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  • Writer's picturelevilivedbig

American Alpine Club & Rainier - Blake Batchelor

I met Levi through the AAC OKC. I remember he and Daniel Schuerch were helping start a local chapter and I jumped on the fledgling board. It was incredible meeting a group of local guys that liked getting out into the big mountains. Joining this group that Levi helped jumpstart had a massive impact on my life.

Within a year, we had all planned a big trip to summit Mt. Rainier (2018). Out of all the mountains I've done, this one is still the foggiest in my memory. I flew out late night to meet Levi, Daniel, Elisha, and Cruz. With the delayed flight, I think I got 2 hours of sleep before we started hiking that next day!

That was the first big mountain trip I had been on with strangers. I remember immediately becoming friends with Levi. He wasn't a complete type A like many other climbers and was easy to get along and joke with.

We both were struggling mighty by the end of the first day. After a long, cold night, we both started slow, hanging in the back the next day. A few miles in he surprised us by wanting to turn around. I remember considering joining him and not feeling comfortable leaving our partner behind. But I was the less-experience one and didn't speak up.

I somehow made it to the top with Daniel, Elisha, & Cruz. I faintly remember also asking to turn around and them telling me no I was too late haha. I hid in a warm volcanic vent in the summit crater while the others hiked the remaining 100' to the actual peak.

As we hiked down, reality set in that we didn't know if Levi had made it off the mountain. We descended the DC route, as opposed to the Kautz glacier which he had ascended. Daniel notified a ranger at camp that Levi had turned back solo. It quickly became apparent that Levi might not have reported back at the base yet!!

The short story of what happened was that Levi had been socked in by a snow storm and bivied an extra night, alone on Mt. Rainier. This was an incredible wilderness story that Levi experienced and not many knew about. When Daniel, Elisha, and Cruz went out to find him the next day, he was in great spirits and without injury. I was laid up waiting in the hotel because of how beat up I was.

There for a month or so I laughed at how rough Rainier was for me. I tried to take comfort that I wasn't the only one that struggled, wondering why Levi turned around instead of pushing through. We got that answer soon enough. Levi was diagnosed with Adrenal cancer shortly after our Rainier trip. We were talking later about our struggles, and Levi told me that day on Rainier was one of the moments that his body told him something was wrong. So, this guy had actually had cancer on the hike, climbed half of Mt. freaking Rainier, and survived a night solo on the glacier. The fortitude and toughness Levi had is something inspirational that always stuck with me.

I went and ran 36 miles up Sunlight Peak in Colorado the day after I learned of Levi's passing. I already had it planned, but doubt had been creeping in whether I could safely do it. I thought of Levi a lot during my summit. I found that inner strength. Since we all met in the AAC, so much has happened. The outdoors will always play such a big part in how I experience and celebrate life. Levi definitely had an impact me. I look forward to continue celebrating him and my other friends by not letting a day pass where I'm not appreciative to be out there getting after it, whether its doing a big hike or being the best, husband/person I can be.

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