Howdy, thanks for checking out the site. I’m Nate Bender, a trail runner and environmental advocate from Missoula, MT. Most of the 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 dual master’s degrees in Resource Conservation and in Business Analytics at the University of Montana. The Resource Conservation degree is focused around the social science of environmental issues; how to better understand the complex interplay between social and ecological systems and to effect social change for positive environmental outcomes.
The Business Analytics degree focuses on the technical skills helpful to guide environmental work for greatest impact. Things like cleaning and managing data, running stats in R or coding in Python, and taking advantage of helpful platforms like GitHub or Google Big Query. And StackOverflow. Thank god for StackOverflow. At this intersection of conservation and analytics, my thesis focuses on driving more engagement in climate change activism.
I occasionally write about some of these non-mountainous interests here. Sorry not sorry.
I also work on the marketing for Footprints Running with Dakota Jones, a climate education nonprofit where our mission is to develop leaders for climate action within the trail running community. We’re building something that feels special and I’m really excited to see the impact we can make in the coming years.
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 your body or mind taps into an unknown level of strength.
- Bob Marshall Wilderness Open, MT – self-supported 130 miles over three days
- Bitterroots’ Mountain Goat Marathon, MT – FKT (6h 57m)
- Logan Pass Seven Summits Scramble, GNP, MT – OKT (10h 7m)
- Pioneer Trifecta, ID – FKT (8h 8m)
- WURL, UT – just happy to survive (18h 52m)
- 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.
Gauge 20 Running (G20)
G20 is a running coaching service and the brainchild of Paul Lind and his son Cody, who have deep roots in the ultrarunning world (Paul’s late father Bob was the longtime Western States medical director). I’ve been working with Paul since 2017 and he’s helped shape me into the athlete I am today. I call him my redneck life coach. Paul and Cody have also done just an incredible job of fostering a “team” atmosphere among the athletes working with both of them; even though we’re all in different areas across the US and internationally there’s a real sense of camaraderie and support that’s invaluable. I’ve created some of my best friendships through this extended family of runners. It’s pretty special.
I started working with Pat McCurry for my strength training in early 2021 in an effort to get over lingering low back issues and generally increase my durability. Pat has over two decades’ worth of experience coaching collegiate track and field runners with the College of Idaho and the University of San Francisco, and is a wealth of knowledge for getting strong and staying injury-free. In late 2020 he transitioned away from collegiate coaching to working individually with post-collegiate and trail runners and I jumped at the chance to work with someone so knowledgeable who could steer me towards more durability and help me iron out my weaknesses and imbalances.