An unquenchable thirst for adventure has taken my life to incredible places. My passion for these wild places and even wilder ways of exploring them has given me a life time of treasured memories and experiences.
But aside from bringing a few great friends along on the occasional adventure, I had become comfortable in the fact that these wilderness forays were self fulfilling. A couple years worth of these selfish great times had floated by before I was given the unique opportunity to add some meaning to my travels.
Big City Mountaineers is a budding charity based out of Colorado that takes at risk youth across the nation on wilderness mentoring adventures. Statistically, 83 percent of the kids Big City Mountaineers work with live well below the poverty line and would likely never experience the great outdoors without a miracle of sorts. They run the “Summit For Someone” program as their main fundraising vehicle, allowing any level adventurer to turn a frivolous pursuit into a worthy cause by raising money for BCM through Mountaineering and Climbing Expeditions. When I heard about this opportunity, the ambitious feeling inside grew instantly, and I knew I needed to be a part of the Summit For Someone program!
Big City Mountaineers has developed major sponsors and connections through out the outdoor industry. They currently have hubs in Denver, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Chicago and the Boundary Waters Canoe area. I would love to see them keep expanding and include an East Coast Hub one day as well. To raise massive amounts of awareness and money they partnered with Backpacker Magazine and The North Face to hold the largest outdoor fundraiser ever conducted on U.S. soil last Spring on Mt. Whitney.
Backpacker held a contest for readers to be a part of the event and I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the readers chosen to join. For months I trained like an animal, raised funds any way I could think of and then drove from the Appalachians out to California to test my merit above 14,000ft. The training and fundraising paid off for myself and everyone else. Nearly every member of our group reached the Summit with the help of our incredible guides from Sierra Mountaineering International. More important than our Peak Experience was the fact we raised $280,000 to provide all kinds of kids with the opportunity to have a peak experience of their own!
Time spent in the wilderness has given me a confident yet humble approach to the daily grind. Long strenuous trips that challenged my mind and body have created a vivid picture of the things that truly matter in life. For instance, A cool drink of water after a long day on a trail is no doubt one of life’s richest pleasures. Good companions and relationships are things to be nurtured and cherished in stride. Shelter from the weather, a healthy diet and a warm, comfortable place to sleep at night are our purest pursuits.
When the youth of Big City Mountaineers participate in a mentoring trip they get the chance to incorporate all of this knowledge along with the set of life skills associated with a happy camper back into their own lives. Aside from learning these wilderness “life Hacks” the kids learn a great deal about themselves through the aid of a mentor. For many the opportunity to spend a week in seclusion with a positive adult mentor will provide more positive guidance than they have received collectively during their entire life. The kids get a chance to discuss their living situations as well as their thoughts and feelings about anything the wish with someone who is willing to listen and capable of giving sound advice.
The bulk of BCM’s trips offer an amazing 1:1 ratio of five adult mentors and five youth venturing together on a week long adventure. The trips will physically challenge the kids in different ways such as backpacking, climbing or traveling by canoe and certainly broaden their outdoor horizons. For these reasons and many more a week in the wilderness with Big City Mountaineers is considered a transformative experience for the kids and sometimes even more so for the adult volunteers who participate.
After having such a great time on Mt. Whitney I was thrilled to learn that this year the Summit For Someone program was partnering up with Backpacker and The North Face again to climb Mt. Shasta in Northern California. I was honored again to receive an invite to join the climb and excited to keep raising awareness for the cause. The second time around provided a sense of comfort for me in both training and fundraising.
I knew what worked and what did not work after riding the learning curve of our first expedition. With the help of some generous folks all across the outdoor community we were able to hold a fundraising party in Waynesville, NC. A local brewery furnished a killer venue free of charge for us to have a band, show a movie from Mt. Whitney and to auction off thousands of dollars worth of donated gear, outdoor adventures and some incredible Photographs. The night was incredible and our small Appalachian community was more than generous for the nationwide charity. A few weeks ago I had the time of my life on Mt. Shasta on our three day climb. As always I met great new friends and nourished my appetite for adventure on a beautiful mountain. The Mt. Shasta area is particularly special.
These picturesque mountains covered in evergreens are dotted with Alpine Lakes and streams and they gently roll to the base of Mt. Shasta which promptly rises 10,000 vertical feet above the valley to a height of 14,192ft. With such staggering prominence above the surrounding area Shasta looks massive and the view from the top reminded me of looking out the window of a airplane! The Shasta Expedition was another staggering success with the help of Shasta Mountain Guides and collectively our group brought in $200,000 and counting for Big City Mountaineers!
The Summit For Someone program has expanded to include 20 iconic Mountaineering Expeditions and climbs around the world. The program will also provide you a vehicle to raise funds for Big City Mountaineers in your own special way. If you wish to through hike a long trail, go peak bagging or set a FKT at your favorite spot they can help turn your passion into a philanthropic adventure! The program provides such a unique opportunity to give your outdoor life style a sense of merit. Believe me from my experience, this makes your endeavors more valuable and more memorable than you could ever imagine.
I hope some of you reading this are in the same position I was a few years ago. I had just finished the SB6K challenge and felt like I wanted a taste of Big Adventure when the Summit For Someone program came into my life. Awesomeness is out their waiting for you and Big City Mountaineers can help make it happen!
–Follow author and Blue Ridge native Steven Reinhold on Facebook.