“I started out climb 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 into 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 into 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. A 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 the 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 46Climbs. 46Climbs 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 that 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 can 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. Into 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 46Climbs. I will continue to pursue foundations and causes to help. These mountains have saved my life, why can’t they save someone else’s?” – Matthew McClelland