LEADING A Life Of Adventure & Service
The Early Days
Jeff was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and grew up in Roanoke, Virginia. These soft and rolling hills are where his sense of adventure was developed. But his insatiable appetite for the bigger and wilder landscapes lead him to Colorado at the age of 19. Somewhere between climbing every rock in Boulder County, he earned his B.S. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Colorado with his final semester spent living abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Soon after graduating from college he completed a Wilderness EMT program, fell in love with medicine and moved out to Joshua Tree, CA where he could spend less time “working” and more time climbing rocks. It was while Jeff was living in “J Tree” that a very fortuitous meeting took place… he was introduced to a young rock climber named Erik Weihenmayer, who happened to be blind.
Becoming A Professional
Jeff and Erik began developing a lifelong relationship immediately and started scheming up a list of rocks and mountains they yearned to stand on top of. Every step they took together, they were breaking new ground… no blind person had ever dared to venture on the biggest rocks and mountains in the world. There was no template on “how to” or “not to” do the objectives they were attempting. Jeff quickly realized that guiding a blind partner would require him to develop the highest levels of trust, communication and ability to manage adversity. These traits would go on to become the cornerstone of his message for decades to come.
Jeff guided Erik to the summit of North America (Denali) in 1995 and thus began Jeff’s 5-year love affair with Denali and the Alaska Range. He would spend 5 seasons on “The Great One” guiding dozens of commercial clients as well as working Search and Rescue for the National Park Service. It was at this juncture that Jeff made the life changing decision to put his mountaineering career on hold and head off to the Medical College of Pennsylvania to pursue his love of medicine and become a Physician Assistant.
The Guide & The Message
In 2001 Jeff, Erik and their team decided to take a shot at the highest summit in the world, Mt Everest. For Jeff, this successful summit underscored the value of teamwork, communication and leadership. He went on to guide Erik up 6 of the “7 Summits”, up the “Nose” of El Capitan, on dozens of expedition length adventure races and a marathon in Cuba.
All of the traits of a successful guide and leader began to galvanize for Jeff around the time he joined up with Erik and teammate Aaron Isaacson to nab a 2nd place finish on ABC’s adventure racing series, Expedition Impossible. Jeff and Erik found a new level of outreach from their success on the televised race. This would ultimately give them the opportunity to “repay a debt”.
Paying It Forward
Jeff and Erik had always talked about fulfilling the wish to “say thank you” to the men and women that serve in the US military. Knowing that mountain climbing was the ultimate team building activity, they went on to create a program for injured veterans called No Barriers Warriors. To date, the program has aided thousands of veterans as they struggle to rediscover a lost sense of camaraderie and fellowship.
Jeff’s love of the Himalaya and continuing desire to pay it forward sent him to Nepal with a mobile medical team following the devastating earthquake in 2014. The following year, Jeff accepted the role of Chief Medic for the highest helicopter based Search and Rescue team to ever operate…on the flanks of Mt Everest. His experiences are well documented in the Travel Channel’s hit new series, Everest Air. He continues to share his message of selfless leadership to audiences around the world and seek out the most unique challenges in the world of meaningful adventure.
Jeff continues to reside in Boulder, Colorado with the most important things in his life… his wife, Merry Beth, son Jace and dog Roka.