help to spread the word of what we're doing. Throughout the year, I share my story and continue to raise funds.