Suicide, depression and the effects of both are challenging and frightening subjects to discuss. I know. I was in my early 20s when I stumbled upon a friend during her attempted suicide. What transpired was tragic and emotional, but she eventually received the help she needed. Not everyone is so lucky.
Adirondack 46ers Kolby Ziemendorf and Catherine Zarnofsky are currently in the Adirondacks to climb all 46 High Peaks again, this time to honor those lost to suicide. This time their goal isn’t a patch, but to climb all of the High Peaks in one week to help raise awareness for suicide prevention.
“I lost my friend Greg Lombardo when I was in high school,” says Zimendorf. “We played hockey. No one knew that something was wrong. I remember looking around at all the people at his funeral and thinking that he could have reached out to any one of us. That is one of many things that struck me as a survivor.”
Ziemendorf wanted to do something to honor Greg when the idea to raise funds by hiking all the High Peaks popped into his head while at church in Potsdam. At first he thought it was crazy. He didn’t know if it had been done before. That idea grew into The 46 Climbs for Suicide Prevention.
“This is a hard subject to talk about. People are more comfortable talking about cancer than suicide,” says Ziemendorf. “I want to help make it easier. We have been fundraising and have exceeded our goal of $10,000. It is growing beyond our dreams and expectation. Now we need to finish our part. We are exciting and nervous. We hope people will walk away with the awareness about these situations that affect everyone.”
Ziemendorf and Zarnofsky have been training months for this event. In addition to trail running and weight training, they have planned a specific route in order to achieve all 46 peaks within the seven day time period. Members of the Clarkson University Outing Club are providing assistance by placing supplies at designated areas so that large items such as tents, bear canisters and sleeping bags would not have to be continuously carried.
“The real goal is making Suicide Prevention something to talk about. People have come out of nowhere to share their stories,” says Zimendorf. “This event has been an outlet. It has turned something positive out of my friend’s death. Suicide is a difficult subject to talk about. I hope we have made it easier. You can’t just get over it. The goal is awareness and fundraising. The American Society of Suicide Prevention is going to use this money for research, signage, and education, For all we know, we could save a life. That is huge.”
46 Climbs poster used with permission