Mountains, Rivers and Rapids, Oh My! The Path to ‘Be First’ for Summit to Sea.
In the life of Jesse Shimrock, mountains, rivers and rapids are all in a day’s work.
Hailing from Deep Creek Lake, Md., Shimrock spent his life outdoors. His parents were outdoor enthusiasts and shared the love of activity with their son. From an early age, Shimrock lived life under the sky, in the grass and beneath the water.
Shimrock’s freshman year of high school started his career in the rivers. His wrestling coach encouraged him to try whitewater kayaking to improve his wrestling skills and sold him equipment for $150.
“Kayaking requires massive upper body strength and hip movement,” said Shimrock. “And kayaking is three-dimensional, like wrestling.”
Not only did kayaking build Shimrock’s wrestling and athletic skills, but his confidence and reaction times as well.
Throughout high school, Shimrock continued to wrestle and kayak. However, when along came college, so did a decision. Although he received a full scholarship to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., for wrestling, Shimrock would have to forgo kayaking because Arizona did not have the environment for it. In the end, he chose wild and wonderful West Virginia University. With its scenic mountains and white rapid rivers, he could not resist the allure West Virginia’s outdoors gave him.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in marketing in 2004, Shimrock was granted a sponsorship from First Decent to “Be First.” Be First is a sponsorship available from Eddie Bauer to those who wish to do something that has never be done before.
Shimrock’s goal: to be the first ever to climb Mt. McKinley in Alaska and kayak its rivers to sea. During the 32 days of climbing and paddling, there were challenges and dangers.
Climbing any mountain, let alone the tallest in the United States, becomes exponentially more difficult as elevation rises. The air thins and cools, and breathing becomes difficult. On the final day of climbing, Shimrock climbed eight hours before he could feel his toes, but couldn’t save his nose from frostbite. And another team member fell into a crevice in the snow, but was uninjured.
Kayaking down the mountain did not get any easier. Finding places to sleep where grizzly bears would not find them was difficult, but nothing compared to the final day in Shimrock’s expedition. The Cook Inlet in Anchorage, Ala., has the second highest tide changes in the world. This made navigating extremely difficult because in matter of six hours, the water could drop 30 feet and bottom the kayaks or sweep them out to sea.
After completing one of his many goals, Shimrock looks to the future with Be First. He believes he can make a few more dreams come true through the program, but is working as a rock climbing and kayak guide in the West until that comes.
Shimrock suggests everyone to read “Freedom of Hills.” He believes it is the “bible for outdoors,” and everyone should read it before they step foot on a mountain.
“Leave your ego at home, because the environment won’t show you any mercy,” he explained.
- This story is by Alicia Ann Elkin, a public relations senior at WVU’s P.I. Reed School of Journalism.