Tom Ross: Wisdom from the top of the world |

Tom Ross: Wisdom from the top of the world

Matt Tredway of Steamboat Springs picks his way across a treacherous crevasse during an attempt on Mount Everest in May.

— Matt Tredway is planning a return to the mountains this fall, and this time he’ll have a group of Steamboat Springs Middle School students in tow. They’ll find plenty to talk about.

Tredway was feeling strong in May when an unexpected coronary spasm cut short his effort to summit the highest mountain in the world.

The trip to Mount Everest was tinged with grief over the loss of three Sherpas in the collapse of a wall of ice. And there was stinging disappointment to deal with when Tredway had to abandon his quest.

“I felt so strong,” Tredway said. “When I did get hurt, I was in a state of disbelief.”

It isn’t difficult to imagine the questions that 13-year-old students will ask when they come bursting into his classroom next week for the first day of school.

Tredway teaches math and earth science to sixth-graders at the middle school, and when classes are done each day this fall, he’ll transition into his role as freshman football coach at the high school.

The sixth-graders – as well as this year’s crop of seventh-graders, who sent him off to the Himalayas last spring – will quickly discover that Tredway came home with body and spirit intact.

He may not have realized his goal of climbing Mount Everest, but his Himalayan experience did nothing to weaken Tredway’s conviction that it is important for people of all ages to set physical challenges for themselves – challenges that push them beyond their particular comfort zones.

“It’s so important to set goals,” Tredway said. “And you don’t want to set goals that you know are 100 percent attainable. You need to put yourself out there.”

Tredway extends the influence he has on adolescents in Steamboat by spearheading an extracurricular program called Everything Outdoors Steamboat.

A former longtime instructor in the National Outdoor Leadership School, he’s well-qualified to lead youngsters on snow camping, ice climbing and mountain climbing adventures. This fall, he’ll take a group of students on a climb up a 14,000-foot peak in the San Juan Mountains.

You can be certain Tredway will take the opportunity to talk about how he dealt with triumph, loss and disappointment on his trip this year to Mount Everest.

The young climbers may be surprised when Tredway tells them that their climb to the summit of Sunshine Peak is evidence that they are capable of even bigger challenges.

“The feelings you have on a fourteener are exactly the same feeling you have on Everest,” Tredway said. “There are a few more big hazards, but you glance at the clouds and notice the weather changing, you glance at your watch and remind yourself to keep drinking water.

“You check your pack and (confirm), ‘If I had to spend the night, I could do that.’ You notice that it’s harder to breathe, you feel lactic acid building up in your muscles and you put one foot in front of another.”

By making repeated climbs higher up Everest, Tredway said, climbers convince their bodies to become high achievers.

“Your body is the classic C student,” Tredway said with a smile. “It isn’t really looking for extra credit work.”

Tredway knows from experience that goals needn’t reach all the way to the top of the world to be significant.

“Summiting Everest would have been huge. I wish I had done it. But in the big picture, it was more important to come home. You learn so much about yourself.”

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