Tag Archives: Climbing

A Mountain Gypsy: Sheldon Kerr

Sheldon Kerr

Sheldon Kerr

Ever wonder how mountain guides string together the seasons? From ski


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guiding in Colorado during the winter to leading adventures in Norway above the artic circle in the spring to mountain guiding in Alaska during the summer months to leading clients on Kilimanjaro in the fall, Sheldon Kerr’s schedule is pretty busy.

For Sheldon, the mountains are her home. Join me this week on The Edge as I talk to this veteran mountain guide about being a woman in a male-dominated world and the joys and rewards of her gypsy lifestyle.

Sheldon Kerr

Sheldon climbing in the rime

Sheldon hails from Colorado and began her guiding career in Alaska in 2004. She has climbed, skied and guided throughout the Alaska Range, the Chugach, and the Wrangell-St. Elias every spring and summer since her first journey up North.

When a craving for shorter approaches and shiny bolts strikes, Sheldon’s favorite spots on earth are Chamonix, France; Courmayer, Italy; and Smith Rock, Oregon. She has also climbed and guided a number of high-altitude peaks including Denali, Aconcagua, and Kilimanjaro.

Winter finds her in Colorado’s San Juans ski guiding from chairlifts, skin tracks, and helicopters during the week. Weekends are reserved for ice climbing and reading the New Yorker.

She is a National Avalanche School graduate, AIARE (American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education) Level III certified, and teaches Level I and II avalanche courses. Sheldon is also an EMT. You can find out more about Sheldon at sheldonkerr.com.


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Join me on The Edge Radio this week as I talk to Sheldon about guiding, mountains and what it’s like as a woman in the very male world of mountain guiding. Live Wednesday at 8am pacific. Have a question for Sheldon? Call 1-888-346-9144 or leave a comment here and I’ll be sure to ask her. I’m looking forward to this show. It’s one you don’t want to miss.

A Life in the Mountains


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“The mountains will always be there, the trick is to make sure you are too,” stated early Yosemite climber Hervey Voge. Climbing mountains requires patience, strength and incredible judgment. Mountains are not

Brent Okita

Brent Okita

climbed in a single day, and some expeditions take months to complete. Deprivation and a comfort in high places makes mountain climbing a singular experience. But the rewards often outweigh the risks. Brent Okita climbs mountains for a living. He knows, more than anyone, the dichotomy between scarcity and abundance found only on the side of one of the largest peaks in the world. Because only when we strip ourselves of material conveniences can we truly enjoy the gifts that wild places can offer. Mountain guides like Okita have learned to dwell among the permanence of these high places.

Brent Okita spends his life almost entirely in the mountains. Okita has been up and down Washington’s, Mt. Rainier over 450 times. He’s summited Denali 21 times, and been to Everest twice, with a summit in 1991. Brent’s resume includes 14 expeditions to the Alps, and one to Mt. Vinson in Antarctica. But Brent doesn’t do this for fun. This is his job. Brent is a guide at Rainier Mountaineering Inc. in Ashford, WA at the base of Mt. Rainier. In the summer he might summit this Kircher-show-descriptionmassive volcano twice a week. In the winter he is Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol’s Assistant Director.

Join me on The Edge as I talk to Brent Okita about mountain guiding, ski patrolling and living life in the world’s highest places. Have a question for Brent? Leave a comment here and I’ll ask him on the show. Or call in live Wednesday at 888-346-9144.

It’s American Diabetes Month and I Feel Fine


November is Diabetes Month. I suppose, like with any National Something Month, the goal is to raise awareness and money to fight the Something. October has Breast Cancer Awareness; February owns Heart Health; April is a double-whammy with Irritable Bowel Awareness and Distracted Driving Prevention. For every health concern, there’s a month, and Diabetics have November.

A Life With Diabetes

A moment alone checking levels

I rarely mention that I have Type 1 Diabetes; it doesn’t define me. But it is a regular part of my day. It comes up so often in my memoir that I probably should have given Diabetes her own book. But I’m not sure I wanted to give the disease her own stage. We have a rocky relationship, Diabetes and me. I would much rather write a book about my husband’s illness, giving Diabetes only a bit part in the narrative. And I had thought I succeeded until readers reacted with such horror at my near-death low blood sugar reactions. I guess I didn’t realize it was such a big deal.

So, okay. Fine. Diabetes is challenging. Insulin is a fickle mistress. And yes, far too often I go into diabetic shock, which is, for lack of a better word, a full-blown seizure.

Why is that so hard to admit?

Coming to Terms

Summit of Mt. Baker, WA

For many years after I was diagnosed, I pretended to be invincible and unflappable. I wasn’t going to let this two-bit, penny-ante, no-count, nothing of a so-called disease get the better of me. I would climb mountains, I would kayak big rivers, I would spend weeks in the backcountry. And I didn’t care what Diabetes said; she wasn’t going to stop me.

I remember waking up one night in a remote cabin in British Columbia. Ten of us were sleeping in our bags, batting the mice from our pillows and dreaming of the powder-filled glaciers we’d skied that day. But I wasn’t dreaming exactly. It was more like a drugged reverie. The age-dark beams of the roof bowed up and down. Bats flew around my head, lifting the light fabric of my down bag and threatening to carry me away. I almost tapped into the darkest truths that skiing and remote mountains and a blood sugar-addled brain could reach before I delved into a full-on seizure.

Predictably I started sweating and shaking. I screamed and cried. I closed my eyes and moved my head from side to side. My body reared up a few feet off the ground and slammed down.

My friends knew what to do: feed me glucose tablets and orange juice until I came around. And when I woke up, I laughed. Oops. Sorry guys. Didn’t mean to wake you. But their stares were full of fear. We were remote, at least a day’s ski to a phone. What if they couldn’t wake me? What if a helicopter couldn’t pick me up? The look of responsibility weighed heavily on all of us, and I realized I had to strike a peace accord with my sworn enemy.

Balancing Act

After carrying this disease around with me for over 20 years, I’ve had a few scares. Most often it’s not the disease that kills you, but all the complications. Diabetes is hard on your body. The American Diabetes Association has a sobering statistic:

Diabetes kills more people each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.

Diabetes affects every organ, every blood vessel, every brain cell. If I eat too many carbohydrates without enough insulin, or have too much stress, or get sick, my blood turns to 30 weight car oil, bursting blood vessels and nerves. If I eat too little, or exercise too much, or give myself too much insulin, I can have a low-blood sugar seizure.

Diabetics can do anything

Diabetes is a balancing act between exercise, food, insulin, stress, illness and other factors. But it is also a window into my health. Since I check my blood sugar levels several times a day, I can watch with a transparency unavailable to non-diabetics how my lifestyle affects my body.

The Upside

I can be healthier seeing the fruits of my exercise and the effects of my transgressions. A Chinese proverb claims, “No disease short life; one disease long life.” Because when you have a disease like Diabetes, you have to pay attention. You have to manage your stress and exercise even when your husband is dying. You can’t drink too much, or eat too much or push yourself too hard. Nor can you take a day off and eat a bag of Fritos while watching television.

Hail National Diabetes Month! This is our month and I’m going to celebrate. And by “celebrate” I mean drinking a diet soda, sucking on a sugar-free candy and climbing a peak. What did you think I meant?

Book Review: Adventure in Everything


Life is meant to be an adventure, and author and climbing guide Matt Walker knows how to find it everywhere.

In his new book he offers a formula for taking the kind of adventure usually found in the mountains and bringing it to our everyday lives.

Matt breaks it down into five elements, showing us how to truly find adventure in everything we do. I recently caught up with Matt and asked him a few questions about his book, Adventure in Everything: How the Five Elements of Adventure Create a Life of Authenticity, Purpose, and Inspiration.

Matt:  Adventure in Everything is both a framework and a lifestyle choice. It is a framework that supports living with intention and purpose in the moment, daily, and in a larger sense of making sure that our actions, how we spend our time, and who we spend it with, align deeply and significantly with our values. Read the rest of this entry

Dirtbag Diaries: The Love Letter Film


A husband and wife, Fitz and Becca, follow their dream of traversing the high Sierra, climbing peaks, new and classic, napping on granite and sleeping in flowered meadows. The first week, a phantom cell phone rings in Fitz’s pocket, and he wonders if he can truly leave the city behind. Each day, they strive a little further, add the “okays” up to one triumphant “yes.” Eventually he declares his “mind has never been lighter.” By the end, Becca asks, “Can the mountains really cure a person? Bring two people closer together?”

I think mountains can cure a person. They can bring two people closer, remind them how to open themselves to what is. What do you think? Do the mountains make us better people? More like ourselves? Better husbands and wives? Or do they just provide a momentary respite amidst our otherwise chaotic and concrete-born lives? Check out their website here.