I was trolling Facebook a few weeks ago and noticed one of my friends updated his status to: “Be bold, our time is short. Flying to Seattle to attempt Mt. Rainier. 14,411 feet or bust. Thanks to my training partner Justin, whoever invented peanut butter, and most importantly, the girl waiting for me at the bottom.” When I found out Taylor Burroughs was setting out to climb Mt. Rainier, I knew I had to ask him for an interview
Taylor and I met in college where we worked together at the school gym & rec center. In college, no one in the gym asks for help – it was a really chill job and we had a lot of good times. Fast forward 5-6 years and someone who grew up on the beach set our for a snowy trek at 14,000+ ft.
Let’s move on to the interview. My questions are in bold, and Taylor’s answers are below them.
Who is Taylor Burroughs? Tell our readers something about yourself – where are you from, what do you do, etc.
Originally from Cocoa Beach, Florida I moved to Atlanta five years ago after college to work in finance. Monday – Friday I live an office life so on the weekends it is great to get outside whether it is biking, running, or drinking a beer on a patio somewhere watching college football.
How did you get into climbing / mountaineering? Is it something you started when you were young? Something you picked up later in life?
Obviously Florida isn’t known for its mountainous terrain, so I’d never really grown up with mountaineering or climbing. That said, my family did travel quite a bit on vacations and my parents did an amazing job showing my sister and I different parts of the country. I remember seeing Rainier for the first time when I was young but didn’t think much about it at the time. After college and a few years in the work force I wanted to devote some time and energy to experiencing a little more ‘randomness.’ Climbing Rainier, the same mountain I remember being in awe of as a child on vacation, was a way for me to further that philosophy of randomness.
You recently set out to climb Mt. Rainier… How did you train for such a big climb? Did you tackle smaller peaks first to build up endurance?
I’ve led a fairly active life style but never having climbed a mountain before I wanted to make sure that I was training and preparing my body the right way. Fortunately, I have a friend in Atlanta with significant mountaineering experience and after some cajoling he agreed to be my training partner the months leading up to the climb. Our training sessions consisted primarily of work with weighted packs in exercises that closely mimicked the actual motions of climbing. For us, in an urban setting like Atlanta, the vast majority of our preparation involved long sessions in the stairwell of his high-rise condo with our packs.
What were your first thoughts when you started your climb?
I’d like to be more poetic here but I actually distinctly remember initially thinking that I was going to be too hot in what I was wearing right after we left. A ‘too hot’ or ‘too cold’ debate ended up occupying some level of my consciousness pretty consistently over the next few days. When I wasn’t busy living out my own version of ‘Goldilocks’ I was usually thinking about my girlfriend, who was going to be waiting at the bottom for me, or what kind of pizza and beer I was going to order first in Seattle.
You didn’t actually make it to the summit. Was that disappointing, did it cheapen the experience?
I’m a competitive person, the first part of this question would usually make me wince, but it doesn’t. The last day, our summit push, I remember resting in my sleeping bag at Camp Muir which is at about 10,000 ft. We were supposed to sleep for a few hours and then leave to make our push around 1:00 AM. For most of us sleeping was out of the question, so there was little more to do than just lie in wait until it was time to gear up. By the time we were getting ready to go I could tell the winds had picked up significantly, it was snowing, and I knew this wasn’t going to be a picturesque day. Our guides roped us in and we started climbing, 7 or 8 hours later somewhere just under 14,000, the weather had deteriorated so much you could barely see a few feet in front of you and the winds were blowing hard. The guides decided that none of us would be summiting that day and turned around those of us remaining to climb back down to Muir. Of course we all wanted to summit, but we did everything we reasonably could, it just wasn’t meant to be that day.
A climber in another party went missing the same time you were on the mountain. Did your guides know about the missing climber? Was there an effort from your party to try and find him?
I actually didn’t know about the missing climber until after we had descended off the mountain. I doubt our guides knew either or I’m sure they would have donated time and resources as appropriate to whatever rescue operation was being undertaken. I can only imagine how difficult a search would have been given the winds and almost nonexistent visibility on the high mountain.
I heard Bigfoot loves to hang out in the Pacific Northwest – did you spot him, or any of his yeti relatives while on the mountain?
No sightings, but I’m not surprised. Given how I looked and smelled toward the end of the climb I’d steer well clear of me too.
Have you ever been in a dangerous situation while on a hike or climb where you feared for your life?
Nothing where I felt like chance of death was a real possibility. I do have a healthy respect for what I would call a minor margin for error when you are up high on a mountain but for this climb our guides were complete professionals and fostered what I felt like were the safest conditions and practices possible given what we were undertaking. That said, being in the middle of a ladder extending out over a crevasse will get just about anyone’s heart rate up.
Do you have plans to climb something bigger and badder than Rainier? K2 perhaps?
First, I’d like to actually finish climbing Rainier. I enjoyed our climb and it is something that I know I will be back to finish at some point but I’m not going to sell all my possessions and quit my job in a quest to climb some of the world’s highest peaks. K2 is on a whole different level, hats off to anyone that even attempts it, but there is plenty more randomness out there to try out and experience.
Which Last of the Mohicans character best represents you: Hawkeye, Duncan, Chingachgook, Magua or Uncas?
This is a phenomenal question. I’d have to say Hawkeye for the sole reason that he ends up with Cora Munro, the best girl, and I’ve been able to do that too.