17,000 feet up Mount McKinley, Dean Einerson, a UMD graduate assistant in the environmental education program, sat in the snow with a cup of soup, looking out over the tops of the clouds below. After facing high winds, freezing temperatures, and storms, he found himself just below the summit of the mountain that has the highest vertical rise in the world.
“The journey to the top is always the most interesting part,” said Einerson. “It’s something about having to overcome all of the doubts and fears of the climb.”
Einerson made that trip in 2008 with climbing partner, UMD alumnus Matt Giambrone. When Einerson started as an undergrad at UMD, he had never climbed before. Einerson attributes much of his transformation from novice to expert to his experiences with the UMD climbing facilities and the Recreational Sports Outdoor Sports (RSOP) Fitness Center.
“Our climbing program is one of the best in the U.S.,” said Einerson. “We have a world-class training and guiding faculty, and they are there to be taken advantage of.”
He described Kaija Webster, the climbing program director, as a personal mentor. Webster has shown thousands of people how to climb and Einerson said he learned a lot of important lessons about safety and perseverance from her.
At least twice a year, Einerson tries to make a big climbing trip to different mountains around the world. He says that the two best reasons for climbing are the different people that you meet, and the great excuse for travel. Einerson has climbed all over North America, in Ecuador, Kenya, and Central Europe, with upcoming trips planned for the Canadian Rockies and the Eiger Mountains in the Alps.
To properly train for such difficult climbs, Einerson uses all of the resources provided by UMD and the surrounding area. The climbing wall, weight room, fitness center, and track at UMD, along with the help of a personal trainer, help him to train physically. The natural terrain of the Lake Superior's north shore couldn’t be better for ice climbing practice. According to Einerson, the best ice climbing is at Orient Bay on Lake Nipigon (about 75 miles northeast of Thunder Bay, Ontario). He warns that preparation is crucial to the dangerous nature of climbing.
“It’s important to remember the consequences of what you are doing,” said Einerson. “I have never been to Alaska when someone hadn’t recently died or been seriously injured.”
The next mountain on Einerson’s horizon is his master’s degree, and eventually Ph.D. in Environmental Education. He is currently teaching class as part of an assistantship and eventually, he would like to teach undergraduate students full time as an outdoor education or therapeutic recreation instructor. In the 2009 spring semester he will teach an intro to mountaineering course with the RSOP and will use the snow banks in UMD’s parking lot to replicate the icy sheers of a mountain. He is also studying the sport motivation of rock climbers.
Einerson recommends that anyone interested in climbing should visit with the people in the RSOP and attend climbing clinics. That how he started and now look where it's taken him ... to the top of Cassin Ridge, traveling one of the most challenging routes up McKinley.
Written by Jordan Hanson
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