Matt Kernan, DMSB’18, was inspired his sophomore year at Northeastern University to begin hiking, which is now a lifetime adventure that has brought him to South America, Alaska and soon, Europe.
Kernan came across a photo of Mount McKinley in Alaska, the highest mountain in North America, and set his mind to reach its peak. But first, he had to train. Although he had no experience with high-altitude climbing, that summer, Kernan and his father, David, climbed the three highest peaks in Ecuador – Cayambe, Antisana and Cotopaxi.
“It was an intense trial,” said Kernan. “You start for the summit at 10 p.m. because you want to be climbing when it’s the coldest and the ice is the hardest. When you reach the summit, you’re 5,000 feet above the cloud line.”
Kernan successfully climbed to the peak of Mount McKinley the summer after Ecuador, facing freezing temperatures, avalanches, and the fear of altitude sickness. After Mount McKinley, Kernan attempted to climb the highest peak in South America, the 22,838-foot Aconcagua in Argentina. Although a fierce storm sent him and his father back down the mountain, it didn’t deter his love for hiking and the outdoors.
“Sometimes, the mountain just says ‘No,’ and you have to respect that or people get hurt,” he says. “When you’re up there, it’s a battleground. It’s grueling and painful, and it gets harder with every step. But all the noise of civilization fades and you learn a lot about yourself.”
Kernan plans to climb Mount Rainier this summer, followed by a two-week trip to Russia to climb Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe at 18,510 feet.