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WAY overdue

Published by Don Gilman on

Part of the problem with depression is a lack of motivation, especially creativily. That’s what I’ve been dealing with for a while now. Getting the motivation to get out and climb – that’s the easy part for me. For whatever reason, no matter how depressed or anxious I am, I can always get out and climb. It’s the only thing I’ve remained consistently motivated to do in the last 20 years. But writing about what I’ve done? That’s the hard part. So let me catch you up on the last month…

It has been a good month. Work has come around, my mood has been better than it’s been in years, and the climbing, well, it’s been nothing short of phenomenal. I set out to climb four mountains, and instead summited six challenging, badass mountains, including the only two mountains I’ve previously failed to summit since I moved to Southern Utah. Angels Landing, Zion Butte, Smithsonian Butte, Tabeau Peak, The Beehive and Destination Peak were all climbed, most of them in the final week and a half of January. It was an incredibly satisfying month.

Zion Butte

This big beast of a mountain was one of the two peaks I’d failed on previously in my four years in Southern Utah, my son and I turning back a quarter mile from the summit when we ran out of time. We set out to climb this peak with five people, three of whom I’d never met before. Three of our group had never climbed a peak of this stature before and they handled the steep, snow-covered rock as if they’d been climbing mountains for years.

Smithsonian Butte

This peak was the Piece de resistance. A very technical mountain, I was fortunate enough to do the crux lead on this mountain and it turned out to be the scariest lead climb of my entire life, despite being a moderate 5.6 on the Yosemite decimal scale. Even though this peak had 1,000 feet less of elevation gain, it took James and Tristen and I almost two more hours to climb. It was especially gratifying to find only 10 previous entries in the summit register before our ascent. Such an amazing mountain!

Tabeau Peak

This was, by far, the easiest peak of the six I climbed in January, but it still was a gratifying ascent in that my friend Kayla and I climbed it by a previously unknown route to the western summit, made more interesting in that we climbed it in a mild snow storm.

The Beehive

This was another mountain I had previously climbed, this time accompanied by my dear friend and mountain companion Anne. Unfortunately, Anne decided to turn back short of the summit, but I continued on to reach my third summit in four days. We also saw some Bighorn sheep on the Crags above us, which added a delightful semi-spiritual element to the climb.

Destination Peak

This was the other summit I had failed to reach previously. My friend Spencer and I had taken the wrong route and ended up perhaps 100 feet below the apex with only technical terrain above, forcing us to retreat. Perhaps somewhat ironically, this peak had not been even our first or even second choice on my recent attempt. We had actually set out to climb Muddy Peak in Nevada, but unforte, Tristen’s transmission had gone out in his jeep, leaving us stranded on the side of the interstate in Arizona for an hour. But we regrouped in St George, hopped in James’ car and drove out to Zion to attempt Gifford Peak, the twin of Destination. But our route on that peak was north facing, and was covered in snow, so we turned to Destination Peak instead, as its route was south facing and largely snow-free. It ended up being an absolutely delightful climb. The views from the summit are beyond words:

It’s been an amazing month, and I think the best is yet to come.


Don Gilman

Don Gilman has been climbing mountains for 20 years, beginning with an ascent of Mt. Thielsen in Oregon in 1998. He has been dealing with severe depression and suicidal ideation since he was nine years old. He also deals with PTSD and anxiety on a daily basis, and uses climbing as a form of therapy. In 2014, he woke up to find his then-13-year-old son had hung himself. Fortunately, his son survived, but that event has become the motivating factor that has made suicide prevention the most important cause in his life.

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