Tommy Danger and the team behind the More Than Just Me Foundation are pushing their bodies and minds further than they’ve ever been before – all in the name of Cystic Fibrosis. They’re aiming to raise $1 million, and a whole lot of awareness, by climbing the world’s Seven Summits. And having just climbed Mount Denali, the highest peak in Northern America at 20,237ft above sea level, and one of the most difficult of the world’s Seven Summits, they’re feeling exhausted, but one step closer to finding a cure for a disease that leaves its victims constantly ‘climbing mountains’.
Tommy is a man who loves a good adventure, but says this journey is ‘more than just me’, ‘it’s more than just mountains’ – it’s for those who wake up every day and battle a disease. And while climbing the world’s highest peaks offers a rush of adrenalin like no other, it also has its challenges – some including lack of oxygen, altitude sicknesses, and dangerous terrains.
Having already climbed Kilimanjaro, Elbrus and Aconcagua, Tommy truly understands what it means to respect a mountain. He says, “I believe you can never conquer a mountain. The mountain kindly gives you the ability to access its highest point. You can’t take that for granted, because the day you do is the day you may not be coming back to camp”.
After 10 brutal days on Denali, Tommy, Mark, John and Jeff were blistered, burnt, dehydrated, exhausted and torn. But even after all the dangerous terrains, injuries, illnesses, and 20 something-thousand feet, they were still full of happiness, health and love.
According to Tommy, the last hours to the summit were the worst, and it was at that point it become a complete mental push. In fact, John suffered symptoms of HACE (brain swelling from lack of oxygen) and decided to bypass the summit, which was a sacrifice the rest of the team were grateful for.
Tommy says, “We continued to push through Denali Pass as we headed towards the summit. It turned to more incline and small steps as we climbed into less oxygen and more dangerous terrain. Anytime you push like this you have to be very careful because if any form of high altitude sickness begins it could lead to stumbling, and on this terrain that could prove fatal with one wrong step.
“Pig Hill is a 600ft climb you look at as it is laughing in your face sitting near 20k. Imagine you have climbed eight hours already. Your body is destroyed and your mind is so confused with the lack of oxygen and you have to climb nearly straight up for 600ft to reach the Summit Ridge.
“This is where your body stops, it’s all mental from here. Why are we here? We are here because thousands suffer from a disease where there is no summit. There is only Pig Hill and no matter how much they climb, the ‘mountain’ continues to grow. There is no cure.
“We climb for a cause. We climb for a cure. We climb to shine light brighter than the sun on a disease that people either are confused by, don’t understand or have no knowledge of. Cystic Fibrosis now has a fight, a fight against some dudes that won’t stop. Won’t give up. A fight that will get ugly and will make you bleed and possibly take your last breath” he says.
So after one of the toughest climbs they’ve ever attempted, exhaustion eventually turned to relief. “Then there it was. A small mound that gave it just enough elevation to call itself the tallest point of this insane mountain. My cracked and bloody smile grew cartoonishly as I stepped the final steps to the top of Mt. Denali”.
The team were well prepared with all the appropriate gear, which was one of the reasons their climb was successful. Mt. Denali has a 50% success rate, so ensuring you’re prepared is super important. Tommy says, “One of the biggest keys about this mountain is having the proper layering system or you will sweat through your clothes then it will turn cold in no time and then you will freeze and hypothermia will kick in which is never a good day”.
Good thing they packed their superfine Australian MicroMerino® Vital and Altitude Long Sleeve Base Layers, Altitude Base Layer Tights, Nordic Hoodies, Limitless Bandannas, AzTech Beanies and Highpoint Necktubes to stay warm, comfortable and protected from whatever Denali was going to throw at them.
Tommy says, “I had a feeling we would need our I/O Merino gear near the summit and boy did we ever! 20-45mph gusts of wind trying to shove us to our death. The base layers keeping us warm up the mountain, the neck tubes helping block the insane sun rays from burning our faces off, and the beanie that kept my head toasty as the temperatures dropped to lows where moisture is frozen instantly”.
Tommy and the team now have a couple of months for some much needed rest before they head over to the home of I/O Merino to take on Australia’s Mount Kosciuszko in December.