Team Member Spotlight: Chris!


Why do I want to climb Lhotse? Because it’s there?

That can’t be it. So are beaches and margaritas. They’re there.

Lhotse will be the penultimate quest for me thus far, but really just the end of a long string of adventures to icy, treeless destinations. I don’t fully know why I’m drawn to faraway, desolate places like deserts and mountains. Perhaps I’m seeking out the ultimate: “Chaos and Old Night…Matter, vast, terrific.” Or testing by experience if there are any truly wild places left on earth. Perhaps I’ve taken Ed Abbey’s advice too literally: “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.” Well this would fit the bill wouldn’t it!?

The fact is that these kinds of journeys make me feel alive and give me a sense of accomplishment afterwards. It’s a bit of a contradiction, but I feel a little more important for having completed such feats, while also nearly insignificant in comparison to nature’s magnitude.

An important part of my rationale for participating in this climb and research expedition is a realization I had over the summer when I reached the Arctic Ocean from the Brooks Range for the second time, after conducting some follow-up research in a remote Inupiat village. I have been slogging through graduate school and in the process have encountered many academics. Some are great writers, some great theorists, some great teachers, but not many can traverse Alaska or climb in the Himalayas. I realized that I have a substantial outdoor skillset and ability that I’d like to put to good use, expanding myself while expanding human understanding.

I want to bear witness to the massive changes affecting our planet. I believe in the power of firsthand experience and I’d like to be able to say: I have seen the changes with my own eyes, I remember how it used to be. The Himalaya and other high mountain ranges have been called the third pole as they contain tremendous amounts of glacial ice. Billions of people in Asia rely on Himalayan glaciers as a crucial component of their water supply. As these glaciers melt, countless livelihoods are jeopardized through dwindling water supplies and rising seas. Himalayan ice is thus of geopolitical and world-historical significance.

I’ll admit I’m intimidated by the task ahead: international research, working across language barriers, much less breaking the 8000-meter barrier will be new territory! I plan to give it my all (no pun intended) but will be glad when I’m Dunn (pun intended).

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