Flip Mayernik. Explorer.
Interview by Andrew Somps
Photos by Flip Mayernik
Tell us a little more about the roots of MTW. How did it all start? What inspired you?
Well, I guess it would make sense to start off by mentioning where I’m originally from. I grew up in the suburbs of Fairfax, Virginia and it wasn’t until I moved out to Park City, Utah that I realized there were all these people, this whole new culture I guess you could say, dedicated to exploring and climbing and hiking. It was a culture shock really. I wasn’t used to mountains – seeing mountains, climbing mountains, or anything of that nature. I remember climbing the Grand Teton in Wyoming with my friend Cameron and from there I was pretty much hooked. MTW was born right after that trip. Everything that started MTW started out here.
You've been to a lot of cool places. Hawaii, Nepal, El Salvador to name a few. What’s the most rewarding aspect to traveling for you?
Definitely that sense of discovery. That thrill of being in a new place. I’ve always been a visual learner. I think that’s why traveling has been so exciting for me. Right after I turned 21, I went to Croatia with my friend Jack and that experience made me realize this is a big world we live in and there’s a lot of places to go to. Croatia was the first but I remember saying to myself, “I gotta keep exploring.”
You just gotta start somewhere. I joke around that we’re taking over the world but seriously, you can do anything you want to do.
You've said before that you're attracted to intimidating challenges, be it physical or mental. Why is that? What compels you?
When you set these high standards, there’s obviously a lot expected of you but I don’t know, it’s all part of my own growth. Like going through a tough time, it’s hard but it will make you stronger. Climbing an unbelievable mountain, it makes you stronger. You’re tested. I accomplish more, or at least I feel I accomplish more when I’m pushing the limits. You don’t just climb one mountain and think you’ve climbed them all. You don’t just go to one country and think you’ve seen them all. They’re all so different and have their own unique challenges – I like that.
What do you think it means to be a mountaineer of the world?
We’re global citizens. I want MTW to be a global tribe of nomads. Of wanderers and explorers. We chase our dreams, conquer our fears. You just gotta start somewhere. I joke around that we’re taking over the world but seriously, you can do anything you want to do.
I don’t think of myself – I’m tuned in, connected to the task at hand – the climb or whatever, and that is the emotion.
We all can feel stuck at times. What would you say to someone who is feeling stuck?
I think it’s all about fear. The things we’re afraid of can really keep us tied down. I don’t like being tied down, so for me those things that I’m afraid of, I actively pursue. Like climbing the Mt Olympus west slabs was kinda scary but I wanted to do it, and when I finally made it to the top – oh man, that feeling – it was incredible. It’s the idea of doing something different, its trying new things that keeps me going.
Our emotions can have quite the pull on our behaviors. Being an avid traveler, constantly exploring new places, how do you use your emotions to your advantage?
Honestly, it’s complete optimism. Like you just get into this flow. I don’t think of myself – I’m tuned in, connected to the task at hand –the climb or whatever, and that is the emotion. You’re only adapting, reacting to your surroundings, your senses, your gut. Things are constantly changing out there. I don’t have a formula.
What is it about being outside, exposed in the wilderness, that pulls you in? What are some of the lessons you've learned from nature?
That feeling of connection. I feel connected in nature. I’m present. Like if I’m in the Sawtooths, I’m not like ‘oh I wish I was in Nepal or Mexico or anywhere else. This lake right in front of me – here, right now – is all that matters. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I feel like I’m achieving something bigger, way bigger than myself, when I’m outside.