Mike Horst – A Bucketlist Hero on top of the world

Climbing Everest encompasses everything Bucketlist stands for. It’s challenging, extreme, adventurous and above all, rewarding when you’re able to stand on top of the world – literally. We’re launching a new program focusing on the extraordinary people in our new series, Bucketlist Heroes. Our first featured member, Mike Horst, has not only conquered the beast that is Everest but is the first person in the world to reach the summit of two 8,000 meter peaks in 24 hours – more about that later. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Mike to talk about

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Image from http://www.alpineascents.com/horst.asp

his incredibly inspiring life and we’re honored to share some of his remarkable stories.

Who is Mike Horst?

Growing up in the Puget Sound, it’s no wonder that Mike fell in love with the mountains at a young age; to the west are the Olympic Mountains and to the East are the great Cascade Mountain Range. Now Mike is an accomplished climber calling Squamish, BC his home with his lovely and supportive wife Cassie and 2 year old son Cassidy. Mike works for a variety of guide services assisting climbers, and dreamers alike to reach summits of the worlds most beautiful mountains with Alpine Ascents International.

What was the first mountain you climbed? 

“One of the first mountains I climbed – or tried to climb – was Mt. Constance out in the Olympic Mountains, and I was 8 years old and my dad and brother were up for it, and we started the steep hike and approach. We didn’t make it anywhere near the summit because I was just so scared that I was crying and had to humbly ask my dad and brother if they’d be okay to not climb the mountain that day. And they realized they maybe had me bite off more than I could chew and we all went down. A couple years I went back as a young teenager with a couple of friends, and made it to the top. And I was really excited to, one have tried previously and not made it and come back years later and made it to the top. You can try a climb once, and learn a lot about it and come back more prepared and have success and an enjoyable time.”

After that Mike got more and more into climbing, from the boy scouts, to climbing peaks with his highschool friends. In university, Mike discovered that people could actually make money off of mountain guiding, and decided to pursue it as a career.

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Everest

When people think bucket lists, Everest almost always comes to mind. Could you share a little more about your Everest experience, what was it like the first time you reached the highest point in the world? 

“My first experience on Everest was a bit unique as I was hired to guide it. I had experience on other peaks in other 8000m peaks in the Himalayas and had been working as a mountain guide for around 10 years. I went there with Alpine Ascents International as one of their guides. And it was amazing, it was everything I hoped it was – a very busy place –  but still really

enjoyable. The terrain you climb through is absolutely spectacular, going up through the Khumbu icefall is exhilarating and beautiful. The summit ridge is absolutely spectacular, straddling the highest terrain on the planet between China and Nepal and climbing up as the sun rises, and as many teams progress up and down the mountain, is an experience I will cherish forever.”

What is the biggest mistake you see people make when taking on Everest?

“It can be underestimated, even though it is a challenging goal, and people realize that, still folks will show up slightly under-prepared physically and or maybe they haven’t done enough research as they should in terms of the appropriate gear to take with them or services to hire. Certainly the success rate on Everest goes up when someone chooses to hire an experienced guide or guide team to take on Everest.”

What does a training regiment look like to tackle Everest – properly? 

“You want to be physically fit, and have a certain amount of strength and power, but most importantly – on the physical side of things – you want to have a certain amount of endurance. A high cardio output and the ability to go for hours on end. Beyond the physical side of things you must have a certain level of mental fortitude to endure and enjoy – hopefully – the process of working hard on the mountain for that many days. People often see the summit as the end of the journey, and people make the mistake of letting their guard down mentally and their body

physically, which is dangerous for the decent. What we work really hard to do is to prepare people for the duration of the entire endurance, the 65 days of climbing and trekking. On summit days specifically, to realize that the climb is to the top and back to our tent that day, and that getting to the summit is only the half-way point of the day.”

How does a person get mentally ready for a challenge like Everest? 

“The best training for climbing is climbing mountains, getting out as often as you can to work your body and exercise your mind and realize better systems and better ways for you to work towards that goal.”

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What’s it like being on top of a mountain like Everest? 

I find it to be greatly humbling and inspirational at the same time. To see the curve of the earth from the top of a mountain, and to watch the sun rise from the highest point is absolutely magnificent and inspiring. Also reminds us of how small we are in comparison to all the other things that are going on and the natural beauty of the world. The summit is an amazing place to be, but it’s the journey for me, from the planning and preparation before the climb, to the mountain, becomes the soul of the climb and the reason why I am there.”

Thousands of our members have “to climb Everest” or even just “Climb a mountain” as goals they hope to achieve in their life. For first time climbers, what’s your biggest advice in getting started?

“First look online, there a quite of few guide services that are very informative, like Alpine Ascents International. Mike Hamill wrote a guide book to the seven summits, called Climbing the Seven Summits a really nice read on the 7 highest peaks on earth. And finally, find individuals who have some experience on the mountain, and use them as a resource.”

Do you have any advice for first time climbers who want to get into climbing but don’t know where to start? 

“One of my first recommendations is to hire a guide with a lifetime dedicated to teaching, and helping people learn climbing and techniques on going into the mountain and back safely.”

Tell us about the day you summitted two 8000 meter peaks in one day? To any one of us mortals, climbing everest peak would be more than a challenge. Did you set out to break the world record? 

“I didn’t think anyone had summitted two 8,000 meter peaks in a day, but it wasn’t until I confirmed with Liz Holly who manages the data-base for the Himalayan peaks after the climb that I confirmed it. It all started a few years ago when I saw a picture on my friend fridge from the summit of Cho Oyu where I later ended up climbing and have taken a very similar picture since, and as you look 25 miles from Cho Oyu towards Everest you see those peaks aren’t so far apart. And it was looking at that picture on my friends refrigerator that I thought it would be amazing to climb one, come back down, and then climb the other in somewhat of a single push.”

Since you’ve summitted most of the worlds most magnificent and challenging mountains,  What is your favorite mountain to climb?

” You know I’ve climbed some of the most spectacular mountains in the world, and I’ve been asked that question a few times, and honestly I really don’t have a favorite mountain. The mountain that I’m on becomes my favorite mountain.”

If you’re feeling inspired to tackle your own mountain add one of these goals to your bucket list today! And check out Mike’s bucket list here.

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Sara Ruthnum

Sara is the marketing and community outreach coordinator for Bucketlist.org. She is passionate about all things travel, culture and sports, and is excited to start knocking off some of her bucket list dreams in the near future. Connect with Sara by emailing sara@bucketlist.org or linkedin.com/in/sararuthnum. Check out Sara's bucket list here http://bucketlist.org/list/sara.ruthnum/