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Davis, California

Friday, May 24, 2024

UC Davis student inspiring queer athletes on his trek to the second-highest mountain in the world

Aidan Hyman will travel to the base camp of Pakistan’s K2 in June to raise funds in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign


By MIA BALTIERRA — features@theaggie.org

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When offered the chance to climb one of the most dangerous mountains in the world, second-year biological systems engineering major Aidan Hyman jumped to join the expedition. Through a mutual friend, Hyman learned about Lucy Westlake, a college student who would be traveling to Pakistan to summit the famous K2 mountain.

“She’s the youngest American woman to have climbed Everest, and I was like, ‘That’s the coolest thing that I’ve ever heard ever,’ so I connected with her,” Hyman said, “She was telling me how she was going on a mountaineering expedition to Pakistan to climb K2, and I was like, ‘Oh wow, I’m super interested’ […] so we kind of set that up.”

Hyman has been running marathons since he was 15 and recently joined the UC Davis triathlon team. He also recently got into climbing and said he is excited for the opportunity to take on a trek at such a large scale. Hyman said his recent research about climbers and mountaineers motivated him to join the expedition.

“As I was reading more about it, I realized […] like only 3% of professional mountaineers are queer which is […] not enough,” Hyman said. “So I was doing more research, and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m gonna be like one of the youngest […], like the youngest queer mountaineer to get to basecamp.’”

Hyman also said he wants to use this experience to inspire other queer athletes. He is also raising funds in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign and said he wants to directly give to an organization that helps marginalized communities.

“I mean, this is an experience for myself,” Hyman said, “but at the same time […] I was kind of like, ‘Why don’t I use this leverage to promote an organization that’s actually making meaningful change?’ I hope I can inspire others to kind of see a space for them in the world of climbing.”

Along with other college students, Hyman will travel to Pakistan on June 15 and start the ascent of K2 guided by a sherpa, who is a local guide, on June 17. Hyman said the group expects the trek to take about two weeks. While Hyman is only going to the basecamp, it remains a difficult trek at 16,400 feet of elevation on the mountainous terrain.

“[K2 is] one of the most deadly mountains in the world just because a lot of the paths aren’t as well defined,” Hyman said. “Once you get to base camp, you need a lot of technical experience. While I have some mountaineering experience, I’m just going to basecamp because I don’t feel like I’m at quite the level of Lucy to summit it, but I do hope to one day.”

 In preparation for the journey, Hyman said he has been rigorously training every day and keeping in contact with Westlake. 

“I’ve been training for the past couple months for various pursuits like marathons and whatnot, but a lot of the training has overlapped with climbing training,” Hyman said. “There’s technical climbing stuff I’m doing for that, but also a lot of it is strength training, surprisingly, and cardio and whatnot, endurance stuff.”

Other aspects of training include gathering specialized mountaineering gear. With the advice of Westlake and others going on the trip, Hyman said he feels confident his group will be prepared for their journey.

“In terms of gear, there’s a lot of stuff you have to prep,” Hyman said. “The expedition is being sponsored by two companies, but one of them is providing us with specialty mountaineering boots and the other one with, like, mountaineering backpacks, but you need stuff like below-freezing thermal sleeping bags and mountaineering tents.”

Preparation for the expedition also includes receiving a slew of vaccines.

“I’m getting, like, six vaccines before the [trip] because polio is going around Pakistan right now, so that’s kind of intense,” Hyman said. “I think as long as you’re cautious and make all the necessary preparations and training for it, I think experienced climbers can totally do this climb with a reasonable amount of safety.” 

With less than a month until his journey, Hyman remains steadfast in his training and said the impact his journey could have is what motivates him to keep going.

“I want to make space in the climbing world for queer folks,” Hyman said. “I think every person deserves to have a space, have a voice in athletic pursuits and I want to be that voice for our generation of climbers. This climb is bigger than I am.”

You can follow Hyman’s upcoming journey to Pakistan on his personal website and social media, as well as donate to his page on the Human Rights Campaign website


Written by: Mia Baltierra — features@theaggie.org