The insider's guide to the Jerome Fisher Program at the University of Pennsylvania

To the Top of the World: Mountaineering in the U.S. and Abroad

by Matt S., M&T Class of 2016

by Matt S., M&T Class of 2016

Mount Katahdin.  Two summers ago, as a 16-year-old rising senior in high school, I began the first mountain adventure of my life.  During two months along the Appalachian Trail, I backpacked solo for 900 miles.  Climbing above tree line and the darkness of the mountains’ shadows, my lifelong mountain climbing passion was unleashed.  I started my journey in Pennsylvania and successfully trekked to the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail atop Mount Katahdin in northern Maine.  I had no showers, no running water, and—most frighteningly—no parents to save me from bloody blisters and scary encounters with mountain men.  Yet, I was a liberated trekker living in the most beautiful mountains on America’s east coast.  I could not have felt more at home. 

Along the way, I journeyed through pristine miles of exposed ridges with unobstructed views that extended all the way to Canada.  During stressful moments at Penn, I close my eyes and see vibrant memories: laughing hikers, lightning strikes in the infamous 100 Mile Wilderness, and rolling mountains extending beyond the horizon. The aura of liberation that I associate with my journey inspires me to live out each day as a free adventure in its intrinsic self.  And to my delight, I raised over $3,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation by my adventure’s conclusion.  The funds raised helped an 11-year-old girl with leukemia meet Lady Gaga.  As I fulfilled one of my wishes in the Appalachian Mountains, I was overjoyed knowing that I helped a terminally ill patient achieve one of hers.

Mount Whitney.  Last summer, I acted on my mountain desires once again.  This time, I took a train by myself across the United States to Yosemite National Park and hiked the entire John Muir Trail.  The 14,000 foot mountains of the high Sierras soared jaggedly into the sky.  I climbed and trekked for 215 remote and breath-taking miles towards the end of the trail atop Mount Whitney—the tallest peak in the continental United States.  Then, when I found myself in Europe two weeks after finishing the John Muir Trail, my thirst for the mountains was stronger than ever.  I saw a flight from Prague to Nepal for under $350 and acted on my impulse.  Three days later, I was immersed in the most spectacular mountains on Earth.  For the next month, I trekked and climbed in the Annapurna region of the Himalayan Mountains.  I ascended to altitudes above 19,000 feet, walked alongside Sherpas and mountain yak, and saw my dreams of Mount Everest come to life.

Mount Everest.  My mountaineering dreams now live atop the tallest mountain in the world.  As my freshman fall semester at Penn concludes, I am happy to say that I have absolutely enjoyed my time in Penn Engineering and Wharton.  But I am also confident about a love for mountain summits that occupies my mind every day.  My next ambitions are far more complicated than those in my previous endeavors.  Currently, I am a member of Penn’s Climbing team and am going to an ice climbing expedition in New Hampshire this January.  However, the future journey I long to take will involve much more.  If I can raise enough funds and find enough people willing to loan me the money, I plan to climb the tallest mountains in the world.  First, I am hopeful that I will be able to attend a two-month mountaineering school in Patagonia.  Then, I aspire to climb around the world in preparation for Everest.  Along the way, my goal is to join the list of 348 humans who have climbed the seven summits—a list that includes the tallest mountain on each continent.  Finally, I yearn to climb to the roof of the world in Nepal atop Mount Everest.  I am determined to find a way to make my dreams come to fruition so that I can embark on the most spectacular journey that mankind can possibly dream of on Earth.  As I review my dreams, I am concurrently determined to harness my passion so that I can continue to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  I am hopeful that I will be able to heighten the spirits of terminally ill patients with every sky-high peak that I climb.  Today, I happily continue my studies in M&T.  Tomorrow, I eagerly await the opportunity for the most unrestricted, fulfilling, and mountainous adventure of my life.

Matt is a current M&T freshman in the Class of 2016. He is considering majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics within Penn Engineering and has yet to declare his concentration in the Wharton School

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