Matt will be speaking at the Boulder REI this Wednesday, January 16th at 6:30pm, about his trek last Spring with five other Boulder teenagers from Lukla to Everest Base Camp. For more information, and to register for the event, go here.
Q. Can you please list your top outdoor accomplishments?
I started climbing big mountains when I was 9 with my dad. My first big peak was Kala Pathar, an 18,000-ft peak that offers the best views of Mt. Everest.
After that it was in my blood. The next year I climbed Mt. Elbrus in Russia, Kilimanjaro, and 22,800-ft Aconcagua. Then I went onto multi-peak climbs, like when I did fourteen Colorado 14ers in eight days.
My most ambitious project was in 2010. My father and I set out to climb all 50 State High Points beginning with Denali in 50 days or less. We did, and in fact set the new speed record at 43 days. That year National Geographic recognized me as one their Adventurers of the Year, which was a huge honor.
Q. How have your parents been involved in these achievements? Are there limits to their support and encouragement?
My Dad has always gone with me on all of my climbs, and we’ve had some super cool experiences together. Dad and I are a team and share a special bond like all climbers. Both of my parents have been very supportive of my climbing, as long as I promise not to get hurt or miss too many days of school.
Q. Congratulations again on earning the rank of Eagle Scout last September. What were some of the most important life lessons and most rewarding experiences that you had as a Scout?
One of the most important lessons I learned in Scouts is leadership. Unlike a sports team, kids in Scouts come in all shapes, ages and sizes, and all with different talents, so you learn to work with lots of different personalities, a bit more like real life.
Some people have asked why with all the outdoor adventures I go on would I need Scouts. I tell them that when I’m out on an a big expedition I really don’t get to lead or make my own plans and decisions. People cook for you, guides point the way, summit plans are made. In scouts I don’t have my partners and guides to rely on to make the dinner or choose routes, evaluate the weather, etc. But in Scouts I’ve learned how to be self-sufficient.
Q. What drives you? Probably few of your peers have the same level of focus and commitment that you have shown.
Hard to really say. I just never get tired of being out in the mountains. On Denali our team had to turn around just below High Camp at about 17,000 feet due to an oncoming dangerous storm. When we realized that we could be trapped at 14K Camp for at least three days, everyone on the team went silent — I could tell how disappointed they were. Not me! I was psyched to go explore the camp, chat with the teams from around the world, build some snow walls and play Hearts — it’s all part of the adventure.
On summit days, which can last for 12 or more hours, I just put my head down and keep climbing, thinking to myself, every step is a new destination. Hard thing to describe the great sense of accomplishment that you feel when you’re on top of a massive mountain, 6000 meters up and looking down on all that you climbed and think “wow, I did that”.
Q. I get this question all the time and I find it slightly annoying. Nonetheless, I must ask: What’s next?
Well, you’re right, I get it all the time too! There are so many adventures I dream about. In 2015, I could see myself going to the Himalayas for my first attempt on an 8000-meter peak or peaks, possibly even a ski descent. To really prepare for that, I’d like to get back to the Andes this summer, maybe Peru or Bolivia to train on more technical high altitude peaks.