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MN student climbs Mount McKinley

Seventeen thousand feet up Mount McKinley in Alaska, University of Minnesota student Dean Einerson sat in the snow with a cup of soup, looking out over the tops of the clouds below. After facing high winds, freezing temperatures and storms, he found himself just below the summit of the mountain that has the highest vertical rise in the world.

"The journey to the top is always the most interesting part," Einerson said."It's something about having to overcome all of the doubts and fears of the climb."

The environmental education graduate assistant at UMD made the trip in 2008 with climbing partner and fellow UMD alumnus Matt Giambrone. When Einerson started as an undergrad at UMD, he had never climbed before. He attributes much of his transformation from novice to expert to his experiences with the UMD climbing facilities and the Recreational Sports Outdoor Program (RSOP) Fitness Center.

"Our climbing program is one of the best in the U.S.," Einerson said. "We have a world-class training and guiding faculty, and they are there to be taken advantage of."

He describes Kaija Webster, the climbing program director, as a personal mentor. Webster has shown thousands of people how to climb, and she taught Einerson a lot of important lessons about safety and perseverance.

At least twice a year, Einerson tries to make a big climbing trip to different mountains around the world. He has climbed all over North America and in Ecuador, Kenya and Central Europe, with upcoming trips planned for the Canadian Rockies and the Eiger Mountains in the Alps.

To train for difficult climbs, Einerson uses all of the resources provided at UMD and the surrounding area. The climbing wall, weight room, fitness center and track at UMD, along with the help of a personal trainer, aid him physically.

And the natural terrain of the Lake Superior's north shore couldn't be better for ice climbing practice. According to Einerson, the best ice climbing is at Orient Bay on Lake Nipigon (about 75 miles northeast of Thunder Bay, Ontario). But he warns that preparation is crucial, due to the inherent danger of climbing.

"It's important to remember the consequences of what you are doing," he said. "I have never been to Alaska when someone hadn't recently died or been seriously injured."

The next mountain on Einerson's horizon is his master's degree -- and eventually Ph.D. -- in environmental education. He is currently teaching class as part of an assistantship, and eventually he would like to teach undergraduate students full-time in outdoor education or therapeutic recreation. This spring he will teach a mountaineering course with the RSOP, and will use the snow banks in a UMD parking lot to replicate the icy sheers of a mountain. He is also studying the motivation of rock climbers.

Jordan Hanson is a communications major at UMD.