Becker Climbs Mount Baker
Becker At Mount Baker
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At the end of May, ten students will join co-leaders President Mark Becker and Carson Tortorige in a life-changing journey to the top of a mountain with one of the highest recorded snowfalls on Earth, Mt. Baker. The mountain rises to nearly 11,000 feet and lies to the north of Mt. Rainier, just outside Seattle, Washington.

Carson Tortorige is the Coordinator of Outdoor Recreation and oversees the Touch the Earth program at Georgia State University. Tortorige has taken groups for winter expeditions to the Presidential Range near Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, led ice climbing expeditions, and summited smaller mountains. However, he says this will be at the top of the list of epic trips ever offered for several reasons, including the honor of leading a trip with President Becker.

President Mark Becker certainly has an adventurous side, too. From his outdoor experience gained through backpacking as a high school student, he immediately fell in love with the mountains. After a light-hearted scramble with friends up Mt. Saint Helens in 1980, and being taunted by the towering beauty of Mt. Rainier during his two-year, post-doctoral fellowship in 1987 at the University of Washington in Seattle, Dr. Becker knew in 2012 that it was now or never. On July 8, 2013, Dr. Becker checked off a major item on his personal bucket list by summiting his first large glaciated mountain. Since then he hasn’t stopped braving the cold and setting new summit goals for himself.

With over seventy applicants for this trip, President Becker and Mr. Tortorige sat down to discuss the qualities of each applicant. They kept two outcomes in mind: campus/student benefit and group safety. Summiting a large glaciated mountain at altitude is not something to take lightly. Aside from the intense training and high-quality gear needed to even get to the base, everyone on the mountain is required to behave responsibly, cope with unpredictable changes in weather and help each other to achieve their goal, all while staying safe. In the end, the ten students were handpicked to provide the trip with a wide range of educational backgrounds, academic interests and personalities.

“Many people are likely capable of summiting Baker, but the more prepared one is mentally and physically, the better they will enjoy it.”
~ President Mark Becker, Georgia State University

To help these students succeed even before they reach the trail head, the leaders are hosting four progressive mandatory checkpoint hikes to work with the students and evaluate their progress toward a desired fitness level. To help between hikes, President Becker has required the students to keep up a weekly workout schedule leading up to the trip. President Becker emphasizes that because there are only ten short weeks to prepare for Mt. Baker, it is important that the students plan and structure their training accordingly. The students also have access to the Recreation Center’s personal trainers in the Fitness Center for free weekly endurance training donated by the department.

The eight-day trip will begin with a flight to Seattle and a tour of the area with Tortorige, including the beautiful San Juan Islands. From there, Tortorige will lead them to the gear outpost for the American Alpine Institute where they will pick up extra mountaineering guides and the necessary gear. For three days the group will train extensively to develop beginner mountaineering skills, such as traveling as a rope team, ice climbing, self-arrests from glissading and rope rescues from crevasses. The final 18-hour day will be a summit attempt to the top.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle, however, is the financial burden of summiting a glaciated mountain. Tortorige explains that with hundreds of pounds of gear, high caloric food, paid professional guides, transportation and permits the cost will total close to $2,000 per person.

The team is mounting a powerful crowdfunding campaign from the support of the Annual Programs Office and University Public Relations and Marketing Communications to help raise financial support from donors who see this as a worthy cause. The donation link is hosted at Impact Georgia State. In a video promoting the crowdfunding, Dr. Becker calls for supporters to help the students get to Mt. Baker and assures that they’ll get themselves to the summit.

To capture the goal-setting and achievement process, leadership-inspired student learning outcomes were established with the aim that the positive effects realized on this trip will be brought back with contagious enthusiasm to the campus community. Developed by Recreational Services, these measured outcomes will shed light on the mountaineering skills the students will develop over the course of training for and climbing Mt. Baker, as well as measure any transferable life skills the students gain throughout the entire process.

“This program has required a substantial amount of collaboration between many university departments. We are so excited to collaborate with President Becker to offer this once in a lifetime experience.”
~ Melissa Buchheit, Director of Recreational Services

For additional information, visit the Office of the President or call 404-413-1300.