How and when did you start climbing?
My senior year in college at the University of Georgia, a friend and I decided to teach ourselves how to rock climb. I won’t say it was the smartest way to learn a new sport, but it worked, and I was quickly hooked. After that I spent most weekends traveling up to Tennessee and climbing at some of the local spots there. After I graduated from college, I spent some time living out of my car and climbing around some of the best climbing areas in the West. For me it was an eye-opening experience and helped to give my life at the time a path to follow.
From the first time I went climbing, I knew that it was something I would do for the rest of my life, and it would shape the direction my life would take. I am fortunate that climbing has taken me to many amazing places around the world and I am able to make a living as a professional climber.
Do you think your climbing experience in some sense prepared you for becoming a nurse?
I believe that nursing and climbing are very similar, and they complement each other well. I worked as a mountain guide for five years and guided in both North and South America. I feel that guiding people in a high-risk environment takes a large amount of patience, focus, and mental and physical strength. All of these characteristics relate to nursing as well and have given me the confidence and knowledge base to work with patients in a wide variety of health care settings.
What has been the highlight of your climbing career so far?
I just returned from an expedition to the Himalayan Mountains of India. This was my first time going to this remote mountain range, and it was an amazing experience. We were hoping to put up a fist ascent on a 6,596-meter (21,634-foot) mountain called Mt. Nilkantha, which is located in the Garhwal region of the Himalayas. Unfortunately my partners and I were forced to turn around 200 meters from the summit due to an electrical storm that came in. We were all feeling electricity surging through our bodies, and we knew that we had no other option but to descend.
Even though we did not reach the summit, it was still a very rewarding experience. The summit only represents a certain aspect of climbing. In the end we won’t remember one certain pitch as much as the friendships we create in these powerful places. Once we are able to find the path in which we truly connect to the mountains and to our partners, then we have found what climbing is all about. For me, that is the main part of why I climb, but I feel that people can find that connection to both themselves and to their surroundings in other ways.
What is the most important thing you learned at Episcopal?
Episcopal instilled in me the importance of community and being connected to both a place and the people within that place. I have called Bozeman home for the better part of six years, and it is because of the community here that I feel at home. Whether you are traveling around the world or settled down in one place, having a community and a human connection is what makes us whole and helps us want to better ourselves and our community.
What is the most important thing you've learned since graduating?
Life can be short, and we never know when things may change for better or worse. I strive to live everyday as best I can and to be proud in what I am doing. Whether I am climbing a mountain in a remote part of the world, hanging with friends at home, or working as a nurse in the hospital, I cherish every moment and try to be as present in those moments as I can be. I don’t want to look back at my life and have any regrets that I did not live as I had hoped.
What is your philosophy of life?
Be present and honest in everything I do, and most importantly have fun.