David Mauro's The Altitude Journals
One would never have picked David Mauro, author of The Altitude Journals to climb the major 7 mountain peaks in the world. Not only wasn’t he a climber, he wasn’t even a hiker. He was down on his luck, living in his sister’s spare room while going through a divorce. Then, he received an invitation from his brother-in-law to climb Mount Denali.
And that was the turning point. The Altitude Journals are about his journey, through mountain climbing, with its adventures, its difficulties and its redemptions. I climbed each mountain with David, routed for him and read every word in his retelling of this journey.
David’s sense of humor is evident throughout. When I asked him what he had initially thought when Thai asked him to join him climbing Denali, the highest point in North America, he told me, “My initial thought was, ‘Well, I'm not even a mountain climber so that sounds like a bad fit.’ By the end of the journey I had come of age as an altitude climber, so I understood clearly what I was getting myself into with Everest. I liked my chances of success, which I placed at 30%.”
Hiking and climbing became part of his being. David told me, “It's magical up there, and the thrill stays with you for days after.” He urges beginners to connect with hiking groups and start small and safe. He cautions, “Mountaineering is dangerous under good conditions, but can be foolhardy for the uninitiated. “
David had journaled during his life so he shared that it was natural to record his experiences while he was climbing the seven Summits. “I would be inside my sleeping bag with a headlamp at 20,000 feet scratching out what seemed salient about that day. When the climbs were all over I sat looking at the weather-beaten journals stacked in my den and thought, ‘I bet there's a story in those.’ “
On reader’s review talked about The Altitude Journals being the embodiment of the “power of yes.” I liked that, as the memoir is more than mountain climbing, although clearly so important. It was the vehicle through which David reclaimed himself. We may have different means to climb out of difficulties—the important this is to defy your own fear, David said. “We only learn from life when we say "yes" to it. In my case it took that first yes to change the entire trajectory of my life.”
While David’s writing emerges from a crisis in his life, much of it is joyous. It is this joy that is so attractive and compelling to a reader. “My impetus was gratitude. I felt something incredible had happened in my life and in return I owed a debt that could only be paid in sharing that experience with others who might see themselves, their own struggles as a subtext to my story.”
As for new adventures? David said he’s looking for some with a bit more comfort. Whatever he picks, I hope he keeps journals and shares them with us, because I’ve added walking parts of the Appalachian Trail to my bucket list. Anyone want to come along?
David told me that he lost 10-15% of his body weights in these climbs. His favorite meal when he returned home was Honky Tonk Pot Roast. He shares his favorite recipe with us, from An American Roadhouse.