Howdy, thanks for checking out the site. I’m Nate Bender, a trail runner and environmentalist from Missoula, MT. The bulk of writing here centers on running and scrambling in the mountains, but I also dabble in rock climbing, rafting, and backcountry and cross-country skiing…most of the usual outdoors suspects.
Outside of the mountains, I’m pursuing concurrent master’s degrees in Resource Conservation and in Business Analytics at the University of Montana. The Resource Conservation degree is entirely focused around the social science of environmental issues; how to better understand the complex interdependencies between social and ecological systems and to effect social change for positive environmental outcomes. The Business Analytics degree focuses on the technical skills — cleaning and managing data, running stats in R, coding in Python and SQL, and taking advantage of helpful platforms like Google Big Query — needed to strategically guide environmental work for greatest impact. At this intersection of conservation and analytics, my thesis focus is on driving more engagement in climate change activism, specifically the action of contacting elected representatives to urge climate action.
I am passionate about how marketing, communications, and behavioral science can drive behavior change within conservation and other environmental issues. If you’re interested in that sort of stuff let me know; I love talking about these areas. And if you’re a student or young professional looking to get started in these areas, feel free to reach out. I know just enough to be dangerous in some areas, and embarrassingly little in many more. I’ll help if I can.
The blog’s name comes from advice my great-uncle gave me years ago when I asked for help choosing a career. He cheekily paraphrased a Buddhist koan and told me I’d only ever find happiness if I was able to “climb all ten mountaintops and return home before lunch.”
Sometimes I interpret it as an impossible task. So if it’s impossible, it’s best to be judicious in choosing the challenges you tackle if you’re going to make it work with the rest of life. Quality over quantity.
Other times I feel it’s more about the appeal of a challenge you haven’t quite done yet; something right on the edge of possible. Climbing ten mountains before lunch seems impossible, but maybe it’s not. Maybe pushing towards those edges helps you learn things about yourself and the world you never would otherwise. I’m drawn to those rare, fleeting moments of surprise and awe when body or mind displays a level of previously unknown strength or perseverance.
- Bob Marshall Wilderness Open – self-supported, self-powered late May traverse of the BM wilderness, MT. (40h)
- Bitterroots High Five Traverse, MT – FKT (7h 24m)
- Swan crest partial off-trail traverse, MT – scouting for future full attempt (39h)
- Grand Canyon R2R2Ralt, AZ – unsupported FKT (13h 44m)
- Ran five days / 80 miles raft-supported down Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River. The combo of raft support and wilderness is unbeatable. G&Ts on the beach after running, anyone?
- Norris – Scenic Death March Traverse, GNP, MT – FKT (15h 10m)
- Mission Mountains Southern Traverse (17h)
- Unfortunately this was an injury-plagued year with a bulging disc in my low back that shut down everything from July on.
- Montana 12ers highpoint challenge – FKT (102h 44m 19s)
- IMTUF 100 – 6th (23h 53m 5s)
- Zion Double Traverse – 2nd FKT (25h 0m 19s)
- Ouray 50 Mile Endurance Run, CO – 3rd
- River of No Return 108K, ID – 4th
- Idaho 12ers highpoint challenge – 2nd FKT (37h 44m) (now 3rd-fastest)
- Ouray 50 Mile Endurance Run, CO – T-1st
- Mt. Borah, ID – 1h 45m car-to-summit
- Le Grizz 50 Mile Run, MT – first ultra, solid middle-of-the-pack, successfully did not die.
Not a full partnership (I wish!), but I have been helping with their shoe testing program since 2019. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with their shoes and use them for everything from daily training to adventure “running” up high in the mountains.
Hüma is a veteran-owned company that produces a 100% all-natural, great tasting energy gel and protein smoothie. It’s awesome to partner with Hüma and their mission of promoting a healthy lifestyle while providing nutrients to help runners better endure whatever comes their way. I especially like the taste, texture, and how their gels are not as thick as a standard gel; which makes them significantly easier to get down when you’re at high intensity.