Denali ‘18


From atlanta to the roof of north america in 2 years

I decided to delve into mountaineering during the greatest trial of my life. I was surrounded by liars and being buried alive beneath the weight of their lies.  Clearly, I was not beating them. So I joined them--I began lying. Over and over and over again.  In the midst of being released on bail, I told myself I would get my wrongful felony arrest removed from my record.  From the floor of my car, I told myself that I would reclaim a stable home for my children and me. In sorting through the cardboard box of food I was given so that I could feed my kids, I told myself I would eliminate the nearly fifty thousand dollars of debt to which I was chained.  In the middle of every embattled interaction with my ex-wife, I told myself I would gain a more equitable parenting arrangement. In the midst of depression and nearly daily panic attacks, I told myself I would become motivated enough to begin exercising again--to begin losing the weight that had accumulated. begin losing the weakness that had.  In the midst of all of this, with neither depth nor breadth of mountaineering experience, I told myself I would make an attempt on Denali (formerly Mount McKinley).  I lied and kept lying until each wishful falsehood started to become reality. And two years later, just one had not yet been proven truth. It was truth in the making.


How does someone who has spent the majority of his life in the Southeast, where there are no glaciated peaks to be found, learn not just to survive but to thrive above the tree line? I spent the first 18 years of my life in Louisiana, an environment opposite of everything I had set my sights on. Louisiana is touted as a “Sportsman’s Paradise” (it’s all over the license plates) because of the massive fishing and year-round game hunting in the region. This is largely due to the vast forests and wetlands, filled with life-sustaining water that draws a plethora of animals. All that water also helps keep the animals cool--the state sees summers that reach a sweltering 105F. Add 100% humidity to the mix and a saunter to the local convenience store feels more like a Bikram yoga session. High camp on Denali (formerly Mount McKinley), however, is nearly devoid of animal life, and often times a full 150 degrees colder than my hometown. One thing the mountain has in common with Louisiana is the surplus of water--Denali has been accumulating it for thousands of years. Of course, drinking any of it requires a stove and time to melt it; time that is ever finite in a world where both food and the fuel required to cook it must be carried in. There is no living off the land on Denali. There is only, at best, living. It was time I began living again, and it was as good a place as any.