Stephen Lester, 39, grew up vacationing in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, every year since he was four years old, which implanted a lifelong love for the mountains and natural beauty of the world. Yet, unhealthy habits that developed in his 20s, like drinking, smoking, and poor diet, led the insurance broker down a path of bad health. This all changed when he and his wife were expecting their first child.
“Something just clicked. I had to change my life,” starting with short walks and hikes during his annual trips to Colorado. “Once I started getting outside, I realized what I’d been missing.”
Stephen’s first goal was to climb a 14er, a mountain peak that towers at 14,000 feet elevation and is considered a recreational pastime by Coloradans and tourists alike. After summiting Mount Democrat, Stephen’s goals continued to snowball from there.
“To progress to more difficult peaks in Colorado, I knew I had to change my habits,” wanting to advance to class three mountains, which require technical rock scrambling and wearing a helmet.
Stephen has also been a member at High Point Climbing in Memphis since its opening nearly five years ago. “I was able to exercise in a way that I thoroughly enjoyed. Once I started consistently exercising and started to see the positive change in my life, body, and mind, it has become somewhat of an addiction,” he jokes. “I now even love running, which I could never have imagined, and I plan to run the St. Jude Marathon in 2024.”
Frequenting High Point Climbing and going on weekly runs helped Stephen lose weight and increase endurance for bagging those 12-18-hour mountain peak hikes without crashing.
“I love the challenge of accomplishing things while seeing the most beautiful parts of the world that few people are privileged to see. I also love its logistics and planning aspects, like deciding on particular routes, what to pack, and where to sleep.”
The mountaineering dad of two now enjoys international destination travels for bigger climbs and recently returned from Ecuador, where he summited Chimborazo (20,561). He’s also done Itzacchihuati (17,103) in Mexico and local high points like Mount Rainier in Washington via the challenging ice climbing route.
“My goals are pretty fluid. I want to do super fun and exciting climbs in places I would otherwise never travel.”
“When I’m traveling, I don’t worry about food too much; I take such good care of myself at home, so that’s kind of my let go period because I want to enjoy everything that country offers.”
Slow and steady dietary changes that felt sustainable for Stephen were simple swaps like cutting out sweet, carbonated beverages and junk food, reducing portion sizes, and adding a salad to his meals. Now, Stephen enjoys hiking with his two young children and showing them how much beauty the world has to offer.
By Shlomit Ovadia
Photo by Tindall Stephens