But It's Not About the Summit; It's the Climb to the Summit That Matters Most
Navigating between multiple sports is challenging in a time when kids are asked to specialize in one sport over others and commit the calendar year to each. Is it possible to be fully dedicated to more than one sport? Do sports in today’s environment mutually exclude each other?
Jordan Dickinson is just one of many Eastside FC players balancing their time among multiple sports. Jordan, who plays on Quinn Grisham’s Eastside FC B06 Grey, loves soccer. He also loves climbing mountains. Playing for a premier soccer team and climbing peaks above the timberline require focus, dedication and lots of training time.
“Increased physical and mental fitness are benefits of both soccer and climbing. In mountaineering, there’s so much going on that it’s vital to have a clear picture of the plan, the people involved and technically know how to get past obstacles, “ says Brian Dickinson, a U.S. Navy Veteran and Jordan’s dad. “This transfers to the soccer field in having the ability to think a little bit differently when it comes to soccer IQ and attacking obstacles from a different perspective.”
With a dad like his, it’s no wonder Jordan has been able to find time to do both sports. Brian began his passion for climbing after he climbed Mt. Rainier (elev. 14,411’) for the first time in 2008.
“From there I put a plan in place to travel the world and climb the highest peaks of the seven continents, including an unplanned solo summit of Mount Everest in 2011,” he said.
You read that right…an unplanned solo summit of the world’s most desired yet most unattainable peak. Unplanned, solo – the words resonate in the mind and the images they convey are slightly shocking, almost unbelievable, until you know more about him. Brian served in the U.S. Navy with the AIR Rescue Swimmer/Combat Search and Rescue Unit and served two tours in the Gulf. If anyone is the type to attempt a climb up Mt. Everest unplanned and alone, it would be this guy.
“We’re all wired differently and at a young age I realized I was inspired by the entire process of climbing mountains; from planning, training, climbing and the reflection of the adventure.”
It is this passion for adventure, the excitement that climbing brings that was passed down to his children, Emily and Jordan, both of whom began climbing at an early age. Back then, the kids were easily motivated to hike with their parents through good snacks and great story telling during the hikes. Although, according to his dad, Jordan didn’t ever need much coaxing. Kind and respectful, he’s a self-motivated, quiet leader says his Eastside FC Coach, Quinn Grisham.
“Jordan is great to have on the team because he is fun and sociable but still focused. When other kids are goofing around Jordan is on track and focused and so he really helps raise the level in training every session, " says Coach Quinn.
Jordan’s first climbs were on Tiger Mountain, Little Si and Rattlesnake Ledge - perfect starter hikes that are a little challenging, but not so much the defeat the morale, said Brian. And, Jordan’s first summits weren’t “summits” but multi-day expeditions on larger mountains where the family made good decisions to turn back before reaching the summit as the trek became more and more challenging, said Brian.
“When they wanted to turn back, I made sure to encourage them a little further, but not so much that it made for a bad experience. In the end, it’s never about reaching the summit. It’s about having a fun experience and increasing their perceived baseline of what they’re capable of achieving,” he explains.
Jordan’s climbs grew naturally out of his father’s quest to summit the “Seven Summits” – the highest peaks of the seven continents. Mt. Kosciusko, elev. 7,310’, the highest peak in Australia, has a relatively easier terrain and was one of the seven peaks that the family could climb together. The level of difficulty of the climb was not too high so the Dickinsons didn’t train specifically for the peak. Instead, their training consisted of regular hikes in the Cascades around home. At just seven years old, Jordan reached the peak of Mt. Kosciusko and then back down – an eight-mile roundtrip hike – without any problem and at that point, Brian knew his son was ready to train for more challenging climbs.
As we all know far too well, if it were easy, we’d all be doing it. Which is why maybe many of us have never attempted true mountaineering – especially under the age of 10. Summiting a mountain is never a sure thing. There are many obstacles to overcome and variables that can derail even the most well-planned climbs. A year after his summit of Mt. Kosciusko, Jordan and his dad set out to climb Oregon’s Mt. Adams knowing that it would not be easy but enticed by the challenge of it.
“I remember Jordan (then eight years old) pushing through high on Mount Adams in the middle of the night, not wanting to turn back but succumbing to altitude sickness. His relentless attitude was forever etched in my memory as I told him we had reached our personal summit.”
The father-son duo then climbed a large rock overlooking the rising sun to take in the moment before heading back down.
“He was proud of his accomplishment, but immediately wanted to get back to attempt it again," said Brian, everso amazed at the resliency of his son.
This summer, father and son set their sights on Mt. Whitney, a 14k peak, difficult but not as hazardous at Mt. Rainier so a much better opportunity for a young climber to experience. Knowing that Jordan was both physically and mentally strong, Brian knew he was ready.
“I’ve seen him power through other climbs where I would have turned him back if he asked, but he’s been pretty determined in the past, “ acknowledged Brian. “So, based on his past performance and resume of climbs, I felt he was ready.”
Unfortuantely, Jordan didn’t quite reach his goal of the summit. Getting to high camp was difficult, says Jordan. It was a seven-mile trek with a heavy pack in 100-degree temperatures. On summit day, Jordan experienced altitude sickness at just under 13,000’.
“I didn’t want to turn back”, he assures. “But my dad made me, which was probably the right choice.”
Jordan says he enjoys the challenge mountain climbing brings him and the bonus of traveling all over the world seeing different places and cultures. The parts he doesn’t like?
“The areas that are too steep for sleeping. I have a hard time sleeping on mountains,” he explains.
According to Jordan, among the many similarities between mountain climbing and playing soccer, two stand out to him: both sports strengthen your legs and get you in shape. Training for one ultimately helps him with the other. And both take practice. For a soccer player, it means diligently attending practice and being deliberate in training, being coachable and applying in a game situation what your learn during training. For a mountain climber, the above also applies – planning and practicing on local hikes instead of a pitch. In general, for either sport, training works best if it’s part of daily life. Endurance and strength built over time – time spent on local peaks carrying a weighted pack, time on the field committing drills to muscle memory. In climbing, however, there’s not as many chances to apply all the training. Most likely a climber will experience one major climb a year but train all year for it. But then again, each individual climb is long with many factors involved. Mountain climbing brings with it many variables that could be the difference between life and death: unpredictable weather and mountain conditions, topography, decreased oxygen and altitude sickness and other climbers.
“It’s better to be miserable down here than up there,” Brian acknowledges. “With climbing you put a lot of time and physical effort into training. The actual climb is the test and if all conditions align, then you get to stand on top.”
Often overlooked is that the summit isn’t ever the end – it’s actually more like halftime. There’s still the other way down.
“It’s the halfway point, “ Brian points out. “ Halfway means that you still have to get back down. Most accidents occur on the descent due to exhaustion and the heat of the day warming up on the glacier, “ said Brian. “My greatest sense of fulfillment is when I reach the parking lot, safely off the mountain.”
In the span of a few short years, Jordan has climbed on Mts. Rainier, Adams, Daniel, Snow King, and recently Mt. Whitney. While Jordan and his sister have had amazing opportunities to climb on several impressive peaks, it’s because his parents have created the opportunities.
“Kids always amaze me at their ability to overcome obstacles. The biggest challenge is getting kids there, since there’s plenty of alternatives with technology, “ said Brian. “As parents, we’ve been disciplined with them about not having devices and limiting video games. The healthy alternative it to get outside and discover the amazing world we live in.”
With no specific climbs planned in the near future, Jordan says they will spend the winter camping in the snow and climb next Spring and Summer, destinations to be determined. His ultimate climb? To climb in Antartica one day. Notice Jordan doesn’t necessarily use words such as “summit” or make it to the top. Instead, his focus is more about the process of the climb. A fact that his dad makes clear from the start.
“One thing I’ve learned over time is it’s not about the summit, it’s about he experience and living to climb another day, “ said Brian. “I always want to instill that in my children as it’ll make them stronger humans, not backing down from a challenge but having the ability to realize in the moment what’s truly important in life.”