From escaping his backyard as a young child to conquering Mt Rundle Traverse in record time, Simon Donato has always been an adventurous soul with a deep passion for the outside. It’s only natural that he became a top tier athlete and environmental expert. Simon’s resume of adventure races & ultra endurance races all over the world is endless. From his travel show Boundless to his company, Adventure Science, he certainly has many stories to tell of his experiences. We took some time to chat with him about his most recent victory – Climbing the Mt. Rundle Traverse of the Rocky Mountains in a record 10 hours & 25 minutes – with no ropes. The record before that? 13 hours… We couldn’t help but give him a call and see how he conquered this & what words of wisdom he has for new and old adventurers around the world.
We can’t start this without talking about how difficult this climb actually is. It has had the strength & danger to turn around some of the greatest climbing experts. The plan was to head out with fellow adventure racer, Ryan Atkins to do some reconnaissance, and then the team could come back for a well-researched & well-planned trek through the ridge. Simon admits – he will never try this route again without ropes as there were areas of the ridge that would have meant a certain death if he would have fallen. How did a quick trip to do some scouting turn into an all day, record-breaking climb? Curiosity. Once they got further and further – the curiosity grew and took over. Although it is no accident that Simon and friend Ryan Atkins were able to conquer this. We took his adventure a step deeper and wanted to know how he accomplishes these lofty goals and explorations.
You’re on the Mountain’s terms, not yours
Simon takes on his challenges with a goal, but knows that on the mountains, you can’t force the goal. That’s when you get yourself into dangerous situations. If the situation warrants turning around, turn around. You have to roll with the punches and realize everything may not work out as you planned. Simon and Ryan knew this when they were approaching Mt. Rundle. Luckily their experience, preparation & ideal weather allowed them to conquer Mt. Rundle.
You don’t need to risk your life to challenge yourself
When discussing this major feat with Simon, he made sure to mention that you don’t have to risk your life to take on a challenge, but it’s important to have these moments in life. We’ve all heard this before, but Simon’s take on this is unique and powerful. “A life without challenges is like walking in clouds.” You feel like you are moving, but you don’t know what’s going on around you, the view is always the same. He continued to mention that when you challenge yourself you get real clarity and it’s that moment we should seek.
How you overcome those moments of fear on the mountain
Experience. The biggest tool Simon has on the mountain is the miles & hours of experience he has from past adventures. Secondly, he makes sure to break down the problem into smaller, bite size pieces. Instead of getting overwhelmed and thinking of all the things that should or could go wrong, he focuses on one step at a time. At peak 11, when the risk was the largest, he was only focused on his next move, a spot for his left had. Not the many issues that could come after that.
This is when Simon is at his best. In everyday life, there are so many distractions all around us. It’s a rare occasion when you are so focused, that nothing else is on your mind except for where your hand is going next. Putting yourself in this mindset not only prepares you for the mountains to come, but real life situations that we all deal with.
Biggest tip for young explorers
We couldn’t end our interview with Simon without asking him what his biggest tip for new and old adventures when seeking out new adventures. His response? Listen to the people who have done it. Your best asset is an experienced athlete who has knowledge of the trail and knows what to look for. Knowledge is power in the wilderness.
We will be following Simon through many future adventures on and off the mountains.