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Scott Grischow | Michael Fay | Ranch Management

By 2010, Scott Grischow plans to have conquered all seven continents' highest points.

By Tim Adams

Scott Grischow ’00 (MBA) knows when it’s time to climb. And when to stay put.

He has learned to handle the massive headaches — a portent of altitude sickness — and how to keep hydrated, even when the only water source is snow.
From base camp, Grischow’s lens captured a large lenticular cloud (which usually signals a strong storm) hovering over Mount Aconcagua (left) in 2004.

All good information. Especially if your goal is to look down from the highest summit on each of the planet’s seven continents.

“Those are just some of the mental aspects of climbing,” said Grischow, by day a vice president with Mesirow Financial Consulting in Dallas. “A mistake in any one of those areas can end your climb or even your life. Every move you make in mountain climbing is calculated, so you have to stay focused.”

Having already conquered three of the world’s highest peaks, he now wants four through seven, with Alaska’s Denali (officially Mt. McKinley) scheduled for June.

The Seven Summits club — exclusive to those who have topped them all — numbers less than 100. Grischow, and his father plan to join in 2010.

The climbing Grischows began their ascents in 2003 when they scaled Africa’s Kilimanjaro, following in the tracks of another father-son team from Dallas, Greg and Ben Baracato, who joined them on subsequent climbs. As they climbed, Scott and his dad read The Seven Summits by Dallas entrepreneur Dick Bass, who in 1985 was the first climber to reach all seven peaks. The Grischows topped Argentina’s Mt. Aconcagua and Russia’s Mt. Elbrus in 2004 and 2005, respectively. They plan to tackle Everest in 2010.

Scott Grischow is quick to note that he’s not a professional climber. But that doesn’t diminish the physical and mental stamina required. He prepares for a climb by running marathons.
Grischow may refer to himself as an amateur, but planning each climb is nothing short of professional. He makes a point to use local businesses. Trip narratives from other climbers, weather reports, executive summaries on the country’s history, articles on mountain climbing, maps and hotel and restaurant brochures — all are taken on the climbs. In photo left, Ben Baracato, Greg Baracato, Scott Grischow, Don Grischow, Ron Schwarzkopf and an Elbrus guide named Sasha on a day climb in the Caucasus mountains before the Elbrus attempt.

"Finishing a marathon takes a lot of endurance, discipline and focus, which all come in handy when you’re climbing on the scale I am,” he said. “Muscular development isn’t the biggest part of preparing for a climb. The stamina you build through cardiovascular training is the most important part of the physical component of your preparation.”

Exceptional physical conditioning isn’t enough, though. “Ninety percent of a climb is mental. You have to be prepared to go through days at a time shut up in a tent in the event of a storm, which is common at the altitudes we’re climbing.”

With a chuckle he added, “Being shut up in a tent in the middle of a blizzard at 15,000 feet with your dad can test your endurance even more — especially since neither of you have showered in over a week.”

Grischow notes that mountaineering is very much a team sport. “You have to look out for your fellow climbers and be willing to accommodate their physical and mental needs. If you have to stay at base camp an extra day because someone is sick, then so be it.”

And if the mood — or decision — of the group is bad, the whole expedition suffers. “No one of us is as strong as all of us. That’s one of the fundamental principles you have to live by in mountain climbing.”

That dictum came to life during the descent from Aconcagua’s summit in December 2004. The Grischows and Baracatos decided they all would climb down at their own pace rather than together. Within a few minutes Scott realized that his faster rate of descent not only had separated him from the group, it had gotten him lost.

“I made a simple wrong turn. Thank God I had my altimeter so I could keep track of my altitude — but none of the scenery was looking familiar. I was lost for nearly two hours, and it was already about 6 p.m. when I realized my mistake.”

That was the closest Grischow has come to being paralyzed by fear. In hindsight he knows he should have stayed put for the search party. “Trying to find my way back on my own only got me more lost.”

At base camp that evening, the climbers shared verbal jabs and apologies, but the overriding mood was relief.

While mountain climbing has taught Grischow a lot about himself — it’s been an inward journey, of sorts — the interaction with other cultures is the outward reward.

“Beyond the incredible rush you get when you reach a summit, the cultural immersion we go through during the two to three weeks we spend in each country can be just as enlightening,” he said. “In many ways, Moscow is a modern Western city, but the region of Russia we traveled to is much more like the Soviet Union of the Cold War.

“Each trip gives me a broader perspective on the world than I had before.”
As the view from the top of the world should.

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