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There’s No Upside...

Michael Leavitt shares his innermost thoughts as they relate to his personal and family life. He can be heard to say often to his kids... “There’s no upside!”

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Steve Robbins - Anderson Pass, Utah 1992


ML2014SUMMER 1992 - To flashback to this moment, I had never been to 2,700 feet before.  Backpacking in the Utah Uintah mountains, our goal was even higher.  Assistant Varsity Coach Steve Robbins and I led a group of 14-18-year-old young men on a 6-day trek to the highest point in Utah. These young men quickly earned their name as "The Lost Boys" on this trip.

This photo was snapped by me with a disposable camera as Steve was deciding what gear he wanted to take for our final ascent.  Getting to this point was rigorous and the oxygen was much thinner than I had ever experienced. I was just recently moved to Utah from near seas level Southern California. We started this trek at 9'500 feet in the parking lot, yet in Southern California, the highest I had ever backpacked was 11,900 feet. 12,700 was incredible, and yet it was just a saddle pass.

After grabbing day packs, we left this trail marker and made the final ascent to 13,528 feet. Yes, in Utah, King's Peak is the highest point. I found myself, at the age of 30, struggling for strength and breath as we crossed about 13,000 feet. The final 528 feet of elevation was incredibly hard for me. I pressed onward over the rock and boulder climb, but I could feel myself losing mental sharpness. I felt this same effect many times since, as I reached the same elevation. This final climb is about all I am ever going to tackle in mortality.

INTERESTING POINTS - Look closely at Steve's hip.  He is carrying a military canteen. We did not have all of the cheap and plentiful high tech plastic water bottles today. His metal canteen was the norm and worn on the belt. I had two one-liter plastic bottles, but they were expensive and cutting edge in this era. Steve was newly married and this was not in his budget. Keep in mind that this was the first backpacking trip that I carried a water filter. I still carried my Sierra Cup on the outside of my pack. What is a Sierra Cup? Sierra CupIt was a metal scoop cup with a bent handle that allowed us to easily remove from our pack, dip in the streams, and drink the fresh high mountain waters... By the early 1990's Giardia was being found everywhere and direct steam water drinking was both warned and shunned. Yes, On that trip I still drank directly from the fresh flows above 11,900 feet on this trip. Foolish or not, the water tasted great. Filtered water from that era did NOT taste good.

Make it a great trek! Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah

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