Why am I doing this? – Chris Lanka

Why am I doing this? Here is my not so brief answer…

Having learned everything I know about climbing from Andy, I am always excited to hear about his new adventures. Even better yet, I have the luxury of being a coworker of his.  We’ve spent many a lunch hour talking about climbing.

When Andy got back from the Mt. Rainier climb this past July (where he met Keith), it was clear how powerful of an experience it was for him. A “complete reboot” in his focus, as he would say to me. It was inspiring just hearing him speak about it.

So, in September, he threw me a bone… “Chris, I’m planning on going climbing with Keith in the Gunks. Do you want to come?”

Ummm… let me think about that for a minute. YES!!!

First off, any time Andy asks me to go climbing, I jump at the chance. Why he invites me, I’m not sure I truly understand. I’m sure he knows hundreds of better climbers than me. Regardless of the reason, I am always honored and always try to do whatever I can to make sure I can join him in the adventure. And it is always an adventure, one way or another.

Climbing with my friend and mentor would have been enough. Climbing in the Gunks would have been enough. But, even bigger than all that, I wanted to gain a personal understanding of what Andy meant when he was telling me about the Mt. Rainier climb.

So, off to the Gunks we went. It was a spectacular trip for a variety of reasons… the weather, the climbing, and, more importantly, the people. Of all the reasons I love climbing (the sense of adventure, pushing myself beyond what I think I am capable of, experiencing breathtaking beauty, etc.), the thing that stands out for me the most is the community created with my climbing partners… the bond that develops through this shared passion (some may say obsession).

It is always the people that make a trip great. It is always the inside jokes that I remember, or the stories that are told, more than I remember a specific climb. It is that camaraderie that I cherish the most. It can be very powerful.

Climbing is my own personal therapy. My insignificant day-to-day stresses are left at the bottom of the cliff/mountain. I have no room for them out there. I’ve seen how transformative an experience climbing can be for others as well. People brought to tears out of shear joy by what they have overcome/achieved. It was amazing to be a part of their experience, in some small way.

So why am I doing this? Simply put… this project inspires me. It inspires me to do more to help this amazing group of people see that they are not alone. That “Support the Troops” means more to me than a simple slogan or magnet on my car. Our veterans have taken on enough. It should not be their sole responsibility to figure out how to come home and integrate back into society. It is our responsibility to engage them, find a common interest that can be pursued (be it climbing or anything else), and build a community to help them overcome whatever demons they have (be they physical or mental).

This project inspires me.  And I’m willing to do whatever I can to make it a success.