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Summit For Someone - lessons learned on Mount Shuksan

Shenandoah Sanchez summitted Mount Shuksan on 9/11 as a member of the Summit for Someone Veterans Climb team. This is his story. 

This September 11th, I was a member of the Summit For Someone, Veterans Climb team on Mount Shuksan, Washington - A great program that serves an even greater cause.  As an infantry Marine for almost 20 years, I have spent many nights outdoors, extreme and otherwise; but I can honestly say that I had never undertaken the challenge of climbing a mountain.  The reasons why I did are simple:  I have a true love for the outdoors; and in a world that can be complex and dark at times, I purposefully seek the beautiful moments and opportunities that exist within it.

Summit for someone
This climb did not disappoint. It was one of the most arduous events I have ever undertaken, yet it was truly one of the most rewarding. When the team first came together I felt as though I'd made 4 new friends; by the time we came down from the mountain I felt as though I had 4 new brothers...to my fellow veterans (Aaron and Dan) and the amazing leaders and professionals at KAF Adventures (Jason and Trevor), thank you; I would climb with you on any other trip or any other occasion without hesitation.  Jason and Trevor, your professionalism, leadership, mentorship and instruction was outstanding; you literally welcomed us with open arms, looked to our welfare and treated us like family...this left a tremendous impression and I am forever grateful for that experience.

What I learned on the climb cannot be summarized into few words; a week removed from the experience I continue to realize new lessons. Still, I have tried to capture of few of those wonderful nuggets below:

  • I learned that the mountain, like life, is there; unmoving, perpetual, challenging, seemingly daunting, waiting to be climbed,beautiful.  It’s not coming to you, rather all the effort must be yours.
  • The way up had peaks, valleys, obstacles, objective hazards; sometimes it was easy, most of the time it was tough.  Yet, despitewhere our immediate path took us - up, down or sideways - as we kept our eyes on the prize our overall relative movement was ever upward and higher.
  • Whether climbing a mountain or living your life, one must travel light.  If you're overloaded with baggage you're not going to make it. Figure out what you really need and take only those most important things. That will keep you light, allow you to move and keep you live.
  • The climb was full of hazards seen and unseen; objective, mental, fatigue-induced, weather related etc…this in turn required planning, training, concentration, good decisions, rest, food, water, keeping a level head, teamwork…
  • Teamwork/Friendship. You live or die by the rope team.  When we were roped up, we worked together; protected, helped, depended on and motivated each other.  Danger was minimized, fear was reduced, we moved efficiently; stronger.  As is written in the bible, “the three braided cord is not easily broken…”
  • Sometimes the path or the pitch on the objective route may not be the most direct. It may require more planning, re-assessment, effort, backtracking or circumventing. Remain motivated, flexible and focused.
  • More important than just getting to the top was enjoying the moments along the way; the camaraderie, the surroundings, the beauty…

These are just a few lessons – there are so many more. I am sure that I will continue to learn from the experience long after I have been off the mountain. What I am also sure of is that the experience surpassed all my expectations and that I will return


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