Another Amazing Adventure, Kinda....!!!

We had an amazing Rewilding climb last week! Well, kind of…

Kind of, because I messed up and chose the wrong climb. It was too big and technical, not the best climb for someone’s first, especially someone who had never been hiking before. That said, even when the stakes are high and fear is real, I find myself blown away, again and again, by the courageousness and daring of the guys we get to take on these adventures.

This time we got to know Lamar, and he flat-out blew us away.

We ended up climbing a 400 ft route in Eldorado Canyon (Swanson Arête, 5.5). It’s a gorgeous route, but the rating is woefully misleading when you consider the other characteristics of the climb. It was too tall, too technical, just too much. Lamar was clearly further out of his comfort zone than I would have wanted. I was kicking myself early on realizing my now obvious error in judgment. Halfway up, a climber around the corner from us took a big fall and badly broke his ankle. We heard it all. The screams of pain and “call 911.” It didn’t help Lamar’s comfort level.

But, even in the face of fear and overwhelm, Lamar’s character shone brightly. He was scared but he continued on, and foot by foot we made our way upwards. More fun for me that the climbing, and what made the day truly “Amazing,” was getting to know Lamar and hear his story. He expressed himself in a style and with a perspective that was totally unique to me.

Lamar recently spent 6 years in prison (age 20-26) for selling drugs. He told me for him it was “like college” and that, “you get out what you put in.” He read constantly, utilizing a library program that gave him access to any book he wanted. He got informed. About the circumstances he felt he was born into, about the world, government, history and lots more. He told me there were smart people in jail, more than you’d expect, with information, ideas and experiences of value.

He didn’t pretend it was fun. He said it was really hard. That you’re tested regularly. That you have to be strong. He told me he never joined a gang because he’s not a follower.

Lamar takes responsibility for what he did. He said he knows it’s not something to be proud of. He also questions if selling drugs to consenting adults should result in a prison term and felony class equal to that of a violent sex offender.

We talk about where he grew up. He leads the conversation as we examine the circumstances that exist in communities like his and how they contribute to young, black men choosing crime. How opportunity for many in his community feels nonexistent. How the system is set up for him to fail. How it often feels like the choice is between selling drugs or being homeless, or hungry or cold. How those circumstances are not being addressed. We talk about schools in poor neighborhood where teachers are paid like shit and so the education is shit. We talk about the military budget vs the education budget.

More than what he says it’s how he says it that I’m so impressed with. I’m familiar with the information he’s sharing, I agree with him, but I’m not so sure I could present it so clearly, calmly and earnestly. I’m certain I couldn’t if the tables were turned. I find him exceptional. I hope he’ll give me a second chance at a better adventure. He hints to me that he will!

So yes, it was and amazing day, kinda…

Kelso Ridge with Solomon - Epic!!!

It started with me asking a room 50 formerly incarcerated individuals at Second Chance Center who wanted to climb a mountain. I told them it would be fun, but it would be hard. I had some interest, tempered with a lot of hesitation. Except from one guy, Solomon Aragon!

Solomon is 35, he just finished a four year sentence. The first words he spoke to me were, “I’m all in, what do I have to do.” Since then we’ve spoken at length numerous times. First about why he wanted to climb a mountain with us. He wanted to do something really hard, something that most people never do, he wanted to push himself. Later we spoke about what he wanted out of the climb. He told me about his son, his past, his baby mama who is currently locked up. He told me he’s finally really ready to begin a new chapter in his life. Something that up until now he wasn't ready to do.

After a couple weeks of jumping through hoops with his parole officer we got permission for him to join. Even though Solomon had never stepped foot in the mountains we chose a technical route (Kelso Ridge up Torreys Peak). We did this because Solomon wanted to go big and we believe that the steps beyond a persons perceived limits are where the magic happens.

So, at 2:30am we arrived at Solomon’s Fathers house. His son, uncle and grandfather were all sleeping inside. His father who was seemingly as excited and nervous as Solomon was up to see him off.

At 7:30am the technical aspects began. 30 minutes later Solomon turned to us and said, “Guys, I want you to know, I’m fucking terrified! I mean the most terrified I’ve ever been in my life. Just wanted you guys to know that. Let’s keep going.” And that’s what we did. Hour after hours we climbed that ridge. We roped up when it got technical, we worked as a team, we encouraged one another, we hydrated, we took pictures, we screamed into 70mpg gusts, and we celebrated all the little wins along the way.

Eventually just as the winds died down we found ourselves standing on the summit, hugging, high fiving, and shouting in celebration. The energy was great. Solomon was great. His effort throughout the day filled us. His joy at reaching the top filled us. His sincere appreciation for us filled us. It was an amazing day in the mountains!

I am certain that I get as much out of this as any participant.

Rewilding is a peer to peer program. We invite formerly incarcerated adults over the age of 21 to join other experienced outdoorsman in a wilderness adventure together, as peers. If you would like to get involved and join our adventure as an experienced outdoorsman please reach out.

The Latino Experience at 14,000'

Vitek Linhart and I (Jesse Spiege) had the pleasure of leading 14 young adults on their first mountain adventure up Mount Bierstadt, 14,065'. These guys are part of a program called "The Latino Experience in Colorado" designed to prepare first generation Latino kids for college.

 Summit Shot!

Summit Shot!

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The idea behind the climb was to give students who look at the Colorado horizon daily their first experience interacting with the mountains that so many Coloradans cherish and visit regularly. We want to make these mountains feel accessible to all and encourage future adventures into the Colorado outdoors. A place where we and so many have gained so much!

The group did amazingly, summiting and returned to the trailhead smiling and full of pride and excitement over the days undertaking!

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Into the unknown we must go!

In 2009, I fell in love with an American woman who was traveling through my home country, The Czech Republic. Soon after meeting, we decided to travel around Southwestern Europe in a Euro van. It was one of the most inspiring times of my life. The trip exposed me to a world of possibility; we explored new countries, people and cultures and each day felt new and exciting. It opened something up in me that had always been there; a desire to explore the world in order to more fully know myself.

Growing up on a farm in the Czech was amazing. I’m really close with my mom and brother and the love that we share made it difficult to leave. But deep down, I felt like I was in a cage. So when this American woman invited me back to her country, with excitement and fear, I said yes. 

When my American love and I split, it was the true test of my courage. I was alone in a foreign country. My uncertainty about what I was doing here, and who I was were big and looming. I decided I’d open myself up to new connections and after a little bit of time, I met my “American Family.”  They took me in and and loved on me during a time when I really needed support in order to grow and transform into who I am today. The love that I have with this family has been the foundation for everything else.  

The day that we picked up Anthony from New York city in our van, I thought so much about this time in my life and how it felt to leave home and explore the unknown. Anthony and I bonded over this. I knew that the most important thing that we could give to Anthony during this journey was our unconditional love. In times of change, having a steady source of love is the most meaningful thing anyone can give to you. 

Anthony became a part of our family and the growth that we all experienced in 2 months was extraordinary. The activities and adventures that we embarked on were amazing, but above all else, it was the love that made all the difference.

 Photo by: Matthew Stan

Photo by: Matthew Stan