On Top of the World

[Editor’s Note: After wrapping a successful week of finals, Evan Bunnage (’18) and Stephen Lombardi (’18) decided to “take a quick hike” before the 2015 summer break. For these two avid climbers, that meant a three-day journey to the top of Mount Shuksan in western Washington (elev. 9,131 ft.).  Here is their story.]

Evan Bunnage and Stephen Lombardi (both class of '18)

Evan Bunnage and Stephen Lombardi (both class of ’18)

Evan and I have each done multiple alpine trips before this one.  This climb was our second one of the 2014-15 school year; our first was when we summited Eldorado Peak (another North Cascade summit) over President’s Day weekend. We had both hoped to do another trip before our summer routines spilt us apart, and it turned out that we both had a little free time when the school year ended and before summer responsibilities took hold.  In the somewhat chaotic planning time during finals week, we managed to pack both our clothes and dorm stuff, along with our all our climbing gear, and cram it into Evan’s car. We then drove toward Seattle and spent a day checking and double-checking all our gear before setting out on the three-day alpine climb in the North Cascades to reach the summit.

"Home" during Bunnage and Lombardi's climb of Mount Shuksan

“Home” during Bunnage and Lombardi’s climb of Mount Shuksan

We awoke on the second day at 1:15 a.m. to rope up (crampons, harness gear, etc.) and head for the Shuksan Summit. Reaching it meant trekking across Sulphide Glacier and then over five pitches of steep snow and ice climbing.  A summit like that is a truly indescribable experience, standing thousands of feet above everything around you, you are standing on the roof of the world, where the sky seems to begin and the world ends. It’s why we put ourselves through the danger of the climb.

Though we’d each packed 50 lbs. of essential alpine climbing gear, Evan made the call to take the “Zag Up” flag and his 6-lb camera. Wanting to do that comes from our great appreciation of the outdoors and what it can do for people.  Gonzaga has shown us a completely new way of looking at the world and we just wanted to return the favor.  Our university sits next to one of the greatest mountaineering ranges in the world, the North Cascades, and practically no one knows it. Evan and I wanted to bring an awareness to what we had the privilege to pursue and enjoy. The great programs at Gonzaga, like GU outdoors, help people see the natural beauty of the world off campus and we wanted to do the same.  Our love for mountaineering, alpine climbing and Gonzaga is what brought Evan and I together, and after our freshman year we had a bond strong enough to trust each other with our lives. The outdoors and our experiences  makes Evan and I who we are and if other students and people can just get a small taste of that, than we believe they will be better for it.

Throughout the trip, we captured incredible moments and shared our school pride in an experience that we both shall never forget. It was a great way to finish our first year at Gonzaga, and start summer break on a high note.


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