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Renca Dunn interviews Scott Lehmann, Shayna Unger, and Chad Unger on their successful summit

Updated: Dec 16, 2022

Updated: Oct 7

Posted June 28, 2021 | By Renca Dunn | See original article here: Renca Dunn interviews Scott Lehmann, Shayna Unger, and Chad Unger on their successful summit of Mt. Denali, the highest peak in the U.S.

Renca Dunn: Hello! Do you mind giving a quick introduction of yourself and where you’re from?

Scott Lehmann: Sure, I’m Scott Lehmann. I’m from Maryland.

Renca: Born and raised?

Scott: Yes, my whole life and I grew up there.

Renca: But for your mountain climbing… You left Maryland for that.

Scott: Strangely enough, most big mountains are in the west. The east is very flat. You know the east is flat.

Renca: True, true. Congratulations on your 50th summit.

Renca: Do you mind explaining a little bit more about that summit as your biggest accomplishment?

Scott: Sure. The 50 summits means that each state’s tallest mountain or point was reached, totaling fifty states. Denali was my 50th highest point in the states, and it seems it’s possible I’m the first deaf person to reach all 50 states.

Scott: I have to thank a woman named Miriam Richards. That woman is what I call the first woman who tried touching the 50 highest points in America. She almost made it and made it to 49, and that woman had MS. She still kept going.

Renca: Wow.

Scott: I was very impressed. I’ve met through Facebook. Wow. She’s the one who planted that seed and the idea. Before I heard or went to those fifty states, I had never heard of it before that woman.

Scott: Often, people talk about other countries, but America’s natural parks are beautiful. That’s our backyard and it’s beautiful.

Renca: Yes. What was the tallest mountain you reached?

Scott: Tallest, as in the fifty states? In Alaska a few days ago. That was the tallest at 20,300 feet, that’s the tallest. In the lower 48 states, the highest one is only 14,000 feet high in Mt. Whitney, California. There’s no other similar height except for Denali. That’s a big gap, yes.

Renca: Yes.

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Scott: For Denali, my 50th summit, that training was… Wow. You had to do almost eight to ten months of commitment to train. So I started training from last October all the way to actually being on the mountain on May 31, from October to May. Training requires six days a week. Without any training and exercise, it would be impossible. To make it to the top of Denali, there would be no chance of making it to the top if you were just at home watching TV. You have to train for it. You must commit to the goal.

Renca: Now, to the accomplishment of your 50th summit… I would love to have your two other team members who are still there to join you. I’m curious what your experience is.

Scott: Sure, I’ll get them!

Renca: If you could share one experience that you enjoyed the most while climbing, what would that be?

Shayna Unger: I think Denali was one of the toughest and most challenging hikes I’ve ever done. I’ve hiked many and climbed a few, but hiked many… But that trip was pretty challenging. I think the biggest advice and experience I have is teamwork. The three of us helped each other a lot. I think that’s key, and it helped. This is my boyfriend and he’s my brother, so what better team could I ask for? We were together, supported each other, and if one person became sick we would help out, or if something weighed too much for one person we would take it off their shoulders. We slept, breathed, everything, and ate together so I think that's an experience I will never forget. I'm lucky to have had that opportunity to experience it with you both.

Renca: Obviously you would not recommend doing it alone? Would you recommend several people, right?


Some people want to do it alone.

Woman: I think the best number is three to four. The best number is three to four for safety reasons, plus… it’s hard. Having support is nice.

Scott: And many people don’t realize that in Denali, there is no running water. That means the only way is to boil water, so it takes an average of three hours a day to boil six liters of water.

Chad Unger: To melt the snow.

Scott: So one person has to stand there with the boiling water, it takes three hours a day, and the rest of the two have to work on cooking, and setting up the tent...

So if one person is on the mountain that means three hours of boiling water plus other tasks… It takes three or four people to help each other out. It’s not easy, definitely.

Renca: Makes sense. True. Chad, what was your experience? If you could share one experience, what would it be?

Chad: I think being on a mountain, you learn more about yourself faster. You have to carry only what you need on your back, that’s it. It’s not like you can watch TV or… The only things were clothing, food… we have to hold it, and if we lose anything… I did lose one water bottle and I had to figure that part out and figure out how to share water… That was a way to learn about yourself faster. It’s tough but I’m grateful to have gotten through it.

Renca: Can each of you share a tip or piece of advice about climbing mountains for the deaf community?

Scott: Ok. I want to share… Remember, first, I started eight years ago with zero climbing experience. Zero. And now, I want to tell young kids that you can. You can. Don’t let your experience or lack of experience make you doubt yourself. Believe in yourself and your passion. Not only for climbing, but it can be anything from the outdoors to photography, filming, or painting… Anything. Believe in yourself. Find your passion. You can. Eight years ago, I had none.

Chad: My advice is… There are many different ways. There’s no one way. Shayna had no classes to take. She went for it herself and learned on the mountain, while I took classes to learn from others. There are different ways to do things, but like they said, you can do it if you try.

Shayna: My advice will be to connect with any organization or camp to start off from there, and that will be a great opportunity to lead you and go to some mountains. I was an Aspen camper back then so I did experience that. I enjoyed multi day backpacking and that’s how I became interested in that. There is CorpsTHAT, a new deaf organization that encourages outdoor activities for youth. That’s a good place to start if you’re curious where to start. That’s a good place to start to get an idea of it and get some experience before you go any further.

Scott: CorpsTHAT is why we started our fundraiser page, to support CorpsTHAT, and it’s still not too late to give support. That will support the future for youth, that’s what we really believe in and we really value deaf youth.


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