Elevating Together: A Look Behind the Lens with Louis Arevalo
This is Danny (in blue) and friends. Obviously, Danny is awesome and by association, his friends must be too. One afternoon while I was wandering the streets of Huaraz, Peru, shooting video footage for Elevated Mountain Guides, it began to rain. I took shelter beneath a door stoop and continued to shoot the deluge. A few doorways from me this energized group of kids was darting back and forth across the street doing a terrible job of dodging the massive raindrops. Each crossing came with an eruption of laughter so clear and genuine I just had to meet them.
Last summer I bumped into Nikki McGee – founder of Elevated Mountain Guides (EMG) - while shooting an event in Salt Lake City. She mentioned Peru, I mentioned that I was half Peruvian, she mentioned doing some non-profit work down there, so I left her with a card.
By the end of November, I was in Lima, with the EMG team of Nikki, Erkki, and Emily. They were there to deliver climbing gear and to teach a wilderness medicine course at a technical institute in Huaraz.
A bus ride later and we arrived in Huaraz for eight days of classroom lessons, scenarios, day excursions, climbing, food, and new friendships. The city itself is a dense maze of narrow streets lined with brick buildings. They bustle with people, motorcycles, cars, and trucks. Dogs bark, roosters crow, horns beep, and voices carry day and night. Markets, restaurants, shops, and cafes can be found around every corner. Agricultural land dotted with simple adobe homes rise over the city on all sides and above this the towering peaks of the surrounding mountain ranges of the Cordillera Negra and Cordillera Blanca spend most of their time shrouded in a swirl of clouds, only occasionally making dramatic appearances.
Situated at 10,000 feet above sea level Huaraz is a mountain city offering a multitude of possibilities when it comes to outdoor recreation and cultural attractions. As the city has become more cosmopolitan its allure as an international destination has greatly increased. It’s easy to see why choosing to become a guide here would be a great choice for the locals.
My task while in Huaraz was to document the course, the students, the city, and the surroundings. Having multiple days to do so was a gift. Over the course, I gradually got to know the students, instructors, and the team from EMG. The days moved steadily by and each night the team regrouped. We reviewed, took notes, and shared. After the review, the conversations wandered, but time and time again the subject would return to having access to the outdoors. Each member of the team along with many of the students and instructors had an undeniable passion for the outdoors. I learned that one of the main reasons EMG exists is because they don’t believe lack of money should prevent anyone from experiencing the well-being of the outdoors or pursuing a career in that realm. I couldn’t agree more.
To be honest, before heading to Peru last fall I wasn’t entirely sure what Elevated Mountain Guides was all about. All I knew was that they were giving back to the outdoor community and in this day and age giving back just sounds like a better idea. So, I went.
Last November 57 students voluntarily participated in the Wilderness Medicine Course in Huaraz, Peru. EMG, through its fundraising efforts and volunteers, offered the class free of charge. When the average monthly income in Peru (not necessarily Huaraz) is $200 U.S. and similar courses are offered for hundreds of dollars I’d say that that is definitely giving something back.
Okay, back to Danny. I saw Danny a few more times during my time in Huaraz. Every time he wore that same ear-to-ear grin. Each interaction was so genuine. Fist bumps, high fives, and laughter. Even now it makes me smile. I don’t know what his future plans are or if he or his friends will end up developing a passion for their surroundings and want to share it with others, but if he or they do, I want to do what I can to make that possible.