Shorty's Well 2016 - Climb for Briley

The second favorite thing that I like about being an outdoor blogger and sometimes internet personality is helping people. The first thing, naturally, is exploring and being outside. But as for that second thing – I truly believe that, as Plato says, “Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others”. For me, blogging started out as a good action – a way to give back and share my knowledge of the wilderness. Since blogging is an imprecise art at best, I’ve also continued to do what I always had done – namely, real life good actions. To me, one of the many positive things about doing good actions is that you find more of them to participate in, which leads me to my current good action, a charity climb of the Shorty’s Well Route with a fellow mountaineer and blogger, David Wherry.

A short video about a CF Charity climb in Death Valley in March 2016.

 While one can never say things with absolute certainty in life, what I can say is that if this were not a charity climb, it would have been a hard sell for me to return to the Shorty’s Well route. The Shorty’s Well Route, or the Shorty’s Well Traverse is an unmarked mountaineering route from the lowest point in North America – Badwater (-282 feet) to the highest point in Death Valley National Park, Telescope Peak (11,403 feet). With 11,686 feet of vertical gain over forty plus miles, the route is commonly called the “hardest hike in America” or the “impossible traverse”. If the elevation gain and the mileage weren’t difficult enough, the route traverses some of the most difficult terrain in the United States and the world. This is also to say nothing about the fact that the temperatures on the route can (and do) range from around eighty degrees to minus ten degrees; and the climate can change from arid to snow covered.

Shorty's Well Route, Death Valley

I have been on the Shorty’s Well Route twice – and did not summit either time. The first time, my climb stalled out in a snowstorm that dropped snow below six thousand feet on our overnight camp. The second time, David Wherry and I pushed up to nine and half thousand feet in a day where we covered over thirty-five miles of distance, only to turn around because of general fatigue. After that climb, I wondered whether the route was even possible. But like most things in life, anything is possible. When David and I attempted the route in 2015, we talked about returning in 2016 as part of a charity climb; and while it seemed like speculation for a while, he was able to set it up in connection with his charity stair climb for his niece, Briley.

Briley – the motivating factor behind #teambriley is a young girl who has Cystic Fibrosis (“CF”), a genetic disorder that affects over 70,000 people worldwide. (Read more about CF here).  Like any genetic condition, it is a terrible disorder that provides a greater challenge for people that have it than any mountaineering route. However, like any disorder, there is hope. Through foundations like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the sponsor of the CF stairclimb, awareness is being raised about the condition, and money is being raised for research. While a great deal of work remains to be done in fighting CF, ongoing research is providing current and future benefits for individuals that have CF. This research is directly funded by donations made by people around the world, who while they might not want to climb a mountain, or a set of stairs, still want to do good things.

Shorty's Well Route

To me, research into genetic disorders, including CF is personal. I have a sister with a genetic disability, and I know firsthand how such conditions provide a lifetime of challenges for the individuals that have them. While Briley is an amazing person, and amazing niece to David, and an amazing sister, and many other amazing things, she is someone who will be climbing mountains on a daily basis throughout her life. But, things do not need to be this way in 2016. As has been demonstrated on numerous occasions, when people work together, they can accomplish amazing things.What I am asking in this case, is that if you can – make a donation for this cause today to help Briley and others with CF. More importantly, what I am also asking, is for good actions. Even if you can’t make a donation; make a difference. Volunteer to assist people with CF; or other disabilities. Get the word out about CF; about this climb; or about whatever condition that is important to you. Share this story; share whatever story you find inspirational that is doing good; because together – we can make a difference, not just for Briley, but for the world. In the meantime, David and I will do our part, so be sure to follow our climb up the mountain in March of 2016 – and remember – that good actions inspire others to do the same.