The EDGE of Denali Peak


SUU’s EDGE Program gives students the opportunity to achieve a personal or professional goal outside of the classroom. Jason Hughes, a senior in general studies, is a great example of achieving dreams through the outdoor EDGE track.

Hughes, considers himself a native to southern Utah but the majority of his college education is online due to spending the last four years serving in the 212th Rescue Squadron in Anchorage, Alaska.

Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 3.09.56 PMIn 2015, Hughes’ team was instructed to summit the highest peak in northern America: Denali mountain which stands at 20,310 ft. above sea level. Unfortunately, his team had to turn around 3,000 ft. from the top. Ever since then, Hughes dreamed of returning.

Two years later, he was offered the chance to be the assistant team leader in leading six rope-team members back up the mountain. At the same time, Hughes was enrolled in the EDGE course and jumped at the opportunity to use this expedition as his project.

The trip required weeks of planning and training for the 17-day hike through snow capped mountains. Hughes’ goal for his project was to learn and enforce the importance of safety on the extreme trails.

“Every year thousands of climbers attempt to summit this great peak,” he said. “As we learn how to do so in a clean and responsible way we can continue to maintain and enjoy this amazing environment without destroying it for future generations.”

Many of the difficulties in the project began within the first few days of the climb. The Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 3.09.42 PMteam faced altitude sickness, insomnia and exhaustion. These challenges restricted many of the teammates, not allowing them to finish the trip. Luckily Hughes, in the company of another team member, made it to the summit.

“[It’s unreal] Sitting down at the end of the day and seeing what you have accomplished with the feeling of strain and struggle through your whole body,” he said. “[We were] able to stand on the edge of the world and see so much beauty.”

Looking back at the expedition, Hughes’ biggest lesson learned was to never forget to stop and look at his surroundings.

“You get caught up with moving to the next camp or getting food and getting to bed that you miss the sun sets, the beauty in the stillness and vastness of the mountain,” Hughes explained. “It’s a good life lesson, there will always be the next hill to climb, the next class to pass, the next promotion. The trip is too short to miss what is right in front of you now.”

Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 3.07.00 PMThankful for his time in the Rescue Squadron and at SUU, Hughes expects many more exciting adventures to come. The EDGE program gave him the push he needed to make and keep goals along with taking advantage of all the learning opportunities life has to offer.

Those who wish to learn more about Hughes expedition can visit his EDGE website. Any questions about other projects can be answered on the EDGE Center website or by calling 435-865-8433.

Story By: Ansleigh Mikesell
Photos Provided By: Jason Hughes