Mountaineers Plan For It All Right?


How My Denali Journey Has NOT Been Canceled Due to Covid-19

Denali has haunted my mind every day for the past six years and 2020 was the year everything lined up and I was ready to make an attempt at it. Our team was the perfect blend of skills, risk tolerances, and personalities to make this a once in a lifetime trip; not to mention they are all very very good friends. A few days ago, we learned Denali will be shut down for the year and… It was not as devastating as I thought it would be. Why?

The mountain will always be there

When I make the decision to turn back from an objective it’s never based on one thing but a whirlwind of facts triggered by the situation we are in. The whirlwind hits, you take everything in and before you have a chance to talk yourself back into continuing you tell yourself to “turn back” and the decision is made. When it’s not the right time, it’s not the right time.

Right now is not the right time for Denali. My whirlwind was triggered when the park service decided not to allow permits this year but it quickly made sense. I’ve spoken with several healthy friends who are all making significant sacrifices to keep their roommates, loved ones, or parents safe during these times. Additionally, a widely known and respected/idolized mountaineer in the Denver area is a physician who wrote an eye opening message on Facebook. She is on the front lines and risks her lungs every day to help those infected with Corona. When I say she risks her lungs she really risks one of her greatest passions, mountaineering.

Denali is not a significant sacrifice at all compared to what people are risking and sacrificing right now. Maybe 2020 is not the year for a major personal objective but smaller objectives to keep me fulfilled and to focus on our relationships and help people heal via the best way we know; get them outside. Nature has a way of bringing us together while helping us escape.   

Colorado Adventure

What Now? 

I started a new outdoor company, GuideGap, which will change how self-guided adventure travel is planned. This has been one of the largest mountains/challenges I have ever taken on and without Denali it allows me to focus 110% back into the company. When we can travel again, I cannot wait to meet the hundreds of our guides and help make GuideGap a house hold name and thank them in person.

No more Denali has also allowed me to quickly set my sights on climbing El Cap with my sister who has been climbing all over the world. El Cap will be significant, as my sister and I have not always had the greatest relationship, however we have connected through outdoor activities. We were best friends when we were young and then grew apart for various reasons for many years. Now, the past five years we really enjoy backpacking, climbing and whatever else outdoors.
This is the beauty of the outdoors and why we strive to share it with as many people as possible. The outdoors is a way for people to connect not just with nature but with each other. Have you noticed more families and people outside? With a lot of our distractions closed people are forced to reconnect with the outdoors and hopefully that sparks a new healthy relationship and desire to keep getting out.

In the end, I was over the fact Denali was not happening this year in less than five minutes. The memories I have with my team, the classes I’ve taken to be able to climb Denali independently, the people I have met along the way, and the position all of that has put me into starting GuideGap tells me I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

We always say it’s not about making it to the top but it’s about the journey. Maybe this year the journey is about putting my major personal objectives aside and sharing the outdoors with others and allowing the outdoors to heal the past and what Covid 19 leaves behind. 

California Adventure


How will you react to delayed objectives and more people escaping to the outdoors to heal? I think I wrote this to try and understand why I wasn’t more upset and to relate to others who are experiencing the same thing. However, as I wrote this I realized how many people will be hurting by the end of this and I want to be ready to help them when it’s time. Until then I will do my part and wait for that time and fortunately Denali will still be there when the time is right. Thanks for reading.

Who am I and why am I writing this? I’m really no one special as I’m not an amazing outdoorsman or crazy sponsored climber, but I think that’s what makes this GuideGap platform unique. We are people who love the outdoors and love sharing it with people. People who are bad ass and very experienced in our skill sets but also average people just trying to balance life and this outdoor lifestyle. We all have the background and education to help others get outside and that’s what we do. The outdoors will take care of the rest.


Rob Claybon
GuideGap Founder

About The Author: Rob

Rob is the founder of GuideGap and has over 10 years of mountaineering experience. He lived out of his Jeep creating the GuideGap network and has climbed, biked, camped, hiked, snowboarded, and off roaded in just about every condition. 

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