It is a gift and a journey that I’m just beginning, and it is my hope that Ascending Descending will make quality products that help you remember your journey and carry on the gift of the joy you’ve had in the mountains surrounded by the beauty that is around us all.
Here’s how it all started:
Pretty powerful words and they were literally in front of me in giant letters in the most “serendipitous” of times.
In that moment, I just got excited thinking that these words meant this idea would prove to take off and do well. But I think I was still thinking too small.
I wondered and asked myself, “How big?” and “What dreams?” and “What do you mean?”
All the answers to that I do not have, but what I do know is that I’ve been given the gift of an amazing adventure. I received an invitation that day to “come and see” what Ascending Descending could be.
So what is Ascending Descending? It IS a gift. It’s a journey that I’m just beginning, and hopefully without me getting in the way, it will become a reflection of an amazing loving creator who makes beautiful things and restores them to even greater beauty when they break.
Don’t worry, I am not going to start preaching here, but there is a story to share.
After years of atheism, I had some miraculous life changing events that truly began to change everything for me. And throughout this change, my eyes were reopened to the amazing beauty around us. I began to spend more and more time in nature. A passion grew in me to go, to hike, to wander, to camp, to gaze at the stars, and to run. I began to run on trails, which led to running hills and then canyons and mountains, and after some initial struggle and some painful races, I began to find great joy in the work of the vertical gain followed by the fun of the descent.
I was blessed with hiking and running and cycling, both in races and in tours in the mountains of Washington, Northern California, and Western Colorado, through the canyons in Utah and Arizona and even in the French Pyrenees. I was blessed to stand on the summits, the canyon rims and the canyon floors, to take in the vast beauty of our surroundings, and to find a sense of joy from the vertical work required to get to these places was truly amazing.
Two years ago, I came to Leadville wanting to run a “bigger one”. Drawn by the legacy of this mining town’s running history, the altitude, the mountains and the bigger distance, I embarked on my first 50 miler at the 2015 Silver Rush 50. After months of training, plagued with sickness and a tendon injury that might have kept me from going all 50 miles, I came to the starting line that chilly July morning. The day was gorgeous. The air was cool and thin for a low lander coming from Austin, Texas. The mountains were amazing and I was excited to be running through them, talking to people on the course, seeing my friends at aid stations along the way, but still all the time wondering if my injury would flare up and stop my day short. I remember the joy I had at the halfway point as I was ahead of the pace I thought I could do, then the joy at reaching mile 32, which was the farthest I had ever gone in a single run. Then still wary of a possible tendon blow up that could end it all, I was gifted with the realization that with 14 miles to the finish I still had 7 hours on the clock and that I could walk and still make it to the finish line before the cut off. I was actually going to be able to finish my first 50 miler in the mountains. And then to cross the finish line faster than I thought I could was icing on the cake. It all added up to an amazing day, one that would bring me back again.
On that same trip, I felt the pulling of the mountains, a desire to stand on the summits all around this beautiful little town that was growing on me more and more each day.
I also felt drawn to the work of Peter Frykholm of Precision Peaks and his beautiful and detailed carvings of all the 14’ers. I spent many moments in City on a Hill a local coffee shop on Harrison Avenue, enjoying the atmosphere, getting my iced coffee fix, and admiring Peter’s work. Gazing at the wall with all the peaks and canyons and ski slopes fueled my desire to want to hike the 14’ers more and then to take home something to remember them by. Unfortunately, at that time I had to get back home to work and so there were no summit hikes for me on that first trip to America’s highest incorporated city.
I came back to Leadville again in 2016 to run the 50 again and to try and get into the 100. I also came back to stand on one of the summits and to take back one of Peter’s creations. Little did I know that the joy to be in and on the mountains would prove to be too ambitious for me before the race.
Being a little over-confident in my training and a little naïve to the effort even a shorter and simpler 14’er hike would take, I set out on the North Ridge Trail to Mt. Elbert’s Summit on my first day in Leadville that year. It was a beautiful day, clear, sunny, and cool. It felt good to get the body moving and the lungs working. What a great way to start my acclimating, I thought. The people I saw on the trail were in great spirits, conversation was good and the views got more and more beautiful the higher I got.
I was thankful for the day and offered up a few prayers of thanks as I hiked. I was feeling great taking it all in, stopping here and there to look out into the vast beauty of the distant ranges beyond and lakes below. I felt a divine joy as I experienced everything around me.
Then as I got to the last thousand vertical feet or so, I had the thought that this was actually becoming a little more work than I was hoping for, four days before the race. But I didn’t dwell on that, setting that thought aside I traversed up through the rock field towards the summit. I was quickly back to admiring the views and trying to keep myself from being blown off the mountain! The wind was crazy up there that day.
Through the rocks, over the false summits and past the encouraging voices, “You’re almost there!” I arrived on top.
The view was incredible and the immediate sight of the cross on top struck my heart, a loving reminder of His love for us and a gentle nudging that there just might be more going on here in my choice of summiting Mt. Elbert than I was currently aware of.
After much time sitting, being, taking it all in, as well as the obligatory photos with the gently-used communal cardboard sign “Mt. Elbert 14,439’” I headed back down.
What followed was three more days of wanting to “take it all in” and still being over-confident in my training I spent time on my feet in ways I probably shouldn’t have before the race.
Then came race day. And after another amazing start, excited to experience it all again, things began to go downhill, no pun intended, and I think we were actually still climbing not descending yet. After two aid stations with cheering friends, I got to mile 14 and my legs were done. They were fried. I couldn’t believe it. Every muscle in my legs just felt like noodles. I couldn’t run the uphills, couldn’t run the flats, and could barely even run the downhills.
Over the next 4 miles, I processed my options and emotions around the idea of continuing or stopping, how that would feel, what that would look like. Periodically I tested myself to see if I could run again and I couldn’t. I had a lot of emotions to deal with during those four miles.
But I eventually came to peace with the fact that that day just wasn’t my day to finish and after getting myself to the halfway point I took my first ever DNF (did not finish). While I had peace around this, it was still a hard thing for me to walk away with.
A few weeks later, back in the Texas Hill Country out on the trails for my morning run, thoughts of Leadville, Mt. Elbert, and my race kept coming back to me. I remembered the joy I experienced in my first year out there at the race and was beating myself up a bit for the choices I made this second time that led to the DNF. But then farther down the trail the thoughts of my time on Mt. Elbert came back. I replayed the events of my morning hike to the summit, and I realized I was truly thankful for that time, even if it cost me the race. Then I thought about the other peaks out there that I’d like to hike and maybe even run someday. And then the image of Peter’s carvings came to mind, and I imagined his joy of living in and around these peaks and crafting beautiful pieces for others to remember their journeys on the mountains.
“I wish I could do that,” I found myself thinking next.
“What if you could?” answered back.
Over the next couple weeks on my Saturday runs, more ideas came about the mountains, visions of shirts and design ideas. Thoughts of printing on multiple parts of the shirt, using the mountain’s elevation value as a signature element, images and text and layouts came to mind. So I started playing around in Photoshop on the weekends and mocking up ideas.
The next week out on the trail I heard the question, “If you’re going to do this, what are you going to call it?” What is it going to be about?” My first thought was, “That I want it to acknowledge and honor you, God.” I didn’t really have any answers beyond that, no brilliant ideas of a company name or mission statement so to speak.
But the more time I spent on the trails the more ideas just came to me. It’s been an amazing journey for me in the last season of my life. It’s been a journey that brought me back to faith after years of atheism and not so great choices in life. I was blessed with so many crazy miraculous God moments and experiences, as well as a growing appreciation of the beauty of Scripture.
As I ran one day, different scriptures kept coming to mind. And at the end of that run, Jesus’ words as recorded by the apostle John stayed with me. “You will see greater things than that…very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Over the next week, I played around with that scripture, I was really drawn to the words “ascending” and “descending”, they seemed so perfect for this endeavor. Internet searches showed me these words were available as a business name so I immediately purchased the domain names and began playing around with logo ideas. The final logo design I’ve ended up with is loosely based on a USGS survey marker and presents the letters “A” and “D” as a signature of the name Ascending Descending.
The following weekend as I ran the trails, I thought back on the work I had done, the visions given to me, the really cool design mock-ups I had, the scriptures, the experiences on the mountains, the success and the failures, and I realized how beautiful this whole Ascending Descending venture was becoming. Then in a moment that caught me off guard I realized that my logo and company name not only related to the joy in the beauty of God’s amazing creation as well as literally going up and down the mountains, but that this logo also was symbolic of my faith journey. My logo had become a symbol literally marking me with an “A.D.” which represents the transformation in my own life from unbelief and brokenness “Before Christ” to one of forgiveness, restoration, and true life “After Christ” or Anno Domini.
I wonder what’s next… little did I know how much that first trip to Leadville would lead to an invitation for more, an invitation that I am just beginning to step into.
My faith journey experience over the last 12 years has shown me time and time again that this invitation to more is always the way of God. He’s always a god of more, more than we can imagine and more than we deserve. I believe there are big dreams to be realized as I begin to dive into Ascending Descending and I’m looking forward to this journey!
Thank you for reading all this. I just want to take a moment to say that even though my faith experience is the driving force behind Ascending Descending, if you believe differently than me please know Ascending Descending will not push my beliefs on you. I will just be honest with what I’ve experienced. I’m always open to discuss ideas and beliefs. If you do believe similarly I’d love to hear your faith stories.
I also simply hope that Ascending Descending will make quality products that help you remember your journey and carry on the joy you’ve had in the mountains surrounded by the beauty that is around us all.