At 4:30 am, having been on the mountain for over three hours, the sun rose above the clouds. We kicked crampons into snow and ice, sweating amply on the up and thus interacting with water in all its forms. We were on our summit push and the third day of our Paradox Sports Mt. Rainier veteran ascent, an integral adventure with themes of “healing and dealing,” as well as discussing and living the bridge between civilian and veteran mindsets.

It was a wilderness glacial adventure on an impressively gargantuan hulk of a volcano with both old friends (care giving bad ass mtn peeps who donated their time and talent to our mish) and new friends (U.S. veterans from across the country looking to create well being and excellence in their lives). We kicked off the event on July 1st with our partners at Second Ascent with a series of short talks from myself, as well as veterans Michael Johnson and Nick Colgin.

Margaux Mange on Mt. Rainier

Margaux Mange on Mt. Rainier

We spent two days acclimatizing and sharing mountain climbing skills on self arrest with ice axes, walking with crampons, and always, always, always creating self advocacy around hydration, nutrition and sun protection. We shared camp stove cooking, snow melting, tent sleeping, many laughs, and beautiful vistas. The goal of this outing was to be a catalyst for enduring and deep change in the lives of at-risk veterans as well as everyone involved. At the summit, under scudding clouds and brutal frigid gusts, we were blown away by the joy, empathy, and adventure we elected to create and curate. Sometimes the aforementioned is adjoined with great difficulty and usually rewards profound meaning and beauty, much like climbing a massive glaciated mountain.

I realized that with every human connection and lessons learned, I fashion another plank on the soulful bridge that spans the void between existence and meaning. I considered that the answer to why we are here is perhaps found in the elective challenge and vulnerability of not only recognizing suffering but working truly to relieve it. And although the view from the top is singular and fleeting, this transcendence promotes a deeper view and perspective into the person you are and the person you want to be become.

Thanks to our Seattle-based leadership on the mountain from Justin Davis and Dan Alyward who joined us for the second year in a row and to Brent Bishop who lent his time and talent for his first PS journey. Their collective deep skill and mountain passion brought impactful learning and exchange and an assured life-long application and love of wilderness adventure. As Brent said, “keep me on the short list forever for this trip and all PS trips.” Also, big thanks to Marmot and Outdoor Research who helped to underwrite this trip.