EAGLE COUNTY — For Jon Kedrowski, life is apparently more fun when it’s death defying.
You remember Kedrowski. He was summitting Mount Everest when a massive storm blew in and killed several people — one of the mountain’s deadliest days. It would have been worse but for the heroism of Kedrowski and others.
Fast forward to last month and Kedrowski is at the 12,276-foot summit of Mount Adams in Washington state. It’s all part of his plan to climb and ski down the 20 highest volcanoes on the West Coast in 30 days — which explains why he was packing skis.
The weather atop Mount Adams is sketchy, thunderheads and now lightning. His ice ax is hot. As lightening cracks on the ground around him, he pulls the skins from his skis, which are also hot from the static electricity, clicks in and rockets down the mountain.
A TALE TO TELL
Kedrowski lived to tell another tale, and what a great tale it is.
Twenty volcanoes in 30 days is his latest project, coming on the heels of his Everest expedition and his book, “Sleeping the Summits.” For that one he climbed and camped on Colorado’s 14,000 foot mountains in 2011.
Some of the volcanoes you’ve heard of, such as Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood. He skied off Mount Rainier a couple weeks after six people were killed.
“Even though many of these peaks are below 10,000 feet, their trailheads are incredibly low,” he said. “Sometimes I would start and 2,000 or 3,000 feet and still get up to 6,000 feet vertical skiing and 8,000 feet of elevation gain from hiking through the forests.”
For the 20-volcano project, he started May 1 with Mount Shasta and finished May 31 with Mt. Baker. Peaks ranged from 8,000 to 14,000 feet above sea level. It’s different because he was close to sea level when he started climbing.
“The difference is that I was skiing down them instead of sleeping up there,” Kedrowski said. “It mixes skiing with sleeping on the summits.”
Of course, he did camp at several summits.
He started up 22, summitted 20, slept atop seven and skied 102,000 vertical feet.
Climb Your Own Everest
Kedrowski was born and raised in the Vail Valley and graduated from Eagle Valley High School, where his idea of preseason basketball training was running up 14ers. He’s back in town with friend and former teammate Bob Pietrack for next week’s NOD (No Off Days) Basketball Camp.
He, Pietrack and Jim Bair were teammates on a couple Eagle Valley teams that made a serious run at a state title. The money they raise through the camp funds a scholarship for a local student athlete.
Kedrowski said basketball and mountaineering teach many of the same lessons: preparation, focus, teamwork and taking on more than you think you can accomplish.
He works with local and regional youth organizations through his “Climb Your Everest” organization, helping keep kids pointed in the right direction.
For example, part of preparation is being ready when opportunities present themselves.
“The West Coast has notoriously bad weather for climbing,” Kedrowski said.
There can be five or six days of clear weather when he’d climb like a mountain maniac and then be stuck at the bottom passing the time picking out animal shapes in the mountains that shrouded the peaks he wanted to climb.
During one three-day stretch of beautiful weather, he climbed five peaks, slept on two and covered 48 miles and 21,500 feet.
While he was waiting to climb, he wrote parts of the book about this adventure. It’s scheduled for publication next spring.
Kedrowski played NCAA Division 1 college basketball for Valparaiso University in Indiana. He earned his Ph.D. in geography and is a former college professor.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.