The Intersection of Passion and Purpose
This past summer we connected with Dalton Johnson, an award-winning commercial and editorial storyteller focused on the human experience in our natural world. Wielding a camera and pen, Dalton's adventures push him and his subjects into hard-to-reach locations in the mountains and ocean, but his stories will ground you in the experience. We found common ground in appreciating the places we play, the value of having positive attitude and his involvement with Adventure Scientists.
Rewinding one calendar year, to September 2020, I was slouched and red-eyed, staring at google earth dreaming up ideas, such as climbing notable peaks in a single season in three different mountain ranges like the High Sierra, the Tetons, and the Cascades. All of these ranges have a lifetime of climbing within them, so I knew I would be a guest, cherry-picking the classics, but I still wanted to give this a try. So, I started training. As the plans for the trip developed and I connected with past climbing partners, like Luan, Beau, and Kristin. I started to get psyched, but felt a void.
As I bouldered in the Buttermilks just outside of Bishop, CA, my gut struggled to comprehend why I wanted to make this trip happen. Questioning my intentions, I desired a trip with more meaning. So, I started looking in all the wrong places like at harder routes, more committing routes, and played with the idea of trying to solo all the routes to give myself that extra little bit of risk. Luckily, reality and the fear of gravity winning overtook me as I slipped off my warm-up boulder.
Sitting on my crash-pad, I received an email from a friend asking me if I had heard about Adventure Scientist - I had not. Adventure Scientist is a non-profit based out of Bozeman, Montana whose mission is to equip partners with data collected by leveraging the skills of the outdoor community that is critical to addressing environmental and human health challenges.
Fully invested in my rabbit hole with two bars of service, I sent off an introduction email with the idea of collaborating on the trip of the three ranges. To myself, I thought, “how cool would it be if I could summit a peak and collect water samples on my way down?” Needless to say, I was overeager and naive, but they responded politely and walked me through the requirements for data collecting… I didn’t fit the bill.
Data collection takes a very small commitment, the ability to return to a place over a couple of months. Since I was moving around, this didn’t work and I was gutted. Staring at the sky from my pad, I questioned what these last five years had been about, then it hit me. I flipped the script and asked if I could utilize my skills with a camera to create a piece for them, highlighting a few of their all-star volunteers. The door was opened and my training now had a purpose.
As mid-July rolled around, the time to test my training had come, as did my ability to create with purpose. Three months on the road, shooting and climbing every day I could. Coordinating with Adventure Scientist, climbing partners, and reaching summits became my focus.
Kristin gearing up for a post-work climb. Photo by: Dalton Johnson
Kristin on Symmetry Spire in Grand Teton National Park. Photo by: Dalton Johnson
Watching the sunset from my van’s roof, sleeping in roadside pullouts, swollen knees, dust-filled camera sensors, hot spring star-gazing, and huddling soaking wet under a tree during a thunderstorm at the base of a climb have become my reality.
Overlooking the Tetons. Photo by: Dalton Johnson
Currently, the project is not finished, but, thus far, my time slipping off boulders in the Buttermilks and trail running around Donner Summit have paid off as I’ve reached seven successful summits in the High Sierra and set a personal best for a car-to-car push on the Grand Teton with Beau. Next up, the Cascades and wrapping up the story of the data collecting volunteers of Adventure Scientist.
If you are interested in joining Adventure Scientist the process is streamlined! Head over to https://www.adventurescientists.org, decide if you are a scientist or adventurer, then go through the application process. In total, be prepared to spend two hours learning how to correctly collect and record data. Don’t let the idea of two hours hold you back! Instead of binge watching your next Netflix show, drop into the application so you can help preserve our planet’s natural spaces.
Dalton represents what it means to Find Your Beyond - he’s carving his own career trajectory based on his values and seizing opportunities to create an impact for our climate. Follow along his adventures @DaltonJohnsonMedia