Lincoln County’s Jonathan Eakes just finished his second climb of one of the seven summits of the world.
In June, Jonathan reached the top of Denali in Alaska, also known as Mt. McKinley, the highest point in North America with an elevation of 20,310 feet. In 2017, he reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa at 19,341 feet.
Jonathan is the son of Jacky and Lisa Eakes and a 2011 graduate of Riverside Christian Academy. He works locally with SJ&L Contracting.
Five years ago, he began wall climbing any time and at any place he could get the chance. Three years ago, he began mountaineering; now he has climbed in 15 countries around the world.
“Mountaineering teaches you so many things,” Jonathan said. “You train, plan and prepare as much as you possibly can, paying attention to every detail. You never know what Mother Nature may throw at you – conditions can change drastically in a short period of time. Sometimes you cut your losses, head down the mountain and live to climb another day. I want to reach all of the seven summits in the next few years, but as you can imagine, it’s expensive for self-funded amateur climbers.
“When I climb, all I can think about is what’s right in front of me,” he continued. “It takes a tremendous amount of focus. It might be six feet of wall you’re hanging from or putting one foot in front of the other under harsh conditions. As you climb, the oxygen levels drops. It challenges your mental and physical toughness. You’re constantly evaluating your situation. You find out what you’re really made of.
“Mt. Kilimanjaro was my first big climb, and we reached Denali this year,” added Jonathan. “Around Christmas, I’m planning on going to Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina with an elevation of 22,841 feet. In July of 2020, I’d like to travel to Russia and take on Mt. Elbrus, the highest point in Europe at 18,510 feet.
“Denali took 17 days roundtrip,” he said. “We landed on the ice in a plane with skis. We had four climbers and two guides. Base camp was at 7,800 feet. We had four other camps until we reached the summit. With the changes in the oxygen level at those elevations, we had a day of rest at each camp. You’re carrying a 60-pound pack and a 40-pound sled. We were lucky with the window of weather. We had some snow, and the wind chill was 20 below zero, but we could climb every day we were scheduled. We were just three degrees from the Arctic Circle – the Land of the Midnight Sun – it never got dark.
“It’s not easy to explain why I do it. It’s on a very personal level. I like the people you come in contact with. They are very down to earth. Everyone climbing is very aware of protecting the environment. It takes a lot of patience, persistence and gratitude of living in the moment.
“I would encourage everyone to get outdoors. There is a lot of beauty out there, and you don’t have to climb a mountain to find it. Find your passion and go with it.”