Kyle is an avid mountaineer and rock climber. A former college football player and state champion wrestler, Kyle has taken his athletic prowess and focused it on conquering the mountains. He’s also taken advantage of the unique views he has access to as a mountain climber to capture some incredibly stunning photos.
What is the current role/passion/project you find yourself in and where can our readers find you?
My passion is found within the ranges of the mountain; I’m an amateur mountain climber. Currently, my climbing season has come to an end and so I find myself in the gym a lot more training for next year. My goals for next year include a speed ascent of Pico De Orizaba in Mexico. It’s the 3rd highest mountain in North America, and then I hopefully will summit one of my first “seven summits” like Aconcagua, in South America, or Kilimanjaro, in Africa. You can find me on Instagram @kyle_gleed to follow along on my training for these mountains, my daily life as a college student at BYU-Idaho and lots of climbing and outdoor photography.
How did you come to be where you are now?
Growing up I was always an active kid. I was on the high school football team, and even played a year of college football. I was also a state champion wrestler my senior year, so athletics have always been a passion of mine. Mountaineering is just a way more extreme sport, and I love the challenge of it. It’s actually kind of funny how I ended up in the sport. I was extremely bored one weekend at college (I go to a smaller university where the town can get pretty dry after awhile), and I texted an old roommate of mine that I knew was pretty adventurous. I said, “Dude, I’m going crazy and I know you’ve gotta be doing something epic this weekend”. Well, it turns out that he was rock climbing down in City of Rocks, Idaho. I had never even touched an indoor rock wall, let alone gone outdoor climbing, but I wanted to get out of town and I was willing to give it a shot. I drove down and spent the weekend with him and another friend and I climbed my first route. It was a 5.7 150ft Route called “Columbia Crack”. In climbing grades, the 5 simply means a vertical rock climb, and then the second number indicates the difficulty. Typically, the numbers range from 5.5-5.15. But anyway, I instantly fell in love with the sport and started climbing two to three times a week. That transitioned into mountaineering and here I am!
What are your goals/hopes/plans for the future?
My biggest goal right now in mountain climbing is to complete the “Seven Summits” which is when you climb the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. I’m years away from it, maybe even a decade and a half, but I’m confident – not in my current ability, but with my ability to progress and develop the skills necessary to achieve my goal. Career wise, I’m not exactly sure. I’m in my junior year studying Exercise Physiology and I’d like for that to transition into strength and conditioning once I’ve graduated. I haven’t really decided whether that’ll be in the private sector or at a university, but I’ve still got time to decide.
What does growth mean to you?
I associate growth with overcoming fear. If you’re not afraid of what you’re doing, or at the very least a little bit anxious and nervous, then you’re probably not pushing yourself hard enough. However, you should definitely push the limit, without ever crossing it. I’ve known too many highly skilled people that have died because they went too far, and that’s where the danger lies. But, you should always push towards your limit in order to expand it. The times in my life where I’ve felt the most comfortable are also the times that I’ve felt the least amount of direction and growth development. On top of that, I’ve found that the more afraid I am to do something, the greater the reward has been in accomplishing it.
Did you ever have a make-or-break moment where you had to risk it all?
What I do is extremely dangerous, and in reality, the mountains don’t care who you are. If they want to kill you, they’ll kill you. I’d say that every moment you decide to take on a new mountain, you have to be willing to accept a certain level of risk. That risk level may increase over time, but it’s only because you’re continuing to broaden your comfort zone.
How have you been helped along your journey?
Throughout my life I’ve been surrounded by people who are supportive of me. I think the best way to become a master of your craft is to find a mentor that possesses two distinct qualities. Those qualities are recognition of success without jealousy and superior knowledge than what you possess. Find someone that wants you to succeed, believes that you can, and knows how to get you there. In high school it was my wrestling coach, Mike Bressler. Mike was a 2 time state champion wrestler and a fantastic collegiate wrestler, but you’d never know it because he never talked about it. He only cared about the kids he coached because he understood that success was for the kids, and not for himself. My Junior year was a year that was a turning point for me. I wasn’t doing very well at the beginning of the season, and Mike called me into his office. Without any sort of introduction he said, “You’re going to workout with me every morning before school at 4:30am.” And when Mike said something like that, you knew it wasn’t a request. So, I did just that. Every morning before school I would wake up and go workout with my coach, head to school and then go to wrestling practice. In the end, I finished my wrestling career as a state champion. He never gloated and was never demeaning. I knew he only cared about my success, and he knew exactly what it would take to get there.
Walk us through your “self-care” routine. Do you do anything specific to maintain your mental well-being? What about your physical well-being?
With something as difficult as training and climbing I’ve found that I have to balance all of that with easy social hiking or climbing. This has helped me when I go through what I call mountain depression. You see, when you accomplish something life threatening, you’re forced to push aside all other emotions. This can be thrilling and addicting, however, when you come down from the mountain life still continues. In some ways, it feels like a drug, and coming off the high makes it harder to return to reality, forcing you to push the limit more and more. Easy hiking reminds me that we don’t go to the outdoors to conquer them. We go to enjoy them.
If you could tell your 20 year old self one piece of life advice, what would it be?
I would tell myself to stop caring about what other people think. I think that too often we become so preoccupied with trying to get advice about what we should do in a certain situation that we bury our own opinion and desires in the process. I’m a big believer in gut instinct and the saying, “Don’t take advice from someone you wouldn’t trade places with.” For me, if you want to make a decision, but only seek the guidance of other people, you’re failing to consider the person with the greatest and most intimate knowledge about the exact situation. And that’s you.
If you have nothing on your schedule or an unexpected quiet moment, how do you choose to use your time?
During the school year you can usually find me on my bed watching Netflix or out with friends. And more likely than not, I’m looking up new mountains and more challenging routes to climb for the next year. But during the Summer months I can often be found hiking, fishing, or just out on a drive up a canyon.
How do you overcome obstacles?
I overcome obstacles by eliminating fear. I once heard a guy say that he never experienced fear anymore. When asked why, he simply said, “When I’m afraid of something, I’ve given it control over me. I don’t like that. So I choose not to ever be afraid.” I found that powerful and have found that taking control of fear and choosing to remove it from the equation helps me to think more rationally and overcome challenges a lot quicker. There’s no way I’m up to that level, but it inspires me to realize what I can do to overcome and reduce fear in my life.
When life gets hard, what do you do? How do you stay motivated? Do you have any examples of how you overcame an obstacle in the past? What would you tell people facing adversity?
I’m a huge believer that whatever you tell yourself will come to fruition. We see that our psychology can either damn our progress or catalyze our growth. I believe that when things get hard, you have to become mentally tougher than the trial. You fight back. I remember when I completed my first mountain climb, which was incredibly dangerous, people kept asking me, “What was it like?”. My response starts off with a question. “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done, physically?” 99% of people say it was some sort of organized team sport activity or training for an event. I then say, “now take that physical level, and add in the possibility that if you don’t keep going you will die.” I try to merge that mentality into my life. Obviously not to death, but to progression and growth. Just always tell yourself, “You have to keep moving forward.” And things turn out pretty well.
Is there a book, podcast, movie, etc. that has been particularly impactful on your journey?
I enjoy outdoor podcasts. I wouldn’t say I like one specific podcast, but I will often look up climbers, hunters, nutritionists, and fitness experts that I like and listen to specific episodes they are on. My favorites are Rhonda Patrick, Steve Rinella, Steve House, Jimmy Chin, Scott Johnston, and Cam Hanes. Cam Hanes’ mentality is inspiring. I remember the first time I solo-ed a mountain his phrase, “Nobody cares. Work harder.” came to my mind. The dude has a steel mind and I respect that a lot.