018: Dianette Wells on Conquering the Seven Summits to Overcoming the Tragic Loss of Her Amazing Son

October 6, 2017

FYS 018 | Conquering the Seven Summits
Dianette Wells is a mountain climber and adventure racer who immerses herself in new experiences as a form of therapy. She has currently climbed seven summits, including Everest and Denali. After the passing of her son, Dianette found that she had been doing the right thing all along by influencing her children to live without rules and without fear. Today, Dianette addresses her goals allowing her to conquer more summits.

This week we have Dianette Wells. Dianette is a woman of adventure. She has climbed the Seven Summits, which is amazing. She’s got all these great adventurers talking about when she did Carstensz in Papua New Guinea and the craziness that went on there and some of the different things that happened on Mount Everest. She actually has been up there four times, summited once and still may want to do that in the future. She’s very aspirational. She’s got a great vision board. Through all this, she’s had to overcome some adversity, number one, getting divorce, and then the worst loss any parent can experience, which is the loss of your child. Her son was wing-flying in Switzerland and crashed and ended tragically. We’ll talk about how she has overcome that and tries to move on and live in his spirit.

As always, we love all the love and the support, the reviews on iTunes. If you haven’t done that, please go do it. We’re just so stoked about this episode. Here we go with Dianette Wells.

Listen to the Podcast Here:

Dianette Wells on Conquering the Seven Summits to Overcoming the Tragic Loss of Her Amazing Son

Dianette, how are you doing?

I’m good.

For everybody that doesn’t know who you are, I just want to tee this up for the audience. To me you are a total rock star, very brave soul that has been able to accomplish a lot of things. A lot of it has been surrounding the mountains. You climbed the Seven Summits. You’ve overcome some really horrific things and it’s all about adversity. I think you and I in some way share a kindred spirit from the standpoint of I was going through a really tough time. I grew up in the North West and that led me into the mountains in terms of when I was going through my bad time about six years ago. I started climbing mountains. There’s an article that came out in Huffington Post called How a Former NFL Receiver Found Joy in the Mountains, and it really was true. I want to get into that. I’m broadcasting from Hermosa Beach, California, which you’re familiar with. I think you’re in Park City, right?

I am. I moved from Malibu two years ago after living at the beach my entire life basically. Two years ago, I moved to the mountains.

How do you like Park City? I love that place, by the way.

I like it. The scenery is beautiful. It’s not crowded. Clean air. I miss California though.

There’s a lot to miss about out here. I’m from Seattle and California a lot of times gets a bad rep for a lot of reasons. As you know from being in Malibu, it’s amazing that you can be a couple of hours and be in the mountains. You can be a couple of hours and be in Mexico. You can be, in your case, five minutes and be in the ocean, you can be in the desert. It’s a state that has so much to offer and so much diversity from the North to the South. It’s really a beautiful spot. For people who trash it, they just haven’t been to all the corners of the beautiful state of California. 

It was a great training spot living in Malibu because of the single-track trails there for biking and hiking. You have the ocean for all of your water sports. The hills in the mountains of Malibu for road riding are spectacular. You’d see people from all over the world training there. The only thing it didn’t give me was altitude. Really being an endurance athlete, Malibu is a great place.

Why don’t we start forward and then we’re going to go backward a little bit? My question then would be if Malibu is this place with this amazing single-track and ocean and mountains all sprinkled into one, then why would you move to Park City?

[Tweet “I want a vacation in the warm tropical places but I want to live my day-to-day life in the mountains.  “]

I’ve known for probably at least a decade that as soon as my youngest went off to college that I was going to move to the mountains. A friend of mine while we were on a hike said, “Beach or mountains?” I really had to think about that for a few days and I thought, “For everyday of living, I want to be in the mountains.” When I go on vacation, I’ve always gone to warm tropical places. I thought I want a vacation in the warm tropical places but I want to live my day-to-day life in the mountains. As far as single-track mountain biking goes, I don’t think anything can beat Park City.

The other great thing that you and I talked about before was accessibility. You’re 30 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport so you can get in and out. I personally love Sun Valley a lot and it’s just so difficult to get there, which in part is the beauty but also the curse of trying to get to a spot like that. Park City was awesome and maybe you’ll come back to California one of these days.

I basically had two parameters. One was it had to be in the mountains and the other one was I had to be within a very easy one-hour drive of an international airport. That left most of Colorado off, if not all of it, those perfect little mountain ski towns. It left Mammoth off. It left Lake Tahoe off. It left all these places off because I didn’t want to deal with the little airplanes and the little airports because I travel so much. In Park City, I am literally 27 minutes to the airport. I just can’t beat it.

I’ve been there many times and it’s a great place to be there in the winter, a great place to be there in the summer. Speaking of mountains, obviously that’s your love, let’s talk about it. You did the Seven Summits. Let’s go back to 1999. You climbed Kilimanjaro, which I’ve done a couple of times now myself. The first question is what led you towards this goal? Was this a stated goal that you had on the chalkboard like, “This is what I want to do,” or is this something that grew out of starting to take your first step?

What happened was I was climbing Mount Whitney with ten of my girlfriends and I had driven past it my whole life going up to Mammoth to ski. I’ve always looked over at it and thought, ” I want to climb that.” Finally in 1998, I climbed it with ten of my girlfriends. Right before the summit, I never smoked crack, but it was literally like I smoked. I just wanted the next one. What’s higher? Where can I go next? Then I figured out Kilimanjaro, so I did that the following year. I’m hoping either this winter or next summer to go back for my seventh time of climbing it. I’ve taken all my kids, I’ve taken my friends. That was the first one.

The first time I was on it, Wally Berg, the famous mountaineer, was my guide. All of a sudden I had this thing of, ” I want to climb the Seven Summits.” I was terrified of heights but I still had that in the back of my head that I wanted to climb the Seven Summits. Then I met Tom Burleson, who owns Alpine Ascents. I was climbing Elbrus in Russia and he said, “You could climb Everest.” That just planted the seed of, “Maybe I can.” Then I started knocking them off one at a time. From 1998 until 2003 or so, I took a break and was doing adventure races. I didn’t climb anything for those years. Then I went back into mountain climbing on full speed.

We need to break this down. It’s just not one canvas and you cover ten years and you run up Everest and you come back. You go up Mount Elbrus where you had this moment where maybe the Seven Summits could actually come into play and that you can actually do Mount Everest. Elbrus, by the way, for me in Russia, for the people that don’t know, is on summit day is a bear. It’s a long way up and back down, at least it was for me. We got in a horrible electrical storm. Somebody was killed and zapped by lightning. It was pretty intense. Mountains so often can be such a peaceful, beautiful spot and place to be. In a moment’s notice it can turn pretty quickly. You’re back down in Tanzania and you climb. In terms of going up that steep summit day phase, it gets steep but it’s not crazy, or at least in my opinion, where there are periods like you’re in half-dome or something and you’re looking over the edges and it’s just thousands feet down. It is down but it’s not crazy. Were you scared on top of Kili?

No. I’ve never been afraid. I can’t say I’ve been afraid on any mountain. I was afraid on the Matterhorn and I felt like, “I’m not supposed to be here.” Maybe 45 minutes from the summit, I turned around and went down. I have a pretty strong internal voice and I listen to it. I’ve taken all my kids up there. I’ve taken all my girlfriends up. If I was afraid, I would never have taken my kids up there.

A lot of it too I think is when you’re going up with one foot in front of the other and you’re so concentrating on just what’s in front of you, not necessarily looking down and around. Of course, you’re doing that on your breaks. I think a lot of it, for me at least, has been just very focused as you’re going up the mountain and that helps a lot when you’re tired usually very early in the morning and middle of the night when you’re climbing.

Like myself, as I started off by saying I went through a painful divorce, which actually led me into the mountains. My bucket was empty and I was just trying to figure out which way was up. I was just like, “I have to go do something crazy.” I came up with this whole notion about trying to become the first NFL guy to climb the Seven Summits, so off I went. I’ve had a game plan from before I even went down to Tanzania. I know that you went through separation and divorce as well. Was that difficult? Was that during this period of time that you started to climb?

No. I had started climbing probably four years before my divorce. I had been climbing and racing. To be honest, getting a divorce allowed me to climb and race even more because I had 50/50 custody. When my ex-husband had the kids, I was free to go do whatever I wanted.

Two questions then. What kind of racing were you doing? You’re talking about adventure racing. The other part of that is, for me so much of the healing and processing, people meditate in different ways, my meditation is through work out. It’s through getting on a bike, running, climbing up a mountain. I’ve solved so many problems running around the world, hiking around the world. That’s been the beautiful thing about how it’s played for me. What was that like for you? What kind of adventure racing were you doing? Did that also help you process through stuff you’re going through?

FYS 018 | Seven Summits

Seven Summits: That is my therapy. That is my church. That’s my meditation. That’s the time I reflect and review and solve my problems because it allows me to think in my head.

I was doing expedition adventure races, the long ones, six to ten days. I did three eco-challenges at Raid Gauloises. I’ve raced all over the world. They’re just multi-discipline, multi-day non-stop adventure races. During the divorce process, just hiking with my girlfriends, always climbing. I’ve recently broken up with someone and he didn’t understand why I wasn’t seeing a therapist after my son passed away. You can’t explain to someone if they don’t hike or do extreme sports or endurance sports. It’s hard for them to understand it. That is my therapy. That is my church. That’s my meditation. That’s the time I reflect and review and solve my problems because it allows me to think in my head. For me, if I pay an hour to see a therapist, that’s a plane ticket some place. I would rather go climb a mountain and do my meditation or reflection than have someone sitting there shaking their head at me, “Yes, yes, yes.” Maybe they’ve never been through what I’ve been through. I think everyone has different ways of dealing with things. For my divorce, that’s how I got through. My kids had amazing lives. I really got to play and do whatever sports I wanted on my time. It all just ended up okay.

Number one, you’re preaching to the choir, me, in terms of how you process different information. Ironically, when I was going through this marriage counseling, I went to five different people with my now ex and they all were divorced. It was making no sense to me. There was nothing there that was ever moving forward, but I’m not here to rank on therapists. I’m just saying it didn’t work for me.

I think that was fabulous. They help so many people. It just wasn’t for me.

Something else which I don’t want to gloss over, and it’s a painful one to talk about, but the name of this podcast is called Finding Your Summit. Finding your summit to me is all about overcoming adversity and finding success and finding that path forward. Something you just mentioned about your son passing away. First of all, I’m so sorry for that. I’ve got two daughters, 21 and 18, and I can’t imagine. I’m sure you’ve heard that from many different people but my heart goes out to you. I want to ask you about that if we can, just what happened. I want to find out a little bit more about your beautiful boy, and how you made it through that.

I don’t know if I’ll ever make it through it. You wake up to it every day. You go to bed to it at night, every night about it. My son did extreme sports. By the time he was seventeen, he had climbed the Seven Summits. From the time he could walk, he was running. He was always climbing up things, jumping off of things, always trying to fly as a little kid. Of course, we had to channel his energy somehow, so we let him climb the Seven Summits. It was funny, he was twelve and he was threatening us with illegal emancipation. I said, “Johnny, first of all, why don’t you say it correctly? Do you really even know what that means?” I was like, “Okay,” we let him climb. He was always begging us to let him go sky diving. Even though we were divorced, we were always on the same page about that and that is, “You are not doing that while you’re under either of our roofs. We’re not paying for that.”

The minute he turned eighteen, he went to Las Vegas. He was sleeping on someone’s couch, borrowed a parachute and started jumping off of bridges. He went on to airplanes and hot air balloons and really worked his way up and just got better and better and started getting sponsorship and people paying him for his videos. He never needed our money to do it. It’s just something he had to do. He was amazingly good at it. He was a wingsuit base jumper. You go from base jumping and then jumping out of airplanes and things, to then the cliff base jumping. He became a wingsuit pilot out of airplanes. Then he wingsuited off a cliff and then it became the next step after that and that is proximity wingsuit base jumping. That’s what killed him.

What does that mean?

Proximity wingsuit base jumping is how close you can get to the wall, so that’s the proximity. You’re wearing a wingsuit and you’re base jumping. You’re jumping off a cliff. A gust of wind got him. At those speeds and how quickly the decisions need to be made, it can take a second and it’s over. He had the most amazing life. He’s the youngest to do the Adventurers Grand Slam. I think that record will hold forever because you have to be sixteen now to do Vinson. He’s the youngest ever to climb that. He also went to the North and South Pole which is what the Adventurers Grand Slam is in addition to the Seven Summits. That kid was a big wave surfer. He was totally into some amazingly large waves with Garrett McNamara. He went shark diving with Jeb Corliss. He was feeding bull sharks. It was crazy. His life was insane and amazing. Sitting behind a desk would have killed him. That would have been a horrible life for him.

I interviewed this wonderful woman down at Malibu, Kathy Eldon. Do you know here?

I’ve heard of her. I have her book.

She’s a really amazing woman. Her son, Dan, died when he was 23. He was stoned to death in Somalia. When I first went down there about four or five months ago to visit with her on something else, a different project I was up to, she said, “Let me show you what we’re up to here.” We walked in to Creative Visions. She navigated me through this mini-museum of his works. I didn’t know the story at the time. I didn’t know anything about her. I didn’t know anything about Dan, her son. As you looked at the body of work, you would have thought that this person that she was talking about was 30 or 40 years old. I can’t believe the pictures and the writings and all the stuff. What you’re telling me is that your son was similar in that way that he led a full life already. Within that, tragedy struck but I’m sure he died what he loved doing and not playing it safe and being behind a desk for all of his life. There’s no right or wrong of any of this. I tell my friends, “Just know that when I’m climbing these different mountains, I’m doing what I love to do. I can’t imagine a life not doing this.” 

FYS 018 | Seven Summits

Seven Summits: My children have never said, “I can’t.” I grew up being afraid of everything. My kids are afraid of nothing.

It wouldn’t be a life worth living. I believe in quality over quantity. My son had quality. He was also 23 like Dan. He told me six months before he died, “If I die doing this, know that I died the happiest person on the planet.”

I’m guessing this is what you’d have to hold on to. As sad and awful as that would be, I think you do have to hold on to that. You have to go back to what he said to help you bridge through the emotional pain that would bring to any parent. I’m so sorry for that. On the other side of that, it sounds like what an inspiration to everybody to really get out there and be the best that they can be and really lead a life that’s purposeful in what you’re doing. He figured that out it sounds like at about age two. 

He always knew and he showed us. He drew a picture in second or third grade. He was parachuting while holding an ice cream cone. There was an MMA ring, a volcano, some sharks in the water, and then his house. He wrote, “The adventure begins here.” It was insane. I found it going through all of his school papers and I had it framed and gave it to his dad. It was like he did every single one of these things. He drew it for us. He was in second or third grade, he drew this picture for us. It was the freakiest thing, but he knew his whole life what he was going to do.

What year is this when this all went down?

You must have been a great role model for him though with all this adventure: racing, climbing mountains, would you say? 

No kid likes when their mom goes off to climb a mountain. It’s a whole other show on the double standard chauvinism in this whole field. I remember being at Camp One and I’m on the sat phone with my kids and they’re all crying begging me to come home. I dreaded those phone calls every day because they were just draining and breaking my heart. Then I’d look around at my guys, none of them had those phone calls. They’d call the wife, some wife was complaining because the tire was flat and the car’s something, and I thought, “That’s all they have to deal with.” These wives are taking care of the kids, holding down the fort, and I didn’t have that. Even talking to people about sponsorship, they’d say, “You’re leaving your children. How could you do that?” I said to one of them, “If I was a man, would you be asking me that?” He caught himself and he said, “No.”

When I came home from adventure races, I was a bloody bruised battered mess, and my son never liked that. When I came home from climbing, my body looked fine. It’s pretty cushy compared to adventure racing. That part never upset my kids because I always came home looking the same. My kids would rather have me home baking cookies, which I did when I was home. Even if they’re with their dad for the week, they still wanted me sitting home. However, in their actions and how I’ve seen them grow up, behind my back to their friends and to their friends’ parents, they would tell them, “My mom did this, my mom did that.” To my face they would complain. Also, I completely taught my kids that nothing is off limits. You go for it. My children, all three of them, have never said, “I can’t.” It’s just not in their vocabulary. I grew up being afraid of everything. My kids are afraid of nothing.

You’ve been a great role model for them and for others. What you’ve created is possibilities. That’s a wonderful gift to give your kids. My kids aren’t climbing mountains but just in terms of trying to figure out what they’re going to do in life, I think it’s such an important thing rather than go back and say, “You have to be this or that,” and just play the rules of the game. White picket fence, two and a half kids, a dog, all that stuff, it’s just a lie. That may work out right for the right people, but it’s not the path that everybody has to go down. Just giving your kids that freedom and that voice of approval of like, “Whatever you want to do is going to be great and you’re going to be great. Go for it.” 

I grew up thinking I had to be in the box. You have to have the white picket fence, the right car, the right house. That’s exactly what I grew up wanting. I got slipped up the first mountain and it was a huge awakening, eye-opener. Thank God, my kids don’t have any rules to live by in that regard.

I want to go back to the mountains. I want to talk about what are the ones that I don’t know if I’m going to do, and we don’t need to get into the technicalities of the seven. I went down to Australia and I’ve done Kosciuszko. You decided to do Carstensz in Papua New Guinea. I’ve just heard some crazy stories. Number one, it’s expensive to get there and it’s tough in the jungle and people aren’t that friendly, just in terms of potentially being held up at knife point. Once you get into it, it’s raining on your head for days on end. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience there?

I had to go twice. Both times, no one was walking through the jungle. You were asking to be killed if you did. I’ve heard that’s changed and now they are walking through the jungles. The first time, we flew to a town called Tamika. We stayed at a Sheraton, and I’m pretty sure our phones were bugged. It was a nightmare. The people who worked for the mine, I’d sit by the pool or I go sit by myself in the restaurant, and all of a sudden they’d be sitting next to me trying to get information. We’d had a phone call saying, “Meet in the lobby at X hour.” We think we’re going to leave and all of a sudden there will be military guys sitting there. They always knew what we were up to. The thing was we were going to hire a helicopter that was there on other business and we were going to helicopter in. Somehow the helicopter didn’t work out. The pilot chickened out. We’ve had some friends who snuck through the mine dressed as military people, and they summited and came back. It was a woman, Christine Boskoff, who owned Mountain Madness. She got her team through that mine and climbed it. We went home empty-handed but I was very proud of her for getting through like that. It’s like the Wild West there.

[Tweet “It was a fantastic adventure in a world where it doesn’t seem like there’s so many adventures left. “]

The second time I went, we did use a helicopter. We got into this little village where you’re going to land the landing strip and there are children playing on the field or on the strip, and animals are on it. We land. We’re in a little safe house. I’ve never walked around the village and felt so at ease. People hated us. Men are walking around in penis cords still. Women are kidnapped from village to village. I can’t even explain how insane it was, but none of that mattered. I just wanted to get to the mountain. This was the second time I went back. We avoided Tamika all together. We were in this safe house. We get on the helicopter. We fly to the base camp. It was a pretty crazy place. There was a glacier in the middle of a jungle. The rock was like a cheese grater. You had to wear thick leather gloves or it will just slice up your hands. It was a pretty incredible fantastic adventure in a world now where it doesn’t seem like there’s so many adventures left. It was pretty wild to pull that one off with all those circumstances. I would love to go back and go through the jungle and do it that way just to experience that. What a crazy experience and place that was. It was crazy. It was the craziest out of all of them, I’ll say that.

When I started out of this place when my bucket was empty, I went down to Tanzania. As I’ve been going around the globe doing this, it’s as much for me about the summit as about the journey getting to the destination and going through that. When else would I go to Moscow and St. Petersburg and the Caucasus Mountains and all these different things in Russia, Europe’s highest peak and down in South America with Aconcagua, and just all these different countries, cultures, people, people on the expeditions. It’s just been such a growing experience for me as I navigated my life towards my kids going on to college and navigating through my divorce and these others things. It’s been one of the richest experiences I’ve had in my life. 

Let’s move on to Everest. What year did you go to Everest?

I’ve been there four times now. The first time was 2005. I had promised my kids that I would be home by June 1st. On our first summit attempt, we turned around at Camp 2. A storm was coming in and we went back down the base camp. They said there’s no way we’re going to summit by June 1st. I said, “I’m out of here. I promised my kids.” The owner of the company was saying, “You’re going to regret this. You should stay.” “I told my kids this is the day I’m coming home.” I didn’t think anyone was going to summit after June 1st. It hadn’t happened. It was hot. Ice screws were melting out so I left. Of course, they summited four days later, whenever it was, June 2nd or 3rd. Every day after that for three years, it ate at me. I signed up again for 2008 and I told the kids I’ll be home when I get home. I’m not quitting this time. I was home May 28th. I had summited May 24th. It just felt such a huge relief. This monkey was off my back. I was so sure that I would never climb again and I promised my little one, “I’m done, I’m not climbing anymore.” I was moving to Bainbridge Island. In base camp, I gave away everything: my custom down suit, my boots, everything. I just gave it all away.

I moved to Bainbridge but that didn’t work out. I moved home. The following year in 2009, I went back because my son was going to climb it. I wanted to meet him in base camp. I was engaged. I walked in with my fiancé, did the whole thing, I saw my son. I was going to climb Everest again this year to throw some of my son’s ashes from the summit. My daughters were upset. One was incredibly upset about me climbing Everest again.

I had originally signed up to do the Triple Crown, which is Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse within a few days. That dream went out the window when Johnny died. I thought at least I’ll console myself with a climb of Everest, throw some of his ashes off. The girls were upset. I was waking up in the middle of the night with anxiety, “Should I do this? Should I not?” I literally asked my son and God for a sign, “Should I do this?” I really don’t know. Less than 48 hours later, I tore my ACL skiing. It took about a week to wrap my head around the fact that I wasn’t going to be climbing. Some friends who were coming had already planned, bought tickets, bought their trip, everything, to walk me to base camp. Now I walked them to base camp. A dear friend, Ben Jones, took Johnny to the summit and let him fly off. Johnny had wanted to wingsuit off of Everest as well so I let him fly off. I got on a helicopter to leave and I was just okay with it. I wasn’t heartbroken that I wasn’t climbing it again. I don’t know if I’ll ever climb it again. I still would love the speed record for the Seven Summits. I know Vern Tejas has it now, but I would still love to borrow that title from him.

I just interviewed a guy named Colin O’Brady who got the Grand Slam speed record. He did it in 139 days. It’s just crazy to ski to the North and South Pole and do all Seven Summits. Congrats to him. He’s an endurance athlete like you and a total stud. It’s a big commitment. You’ve got to get after it. 

I don’t know if that will happen or not for me. If it does, it does. If not, it doesn’t.

When you’re going through the Khumbu Icefall, how was that for you? Let’s go back to what you said in the opening, you’re scared of heights and you’re literally going over these crazy ladders to the glacier. Even though you’re trying maybe not to look down, you’re literally looking down because you’re looking straight through these ladders down into deep crevices. How was that for you?

FYS 018 | Seven Summits

Seven Summits: My whole thing with that was just don’t dillydally, don’t doddle, just get through it.

I had enjoyed the ladders maybe because my foot is smaller than a man’s foot. I can feel on the ball of my foot right now exactly where the sweet spot is to hit it. That type of height is different from the Lhotse Face where you’re looking a thousand feet down. None of that was frightening to me only because when you’re clipped in, you’re clipped in all the way on Everest. The only time I really got scared on Everest was when not being clipped in at the summit and I bent over to pick up a rock. I didn’t realize how top heavy I was with my oxygen bottles and I almost fell right over. I threw myself back. Otherwise, you’re clipped in and as long as you’re clipped in, you might have a scratch on you but it’s not going to kill you if you fall. The thing about the Khumbu Icefall is you have to be proficient and efficient. It’s not the place to stand around and take pictures. A guy in front of me stopped in front of this very large rock and was just standing there fondling with his camera and taking pictures. I’m like, “This is not the place to be doing that.” It could kill us all. Some men don’t want to rely you’d pass them. It’s crazy. My whole thing with that was just don’t dillydally, don’t doddle, just get through it. Be quick, efficient, always clip in. It gets easier and easier walking over the ladders, always clipped in no matter what. A gust of wind could hit you. The ladder could melt out a little bit. It’s taking a few extra seconds and clipping in and being saved. Not standing around doing whatever. You’ve got to get through it quickly.

For summit day, how was that? Was that tough to get up and get back down? You’re in high altitude and it’s a mother to get to the summit.

It’s weird because it was my second time and I was so focused and I ate like a pig. That entire trip, the men on my team had lost twenty pounds each. Their pants were falling off of them if they didn’t wear a belt. I’m at the South Col squatting over my pee bottle going, “My thighs have gotten so huge. How can I not be losing weight?” All those calories, all those meals I didn’t miss. When it was go time, I was very focused, very on it. It was tough going up. Lakpa Rita gave me his spare pair of socks and for sure saved my toes. One of my feet, I couldn’t even feel and I didn’t care. I was willing to lose my toes to get to the summit. He was like, “Nope,” puts a pair of socks on my feet and they were fine the rest of the trip, totally warm. I got to the summit and I felt like a million dollars. It was three years of waiting for that chance again. Luckily I’ve never had altitude illness or sickness. I felt great up there. I was up there for an hour. My guys arrived, we took some pictures and my Sherpa and I literally ran down. I left the summit at 8. We were back at the South Col by 10:30. By 10:30 AM, I was in my tent.

This is Camp 4, right?

The South Col is the same as Camp 4. Camp 3 to the South Col, which is technically Camp Four, and then to the summit. I have to say, all things given, that was one of the easier. It was just a slog and you just keep your head down, one foot in front of the other. I was so wanting of that day for so many years that luckily I felt great.

I’ll be there in 2019. This last May, I was on Denali and we did not make it. It was -60 at the top. This ugly lenticular cloud, like the Wicked Witch of the West, is up there flying around would not leave. It was hard but I felt so strong, so great. I have to go back again this next May. I don’t have to but I choose to go back this next May and re-attack it. I want that mountain, but in that case, Mother Nature went out and that’s what happened and you have to respect that. I continued to up my game in terms of little nuances in nutrition. I ran into a sock problem too on that mountain so that was a bit of a problem. I’ll know better this next time. 

I think Denali is harder than Everest, for sure.

Going up is crazy. For people who don’t know, you’re dragging 126 pounds with a sled and a backpack up the steepest slopes and you’re either in crampons or snowshoes up and down and all over, and the weather is crazy. Every night in our tent was -25. You wake up and there is snowfall coming down from the condensation from the night before and crazy storms that came through. It was a battle. Anyways, I’m ready to take that on and just feeling like even though I’m getting older, I feel like I’m getting stronger just because of that mindset, a lot of what we’re trying to do. What is on tap for you coming up? You’ve been such a goal-setter, so impressive, overcomes some stuff. As you sit now in Park City, what are you thinking about? 

I definitely want to do the North and South Poles. I would love the speed record of the Seven Summits. I don’t know what else besides that. I’m always up for adventure. It just takes a friend calling and saying, “Hey, you want to?” The answer is yes.

The thing I love about you is that you’re not like some people I asked that same question to and like, ” I’m just hoping to go to the grocery store today and go down and maybe get a little walk and buy some flowers or something.” You’re like, “I want to go to the North Pole.” That’s great. 

I have plenty of days where my big day is taking the dogs on a walk.

My point being is that, of course, that’s like that. That’s everyday life and that’s what people do. What I’m saying is about living an adventurous life, a purposeful life, about putting goals out there, about creating a vision board. Maybe you do these things or you don’t. If you don’t write down a list and you’ve got your hundred things in your bucket list and what you want to do and how you’re going to accomplish it, I think that’s what truly keeps you alive. You said something which I really related to which is I’ve been all over the world with my kids and going to these fancy hotels in Hawaii and whatnot. I love being around my kids but it finally got to the point where doing those types of vacations wasn’t fulfilling for me anymore. If I’m going to spend money and going to put a plane ticket together, I want to go do something adventurous. That’s what I choose to do. That’s where I feel most alive. Other people who have that same spirit, I gravitate towards it because that’s what I like doing. 

I love that overwater bungalow in Tahiti as much as the next person. People think, “You’re always having to climb something or do a race or something.” I was like, “No. I equally enjoy the fancy vacations. I like them both.” I’ve met men who can only do the adventurous crazy hard-core stuff and can never just seem to relax and go, “What a great sunset.” Then you meet the man who all they want is the umbrella drink with the sunset. That doesn’t work either. I finally had a balance if I really love both.

I think it all falls under this bucket of adventure. It could be adventure in Bali. It could be adventure in Tahiti. Papua New Guinea, that’s a different way. Thank you so much. Do you have any words of advice for anybody that’s going through a challenging time? Maybe it’s just simple, what works. You’ve already talked about what worked for you was really getting out and being in the mountains. That seems to be your meditative place to work on yourself. That happened to be the same thing for me. Is there anything that you would offer?

I’d say no matter how hard it is some days to leave the house, because it’s so easy to sit on the couch and get into that routine of just sitting on the couch, fight it with everything you have. Call a friend. Make a plan. Even if you think you can’t do the adventure, sign up for it anyway. Leave the house and do it anyway. Whether you succeed or fail, at least you attempted it. Don’t give in to the couch. Just keep going, keep moving. It’s amazing what comes to me when I’m climbing or doing an ultra or a long bike ride. Like your show is or whatever your summit is, Finding Your Summit, you can find your summit on the local hill. You can find your summit walking around the block. Keep looking for your summit, don’t give up.

[Tweet “Whether you succeed or fail, at least you attempted it. Just keep going, keep moving. “]

Where can people follow you or your journey?

I would probably say Instagram. I try to post my adventures there. I haven’t really been into that social media aspect of all of that. I do my adventures for me.

Thank you so much for sharing, opening your heart, your adventurous soul, where you’ve been, where you’re going. I know a lot of people are going to get a lot out of this.

Thank you very much for having me.

Thank you so much.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode: