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How long did it take to climb Everest?

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How long did it take to climb Everest?

Since I've been home and sharing my story about climbing Mt. Everest, one of the most frequent questions I get is about how long I was climbing. This seems like it should be a pretty straightforward answer but it's not, so I thought I would explain it more in a post.

After a couple days of travel just to get to Nepal, we spent several days visiting the Nepal Hemophilia Society. Patrick James Lynch and the rest of the Believe Limited film crew, as well as my wife Jessica and friend Laurie Kelley, visited the hemophilia treatment center, the society offices and several homes of individuals living with hemophilia in the country. This was an incredibly powerful experience and I could go into an entire blog post just about that…and hopefully someday will.

After that incredible experience, we met up with the rest of the climbing team and got ready to head to the mountain. The first, and surprisingly one of the most dangerous aspects of this whole trip was the flight from Kathmandu to the village of Lukla. Tenzing-Hillary Airport is known as one of the most dangerous airports in the world and once you've landed there you know why! The runway is carved into the side of a mountain, is incredibly short and angled uphill to help planes slow down before the stone wall at the end of the runway! I posted a video below of a plane landing there and trust me, this doesn't do it justice!

Watching planes land at the incredible Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Nepal before our trek to Everest basecamp
Jess and I crossing one of the many suspension bridges Photo Credit: Ryan Waters

Jess and I crossing one of the many suspension bridges Photo Credit: Ryan Waters

Everest Basecamp is still 33 miles and 8,200 vertical feet away! The trek is incredible. We traversed some amazing suspension bridges over raging rivers, marveled at the size and scale of the Himalayas and enjoyed the culture of the Sherpa people. The trek took 9 days total with a couple of rest days in the middle to adjust to the altitude we gained. We stayed in ‘tea houses' which are like little motels and some of the teahouses even had showers which was a fantastic bonus! 

After those spectacular 9 days, we arrived at our home for the next 6 weeks Everest Basecamp! Basecamp is an amazing site to behold! Tents stretch for over a mile along the rock covered glacier with huge mountains towering almost all the way around us. Jess and Laurie stayed at basecamp for three days and got to experience the Puja ceremony before they headed back down to Kathmandu and eventually home. That was a tough day but Tashi, our head Sherpa, told me, "Don't be sad, you will see her again very soon". I learned very quickly that Tashi was a very smart man.

Camp 1

Camp 1

After the Puja, which is a ceremony performed at basecamp that asks for safe passage up the mountain, our team was ready to climb and this is where it gets a little complicated to talk about how many days we were climbing. When you climb Mt. Everest you utilize a technique called ‘rotations'. Doing rotations is a way for your body to start adjusting to the extreme elevations on the mountain without having to stay at those high elevations for an extended period of time. For example, a few days after our Puja ceremony we set out for our first rotation up the mountain. On our first rotation, we climbed through the Khumbu Icefall to Camp 1 and spent the night there. This was our first trip through the icefall and our first big day of climbing. It was hard! The next day we took a pretty casual walk towards Camp 2 to get to higher elevations and then slept back at Camp 1. On the third day of the rotation, we went all the way back down to basecamp.

This process does a few things to help. First, by climbing to a higher elevation and sleeping lower, it tricks your body into adapting to that higher elevation without actually being up there which is cool. Second, basecamp is a much more comfortable spot to rest on Everest. Existing at the higher elevations on Everest doesn't really allow your body to recover and it's crucial to feel healthy before heading for the summit.

After our first rotation up the mountain, we rested for several days at basecamp. We ate tons, did short hikes throughout basecamp and up some trails around camp to keep active and get ready for rotation two. Our second rotation started out exactly like our first. We headed up through the icefall to Camp 1, which felt much better than our first journey up. This was a great sign that my body was adjusting to the elevation. We slept again at Camp 1 before heading to Camp 2 the next day. We had a rest day at Camp 2 before we climbed to Camp 3 the following day. Instead of spending the night at Camp 3, which is extremely taxing, we descended back to Camp 2 to sleep again. The last day of our rotation was spent dropping all the way back down to basecamp.

Inside the Khumbu Icefall. Photo Credit: Ryan Waters

Inside the Khumbu Icefall. Photo Credit: Ryan Waters

Once we completed our second rotation our bodies were in the right place to head for the summit. The only challenge was the weather and the fixed lines near the summit. 
As many of you know, there are a series of ropes attached to the ice and rock of the mountain that climbers clip into throughout the climb. The amazing Sherpa teams on the mountain put all of the ropes in place which is an incredible feat. Once we completed our second rotation, we had to wait for the ropes from Camp 4 to the summit to be set up, but the weather didn't cooperate. We ended up waiting a total of 16 days at basecamp for those ropes to be fixed and then a weather window that my guide Ryan felt was good enough for our summit bid. Those 16 days were some of the hardest of the climb. I was so anxious about the summit push and also desperately missing home. I just wanted my chance but waiting for the right time is essential. We hiked around basecamp a lot during those days. We played hundreds of games of cards and Yahtzee which got boring after a while but we ended up getting our shot.

The summit push encompassed seven total days. We bypassed Camp 1 and went straight to Camp 2 on our first day. It took us the same amount of time to get to Camp 2 on this trip as it took us to get to Camp 1 the first time! We had another rest day at Camp 2 which was filled with prep for the final push. Next, we headed for Camp 3 and spent the night on the side of the Lhotse Face. We had access to oxygen that night which was fantastic because just sitting up to quickly could take your breath away. The next destination was Camp 4, the highest camp on Everest at 26,000ft. We climbed that entire day with oxygen which was fantastic!

Steps from the summit! Photo Credit: Ryan Waters

Steps from the summit! Photo Credit: Ryan Waters

I pulled into Camp 4 in the mid-afternoon and crawled into my tent. The plan was to leave Camp 4 around 11 pm the same night so I didn't even take my down suit off. I just laid down and tried to rest as best as I could. I wore my oxygen mask the entire evening, only taking it off to drink some water and eat a little food. Finding the motivation to get out of the tent at 10:30 pm was difficult but I was ready for my chance. Heading to the summit took a grueling 11 hours and another 7 to descend back to Camp 4. I was so excited to crawl into my sleeping bag after that day and sleep until the next morning when we descended all the way down to Camp 2. Another night of sleeping at Camp 2 and one more long day back to basecamp ended our summit push.

The last two days at basecamp were spent recovering from that insane climb and packing all of our gear for our trip back home. It was a bittersweet moment. We had called basecamp and the mountain our home for 47 days and I had so many unforgettable experiences there. We also had to say goodbye to much of the amazing support team we had including the cooks and the climbing Sherpas. It was hard to say goodbye to them and tell them how much they helped me along the journey. I couldn't have done it without them.

So that was a long explanation but to make the answer simple, we spent 47 days at basecamp and on the mountain but only 15 days of that was actually climbing Everest. It sounds crazy saying that but I felt we were incredibly well prepared and picked the best weather window possible for climbing. Those 47 days, plus the rest of my time in Nepal will go down as one of the greatest adventures of my life!

Mt. Everest Climbing Route

Mt. Everest Climbing Route

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How the Seven Summits Quest Began

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How the Seven Summits Quest Began

Since the public announcement of the Everest climb and documentary went live a few weeks ago I have really enjoyed sharing my story about the Seven Summits with a few folks that I've ran into. I've really appreciated all the support and encouragement I have received especially the stories from some hemo moms who shared my story with their kids!

As I have revisited my story in the past few weeks I have really enjoyed reflecting on what brought me to Everest and Nepal. It's been a pretty wild journey the past six years climbing five of the seven summits and on my way to number six but what keeps coming to the forefront of the story is how I reached my first summit and how Africa truly changed my life forever. I will more than happily share my story with you if we ever run into each other in person but I really wanted to share it here as well.

My first view of Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2011

My first view of Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2011

This crazy journey began late in 2010 when I was working as a lab technician in the Hemophilia Research Lab at the University of Colorado. My boss had been collaborating with a group from Indiana's Hemophilia Treatment Center on a project in Kenya to establish a hemophilia clinic and lab. She had already made one trip but needed some help on trip number two. That's when she asked me to go with her! I didn't even let her finish the sentence when I said yes! I was so excited to help the hemophilia community globally and something else got me really really excited. Mt. Kilimanjaro was only few hundred miles away from where we were heading! Climbing was still relatively new to me but I really wanted to try a big mountain and Kili was the perfect starting point!

About 3 months before my climb, I attended my first hemophilia community meeting, NACCHO. One of the speakers at the meeting was an incredible woman who spoke about hemophilia in the developing world. She showed images of joints damaged by years of untreated bleeds and massive hematomas. I was in tears by the end but had a better grasp on the importance of the work we would be doing in Kenya. At the end of the talk, this woman mentioned that she was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro later in the year as a fundraiser for her international hemophilia nonprofit Save One Life. It was fate! I worked up the courage to introduce myself and that's how I connected with on of the most inspirational women I know and best mentors I have ever had, Laurie Kelley. She invited me to join in on the fundraising efforts with my Kili climb even though my trip was a few months before hers. It felt good to have a mission involved in my climb.

I trained for several months for the climb and when the time came to head to Africa I was nervous but ready for the physical challenge. What I wasn't prepared for was the eye opening, life changing, experience I was about to have. Once we arrived in Eldoret, we went straight to the hospital to tour the facilities and the potential lab space. One of our teams doctors had already been there for a few days and introduced us to a boy she found on the hospital wards. When she found him, he was bleeding out after a surgery. His joints were all swollen and he was extremely weak. It was clear he had hemophilia to our team, but no one at the hospital knew it. He was bleeding out because he had a surgery without any factor. A surgery he probably didn't even need. Our doctors had brought factor and treated the boy and he ended up leaving the hospital before we left. Meeting him changed my life forever. It changed my perspective on my own hemophilia and what was truly important in life. 

Before one of our educational talks about bleeding disorder with Dr. Chite and a young man with hemophilia from Kenya

Before one of our educational talks about bleeding disorder with Dr. Chite and a young man with hemophilia from Kenya

We spent two more weeks at the hospital, training and educating the staff about bleeding disorders and how to diagnose the different types of hemophilia. It was a fulfilling experience but I couldn't shake the feeling of how easily this could have been me. If I wasn't born where I was, when I was, my life could've looked like theirs. I finally realized what hemophilia really was.

When my uncle and I separated from the rest of the group and headed to Kilimanjaro I still couldn't shake that experience. I struggled with feelings of guilt as we began our climb. Why was I so lucky to be able to climb this mountain when those living with hemophilia just a few hundred miles away were suffering? As I summited Kilimanjaro I realized two very important things; first, I loved climbing big mountains, and two, I needed to do more for the global hemophilia community. That moment is when I set my sights on the Seven Summits and now it's time for the big one, Mt. Everest! 

Summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro

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Sometimes Plan B Doesn't Always Go As Planned: Mt. Hood

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Sometimes Plan B Doesn't Always Go As Planned: Mt. Hood

Yesterday my wife and I attempted to climb Mt. Hood, a beautiful dormant volcano just outside Portland, Oregon.  This was our backup after our planned climb of Mt. Rainier was derailed due to horrible weather. Mt. Hood is 3,000ft shorter than Rainier and most people climb it in only one day instead of 2 to 3 days like Rainier. It's still a glacier which means hiking on snow the entire time and some objective dangers that we needed to be aware of.

We left Washington Monday morning to do a light waterfall hike close to Hood before we headed up to Timberline Lodge. This would be our starting point in the morning. We set up "camp" in the back of our rental car, I heated up some water for dinner, we ate, I infused, and we laid down. It was surprisingly comfortable for being the back of a car, but there wasn't a whole lot of sleeping. I couldn't help thinking about the climb especially since an epic view of Hood appeared just before we laid down. It's an impressive mountain and a little daunting! 

The view of Mt. Hood from our car.

The view of Mt. Hood from our car.

Our 11:30pm wake-up call came quickly. I think I slept for 30 minutes, but overall I felt good. We tried to dress as much as possible in the warm car and just after midnight we stepped out into the wind. As we started the climb from the the east side of the lodge conditions seemed good; the snow was in good shape and the winds were mild. It was much cloudier than I expected but the full moon would peek through intermittently. We climbed for 20 minutes before the winds picked up. There was a forecast of 10mph winds overnight diminishing into 5mph in the morning. The winds were much stronger than forecasted and with it came some nasty sleet precipitation. To make it worse, it was blasting us almost straight in the face.

Jess and I got our hardshells on to keep us dry but after over an hour of this weather it started to take its toll. The sleet finally broke but the winds persisted. I asked Jess how she was doing and she said that her fingers were getting cold. We took a moment to adjust her layers; she put some mittens on as well as my expedition down jacket. We were hoping that would be enough to warm her up but it didn't help. 

There is a running joke with Jess and I about our body's ability to regulate temperature. She laughs when I go outside in shorts to shovel in a snowstorm and I tease her that she is wearing a hoody and slippers in the middle of summer. In the instance of being on a mountain in not ideal conditions, temperature regulation is extremely important. Unfortunately, this nasty bit of weather chilled Jess to the bone and she couldn't warm up. She pushed herself really hard to overcome this, which I am very proud of, but she was miserable. We reached the top of the Timberline Ski lift at about 8,500ft and I could see the misery in her eyes. She's not a quitter, and she was willing to push herself farther for me.

I really appreciated her drive but the right call was to go down and get her warm. It was a big bummer just because I felt really good on the climb, especially considering my recent hamstring injury, but we are a team and we make decisions that are right for the both of us. On the way down, Jess admitted that she hated every bit of that climb. This type of glacier mountaineering is a brutal sport that puts us in very uncomfortable situations and for some individuals, like myself, we enjoy it; for others, including Jess, there was no joy. I'm bummed that she is probably done climbing glaciers, but i'm really glad that she was brave enough to try something that I love. I can't ask for more than that!

Jess was so cold when we got back to the car she crawled back into my -40 sleeping bag and laid there as we started our drive back to my brothers house!

Jess was so cold when we got back to the car she crawled back into my -40 sleeping bag and laid there as we started our drive back to my brothers house!

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GutMonkey: Who are they?

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GutMonkey: Who are they?

Yesterday I got to hangout with some really amazing people in Portland, Oregon, the GutMonkey crew! What is a GutMonkey you might ask? Well, it's not a what, but a who. They are an outdoor experiential education company with close ties to our hemophilia community. But they are so much more than just a company; they are an exceptional group of people that want to use their unique wilderness skills to change our community's perspective on how hemophiliacs seek adventure.

Pat Torrey is the head monkey and started the company in 2005. He has a wealth of knowledge in the outdoor world, especially with knots, as he knows hundreds of them! He designed and built high ropes courses for years, and after a chance meeting with someone in our community, Pat got sucked in and has never left. His brother Joe joined a few years ago to make this a family affair and Jacose Bell joined a little over two years ago to round out the group.

One of their missions as a company is to help facilitate emotional and physical growth through outdoor experiences. I have a shared vision with GutMonkey; to inspire people to be adventurous and genuine. GutMonkey creates those moments by running week long trips in some of the most beautiful places in the United States called Leading X. Their Leading Edge program teaches teens about leadership skills in conference and camp settings. They run an amazing strictly Hemophilia B program called GenIX which emphasizes mentoring while men with inhibitors go camping and on ropes courses on their Leverage program. They provide people in the bleeding disorder community with unbelievable experiences and the confidence to do more and Be Brave!

I joined them on one of their Leading X programs last year on the Green River in Utah. It was an incredible journey, not just because of the spectacular views, but because of the friends I found and the bonds I made. There is something special about sitting around the campfire after a long day of adventure and physical work and reminiscing about how each of us were affected. It's easier to connect with one another and be honest about your feelings and thoughts about the world. I will never forget that trip, and I'm so excited for the group heading out to the river this year to get to build some of their own memories!

Please check out this incredible company and their programs here and join one of their trips! Few people get the chance to experience these magical wonders while being led by such experienced and fun people. I guarantee you won't regret it!

The first Green River trip for Leading X! The crew brought plenty of leadership experience, and left with a plan to help the bleeding disorders community.

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Meet James DeFilippi!

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Meet James DeFilippi!

Like many of us with bleeding disorders James DeFilippi remembers doctors telling him, “You can’t do this, you can’t do that.” And like many of us he felt like that had a huge impact on his mentality. “For me, for a long time, I felt like I had something to prove,” James reflected. It is that drive and that mentality that  has helped him successfully finish 40+ triathlons, 2 IronMans, a handful of marathons and a selection to represent Team USA in the 2014 Olympic Distance Age-Group World Championships.

His journey with mild hemophilia began with a diagnosis at birth after his older brother was diagnosed a few years earlier. In retrospect, his grandfather probably had mild hemophilia as well but was never diagnosed. James describes himself as a rambunctious kid with bleeds happening around once a month. He also was unfortunately infected with Hepatitis C through contaminated factor. He had to fight through Interferon treatment in his early teens, “It was brutal, absolutely brutal” and thankfully he cleared the virus.

College was a huge turning point for James as far as controlling his hemophilia. He was on the rowing team in high school and when he joined a division 1 rowing team in college his access to strength coaches and trainers changed his perspective. His trainers took time to understand his condition and adapt his training for it. “It kept my joints stronger and more mobile to avoid injury” a philosophy that he still lives by today as he follows his new passion of running, cycling and competing in triathlons.

Training for triathlons is a lot of work and James knows he has to #playitsmart in order to compete at the level he wants. “I started small and worked my way up to longer distances, and I’ve been able to go very fast at triathlons … but it’s because I spend the time to do the strength and flexibility work and I am kind of careful to go to the edge but not go past it regularly.” Being fast at those triathlons has lead to him joining an elite amateur triathlon team called Team Every Man Jack. Being a part of such an amazing team provides James the opportunity to be surrounded by the nation’s best amateur triathletes.  In addition, James has a professional triathlon coach who understand his personality and his bleeding condition, and tailors plans regularly for him, to ensure he is ready on race day, no matter what the setback. He is open about his hemophilia with his teammates, but doesn’t typically lead with it. “I want to be considered for my athletic abilities first and second for having a bleeding disorder.”

James also believes that being successful physically with hemophilia is in part due to making smart choices in what sports we choose and how we approach them, something I agree with fully. “I literally believe that you can do anything you want if you have hemophilia, it’s just a matter of understanding consequences and being willing to deal with it.” James tells me. We both agree that you have to take ownership of your condition and your health. James is an amazing role model for this but he is also quick to point out others in our community that are incredible role models. “You look at somebody like Barry Haarde, who’s an older guy who’s had issues in his life but now is riding his bike across the country and now there are guys trying to row across the Pacific Ocean and climb the Seven Summits! The more people like that out there, that are showing other people what’s possible, then I think more people will understand how to pursue their dreams and find success and fulfillment.”

James so fervently believes in this message that he started his own not-for-profit with his siblings and a friend called ST3: Strive Today, Transform Tomorrow that will help support individuals that are chasing amazing dreams. This year ST3 is supporting Barry Haarde’s fifth ride across the country. “My goal is to support people who are doing things that push the limit but also people who are doing that in a responsible way and are being role models for the community.”

James is also going to have a busy year competing. He just completed the Boston Marathon for the 3rd time, will be running the New York City marathon for 1st time, compete in 6 triathlons and is also climbing Mt. Rainier like myself. I can’t wait to hear how all his competitions go and to follow his incredible journey!  If you want to keep up with James, please check out the blog on the ST3 website (www.strivetoday.org) or the ST3 Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ST3Transforms), where he will post recaps of his adventures!

To follow my Mt. Rainier climb stayed tuned on May 23rd and be sure to follow me on social media and twitter for updates and pictures.

James after finishing the Almanzo 100, a 100mi all gravel road race in southeastern Minnesota

James after finishing the Almanzo 100, a 100mi all gravel road race in southeastern Minnesota

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Happy Mother's Day!

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Happy Mother's Day!

This year on Mother’s Day I want to share a story about my mom. Moms have a special place in our hemophilia community. My mom spent countless nights with me in the emergency room and at our treatment center helping get me through bleeds and infusions. She always wanted to protect me and keep me safe but at the same time, she let me live the life I wanted. I’m sure this was a struggle and gave her anxiety, she tells me that all her grey hairs are my fault, but I have to say, I’m really glad she faced her fears and let me live my life.

Since I began my Quest for the Seven Summits I know more of those grey hair have popped up. The anxiety of waiting to hear if I safely made it to the summit of some of the craziest peaks in the world must be unbearable. I don’t think my mom really understands why I want to climb these peaks and what drives me. Honestly, I don’t think most people get it. They see all the dangers and exhaustion and don’t understand how a sane person would want to put themselves through that.

That was until last summer when my mom and dad climbed a 14’er with my wife and I. Colorado is home to some amazing scenery, fantastic wildlife, and 54 mountains over 14,000 feet high, affectionately known as 14’ers. The peaks range from easier hikes to multi-day backpacking trips, but nothing is really easy about getting to the summit of a 14’er. We decided on climbing Mt. Bierstadt, one of the beginner climbs. 

Starting our climb just after sunrise, we went slow to prevent altitude sickness, took a break every hour to drink water and eat some food, and I explained some techniques to make the climb easier. As we approached the summit, the terrain became a rock scramble and finding the trail was a bit more difficult. I went ahead and tried to pick the easiest path. Before we knew it we arrived at the summit! It was such a great experience! Seeing the excitement on my parents’ faces let me know that they understand why I climb…at least a little more . 

We had to leave the summit shortly after arriving and eating our lunch. The notorious afternoon thunderstorms of Colorado were building to the west and I could tell they would reach us soon. I didn’t want us to be above tree line when the storm hit and the lightning came. We would have no where to hide and could be dangerous. As we started down the mountain we ended up hiking in rain and hail, but we missed the lightning. It was a relief to get back to the car and relax and as we drove back to Denver and reflected on the climb.

Having a burger and beer after climbing is always a treat, but chatting with my mom and dad after the climb was amazing. My mom said “After seeing you on the mountain and how safe and aware of your surroundings you are, I am much more comfortable with you climbing.” That meant the world to me. I always tried to explain that I am smart on the mountain and not taking any unnecessary risks; however, it was more fun and impactful to show her! 

As I prepare to climb Mt. Rainier, and the rest of the Seven Summits, I know my mom is worried about me and my safety. I get that. It is my hope that she can now relate to my climbing. She has seen the draw that I have towards the mountains and the connection I have to these incredible places, as well as the personal challenges. She as experienced first hand the rush and sense of accomplishment climbing can give a person. And even though I know it’s hard for her, I know she is proud of me.

I never would have made it where I am today without my mom. We had our ups and downs but I thank her for everything she has done for me. It takes really strong people to raise someone with a chronic condition, and I feel guilty at times for all the stress I have caused her.  Thank you mom for believing in me and allowing me to become the man I always dreamed of being. I love you and Happy Mother’s Day!

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Row for Hemophilia: Meet Jacob Pope and Christopher Lee

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Row for Hemophilia: Meet Jacob Pope and Christopher Lee

Imagine rowing a boat from California to Hawaii, a journey of almost 2,500 miles across the dangerous and unpredictable Pacific Ocean. Now add in the thrill and stress of competition. AND the fact that one man on your two-man crew has hemophilia. Seems a little crazy, right?! I thought so too. But Jacob Pope and Christopher Lee don’t think so. They plan to complete this amazing feat this summer and hopefully out-row the 11 other teams they will be racing against. I spoke with Jacob and Chris a few weeks ago to get the rundown of how they came up with this amazing idea and how they are preparing to complete such an arduous task.

Jacob wasn’t diagnosed with hemophilia A until the age of seven when a fall in a creek led to massive swelling in his hip. Being in a rural area doctors didn’t think about hemophilia being the culprit of the swelling and ended up having surgery to remove the hematoma….when they didn’t know he had hemophilia! They then inserted a tube to drain the blood...and still didn’t think of hemophilia. Finally Jacob was transferred to another hospital where he finally found out he had hemophilia.

Despite his rough start with hemophilia Jacob was still able to explore different sports and found a love for tennis and swimming. He wanted to stay active and hemophilia wasn’t going to hold him back. This love of being active stayed with him as he headed for college. Jacob had never been into rowing before but an opportunity to join the rowing team appealed to him. He gave it a shot and was hooked!

That’s where he met Chris Lee, another rower with an incredible dream. They had both walked onto the University of Georgia’s rowing team almost three years ago and Chris didn’t know about Jacob’s hemophilia until they were roommates at the national championships. Chris walked in to Jacob infusing, “I was really confused and thought it was weird.” Chris recalled. “I remembered hearing something about Jacob having a disease but I didn’t really think about it until that point.”

Chris had heard about the Race Across the Pacific and thought Jacob would be a perfect teammate, hemophilia or not. “When Chris first asked if I wanted to spend the summer rowing a boat across the ocean I said ‘No way!’ but it stuck with me. I did more research and learned what it entailed and told him I was in.” Jacob recalls. And this decision is where the journey began.

Jacob and Chris testing out the boat they will row across the Pacific!

Jacob and Chris testing out the boat they will row across the Pacific!

After speaking with Chris and Jacob, I can see my mentality preparing for my climbs in them as well. One big thing that I constantly tell myself is “Whatever your excuse is, it’s time to stop believing it”. Jacob and Chris have some insane hurdles ahead of them, plus the hemophilia, but they are determined to succeed. Jacob is still planning how to carry enough factor on the tiny boat, keep it from getting to hot, and infusing on a ridiculously bumpy ocean but Jacob is positive, “There’s a way to do it if you’re smart about.” Having a teammate like Chris makes the challenge easier. “This does give me some fear but it’s one of those challenges that we can strategically and logistically overcome.”

Their biggest challenge might actually be before the race even begins. They have been training intensely, modifying their boat for factor storage, learning the ends and outs of navigating the ocean. All things that training can prepare them for but even getting to the race is where they need some outside help. Our help! Jacob and Chris are struggling to raise funds for their challenge and it’s coming down to the wire. Please support these two on their worthy journey by clicking here and sharing! Lets help these guys make history and show how we can #playitsmart to the world!

Row for Hemophilia is a fundraising campaign benefitting Hemophilia of Georgia and research for a cure. Jacob and Chris are University of Georgia students who are on the rowing team and have a connection to hemophilia and to Hemophilia of Georgia.

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Mount Rainier

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Mount Rainier

Despite my recent hamstring injury, I will be climbing Mt. Rainier in less than 30 days! Mt. Rainier is the tallest mountain in Washington state and one of the most dramatic peaks I have ever seen! Rainier is over 14,000ft tall and what makes it more dramatic than the 54 mountains in Colorado over 14,000ft is that it starts close to sea level. On a clear day you can see Rainier towering over the Seattle area and I’m really excited to climb this peak!

Although this isn’t one of my Seven Summit climbs it will have tons of amazing challenges. My wife Jess and good friend Steve will be climbing with me and we won’t be using guide! We have been preparing for months and we are itching to go! We are heading for the mountain May 23rd so keep your eye out for posts from the trip and as we train before the climb!

The goal is to climb to Muir camp on May 23rd. This camp is located on the Muir snowfield at 10,080ft. We are hoping to start very early that morning and arrive around noon at camp. We will set up camp and try and get as much rest as possible. If the weather is looking good we will head out shortly after midnight on May 24th up the Disappointment Cleaver Route for the summit. We will have to ascend over 4,000 vertical feet in order to reach the summit. This will probably take us between 6-8 hours. Once at the summit we will descend back to Muir camp. If we are all feeling awesome we will pack up camp and head back down to the base! 

There is a countdown to the climb on the homepage and keep checking back for more updates!

This is the Disappointment Cleaver Route that we will be climbing!

This is the Disappointment Cleaver Route that we will be climbing!

 

 

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World Hemophilia Day 2016

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World Hemophilia Day 2016

Today, I am sitting at home with my wonderful wife, enjoying our warm house while the last snow storm of the winter (hopefully) is wrapping up. I'm still sore from my pulled hamstring and subsequent bleed but I'm recovering. It would seem like today is turning out to be pretty wonderful but there is something different about today. It's World Hemophilia Day.

World Hemophilia Day is about spreading awareness because it looks vastly different from country to country. In my home it means that I treat prophylactically, and when I get an injury I infuse more. There is still pain and swelling, and even a few days on crutches, but it gets better. My pain is only temporary. This is pretty typical for most hemophiliacs in the U.S., and other developed nations.

That isn't the case for many others around the world. In fact, about 25% of the world's hemophiliacs use over 75% of the medication. Treatment isn't available to most people with bleeding disorders in developing nations, and their suffering and pain don't end. I've witnessed the pain first hand and it's crushing to know that these young men and women with bleeding disorders have so much to overcome. I often feel a sense of "survivor's guilt" that I was fortunate enough to be born in the United States and have access to treatment, while so many others were never afforded that opportunity. I feel even more guilt during those moments when I loathe having hemophilia due to pain from a bleed.

The only way I have found to tolerate this guilt is to harness it. Use it to help educate others about the disparity in care, and to help reduce that disparity. I think of how strong our bleeding disorder family is and hope that when united, we can continue to make a difference around the world.

Thankfully we already have organizations helping in developing countries. Save One Life, The World Federation of Hemophilia, and the Novo Nordisk Hemophilia Foundation already have well established and effective programs. But these programs should just be stepping stones for more. As a community we can demand more from manufacturers and from ourselves: to create factor donation programs, to spread awareness about what hemophilia is really like, and to advocate for our blood brothers. Please support the above organizations in any way possible. Share our message, educate, and donate if possible.

I want to share an amazing video that my friend Patrick has produced for the World Hemophilia Federation. This video gives a tiny glimpse into hemophilia in the developing world and the everyday struggles their communities face. Let these young people linger in your mind and find your passion to help them. Let's spread awareness today that will undoubtedly make a difference tomorrow.

The Treatment for All video series shows what the WFH Humanitarian Aid Program is doing to address the global disparity in care for those who have a bleeding disorder. The lack of access to care and treatment in developing countries is an urgent and important public health challenge, as the cost of products to treat is prohibitively expensive for the majority of those affected with a bleeding disorder.

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Meet Barry Haarde!

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Meet Barry Haarde!

This week on #playtismart, I’d like to introduce my friend Barry Haarde to our #playitsmart campaign. Barry is a dedicated cyclist and fundraiser. So far, in his career, he has ridden his bike across the United States FOUR TIMES and raised over $150,000 for Save One Life. Those feats alone are pretty incredible, even more so when you learn that Barry has completed them with severe hemophilia, HIV, and Hepatitis C.

I met Barry in 2013 at the end of his second ride across America, shortly after I completed my Aconcagua climb. We had both just finished amazing physical feats but our journeys were drastically different.

Unlike hemophilia today, Barry was born before factor concentrate. Life before factor was extremely difficult. For Barry, each bleed meant driving over an hour to the closest Hemophilia Treatment Center (HTC) where he would have to be admitted and treated on site. Once factor finally became available, treatments shifted to Barry’s home and life was more or less normal. Hemophilia was easier to manage, at least.

But convenience came with a cost. At the time, factor concentrate was made from large pools of donated plasma. This “miracle drug” that the hemophilia community was so excited for was often tainted with HIV and Hepatitis C. Over 10,000 people with bleeding disorders lost their lives due to this contamination. Barry was among those infected; his brother, sadly, among those that lost their lives.

Even before he was infected, Barry struggled with being active. Sure, the factor made it easier to treat a bleed but it didn’t mean those bleeds were any less painful. As anyone with hemophilia knows, it can be very easy to feel incapable of participating in your life for fear of injury. “In my 20’s and 30’s I was a confirmed and documented couch potato,” Barry recalls.

It wasn’t until a desperately needed knee replacement that Barry even considered cycling. “My doctor told me I needed to build some muscle around my knee before the surgery so recovery would be easier and he suggested biking for that.” He struggled to complete 25 miles in those days but after a successful knee surgery and months of rehab, he realized he could bike more without having knee bleeds. “For the first time in my life I could be an athlete and get away with it! I was looking forward to doing longer multi-day rides.”

Just a few years after his knee replacement, Barry’s brother passed away and Barry found out he had cirrhosis of the liver from Hepatitis C. This was devastating for him. Years of difficult treatments kept him off his bike and threatened to crush his newfound athletic spirit. But Barry refused to be a couch potato again. He finished his treatments with a vengeance and a newfound goal: to ride his bike across the entire United States!

Here is where our stories align. Like myself, Barry wanted his achievement to be about more than personal achievement. He wanted to do something great and challenging to raise awareness for those living with hemophilia around the globe. Similarly, I wanted to share the hardships and victories of those within the bleeding disorder community and support their journey through feats of education, endurance, and empowerment. Combined, Barry’s rides and my climbs have been in support of Save One Life, an international hemophilia non-profit, and raised a total of over $200,000!

Barry is nowhere close to being done - and neither am I.  His biggest undertaking is coming up this summer. He will, once again, be riding his bike across the country but this time he will not only go west-to-east but also north-to-south covering over 5,000 miles. 5,000 MILES!

Barry is able to #playitsmart while completing his incredible goals with great preparation. He begins training months before his trips begin, starting out slow with shorter rides and gradually increasing the distance and frequency. He also always has factor with him in case of an emergency- like on his last ride across America when he was hit by a car. Fortunately, since he played it smart, he was able to get treatment quickly and keep going.

And that’s typical Barry, never letting an accident or misfortune keep him down for long! Keep it up, buddy! You can support his amazing adventure here.

Barry Haarde, an adult man with severe hemophilia, HIV, and Hepatitis C, shares his story about growing up during a time when treatment was limited, and about the many challenges he and his family faced.

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Hemophilia Federation Annual Symposium

Hemophilia Federation Annual Symposium

This last weekend I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at the Hemophilia Federation of America's Symposium. Not only was this my first time to the meeting but my first time speaking in front of several hundred people! 

To be honest, public speaking is really nerve racking for me. It's gotten better over the past few years as I have been able to share my story more and more but in the minutes before I go on stage I still feel like I'm going to lose it.

This time was no different except for what happened on stage. I calmed down quickly and really felt the support in the room. It's probably partly because I'm getting more accustomed to it but also because the room is full of my family, the bleeding disorders family.  There is something indescribably special about.

During my talk I ask people to think about their goals and dreams, "What's your Everest?" I asked. Then everyone was told to write their goals on a piece of paper to remind them to take steps towards that goal. The next day a man came to me with his piece of paper, he wanted me to sign his goal. What I said connected with him and he wants to reach for his goal. It felt incredible and I hope that I inspired some others to do the same.

If you happened to be at my talk, thank you so so much for coming out and listening. I also want to thanks to everyone who took a minute to stop by that night or throughout the rest of the weekend to introduce themselves to me. It was great meeting so many new people and hearing all your stories!

What I truly love the most is connecting with friends I haven't seen in awhile, laughing, and being inspired all over again! HFA's theme was "Together We Are Resilient" and that was a repeating theme throughout the weekend. We all have a unique story but together we can overcome anything! Can't wait to go to my second HFA next year in Providence, Rhode Island! 

Meet Misty Diaz!

Meet Misty Diaz!

Misty Diaz, aka Lil’ Misty, is an adaptive athlete and motivational speaker. She has completed over 110 different races including 5k’s, 10k’s, half marathons, and Spartan races. And she was born with Spina Bifida. To me, Misty is the epitome of strength, determination, and drive.

Spina Bifida (latin for split spine) is a birth defect where there is an incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord. Misty had many operations within the first 3 days of her life and has been through 28 surgeries to date. It hasn’t been easy but she attributes her success to one simple rule: Don’t listen to people when they say you can’t.

As we spoke, I found a kindred spirit of sorts in Misty. Our experiences, while different, were remarkably similar. We both felt betrayed by our bodies and struggled for years to figure out how to overcome the challenges presented to us- not just the physical but the emotional as well.

Neither of us were connected with a community growing up. “I didn’t know anyone growing up with Spina Bifida, and didn’t meet another person with it until I was 20.” Misty told me. That feeling of seclusion, paired with bullying in school and the pain of 20+ operations led to an addiction to painkillers and a reliance on antidepressants. I,too, felt extremely alone with my hemophilia and hated it at many points in my life. I hated infusing and hated it even more when I had bleeds and had to sit on the sidelines. I couldn’t understand why I had to struggle when my friends seemed to have it so easy. I denied my depression for years and years.

“There’s always a moment in life where you can either keeping going down the same path or you can stop, start over, and try things you have never done before.” -Lil’ Misty

For me, that moment was when my Uncle Dave took me climbing for the first time. I had finally found an outlet where I felt truly alive and like I could excel and I knew I didn’t want to stay on that sad and angry path that I had been on for so long.

As I’ve found acceptance in the hemophilia community, my confidence has grown and with that, so has my success. Both my Uncle Dave and my climbing guide, Ryan, have pushed me to do things I never would have considered before (the Seven Summits challenge!). They acknowledge my physical challenges but don’t allow them to be excuses. They’ve taught me how to push past my mental barriers for incredible physical outcomes.

For Misty, that moment was the day she decided she wanted a different life. One without a constant fog from pain pills and depression. She started slowly by just getting up and walking to the mailbox. Then down to the beach three blocks away. As her depression waned, so did her desire to take painkillers. Misty started looking at the challenges of her condition differently. Her thoughts changed from “I can’t,” to, “Why can’t I, I don’t care how hard it looks I’m going to find a way to get it done, even if it’s an adaptive way!”

Like me, Misty didn’t do it all alone. She had a mentor who never never looked at her and saw a condition but instead saw heart and drive. Mike Ainis came into Misty’s life as she was struggling to train for a half marathon. She proved to Mike and herself that she was committed to her goal and completed the 13.1 miles and immediately wanted another challenge, a Spartan race! If you have ever seen a Spartan race, you know it’s an exceptional event. There is fire jumping, rope climbing, wall jumping, and so much more. Mike jumped on board believing it was possible and has encouraged Misty in the 38+ Spartan races she has competed in since! She even holds three adaptive athlete world records in the Spartan race!

After hundreds of races Misty isn’t done…not even close. She is always searching for her next big challenge. And true to form, her next one is pretty wild, the Red Bull 400! It’s basically a 400m sprint up a 36 degree slope! Her philosophy to prepare and #playitsmart, “I know it’s going to be hard so train hard!” Words to live by!

Make sure to check out Misty’s website and facebook page to keep up with her adventures!

 

Misty Diaz, spina bifida runner and Live Ultimate athlete, shares with us how she lives ultimate! How do you Live Ultimate? Share your story. liveultimate.com

The #playitsmart Initiative

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The #playitsmart Initiative

I find inspiration in many places especially within our hemophilia community. We hear about struggles that we can all relate to and how so many in our community have overcome them. I love those stories and I hope through my endeavours in climbing the Seven Summits I can inspire someone to pursue their unimaginable goal, to overcome their obstacle, and create confidence in themselves. I want to have people ask themselves, “What’s my Everest?” and shoot for the unthinkable dream.


Through the #playitsmart initiative I want to share my experience on how to overcome mental and physical challenges. I want to encourage everyone to pursue their goals in a SMART way, one step at a time until they find their Everest. My journey is just one example of overcoming challenges. There are hundreds within the bleeding disorders community and I will be highlighting them in the future. But what about others struggling with chronic conditions? We aren’t alone with the struggles we share. I believe each person’s story gives a new opportunity to learn. For my first #playitsmart post, I want to share with you an incredible story of an inspiring woman - who - although lives with a very different condition, has overcome her physical and emotional barriers in much the same way I have and others have in the bleeding disorder community. Check back later this week for that post!

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New Website, New Concept, Same Me!

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New Website, New Concept, Same Me!

Hey all, with the help of my good friend Justin Levesque we have revamped my Adventures of a Hemophiliac site! This site has some fresh and fun changes but the biggest one being the addition of my #playitsmart campaign! Over the years, my climbs have grown into something big. They have become a way to generate awareness for the bleeding disorder community, so I'm taking it a step further! 

#playitsmart is a campaign I initiated to help change how those with chronic conditions set and achieve goals! To learn more, please visit my #playitsmart blog page.

“WHATEVER YOUR EXCUSE IS, IT'S TIME TO STOP BELIEVING IT!”

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Unforeseen Hurdles

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Unforeseen Hurdles

Well folks, just when you think you've figured everything out, life throws you a curveball. Just a couple of weeks ago I was excited to share the news of my next adventure in my Quest for the Seven Summits, a climb of Mt. Vinson in Antarctica. I put down my deposit for the climb and started to search for sponsors. It was happening no matter what ... until my application for my permit was denied. The reason? My hemophilia.

To say I was crushed is to put it mildly. It's been quite sometime since I was told I couldn't do something because I have hemophilia, and I forgot how much that hurts. Our community believes that anything is possible with hemophilia, as they should, but in reality it's always there. We are never going to be "normal" and we will have to endure obstacles that others won't in order to follow our dreams and goals. To be honest, I am still pretty down about the whole situation but I will not let this end my quest.

It's easy to get upset with the group that denied my permit, but after reading the letter explaining their decision I can see that some education on hemophilia will alleviate their concerns. Unfortunately, that process will take time and since my original departure day is only 45 days from now it will likely mean pushing back my attempt until next year. In reality, one year isn't that big of a deal. It will allow me more time to train, find sponsors, and educate the company about my condition. I have to thank everyone who I've talked to about this for helping me see the silver-lining in this tough situation. Mt Vinson will become a reality and this is just a bump in the road!

I leave you with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi. I believe this quote resonates strongly within the hemophilia and bleeding disorders world. The struggles I have endured because of hemophilia have shaped who I am and have made me stronger. I definitely won't let a denied permit stop me!

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NEW ADVENTURES!

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NEW ADVENTURES!

Life has been an incredible whirlwind over the last few months and I apologize for not keeping you all updated. Climbing and traveling aren't the only adventures in life and the last month has been full of those "other" adventures. My goal with this site has always been to share all adventures and last week was the best to date, I GOT MARRIED!

Last Friday, Jess and I had the most incredible wedding, surrounded by family and friends. As I stood in front of the arbor with Jess' grandfather I started tearing up looking at my beautiful bride. I couldn't have been happier with our adventure and think about all the adventures to come. I reflected on the ups and downs, the good times and the hard. Sometimes you find someone that completes you and makes you the person you dream of and that's Jess for me. All my accomplishments with climbing and in other endeavors probably wouldn't have happened without her and I couldn't wait to marry her. Our wedding was amazing! We were surrounded by friends and family, danced all night and laughed until ours faces hurt.

So thats where I've been the last few months, planning a wedding and getting hitched! Now life as a married man begins and planning the next big endeavor has begun! I'm excited to announce that I am going to Antarctica in December to climb the highest peak there, Mt. Vinson! Antarctica seems to be a magical place. I believe it still has the allure of being the last exotic and relatively unknown place is this world and I can't wait to go there.

Over the next two months I will be posting more about training and preparation for this epic journey. This climb is also going to be an unofficial fundraiser for Save One Life, a cause close to my heart. Although there no people with hemophilia living on Antarctica and I may be the first person with hemophilia on the continent, it is part of our world, as are those living with our condition in much more desperate situations. I encourage you all to check out their site and donate if possible or even better sponsor a child!

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Adventures in Papua, Jungle Trekking + Planes With No Seats: Part 2

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Adventures in Papua, Jungle Trekking + Planes With No Seats: Part 2

The summit of Carstensz Pyramid seemed so abrupt. I trained for months and months and after only one complete day on the mountain we had already summited. It felt strange but still very satisfying. The next part of our journey would take us through a place that very few outsiders have ever seen, the jungles of Papua. Our porters from the local Papuan tribes arrived in the late afternoon on the day after the summit. There were about a dozen of them, most without shoes but with huge smiles. I couldn't process how they could walk barefoot on the sharp rocks but I would soon see that they are just tough. The rocks didn't even seem to phase them. As we prepared for our short trek to the first camp the porters had an intense negotiation with our local guides. It was interesting to stand back and listen even though we had no clue what was going on. After about 30 minutes a deal was struck and off we went. Our first day was extremely short, only about 2 hours over the nearest ridge. It rained for most of the trek. We would camp next to the light blue glacier fed lake we saw a few days ago and with the steep wet rocks surrounding us made us feel like we were on another planet.

The next morning was clear and beautiful but our Indonesian guides insisted that we wear our rubber rain boots that day. It was fairly dry around camp but over New Zealand pass was supposedly muddy. My boots were pretty comfortable so I thought I would give it a shot. The first part of the trail was steep and rocky; terrible in rubber boots. As we climbed we got our last looks at Carstensz. It was so clear you could even see the Tyrolean Traverse near the summit. Looking at the traverse from this perspective made my heart skip a beat. We cruised up to the top of New Zealand pass and said our farewells to the mountain. As we began the descent the landscape changed drastically. The jagged peaks were replaced with hills covered by vegetation but the steepness didn't change. The initial descent was hairy. The steep steps down onto moss or loose gravel wasn't to scary, it was the steep drop off to each side and below that freaked me out. We took our time down and eventually it leveled out...for a bit. we descended by two stunning lakes and into the more dense vegetation. I was hoping we would encounter mud at some point to justify my choice in boots but we didn't. It was fairly dry everywhere. Once in the vegetation the trek became more difficult. Not only did it become insanely step again but we had to balance on slippery tree roots and watch out for hidden holes in the underbrush. It was intense but so much fun. The porters were right on our heals which was incredibly impressive. They navigated this crazy terrain with huge bags and no shoes as easily as you or I would stroll down the sidewalk. We reached a beautiful camp in an open field and got some rest before another big day.

The next morning I awoke early and watched the sunrise over camp and into the valley. It was a great time to reflect on what an amazing journey this had been. I was in complete amazement about where I was; in the middle of nowhere Papua Indonesia. So wild. We set off early and had a big day ahead of us. The first part of our day was spent in what our local guides called a savannah. There were few trees, mostly grasses and man was it hot and humid. The hiking was easy but the heat was brutal. We covered a huge amount of ground throughout the day and gained and lost a ton of elevation. We started at over 12,000ft dropped down to under 10,000 then all the way back to over 12,000ft and finally back to around 11,000. It was an epic day.

Day three of our trek was the most exciting for me, we were finally going into the jungle! I have never really been in a jungle so I couldn't wait to experience it. Once we entered the trekking became extremely difficult. Slippery roots crisscrossed the trail and while I was focusing on my footing I also had to keep my eyes peeled for low branches hanging overhead. I had to focus constantly in order to not trip and keep up our pace. The jungle was stunning. The trail in many parts was simply a log spanning over a small ravine. It was fun balancing across the logs and climbing over downed trees. The best part of the trek was when we approached the river. The trail traversed back and forth across the river. Some of the bridges were simply trees laying from bank to bank and others were bunches of sticks and bamboo tied together. Every bridge was a little scary and super exciting. Along the banks, where it was to steep for a trail, log platforms were hammered into the bank. It was simply amazing. In the late afternoon we came across one of the coolest sights I have ever seen. A family of four was standing beside their hut next to the river. This family lived in the middle of the jungle and were pretty excited to see outsiders walk by their home. It was a spectacular sight. We had to cross the river one more time before camp but this time there was no bridge. We had to wade through the middle of it. The water wasn't super deep but it was still a bit scary, fortunately two porters, a mother and son, waited for us. She waded into the middle of the river and helped us all across. They were amazing and made us feel so safe and welcome. The last night in the tent was spent in a less than ideal campsite. It was up above the river on a not so flat clearing. Although the camping that night wasn't the most comfortable, I was bummed that the trip was almost over and this would be our last night in the tent.

I slept surprisingly well considering I ended up in a ball in the corner of the tent. We packed the tents for the final time and headed out for the short hike to the village. The trail was similar to the day prior. Narrow trails crisscrossing the river with no sign of civilization. We hiked for several hours, trying to absorb all the sights and sounds of the jungle when a small hut appears on a hill in the distance. We were almost there! Around another corner sweet potato fields covered the sides of hills. We climbed up and down hills when finally we came to a fence. We crawled over and through the sweet potato fields. We came across the river the village uses and four boys were playing in the water...with HUGE machetes in their hands! It was a little startling but I had to remember that is the way of life here. We hung out with the boys for awhile, filled our water and just enjoyed our surroundings.

As we finished off our trek we strolled into the most amazing place I have ever been, the village of Surangama. Pigs ran about, children laughed and played, the older gentlemen of the village sat and enjoyed cigarettes and everyone smiled and welcomed us to their home. We dropped our gear and then sat in the open space between the huts with all the villagers. We took pictures and laughed with them, I even held a new baby! The villagers really got a kick out of that! As night fell we were invited into a hut and sat around the fire. It was so peaceful sitting with the family and the pigs inside the hut. What an amazing experience!

We left the village at 6:00AM and I was really sad to leave. I could've spent days there. We had a hour motorcycle ride to Sugama and the airport and man that was scary. The first part of the ride was along a dirt trail, through streams and around tons of windy roads. It was freaky but once we reached a better dirt road it was fun! We arrived safely to the airport and waited for our plane to arrive. As we waited several pigs ran across the runway and people hung out next to it. As the plane came into land the airport "security" person had to clear the runway and yell at people to get back. The plane landed, the cargo unloaded, then we were ready to go. I walked over to the plane as I was about to get in the "security" guy said "There are no seats, that ok?" I was a little shocked but he was right, there were no seats but what choice did we have. As I crawled in and toward the front of the plane and worker told me to hook my feet under some straps that were on the ground. He said, "Like a seatbelt." It was more hilarious than scary. We all loaded in with the bags sitting loose in the middle and took off. Luckily it was a smooth flight and the pilot even shared his lunch with us! We landed in Nabire safely and headed to the hotel and showers. It was amazing to call home and rinse the sweat of the journey off. It was a little tough to get used to all these amenities but it was great to relax and reflect on this spectacular journey.

Thank you for reading about this amazing journey and I also want to thank Laurie Kelley and LA Kelley Communications. Laurie has always believed in this crazy dream and without her support I don't know if I would've made it this far. I hope you all keep following this journey and please let me know if there is anything else you want to hear about! I love sharing my experiences!

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Adventures in Papua, Carstensz Pyramid: Part 1

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Adventures in Papua, Carstensz Pyramid: Part 1

I have been home for a couple days now and my recent trip and climb in Papua Indonesia seems like a distant memory. I still remember everything vividly but the entire experience feels surreal, like a great big magnificent dream. I always knew that climbing the mountain would be a fun challenge and it was that and more. The beautiful culture we experienced throughout the trip was astonishing. I loved every second we spent with the native people as well as our great climbing team. I have to say having positive rockstars in a team makes everything better.

One aspect of this climb that caught me off guard a little was the difficulty of getting to the mountain. I took three flights just to meet up with my team in Bali, Indonesia. It took FOUR more to get to the village where we would catch our final ride on a helicopter to the mountain! I'll start my story in Nabire, Papua before we took a small flight to Enarotali, the village where the helicopter would be picking us up. Our team and our gear filled up most of the small plane and we were all super excited to take one step closer to the mountain. I was sitting in the first row behind the pilot and as he showed up, I noticed that there was no co-pilot. Since there was an open seat up front I had to ask if I could jump up there. Our French pilot said "Sure!, It's pretty illegal but it's Papua and no one cares." We took off the small runway and climbed out over the ocean before turning back inland. The jungles were dense and the mountains were shockingly steep. The flight was about 40 minutes long and from the sky I could only see one or two small signs of human life. Enarotali resides on the edge of a beautiful lake near the center of the island of Papua. Many villages dotted the shoreline of the lake with Enarotali being the largest. We started the descent for landing when the pilot informed us that he had to buzz past the "airport" to let them know we were coming to land and clear the runway. I thought that might be a joke but sure enough, people started scattering. The landing was fairly smooth considering the dirt runway. As we pulled in to park, a plane that crashed there two weeks ago was being stripped down for parts and pigs were running all around us. Apparently if a plane hits one of the pigs...the pilot has to pay for it. THIS IS NOT A JOKE.

We unloaded our bags and walked down the street to our guest house. It was a stunning day out so our team took a stroll down to the local market. Vibrant colors and huge smiles from the locals were extremely welcoming. Everyone wanted to come and practice their English with us and get their pictures taken. The conversations were mostly just "Hello" "Good morning" but the effort and desire to try was amazing! We could've walked around all day but lunch was waiting back at the guest house. We had a wonderful lunch and listened as a huge rainstorm began. Our afternoon of cruising the market was out so we had to fill the time, thankfully my friend Vibs was prepared. She brought "Yahtzee"!!!! We played most of the afternoon and this became our official game of the trip. I must include that I won TWO games in Enarotali.

Early the next morning was our much awaited flight to the mountain basecamp but I was awoken much much earlier with an extremely upset stomach, an unfortunate side effect from travel and eating different unfamiliar foods. I'm sure some of you don't want to hear about this but it is a very real aspect of travel sometimes. Not only was I worried I couldn't make the helicopter flight to the mountain but I was becoming extremely dehydrated before a huge gain in altitude, which is never a good thing. Luckily, everything cleared up a few minutes before we took the drive to the helipad. I still didn't feel 100% but I was pumped for this flight!

As we waited for the heli to come the sun slowly rose over the village. Everything was damp with dew and it was incredibly peaceful. I have only ridden in a helicopter once before but this was very different. As the heli landed, the crew jumped out and uncovered the fuel barrels that were sitting only a few feet away and rolled them toward the chopper. Then another member of the crew came over with a bathroom scale and asked us to stand on it with our gear so they could calculate the loads we could take up. Everything still seemed super safe, it was just fun to see how they needed to improvise in these remote areas. We loaded all our gear, jumped on board and off we went! As we rose above the village and started sweeping over the fields all thoughts of my upset stomach were gone.

The first half of the ride was over dense jungle covered hills and mountains. Green as far as the eye could see. Lakes and rivers lingered in the valleys as the only disruptions of the vegetation. Through the front glass I could see huge limestone ridges approaching. Ryan pointed out the summit of Carstensz far in the distance and a nervous excitement spread over me. We flew by the massive mine that is the only sign of humans in the vicinity and is a very controversial topic in its own right, something that I won't get into here. Suddenly the terrain changed drastically and the vegetation gave way to stunning grey. As we neared basecamp my view went from the vast jungle to a shear limestone wall. I couldn't see anything but rock out my side of the heli. We touched down, grabbed our gear, spun around and stood in awe as the seemingly tiny helicopter took off in front of the most massive rock wall I have ever seen, Carstensz Pyramid!

Our basecamp was located at almost 14,000ft (4200m). Another small team was waiting there for their summit attempt the next day but that was it. We strolled over to our camp and began helping set up tents before the second half of our team arrived on the next chopper. As I carried a tent over to a flat spot and bent over to start assembling the poles I felt the huge elevation gain we had just made. We all had to take it easy until our bodies could adjust. With most of the tents up and waited for the next heli to arrive. It was almost as exciting to watch the next helicopter come in for landing as being on it! The setting and watching it cruise in for landing was absolutely stunning! Our other teammates jumped of and unloaded gear. We all walked over to camp and enjoyed a long lunch before getting a little hike in. We were all very anxious to get climbing after being cooped up in planes and hotels for the last few days and the short hike felt great! We hiked up a short ridge that led to the old basecamp for the climb. At the top of that ridge two stunning lakes came into view. One was light blue and hazy while the lake next to it was stunningly clear. Turns out one of the lakes is fed mostly from a glacier just above while the other is only fed by rain which give them the strikingly different looks. Another strange feature of this area was the limestone rock. I have never felt rock like this before. It had so much grip and was extremely coarse, even razor sharp in some places. A slight drizzle began so we decided to head down so we wouldn't get soaked the first day. Rain in the afternoon would become a very common theme of our time at Carstensz base camp. It felt so good to be back on a mountain and summit day would only be two days away!

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TOUGH HEMOPHILIA DAY

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TOUGH HEMOPHILIA DAY

The great thing about having hemophilia in the US is sometimes we get to forget about our hemophilia. I mean, it's always in the back of our mind, but sometimes it's so far back you almost feel like you don't have it. Today....is not one of those days. Today is one of those days that I wish I never had hemophilia.

As many of you know, I am getting ready to climb Carstensz Pyramid, the highest mountain on the Oceania continent, which means lots of training. On Saturday I over did it. I was working on my core and must've torn some muscles. On Sunday it just felt sore and I hoped that just kicking back and watching the Super Bowl and resting would help. By Monday morning I realized it wasn't just sore, it was a bleed and the damage had been done. I don't recall ever having an ab bleed before but it's miserable. Every movement kills. I of course infused but there isn't any instant relief. 

Today was even worse. Not so much the pain part but the missing out on something amazing part. Today is the start of a ski trip with my fiancé and some friends and I am sitting on the sidelines. I always find it tough to sit back while others have fun but instead of sulking like I used to I thought I would share some of my experiences with sitting out.

When this happened growing up I did something incredibly stupid, something 99.9% of bleeders do as kids (and even some adults), go participate anyway. My most vivid memory of doing this was in high school. I hurt my quad playing baseball, a pretty minor injury at first, but I refused to sit on the sideline. No coaches forced me to play I simply hid it from them so I didn't miss out. This obviously didn't end well. I ended up tearing the muscle and had a crazy bad bleed and missed months and months of baseball. I actually think my leg has never been the same. It's almost impossible to explain this to kids but man what a difference it would've made if I just sat out for a little while.

As I got older I became better about sitting out but then I started getting really depressed, something I still battle with today. When you're in pain not having fun while others are just plain sucks. I wish I had some magic advice to get over it but I haven't figured it out yet. As soon as I figure it out I'll let you know but so far the best solution I have found is to just think about the future. I am hopeful I can get on the slopes this week but I absolutely know if I went out today, I wouldn't make it long before I aggravate the injury and would be in intense pain again and for sure miss the rest of the trip. It doesn't make today easy but it does make it more bearable. 

Days like these make me angry towards my hemophilia. As a person that tries to live every day to the fullest, losing one seems devastating but there is a lot I owe to living with hemophilia. I know it's made me tough, probably tougher than 90% of other people and it gives me pride that I am tough. It has also made me think more critically about the decisions I make and about future consequences and benefits. I might not always make the best decision but I do know the possible results when making those decisions. And #1 it has made me appreciate the good days. Those days where hemophilia is on the back burner. I love those days and I know one of those days is right around the corner.

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DENALI/MT. MCKINLEY PART 3: 14,000FT TO SUMMIT

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DENALI/MT. MCKINLEY PART 3: 14,000FT TO SUMMIT

I last left you at 14,000ft camp on Mt. Mckinley. As I’ve said, this was the most beautiful camp on the mountain, but also the most intimidating. Just up the mountain from camp is the Headwall, the steepest section of the entire climb. It’s incredibly hard to judge how big the wall is … until you see people on it. I remember waking up our first morning at 14 camp and coming out of the tent to see these tiny specs on the trail up to the ridge. Those tiny specs were people! The magnitude of the Headwall was insane! We weren’t heading up the wall that day, but it was fun watching other teams make their way up. I was really looking forward to testing myself on the wall in the days to come. Our first day was mostly a rest day with a quick trip back down to windy corner to grab our cache. The move to 14,000 was really tough, so I was quite glad to recover for a day even if we didn’t get to rest completely. We had to dig a new kitchen out which turned out to be exhausting. Generally, we dug the kitchen a few feet into the snow so you can stand up under the tent that covers it. About a foot into digging we nailed a solid ice layer. It was about a foot of solid ice that we had to get through. It took hours and hours, and was absolutely exhausting, but in the end we had a wonderful kitchen to hang out in.

The next morning was an early one. We woke up at 5 A.M. for another carry day. Our goal was to carry gear up the Headwall and part of the way up 16,000 ridge to a place called Washburns Thumb. We headed out of camp around 7 A.M. It took about 15 minutes to get from camp to the base of the wall. Fifteen minutes is a long time to stare at something that intimidating, but once we started climbing I really began to enjoy it. With something that steep it feels like you make progress very quickly. Every time we took a break and looked back at 14 camp it looked significantly smaller and it gave me a sense of accomplishment. After about 2 hours of climbing up the wall we reached the fixed lines, the steepest part of our entire climb. Fixed lines are ropes put in place by the park service that are secured onto the mountain. When you reach them you clip an ascender to the rope. An ascender is a really cool tool that slides easily up the rope but won’t slide backwards. It’s there for safety on such a steep section. If you fell without the ascender you would most likely slide forever and take your entire team with you. The fixed lines finish off the headwall and although it was insanely hard, it was the best part of the climb. I really felt like I was climbing a big mountain.

Climbing the headwall!

Climbing the headwall!

We took a quick break at the top of the headwall, then continued up the first part of the 16,000 ridge. This has to be the craziest place I have ever been! Not only are we climbing higher but we are on a narrow ridge line. In a few places you walk along a narrow section and on either side of you are thousand foot drops! It took us about 5 hours to reach our cache point and everyone was in great spirits. We snacked and rested a bit before heading down. Heading down the ridge was a little bit scarier then going up it. You could really feel how high you were and how narrow the ridge was, but the view was incredible! As we descended back to camp I started to feel a small twinge of a headache developing. Headaches can indicate that you are getting a bit of altitude sickness. If altitude sickness progresses it can be disastrous and even fatal in some cases. I knew that I didn’t drink enough water throughout the day and the previous day when we were building our kitchen. I hoped that if I drank enough I could reverse the effects. By the time we were ready to eat dinner though my headache was ragging and I even felt a little nauseous. I forced myself to eat and drink and tried to go to bed early and get some rest. At least there was a rest day the next day to hopefully get over that headache.

16 ridge on Denali

16 ridge on Denali

When I awoke the next morning the headache was gone!! I was so glad that I was feeling better especially since it was the 4th of July! We had an awesome breakfast of pancakes and had a great time chatting throughout the day. We didn’t get to rest completely though. The great part about the Alaska Mountaineering School guides was that they were constantly teaching. We headed part way up the headwall and practiced our self arrest skills (stopping yourself from sliding down the mountain). It was fun and definitely something we needed to be really good at. I had another infusion planned for that day and as I was getting ready to do it, my guide Melis asked if she could try again. She had been studying the cheat sheet for infusions that I had given her and wanted to see if she could get through the entire process without help. That was awesome! I loved that she wanted to try again and make sure she had it dialed in. We sat it the kitchen andinfused. She nailed every step up until she almost forgot to take the tourniquet off! We caught it in time though and the infusion went great. 

View from the top of the headwall with Mt. Foraker in the background

View from the top of the headwall with Mt. Foraker in the background

The next day was probably the biggest day of the entire climb next to summit day. We were moving to high camp at 17,000ft to get ready for our summit push. We couldn’t have asked for better weather to move up the mountain. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The headwall was just as difficult physically this time but since we had already been up it once, didn’t feel as daunting. The 16,000 ridge was even more spectacular with the cloudless sky. You could literally see for hundreds of miles in every direction. It was completely surreal. I felt like I was hiking in a painting all day. We reached Washburns Thumb, and our cache, fairly quickly and loaded everything into our packs which meant ridiculously huge packs. Washburn’s Thumb also has fixed lines on it. It’s very steep for a few hundred feet, but with gigantic packs it was killer. Once we got up the thumb we moved pretty slowly. It was even narrower than below and we had to make sure enough protection was in place in case of a fall. It took us another few hours to reach camp but I still felt strong when we arrived. As we pulled in, we heard the radio chatter from other teams on their summit day. They were having a great day and were almost to the summit. I was thrilled for them and excited that we would hopefully be in the same spot tomorrow. As we ate dinner we talked about the impending summit push. We only brought two tents up instead of our usual three, so it was tight and no one slept well that night. It’s hard to shut your mind off when the summit is just hours away.

Heading up the Autobahn on summit day

Heading up the Autobahn on summit day

I did eventually dose off but morning came quickly. Since it is light out almost all day, we didn’t have to get up crazy early like some other mountains I have been on. I put on every layer of clothing I had, it was super cold, and we headed out around 9 A.M.. The first obstacle we encountered was the Autobahn. A very steep uphill section followed by a traverse over to Denali Pass. The uphill wasn’t too bad, but the traverse was very hairy. It was incredibly steep and this area is notorious for falls. This is where most of the protection on summit day is used so travel is pretty slow. We rested quickly at Denali Pass then continued through Zebra Rocks, another steep section that is fairly short. We began to slow down here. The effects of this exhausting adventure began to show on members of our team. I still felt great but we needed to stick together. We were all going to make it.

We started out taking lots of breaks on summit day, but the weather began to change. We needed to keep moving. As we reached the Football Field, a large flat area before the last steep section, clouds started to form. Luckily it was still warm out, but I noticed the teams ahead of us up on Pig Hill began to fade into the clouds. We started up Pig Hill knowing that was the last hard part until the summit, we were almost there!!! It took us a long time to get up Pig Hill and the weather was changing fast. I was so nervous that we weren’t going to be able to make it. Would we have to turn around so close to the summit? We got to the top of Pig Hill and I waited to hear the dreaded words from the guide, “We have to go down.”. Those words thankfully never came, though we did need to pick up the pace on the Summit Ridge. I read a lot about the knife edge on the Summit Ridge and how hairy this place can be. As I was making my way, I remember thinking that it wasn’t so bad, but that was probably because we couldn’t see anything! It seemed like we were in a cotton ball. We could see the trail and the bamboo wands placed by the groups ahead of us but that was it. We hiked in this snow globe for about 15 more minutes and passed the other groups coming back down from the summit. They were elated and gave us great encouragement that we were close. They were right. We rose over the final ridge and a small summit marker stood on the top of North America. After seven hours, we made it! I felt like I was about to break into tears, but never did. Maybe I was too tired. I honestly couldn’t believe I made it. This climb was the most difficult thing I have ever done, and I doubted whether I could do it many many times during the journey. But I made it. I was proud of myself and my team for never quitting. The weather really began rolling in while we were on the summit. Backpacks had to stay on and we could only get one or two photos before starting the decent. I wish we could’ve stayed longer, but I was overjoyed to just have made it.

Group shot at the summit!

Group shot at the summit!

The descent started out amazingly. Melis let me lead our way off of the summit. My job was to find the wands in the snow globe, get us to them safely, and then clip into the protection next to the wands. The first few were easy but as we descended lower it became more difficult. At one point I was making my way to the next wand and the clouds broke for a split second to my left. I could see thousands of feet straight down to massive rocks. It was incredibly freaky not to know that was there, and then to have it disappear again. I continued to lead down to Pig Hill. About half way down the hill the trail just disappeared. The wind had blown snow over the little trail I could see and at that point I couldn’t even see far enough to the next wand. I turned around and could barely see the other two people on my rope. We stopped, and Melis looked around for the trail. It looked bleak for quite awhile. We even went back uphill to try and find our last wand to no avail. Just when it looked like we might have to dig a snow cave and hunker down for the night, the clouds and snow broke just enough to reveal the next wand. We made our way to it and continued down. The wind really started howling lower on the mountain but at least the clouds and snow dissipated and bit. 

We were going slowly on the decent. The other team member on our rope was absolutely spent which is completely understandable. I was now the last person from our team going down the mountain with the responsibility of cleaning the protection as we went passed. We approached Zebra Rocks and as my teammate made his way down the steepest section I was getting ready to stop and clean some gear. I was about to shout ahead and tell the team to stop when suddenly the rope snapped me off my feet and threw me on my side. My teammate had fallen and this ripped me off my feet! In the split second this happened all our training flashed through my mind. I landed on my ice axe and immediately rolled into self arrest position to stop the fall. We didn’t slide far but I held on tight. I called down to make sure everything was OK but heard nothing. The wind was hollowing. I kept yelling for about ten minutes but still no answer. I didn't dare move until I knew absolutely sure everyone was OK. Finally, I hear Melis’ voice above the wind asking what was going on. Apparently everything was perfectly fine below, and they had been yelling up to see if I was OK, I just wasn’t able to hear a thing. I unclipped and cleaned the protection to head down, my heart was still racing. I thought something really bad had happened. It took us forever to finish our decent but we all walked into camp safe and sound. It took us 14 hours overall and we were greeted with hot water and some food. I slept so hard that night. I never thought I could be that exhausted. 

Back to 17 camp after a successful summit!

Back to 17 camp after a successful summit!

The next day the storm was in full force with incredible wind. We couldn’t move down in those conditions so we rested in the tent the entire day. I can’t say I was disappointed. When we were finally able to move down, we did it in a BIG way. We packed up our stuff and descended ALL THE WAY DOWN! From 17,000ft to the runway and base camp, picking up all our other gear on the way. That meant huge packs and heavy sleds for almost 18 hours. This day is a complete blur. It’s known as the march of death and was even harder than summit day. The absolute worst part was the last hill going into base camp known as Heartbreak Hill. We had been descending for 16 hours at that point and then we had to climb again, 500 vertical feet back to the runway. I thought I could never be more tired than summit day, but I was so wrong. I was completely destroyed going up that hill. The only thing that keeps you going is knowing that was the end. Once we got to that camp … no more hiking. I don’t think I have ever been so relieved to make it somewhere. I dropped my pack in camp knowing it wouldn’t have to go back on for a long, long time. It actually started raining as we set up camp at the runway which was pretty miserable, but we were all in great spirits. We finally went to sleep around 2 A.M. knowing we were almost done. The next morning we packed up for the final time. As we sat on all of our gear waiting for the plane, our guide surprised us with some cold beers they had stashed. It was amazing! The journey and adventure of climbing the highest peak in North America was now over. To this day it all feels like an incredible dream.

Now no one can say someone with hemophilia can’t climb that mountain.

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