Ascending Athlete #6: Nate Furman

I’ve started a series called “Ascending Athletes”, which features people achieving great things in their lives and/or impacting the lives of others through athletics. I’m featuring athletes of all backgrounds, sports and skill levels. Everyone has a story to tell– whether a recreational or beginner just starting to work out or a hardcore athlete who is competing at an elite level. The goal of the Ascending Athlete series is to capture these stories and inspire others to seek similar challenges and rewards. If you would like to share your story or would like to nominate someone as an Ascending Athlete, please let me know. For more information about Ascend Sports Conditioning, visit our website.

Nate in his favorite place in the world- hanging mountainside.

Nate Furman

Adventure is a way of thinking and a state of mind. It’s about leaving your cell phone behind, loading up your pack and heading out in the wilderness for mental and physical challenges and an opportunity to connect with the outdoors and share those experiences with others. It’s also about keeping that magic connection alive and well in your everyday, “real” life upon your return from your adventure. Very few people have the opportunity to make adventure their life pursuit. Nate Furman is one of those people. Nate is a Professor at Green Mountain College in Vermont where he teaches outdoor education and actively pursues his own outdoor adventures. I met Nate through ASC, when he reached out to me to help him take his performance to the next level and to make some of his athletic goals a reality. Nate is one of those athletes you just sit back and say “wow” to what he’s accomplished already and what he hopes to do. From competitive mountain biker to hardcore climber to passionate educator who inspires others, Nate epitomizes adventure and what it means to be an Ascending Athlete.

Nate was kind enough to answer a few questions and help explain what makes him an Ascending Athlete:

Why are athletics important to you?

Because doing stuff outside is awesome!!!!! Athletics are one of the few things that combine challenge with bliss. I mean, my work is challenging but only rarely is it blissful. Visiting my family out in California is awesome, but as long as we don’t talk politics it’s not that challenging. Athletics, on the other hand, is right on the intersection of joy and challenge. It’s so much fun and it’s so hard. Athletics have been a place where I’ve been able to establish relationships, and maintain those relationships meaningfully. For me, the social circle gained through athletic participation has always been the most important social circle I’m involved in. It’s the place that inspires me to challenge myself.

In addition, the memories I have of athletics are etched into my brain so much deeper than other memories. I can barely remember the time I graduated college despite the pomp and circumstance. But I can easily recall any of the mountain bike races I’ve ever competed in; how I was feeling, what place I came in, who I competed with, etc.

So for me, getting the best out of life means getting after it through athletic pursuit…and probably not on a treadmill.

What sports do you participate in?
My favorite place on the planet is hanging from a hand jam, looking up at the sky and then the glacier below. I’m fairly addicted to rock climbing; mountaineering and ice climbing are pretty fun, too. The adventure and camaraderie that’s in it is just so much fun.

Climbing expeditions have taken me to Alaska, Peru, Canada, Greenland, Chile, Argentina, and now Vermont! Climbing is a great way to see the world; you get to meet people who are incredibly passionate and about the same thing that you are, and often become instant friends despite language barriers. I’ve climbed with Germans, Japanese, Brazilians, French, Swedes, Peruvians, Chileans, Argentineans, Indians, Thai, Nepalese, Australians, and some folks from a small island off the coast of Europe…I think they call themselves British. The opportunity to share stories (if we can communicate) or just each other’s company is a wonderful way to experience people from different cultures.

I dabble in a bunch of different sports. I was a fairly competent cyclist back-in-the-day, and still love to go for long rides with my wife, either on roads or trails. We participate in races from time to time, most recently the Hampshire 100. I tend to participate in activities that my friends like, so depending on the day and the partner, that might be skiing, running, or kayaking.

What is your major athletic goal(s)and/or events you are participating in this year (2010)? Why have you chosen this goal(s)?

I’m hoping to pass the AMGA Rock Guide Exam in Red Rocks this April. It’s a five day test where examiners assess your technical guiding abilities. I hope that I can get in good enough shape so that the physical challenge isn’t all that challenging.

I’m toying with the idea of doing a triathlon in the Fall. We’ll see what Gary thinks.

But mostly, what I really hope to accomplish, is to climb the Nose on El Capitan (VI, 5.10, C2) and the Regular Northwest Face route on Half Dome (VI, 5.10, C1) in a day in June of 2011. I love climbing long, classic routes, and enjoy doing them in a day. It’s so much fun stepping up to a long route with some water, some food, a rain jacket, climbing gear, and going for it.

I need to get a lot better to have a shot at this!

What are some future goals and events you’d like to participate in?
There are so many things that I want to see and travel to. Right now I’m dabbling with the idea of a ski tour across Greenland, and maybe a bike tour circumnavigating Iceland. I’ll be headed to Alaska in June and the Bugaboos in July, and can’t wait to get on some of the long granite routes that are up there.

What impact has your athletics had on the lives of others?

My relationship with my wife is blessed with time together being active. She loves to run and ski and bike, and she’ll tolerate a little climbing from time to time. The ability to have adventures with her is the highlight of my life. As I write this I’m in Salt Lake City and I can’t wait to get out to Vermont so we can go skiing together.

Name one interesting fact or story that makes you unique and interesting.

My career has always revolved around sharing the outdoors with others. I just completed my PhD at the University of Utah, and am now working as faculty at Green Mountain College. I get to continue sharing the outdoors with undergraduate students, as my job allows me the opportunity to teach future outdoor leaders in the Adventure Education program. It’s a beautiful career, and I’m blessed to have it.

And I have six toes on one foot!

Thanks to Nate for sharing his story and for inspiring others to improve their health & well-being while helping others in the process– he truly is an Ascending Athlete!

To learn more about Ascend Sports Conditioning, our mission, focus and dedication to helping people ascend to new levels through athletics, please visit

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