Adam is an African American mountaineer, backpacker and photographer based in Tempe, Arizona. He also enjoys hiking and home-brewing kombucha. He recently climbed Pequeño Alpamayo (5410m) and Chachacomani (6074m) in Bolivia to provide research and exposure for the non-profit U.S. Expeditions and Explorations (USX). Check out his byline in Elevation Outdoors!
Name: Adam Mitchell
Profession: Software Developer
What was your introduction to the outdoors? Growing up my parents took the four of us hiking, fishing and camping all around New Mexico and southern Colorado. Both parents grew up on the East Coast before joining the military. They moved to Albuquerque from San Antonio and realized there was a lot to do in the outdoors in the southwest. I don’t think they necessarily had a lot of experience. My parents took us outside and showed us these things that they were also learning about. Looking back it was definitely an evolution for them. I can sort of see where they were coming from. I think it’s pretty unique that we grew up going on frequent trips and visiting national parks. My parents successfully passed on their love of the outdoors to my siblings and I. My brothers and I also participated in Boy Scouts and became Eagle Scouts. So that added a baseline of technical skills and confidence in the outdoors that I think really made a difference.
What sort of trips did you do as a family? We went everywhere around New Mexico. Even before I joined Boy Scouts I had a tour of New Mexico and parts of Colorado from going on fishing and camping trips every couple months as a child. We saw all the national monuments and parks in New Mexico and southern Colorado. We went to the Grand Canyon like three times growing up—two of which I was old enough to remember. I think that what makes my siblings and I different.
Do you come from a military family? Both of my parents were active duty. My older brother is in the Air Force and my sister is an Army linguist. My brother went to the Air Force Academy in CO Springs. We grew up in Albuquerque. From there its pretty close so we would always go up there for different trips and we just sort of fell in love with Colorado.
Can you describe a few of the recent trips you’ve been on? I was at the Grand Canyon last weekend. It was amazing. It was my first trip to the North Rim. I’m now a huge fan. We hiked from the South Rim to the North Rim and drove back. We left at 0730 that morning and got in at 7:30pm that night. It was eight of us; some guys from work. Four of us drove to the North Rim and hiked south and the other four parked on the South Rim and hiked to the North Rim. Then we drove each other’s cars home!
You seriously hiked the Grand Canyon in one day? Yeah
Tell me about a recent trip
My older brother Bryce and I were fortunate enough to go to Colorado and do some 14ers out there. There are 58 mountains in CO above 14k feet (known as 14ers) and we did four this summer. We did two separate trips. One was to Chicago Basin. It’s absolutely amazing. You take a train from Durango to Silverton and hike six miles to this basin. There are actually four 14ers there. One is really hard to do. So we did the other three. If you’re going to hike six miles you may as well go for it.
Do you have any upcoming trips planned?
Definitely trips to Flagstaff to go skiing. I’d love to travel outside of the southwest but as you can see with so much to do in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico it’s hard to go anywhere else. If I had more time I’d love to go on a tour of the US to see other national parks
I heard you were in Zion National Park recently? How was that?
It was awesome. Bryce and I went to Bryce Canyon and we saw Zion. I drove from Phoenix and he met me from Las Vegas. We spent two days in Zion. I should let you know, I do public land camping: camping anywhere that’s free. Finding different public land camping spots is something that I’m really passionate about. Most national public parks have an adjacent public land area that’s totally free to go camping, and/or hunting fishing. We stayed on public lands close to Zion throughout our visit. If you’re curious there’s a website called freecamping.net.
On Being a Black Guy in the Wilderness
The one thing I’m always thinking about is the notion that—my brother and I talk about this a lot—because we’re African Americans we feel like we have to represent our entire community. Especially in spaces that don’t have a lot of other people who look like you. In the Outdoors, you don’t want to be the guy who’s unprepared. I don’t want to represent African Americans in a negative way in an area where there’s not a lot of us. At least, that’s how I sometimes interpret it. I always want to make sure that I’m being a good example. I try not to think about it like that but it’s always in the back of my mind. Other than that, it’s all positive. I do a lot of hiking with my Chinese co-workers so we’re a pretty diverse group.
Everyone should be in the Outdoors. I think more African-Americans would thrive in the outdoor space. Inspiring more African-Americans to be in the Outdoors would be an awesome thing.