Climbing the Mountain of Life, with John Davis
On July 23rd, the Monday after the XTERRA Beaver Creek off-road triathlon and trail running races, you will have a special opportunity to climb the 14,278-foot high Grays Peak on a hike led by John Davis, the 2017 XTERRA Warrior award winner and founder of the 2xtreme Foundation. The hike is suitable for all levels of climbers and you don’t need to be experienced to make the seven-mile trek.
But then again, the hike isn’t just about crossing an item off your bucket list (although you will definitely earn your bragging rights!). Hiking Grays Peak with the XTERRA Tribe, the 2xtreme Foundation, and John Davis is also a way to learn how to surmount the mountains in our lives that aren’t made of bedrock. And, it’s a way to discover how some amazing young men are overcoming obstacles including PTSD, addiction, family problems, and trauma.
John has made it his mission to help people climb mountains, both real and metaphorical. Through his nonprofit organization, 2xtreme Foundation, he uses the challenges Mother Nature doles out to help young men learn how they can surmount any obstacle life throws at him.
In May, Davis took seven boys to Peru to hike the legendary 20,302-foot high peak known as Nevado Copa in the Cordillera Blanca range of the Andes. This was the culmination of a nine-month therapeutic program known as The 2xtreme Dream. The program begins with a rigorous application and interview process and ends with them summiting a mountain in the clouds.
The nine-month preparation to hike Nevado Copa required some intense training expeditions in the mountains of Colorado. On one occasion, the boys, John, and their coaches went up to Loveland Pass to spend the night at 12,000 feet, only to get caught in an unforecast storm.
“It was a really tough experience,” said Davis about the climb to Loveland Pass. “The weather predicted 12 mile per hour winds, and we were getting hit by 85 mile per hour gusts and heavy snow. We talked with the boys about this a lot, how during any time in your life there could be a storm. So how can you be best prepared when it arrives?”
One of the rules of 2xtreme is that you can’t complain because that detracts from the team experience.
“The boys were amazing,” said John of his young team. “Mountaineering is a lot like XTERRA in that your success is directly related to your willingness to be uncomfortable. When I said good morning to the boys in their tent the morning after the storm, only their noses and mouths were visible in their sleeping bags. They were uncomfortable and fighting that storm the way we fight the altitude at XTERRA Beaver Creek. And guess what – they didn’t complain.”
Some of the boys were scared, and the process of packing up their gear and heading back down the mountain was overwhelming, but with the help of John’s calm leadership, they all made it down successfully.
“Just like with the XTERRA Tribe, the boys had a team to hold them up. They worked together and shared in the same experience, which was definitely uncomfortable and difficult. But there’s a lot of hard in life. And we are training uncommon men to be the best they can be and embrace the hard in front of them, no matter what.”
XTERRA Pan Am champ Johnny Davis volunteered during the Loveland Pass trip despite the fact that he doesn’t have mountaineering experience.
“John Davis – the other one - is the real deal,” said Johnny. “ I am not sure I have ever met another person so committed or passionate about helping others.”
During the year the 2xtreme Dream Team is together, the youth must also comply with seven behavioral facets: Helping to design their own therapy treatment plan, maintaining good grades, holding a part-time job, performing community service, staying drug and alcohol free, having no negative police contact, and resolving conflicts at home.
During one of the service projects – a huge clean-out of a hoarder’s home – the boys had a chance not only to make a difference in someone’s lives, but to meet some members of the XTERRA Tribe who pitched in to help. Paula Maresh and the entire Middaugh clan all came together to rip up carpets and fill up dumpsters.
“If John’s involved then I know it’s an amazing activity because he has that spirit about him,” said Ingrid Middaugh. “John was grateful that Josiah and the kids and I came to help, but we were grateful that he offered.”
Three-time XTERRA Pan Am Champ Paula Maresh is a teacher at Chatfield Senior High School and understands some of the challenges the youth of 2xtreme are dealing with because some of the boys have been in her classes.
“I met John at Beaver Creek last year and was so impressed,” said Paula. “I saw what he was doing with kids who were really tough and whose lives were really tough. John helped them turn it around. His work is unique and extremely necessary. Everyone needs a hero who can mentor them and help them meet their potential.”
Paula participated in two of the training days and helped with the house clean-out.
“Everything was so well organized and I can’t believe how fast we got everything done from cleaning out closets to getting rid of furniture,” said Paula. “It was a beautiful example of how you can value someone and change their life for the better because you care. That’s what I love about John’s work.”
“Everything John does is so well organized,” said Ingrid Middaugh. “The climb to Grays Peak is another opportunity to spend time with John and the amazing kids of 2xtreme. I mean, why wouldn’t you join in?”
Johnny Davis, Martha Buttner, Paula Maresh, and the Middaugh clan will be hiking Grays Peak with XTERRA and 2xtreme on July 23rd. The hike will begin at 5:00 AM at the Grays Peak parking lot, just off Interstate I-70 at the 221 Bakerville exit. After a quick check in, John will gather the group and head up to the peak. An XTERRA sponsored event t-shirt and lunch will be provided upon return to base camp. Registration is required before July 22nd, is $55, and will benefit the 2xtreme Foundation.
John Davis carries a Clinical Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and is a Certified Addictions Counselor CACII. He specializes exclusively with adolescent males and young men. John is an author, Extreme Pursuit: Winning the Race for the Heart of Your Son, and is the recipient of the prestigious Charles McCaffrey Award. John has traveled and climbed all over the world.