Dustin Mitchell, a 2007 North Lincoln High School graduate, spent his entire life in Lincoln County until moving to Colorado in 2009 to pursue his love for mountaineering.
Since then he has been a student and an adjunct employee with Colorado Mountain Collegeâ€™s Leadville campus and, outside of his personal climbing, has led groups to some of the finest peaks the Rocky Mountains have to offer. He said that the danger and adrenaline rush of mountain climbing was a factor that helped draw him into making it his career choice.
â€œThe danger and the risk is fun when youâ€™re with people or youâ€™re personal climbing, but when youâ€™re guiding people you want them to be comfortable,â€ he said.
â€œA lot of times guiding is very, very stressful. You have to make sure that the people youâ€™re guiding are OK, and on the other hand you have to do certain things to get them and yourself up the mountain safely.â€
Mitchell was at the summit of Mount Massive, near Leadville, this past September when news reached him that his father, Guy Mitchell, had passed away. Mitchell said it was his fatherâ€™s love of the outdoors that helped spark his interest.
â€œHe was into dirt-bike riding, and although thatâ€™s not really outdoorsy, in terms of what I do, we would go on camping trips and I think thatâ€™s what kicked it off,â€ he said. â€œI liked being away from modern things, and then coming back to them. It kept progressing; I started making longer trips to different locations, then rock climbing. I started thinking that there were guys who went out traveling around the world climbing huge mountains, and that looked like a lot of fun.â€
Mitchell received a bachelorâ€™s degree in Parks and Recreation from UNC-Charlotte, and started working for the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte. After working in retail, the opportunity to attend Colorado Mountain College presented itself.
â€œItâ€™s the Holy Grail of mountaineering out there,â€ he said. â€œYou canâ€™t just continue hiking and backpacking to try to do it as a career, you have to move up into the guiding and big mountain industry.â€
After finishing his degree in Colorado, Mitchell said heâ€™d like to split his time between the western part of the United States and North Carolina if heâ€™s able to find work in his field here.
â€œIt would be great to be able to come home and work as well, but on the east coast itâ€™s generally only rock climbing in the mountains here,â€ he said. â€œThereâ€™s some ice climbing but itâ€™s only two months out of the year. It would be great to come back here in the summer when the snow melts in Colorado, and try to stay in both areas, but there are so many job opportunities out west.â€