By Daniel P. Elkins, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs OfficeAugust 23, 2013
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Aug. 23, 2013) -- A sense of adventure by two members of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command brought them together Aug. 16-18 to scale Wheeler Peak, New Mexico's highest mountain at an elevation of 13,167 feet.
Stella Juarez and Bev Stotz quickly formed a bond for adventure seeking after each have accomplished recent feats.
Juarez, a contracting specialist at Fort Carson, Colo., recently completed the 800-kilometer Camino de Santiago pilgrimage across Spain over 26 days. Stotz, the contracting director at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., earlier this year climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, which covered 42 miles with a 12,000-foot elevation change.
In preparation for the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, an admittedly anxious Juarez reached out to Stotz for inspiration after learning she climbed Kilimanjaro despite having had a knee replaced and suffering bone-on-bone pain due to the degeneration of cartilage in her other knee.
"As a fellow trekker, I had respect for the determination it took for her to complete Kili and simply had to tell her," Juarez said. "We do share a kindred hiking spirit so with Wheeler Peak being a midpoint between where we live, it made coming together for a shared climb a natural evolution."
They were joined by Ashley Shupienis, who also climbed Kilimanjaro with Stotz and recently moved to Denver.
"When some local folks asked who was interested in this trip and I knew how close it was to Colorado Springs, I asked them if they would meet me there. The answer was a resounding yes," Stotz said. "We had a great time. Kindred spirits require no time to get acquainted. I felt like I've known Stella forever. The scenery was magnificent and the camaraderie phenomenal."
Although an avid hiker, it was the first time Juarez hiked into a base camp with a tent, food and supplies necessary for multiple days. They hiked into the camp Aug. 16 along the Williams Lake trail. The ascended the summit Aug. 17 before returning to base camp for the night, then completed the hike Aug. 18.
"It was a pleasure to hike with someone who not only shares a common interest, but also has a high degree of determination to climb mountains," Juarez said.
Their motivation to climb is drawn from both the practical to an existential inspiration.
"Throughout history, mountains have always been a place of meditation, perspective and inspiration. Making your way up to the top of one is like a physical meditation that gives you time to quiet down and think in peace you don't normally have," Juarez said. "There is nothing more inspiring and empowering that I've found than the feeling of finally standing atop a mountain and getting a bird's eye view of the world."
For Stotz, "I like being out in nature. I will walk up anything that will let me."
Both consider the high altitudes of their respective duty locations as an advantage for conditioning and given their more challenging accomplishments, Wheeler Peak didn't pose as great a challenge but was instead an opportunity to become better acquainted with each other.
"Wheeler Peak was relatively easy. You just have to pace yourself appropriately to succeed," said Stotz, adding that the greatest take away was "a new friend in Stella and a stronger friendship with Ashley."
Juarez agreed that while she craves the adrenaline rush of completing something physically challenging, the "formal establishment of a new friendship with another strong, woman with an adventurous spirit" was the best part of the weekend.