By Joel Cox, Assistant Director of Outdoor Education

For years, I read about other people going on expeditions and climbing mountains in faraway locations. Books, podcasts, YouTube videos—you name it, I’ve spent the hours invested in each story. While their stories were fascinating and filled with adventure, I wanted to find a way to pursue my own adventure.

Then one day I received an email: Now Receiving Grant Applications. My eyes dropped below the subject line: Started in 1966, Mountaineering Fellowship Grants have long encouraged American climbers age 25 years and younger to go into remote areas and seek out climbs more difficult than they might ordinarily be able to do. This grant wasn’t just meant for grizzled dudes with massive beards who think of Everest as child’s play. This was an opportunity I was looking for!

As I did further research, it was evident that­, more than exploring remote areas, this grant was focused on expeditions done in fellowship. The bond formed from people who have experienced La Vida was perfect. I loved my participant trip in 2013 where my Sherpas Dan and Sarah taught me the value of “Be Here Now” and making a “Commitment Move.” I bought in completely. Over the course of leading trips and experiencing additional challenges, I was eager to look for other ways to apply these lessons with others that had shared a similar experience.

This was the basis for assembling the team. I looked for people who had a similar love of La Vida’s core values and wanted to experience them in a new context. Finding a group that could take the time off and could each contribute the necessary skill sets was challenging, but in the end, I was able to bring together a team of incredible people: Blake Denman, Izzy Johnson, and Taylor Bradford.  

After much deliberation, we chose a route in Nááts’įhch’oh National Park in northern Canada (think the Yukon and go 300 miles east). Our objective is to take a float plane to Grizzly Bear Lake and complete a 27-mile trek through the northeast mountain ranges of Nááts’įhch’oh National Park. We also will attempt two ascents of mountains on the east side of the valley while following the Broken Skull River. During our expedition, we will document our travel on this specific route to assist the Park Service in developing its official trail network. 

Broken Skull River
Mount Nááts’įhch’oh (Mt. Wilson)

We submitted our plan to the American Alpine Club and a few weeks later were informed we received the grant! There’s still a lot of planning to do, and a lot is unknown with the current travel restrictions. But we have an incredible team. We all love La Vida and have been shaped by this powerful program. Without it, I doubt that we would have the connection or the belief that we could accomplish such a feat. We are incredibly grateful that our grant application was approved and hopeful for our future adventures in the great Canadian wilderness. 

Zoom planning session. Pictured top row: Joel Cox and Taylor Bradford. Pictured bottom row: Izzy Johnson and Blake Denman