Climb Every Mountain

Climb Every Mountain

A FLATLANDER’S ALTITUDE ADDICTION

BY MARIA IANNUCCI

Seeing miles into the distance. Walking above the clouds. Sharing quality time with good friends, close family and meeting new people. Feeling a sense of accomplishment after climbing several thousand feet of snow and ice, past crevasses, and up steep inclines with crampons and ice axes. These are the reasons many people enjoy climbing. For Scott Franklin of Lakeland, it’s a hobby, a challenge, and an adventure.

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Franklin, the president and CEO of Lanier Upshaw Inc., began climbing about five years ago with some friends from South Florida. Climbing requires skill and endurance, and over the years, he’s tackled several mountains, including Rainier in Seattle.

“It is a great training mountain,” said Franklin. “Rainier is over 14,000 feet high, requires axes, and has a mid-range altitude. This mountain is an excellent place to climb.”

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Climbers who seek achievement on a grand scale may choose to lay siege upon what’s known as the Seven Summits, which represent the seven highest peaks across the continents. Franklin has scaled three of the seven, including Aconcagua in Argentina, and Kilimanjaro in East Africa. In July 2013, Franklin and a fellow American climber headed to Moscow and trekked to Mount Elbrus, an extinct volcano in the Caucasus Mountain Range. The double peak sits on the southern edge of Russia just 137 miles west of Sochi, the site of the recent Olympic Winter Games.

A day after arriving in Moscow, Franklin began the journey to Elbrus, arriving at the barrel huts at an elevation of 12,795 feet. With the summit located at 18,513 feet on the western side, it takes about four days to climb. “The Barrels,” which can sleep six people, are converted fuel tanks once used as accommodations for the Soviet Olympic ski team decades ago.

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“It’s a secure shelter,” said Franklin, who found the camp to be more advanced than one might imagine. “There’s no electric or running water, but there was a building that food was prepared in. It was nice not to sleep in or carry a tent, and even better not to have to boil snow for water while lying down in the tent with the wind blowing hard outside. We had a cook named Olga; she made the best food ever.”

Indeed, the “kitchen” is a building perched on the edge of the camp, with a vertical drop on one side. Even the outhouse, Franklin recalls, is probably one of the highest in the world.

 

For the climb to the summit, “we would traverse many snowcaps and would have to be careful of the many crevasses in the area,” said Franklin. “We would rope up on some parts of the climb, and needed technical gear, like ice axes and crampons [a traction device that attaches to a climber’s boots], to maneuver others. Reaching the summit feels like a great achievement; it takes a lot to get there, and then, of course, there’s the descent. You have to remain focused. The majority of mountaineering accidents occur on the descent. Summitting is optional, returning safely is mandatory.”

On the way home, they took a little down time to enjoy the sights of Moscow. “Visiting Lenin’s Tomb, Red Square, and the Kremlin was just the perfect ending to the trip,” said Franklin. But sightseeing was just a small part of the adventure.

Franklin is already planning his next big climb, with his sights set on Denali National Park in Alaska. His son is graduating from high school this year, and he hopes to tackle Mount McKinley with him. Towering 20,320 feet over six million acres of wild land in the reserve, Franklin and his son will likely forge some towering memories on their way to the summit. 

 

 

 

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