OURAY – dZi (prounounced “zee”) is an ancient Himalayan etched stone bead that is known to bestow health and protection upon its wearer.
It’s also the name of a Ridgway-based nonprofit foundation committed to supporting locally-driven programs to improve the quality of life in remote communities in the Himalaya, and will be the banner under which renowned ice climber and extreme athlete Will Gadd will attempt the extraordinary.
During the 15th annual Ouray Ice Festival, Gadd will test both his physical abilities and his mental fortitude during a non-stop, 24-hour push to climb 11,429 feet of ice during the Endless Ascent, a fundraiser for the dZi Foundation.
To accomplish his goal, Gadd may need some of the dZi beads’ protection on his side; He will start his climb at 12 p.m. on Saturday, on the Ouray Ice Park’s Pick of the Vic route, and doesn’t plan on stopping until 12 p.m. Sunday – at which time he is expected to have climbed a distance equivalent to climbing from the base camp to the summit of Mt. Everest.
“Somehow it just seemed logical to see how much I could take of an activity I love,” Gadd told Inside/Outside magazine of his intentions. “I may not love it as much after about 20 hours, but it will be an interesting experience.”
Gadd’s goal is lofty, but its underlying purpose is perhaps the most inspirational aspect of the upcoming Endless Ascent event. All money raised by Gadd during the climb will go toward the dZi Foundation’s Revitalize A Village program (RAV) in Eastern Nepal. RAV encourages poor, remote communities to discover their own abilities and skills to create permanent change for better educational opportunities and facilities, basic health and hygiene, and income generation. Every donation raised during the event will be matched up to $15,000.
Gadd is a good man for this seemingly insane job: His sports resume includes such feats as setting the world distance record for paragliding, twice; winning the Canadian National Sport-Climbing Championships four times; climbing icebergs off the coast of Labrador; winning the Ice Climbing World Cup; using supplemental oxygen to explore high carbon-dioxide caves in Thailand; and ice climbing in underground mines in Sweden.
“He is one of the most recognized multi-sport mountain athletes in world,” says dZi Foundation’s Joanne Kneafsey, explaining that Gadd was the one who approached the organization with the idea. “He had been to the Ice Festival before… and is always looking for ways to create a challenge for himself and push the limits.”
Choosing the dZi Foundation as the nonprofit to reap the benefits of his torturous climb was easy, Gadd told Inside/Outside; “The dZi part was easy – we all love kids and our families. As someone who has traveled in Nepal and loved the people it just made sense to give a little back.”
There will be a tent set up at the apex of the Pick of the Vic route throughout the 24-hour climb, where Ice Festival volunteers will serve as Gadd’s support crew. The route is located near the Warming Hut, thus Gadd’s endeavor should be viewable by the public throughout his climb.
For more details about Gadd’s endeavor or to donate visit endlessascent.org.
To learn more about the dZi Foundation and its programs, go to www.dzifoundation.org.