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Local Hero: Stacy Bare

Posted on: December 17, 2018


[This Local Hero story first appeared in Alpinist 64, which is now available on newsstands and in our online store. Only a small fraction of our many long-form stories from the print edition are ever uploaded to Alpinist.com. Be sure to pick up Alpinist 64 for all the goodness!—Ed.]

Stacy Bare. [Photo] Max LoweStacy Bare. [Photo] Max Lowe

I've longed for more stories that movies weren't made of, but perhaps should be: tales of everyday climbers who may never climb 5.14 and who will never have their photo of a "first ascent" interrupted by a local villager scrambling over the same mountain to visit their family.

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MY LOVE OF THE outdoors is less about the feats that humans may accomplish and more of those moments when someone feels a real connection to their full, feral, good and beastly selves; when their thoughts meld in and out with the sounds of trees swaying, birds chirping and squirrels barking. I want to hear about people who didn't "conquer" a peak, but who came home, instead, with a fuller knowledge of themselves and a release from depression and despair—with stories of internal instead of external ascent.

In September 2009, Stacy Bare, an Iraq War veteran, roped up for his first climb since he got out of the military. He'd been home for just over two years, and after a move to Boulder, Colorado, he joked that he grew a beard and bought a Subaru to fit in with the locals. Still troubled by his memories of the war and having difficulties adjusting to civilian life, he struggled with depression and substance abuse. When he sought help from a fellow veteran, the friend suggested that they go for a climb on the First Flatiron. That day, the autumn light shone on the maroon-colored sandstone and the changing leaves. He felt out of place, feeling afraid in such a sublime environment. As he pushed up the cool, smooth rock face, he recalls "for the first time really being in the moment—stuck in the moment and not being fearful of the past or guilty about having a future."

He didn't realize how fully in the moment he'd been until he got to the belay station. There, he began to shake violently, and tears formed in his eyes. He says he cried in part because he felt guilty for having so much fun while others were still suffering—but also because he felt as if he was finally honoring his friends killed in Iraq by actually living. His climbing partner had to talk him gently into relaxing his brake hand so he could rappel down.

In the past, Bare didn't think that anyone else could understand his traumas unless they'd been through similar experiences. But through climbing, he formed deep connections with veterans and non-veterans alike, new friends whom he might not otherwise have given himself the opportunity to meet. And he realized, he says, that "people outside of the military had trauma and could use the outdoors to heal. Climbing gave me the confidence to ask for help, to get sober, to keep going and to learn about vastly different experiences than my own—cancer fighters and survivors, abuse and sexual abuse survivors, people who are not white, not straight, not cisgendered, not men, not possessing two arms and two legs, not rich, not poor, not American, not me—and who I got to meet as equals, peers, mentors, leaders, guides, and those lessons follow me into my life in or outside of the great outdoors. Being able to get outside is a gift."

After cofounding Veterans Expeditions to assist other veterans through outdoor pursuits, Bare began working with the Sierra Club and eventually became Director of Sierra Club Outdoors. In partnership with the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, he helped start the Great Outdoors Lab to conduct research into ways that time spent in nature could help people dealing with trauma. He continues to work with organizations such as Adventure Not War to use the outdoors as means to improve mental health and to promote cross-cultural understanding.

"How I get outside has changed since Wilder [his daughter] was born," he says. "I spend a lot of time on long, winding walks outdoors that don't get me too far at all.... I'm able to see the world emerging as something always new through the eyes of a toddler, who sees the smallest things that I used to ignore. I have learned more about ants through observation in the last six months than ever before in my life—since I was a toddler anyway."

Teresa Baker, founder of the African American Nature and Parks Experience, recounts in Audubon: I talk about equity, diversity and inclusion with such ferocity and consistency—not to divide a country more than it already is, but to bridge a gap that's been in place for far too long. In an article for Alpinist.com, The Changing Faces of the Outdoors, she interviews members of new affinity groups, such as Melanin Base Camp and Natives Outdoors. [Photo] Courtesy of Teresa BakerTeresa Baker, founder of the African American Nature and Parks Experience, recounts in Audubon: "I talk about equity, diversity and inclusion with such ferocity and consistency—not to divide a country more than it already is, but to bridge a gap that's been in place for far too long." In an article for Alpinist.com, "The Changing Faces of the Outdoors," she interviews members of new affinity groups, such as Melanin Base Camp and Natives Outdoors. [Photo] Courtesy of Teresa Baker

[This Local Hero story first appeared in Alpinist 64, which is now available on newsstands and in our online store. Only a small fraction of our many long-form stories from the print edition are ever uploaded to Alpinist.com. Be sure to pick up Alpinist 64 for all the goodness!—Ed.]

Here at Alpinist, our small editorial staff works hard to create in-depth stories that are thoughtfully edited, thoroughly fact-checked and beautifully designed. Please consider supporting our efforts by subscribing.
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