I am thankful for the people who helped teach me and shared the most important gift of all–knowledge. I would not be here without their influences in my life.
Lets translate this into diabetic-speak. Each of these guys listed below saw that diabetes was a factor in my life. They knew that it was something I had to be vigilant about. None of them gave me any special treatment or babying. They expected me to keep my shit together and made me aware that I had no choice but to be at my best, every day that I would step onto the rock with the lives of others in my charge.
I had similar conversations with each of them at one point or another that went like this:
Me “So. How big of an impact does my diabetes have to play in my climbing/guiding?”
Them “Only as much as you let it. Control it and take care of yourself. You’re no use to anyone else if you’re incapacitated by your condition. Listen to your own body–let this condition make you more aware of yourself and use it as an advantage”
Tony Vuocolo: Tony was the first climber to take an interest in mentoring me when I was a wide-eyed n00b, walking into The Inner Wall gym for the first time looking for some direction. Tony had been a guide for many years and managed our local climbing gear shop in addition to working a few hours a week at the gym. Tony took me and Stefanie outside climbing for the first time, he showed me how to place gear and build anchors but most of all he gave me a powerful mantra to help deal with the many haters and skeptics that I would run across: “Who the f*ck are they?”
Sounds weird, but having used that mantra many times, it really puts life in perspective. Tony taught me how to care about the things that are important while ignoring things that aren’t while being safe in the vertical world.
Frank Sanders: I first met Frank on my first major multi-pitch climb: Durrance on Devil’s Tower, WY. The fact that he befriended me speaks to his incredible vision because I am quite sure that I was not the picture of finesse out there. But he saw my potential and my passion and he believed in me–encouraged me to keep putting in the work and to begin learning about guiding and educate myself. This was a critical step because it changed the way I saw myself.
Zeke Federman: Zeke taught my first guide course through PCGI–an organization that I can’t help but support because they have always supported me. Zeke taught me about shifting my mindset from simply protecting myself on a climb to protecting my partner and how to treat people with respect while sharing knowledge in a guiding context. His training and mentorship helped me begin my career as a guide as I began working for Zion Adventure Company in Utah.
Jonathan Zambella: Jon took a big risk on me. Guiding isn’t like flipping burgers. Mistakes in guiding can have dire consequences–but despite my relative inexperience, Jon took me on and gave me a shot and trusted me to keep his clients safe on canyoneering and climbing trips in and around Zion National Park. He introduced me to the concept of non-interventive guiding: giving people the opportunity to struggle in order to really connect with the natural experience. This concept, that at first was difficult for me to accept, has become a central pillar in my current philosophy and practice.
Seth Zaharias: What can I say about Seth…climb with this guy and you can’t help but get psyched. Seth also is a PCGI mentor and has played a fundamental role in my guide training, teaching me many technical skills along the way. More than anything though, he taught me the importance of really caring about the people you teach. Not simply trying to make a buck but really being invested in the success of those who will someday call you their mentor.