Our Health in Action series profiles people in the community who are living Actively Northwest. Follow along each week as we profile new people who are committed to living active, healthy lives through fitness and food.
Former Navy rescue swimmer Brian Dickinson has not only backpacked all over the Northwest and climbed the “Seven Summits,” he has survived the impossible: a solo descent from the summit of Mount Everest while completely snow blind. His soon-to-be released book, Blind Descent, recounts the 29,035-foot climb down Everest and Brian’s fight for survival on the mountain.
Using his experience climbing the highest mountains on the seven continents, Brian created the 7 Summits Adventure Race. 7SAR is a challenging 7-mile obstacle course inspired by Brian’s experiences climbing each of the seven summits. The race features obstacles like Elbrus’ barbed-wire crawl, Carstensz’s Pyramid zipline flyover and Everest’s Khumbu Ice Fall’s ladder.
ANW: How have your climbing experiences on the seven continents inspired 7SAR?
Brian: Serving in the military and climbing the “Seven Summits” has helped me gain perspective and experiences that most people will never have. After running some obstacle and adventure races, I found that a truly theme-inspired race wasn’t yet offered, so I used my experiences as a foundation and developed 7SAR. In 2 hours (or less!) you will have a blast conquering obstacles “across the world” with your friends.
Additionally, I always use my climbing as an opportunity to visit and deliver donations to orphanages around the world. In a similar fashion, 7SAR partners with One Day’s Wages, Children’s Cancer Research Fund and the Disabled American Veterans, where $5 of each registration goes to charity.
ANW: What advice do you have for people who want to tackle an obstacle run?
Brian: Don’t be intimidated. Obstacle runs are about getting people outside and living life to its fullest, and usually offer different levels for different abilities. For instance, 7SAR offers a 3-mile trek, a 7-mile mountaineer race and an 8-hour endurance challenge. We do have chip timing with awards, but for many, it’s just about completing the course with their team. To prepare, we offer daily workout challenges on Facebook.
ANW: How do you get physically ready for a climb up one of the “Seven Summits?” Do you eat certain foods or train differently?
Brian: Staying fit and healthy is a way of life for me. I try to always be prepared for whatever challenge comes my way by maintaining a high standard of fitness. Each week I hike a couple of local peaks while carrying 50 pounds in my pack. Between hikes I run 6 to 8 miles, split board or mountain bike. I also pump out 100 pushups, 100 squats, 100 crunches and 100 kettle bells daily. My diet is pretty normal since I have a high metabolism, but I do try to avoid fast food. My vices are chewy chocolate chip cookies and caramel macchiatos.
ANW: Where is your favorite area to backpack in the Pacific Northwest?
Brian: I’ve traveled and climbed all around the world and continue to explore, but there really aren’t any better peaks than in our own backyard. I train on the local I-90 peaks out of convenience, but my favorite hikes are in the North Cascades.
ANW: Has living in the Northwest given you an advantage when climbing mountains in other countries?
Brian: I grew up in Southern Oregon and was stationed in San Diego through the 1990’s. Moving to the Pacific Northwest has certainly provided opportunities I couldn’t get in most other areas of the country. The skills, confidence and experience gained from climbing in the Cascades are truly unique advantages of living here. The key early on is getting adequate training, a mentor and learning as much as you can as you set higher goals. I like to say, “life is for living, so get out there and start living!”