Impact Giving | One Good Idea, Many Great Adventures

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, we talk to Gavin Woody about his personal goals and why he's at the forefront of our adventure-based, peer-to-peer fundraiser called Our Parks | Your Adventure.
Mary Hsue Mary Hsue
Former Director of Development
August 27, 2019

A climb-a-thon. Now, that’s an idea. I can’t take all the credit though. Gavin Woody was president of the board in 2012 when he asked me if I’d thought about doing some sort of climb-a-thon as a fundraiser to give members a fun way to support our new youth programs. This made sense as Mountaineers put in a lot of vertical feet all year round, but at the time I had just completed my first year as director for a new development program. We were already in early-stage planning for our next “first ascent,” a fundraising dinner in 2013 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jim Whittaker’s historic summit of Mt. Everest.

Fast forward to 2016 and Gavin’s idea makes sense in a big way.

Over the course of four years, Gavin maintained his commitment to The Mountaineers through sustaining support as a major donor, serving as immediate past president of the board, and as a current member of the advisory council. He also paved the way for an adventure-based fundraiser.

In typical Mountaineers-fashion, Gavin took initiative and helped raise funds for our youth programs. This gave his training regimen and adventure goals a meaningful community impact.

In August 2012, Gavin and a few of his business school buddies represented the United States in one of the most demanding ultra-runs in the world – the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). With an average altitude of 6,000 feet and 31,000 feet of climbing, the UTMB is a 104-mile, non-stop adventure run around Mont Blanc, touching France, Italy, and Switzerland. Thanks to the support of his personal and professional networks, Gavin raised $5,000 for youth programs.

Then, Gavin, a glutton for personal challenge, West Point grad, retired Army Ranger, Ironman triathlete, and ultra-marathon runner did it again in September 2013. He rallied his network to raise $5,000 for youth programs while training for his most ambitious adventure yet — an attempt to run the 221-mile John Muir Trail (JMT) from the Mount Whitney Portal to Yosemite Valley. That’s an average altitude of over 9,000 feet and a total elevation gain over 46,000 feet. Unsupported.

While Gavin and his teammates successfully completed the UTMB in 2012, Gavin – showing his mere mortal side – stopped short of achieving his JMT run goal. After three-and-a-half days, 160 miles and 31,000 total feet of climbing on just two-and-ahalf hours sleep, he decided to call it quits. “I’ve never quit anything before, so this was a new experience I’m still grappling with,” said Gavin. “But I do know it has made me hungrier than ever to complete this trail AND to dream up even bigger adventures. While I’m disappointed I didn’t make it the full 221 miles, I learned a lot out there and pushed myself harder than I ever have before.”

This year, he gets his chance and he’s dreaming big. As The Mountaineers celebrates its 110-year anniversary and the 100- year anniversary of the National Parks Service, it’s fitting to launch another “first ascent.” We’re thrilled to have Gavin at the forefront of our adventure-based, peer-to-peer fundraiser called Our Parks | Your Adventure from July 1 – September 5.

The Mountaineers legacy is rooted in bold adventurers who wore the first skis on Mt. Rainier, paddled whitewater in Olympic National Park and claimed first ascents in the North Cascades, One Good Idea Many Great Adventures by Mary Hsue, Mountaineers Director of Development Gavin Woody, at the start of his John Muir Trial Run, by Mount Whitney. Photo by Gavin Woody www.mountaineers.org 41 Hike, Paddle, Climb, Discover, Hike, Paddle, Climb, Discover, Connect. making our National Parks an important part of our history. As we look to the next 100 years, we recognize that we are at a critical point in ensuring the protection of our National Parks and public lands and waterways. These days, less youth are getting outside, making our work to connect youth to the outdoors more important than ever.

I sat down with Gavin after an advisory council meeting to talk about his motivation for adventure and passion for The Mountaineers efforts to give youth, especially the underserved, outdoor experiences.

What inspired you to suggest an adventure-based fundraiser?

I love adventure and I love planning and training and executing adventures. The element of committing to something and putting hard work to see it through makes for a healthy body and a healthy mind. Also, with adventure goals, it’s really not as much what you’ve accomplished as where you came from. I would like to inspire a fellow member to choose an adventure based on what’s challenging to the individual.

Why are you passionate about youth programs?

As a father of two young kids, I want to see them experience challenge in the outdoors. I know how beneficial it was to my development. But, even before I had kids I wanted this for all kids because you can’t protect something you don’t love or experience. At The Mountaineers we’re in a perfect position to engage young people who will be our next leaders. This is important for a number of reasons. First it’s good for the individual. Second, it’s good for our natural landscapes to create opportunities for youth to connect with the outdoors. And finally, for The Mountaineers it will be the way for us to maintain relevancy as we look to the next 100 years of Mountaineers and National Parks.

What was your first big adventure?

Climbing Mt. Whitney in California as a child. I remember looking down on the deep blue water of Guitar Lake from the footpath leading to the summit. I was on the final stretch of a weeklong, 50-mile backpacking trip with my Boy Scout troop. I was 12 years-old and exhausted, but to this day I will never forget the exhilaration and anticipation of reaching the summit. The experience left an indelible mark. In fact, it was fun to think back on that climb 25 years later when I ran the JMT. Summiting Whitney was just the beginning of my journey.

What are your adventure and challenge goals?

I’ve committed to raise $5,000 while training for something big in Mt. Rainier National Park. I’m still in the planning stages and won’t be ready to announce my adventure goal just yet.

How did you choose your adventure?

I like situations that require different types of skills, like technical, fitness, logistical planning, and preparation. I also like to choose something that’s relatable to people — for example, everyone out here has some connection to Mt. Rainier, even if it’s just seeing the mountain on their drive to work every day. So they can be inspired to explore and connect with it in some way.

Why should people choose to sign up for an adventure?

Everyone can have an adventure. Whether it’s your first Century ride or first 5.8 on natural rock. It all depends on where you’re starting from. It enriches your life professionally and personally. Why not raise funds to get kids outside at the same time?


This article originally appeared in our summer 2016 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.


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