BeWild: An Interview with Brendan Leonard

The Mountaineers, adidas outdoor, and Outdoor Research are pleased to present Brendan Leonard as part of the BeWild Speaker Series on May 19. We sat down with him this week to learn more about his new book and what you can expect at his May 19 talk.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
May 10, 2016

The Mountaineers, adidas outdoor, and Outdoor Research are pleased to present Brendan Leonard on May 19. We sat down with him this week to understand what he hopes people get from his book, and his talk.

[Mountaineers]:In a recent Gear Junkie review, the reviewer noted that Sixty Meters “is not a climbing book.” Do you have a preference about how people read your memoir – as a book about recovery from alcoholism, a book that answers “Why climb?,” or a book about finding your identity in life?

[Brendan]: I hope there's something in there for everyone, and any of those three things would be fine with me. I think I always hoped it was a story that would help people in some way, and if someone reads it and feels like they got that, then it was worth me writing (and living) it.

My friend Forest, who shot the photo that's on the cover of the book, just wrote me and said it inspired him to "think more honestly," and I like that idea the best. I think we have a lot of ways to avoid dealing with our feelings nowadays, and alcohol was one of those methods for me. But even if you don't have a substance abuse problem, you (and I) have a lot of other things we use to escape being sad or bored or lonely or anxious: food, television, constantly checking our phones for social media updates, even constructing lives that feel "busy." So I hope the book does what Forest said for a lot of people, and when they set it down, they can honestly ask themselves, "how do I really feel?" And take steps to figure out what makes them happy. Because it's a constant battle for all of us, whatever our choice of distraction.

[Mountaineers]: You recently urged outdoor enthusiasts to talk with their representatives about protecting our public lands. Do you think we can make being an advocate for public lands as much a part of the “outdoors lifestyle” as sporting the gear that goes with it -- the plaid shirts, down jackets and roof racks?

[Brendan]: Well, that would be incredible. I would say hunters and anglers have a much bigger reputation for conservation, and it would be great if climbers, hikers, mountain bikers, paddlers, and skiers could equal that presence. I grew up in Iowa, a place with very little public land, and my entire life after leaving the Midwest depended on public access to mountains, deserts, and rivers. I can't imagine who I would be now if I didn't have national parks, national forests, and other public lands to explore. I think freedom to roam is worth fighting for. What can people coming to your to your talk on May 19 expect? I call the show "motivational stand-up comedy"—the show parallels the arc of the book, but it's almost entirely different material, and told in a less serious manner. Since it's in front of a live audience, it's intended to inspire the folks in attendance to relate the story to their own story, immediately.

The first time I did the show, a few people in the crowd took photos of the final five slides in the presentation, which is what I was hoping would happen—that they'd take the message with them. Ahem, I mean "fun." It will be fun. Please buy a ticket, show up, and be prepared to laugh. 

Join Brendan May 19

Seattle Program Center | 7pm

When Brendan Leonard moved to the West at age 23, he was a mess. He had a tenuous grip on sobriety, only six months after his last drink had landed him in yet another jail cell. It was the final mistake in a long list that included multiple arrests, wrecked cars, broken bones, fistfights, and ruined relationships. In Montana, he took his first steps into the Rocky Mountains, unwittingly beginning a decade-long obsession with climbing and a journey that would take him all over the West and Europe. Written with unflinching honesty and vulnerability, his new memoir Sixty Meters to Anywhere comes from a barstool storyteller who left the bar and found adventure, redemption, and a life that almost never happened.

Brendan is the founder of Brendan is also contributing editor at Climbing, Adventure Journal, and The Dirtbag Diaries. His stories have appeared in Backpacker, National Geographic Adventure, Outside, Men’s Journal, Sierra, Adventure Cyclist, and other publications. Brendan's BeWild appearance is supported by Outdoor Research.

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