While many people in Terre Haute will be enjoying activities at sea level this summer — at a swimming pool or maybe a favorite fishing hole — Indiana State graduate Matt Rosenberg, ’16, will be among the clouds, leading climbers up Mt. Rainier in Washington.
And when Rosenberg isn’t climbing mountains, he spends his winters off-season rescuing stranded skiers at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in California. While there, he will also work with explosives to mitigate the danger of avalanches.
Sound like an exciting, even dangerous life? Maybe. But to Rosenberg it’s all in a day’s work … sometimes very hard work.
“We keep it pretty safe,” Rosenberg. “At Mammoth Mountain, we bring patients down who are in trouble. It’s usually not dangerous, but it involves long days, and it’s hard work.”
Rosenberg said the most dangerous situation he has been involved in occurred in January, before he began his professional mountain climbing career. He and two friends were climbing Longs Peak, the highest point (14,259 feet) in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
“As a private climber with two others, we were climbing down the mountain in a pretty bad storm,” Rosenberg said. “By dark, we were pretty hopelessly lost at 12,500 feet in a complete white out.”
He said they dug a hole in the ground and “sheltered in place.” But one of his friends was having the most trouble with the cold, and specifically with his toes. Rosenberg said they tried to use their stomachs to warm his toes.
“We were definitely all freezing,” he said.
“The next morning it dawned nice and bright and sunny,” Rosenberg said. “We were able to climb down.”
He said his friend did lose a “pinky” toe to frostbite.
Rosenberg’s love of mountain climbing led him to join RMI Expeditions at the beginning of summer. The company helps mountain climbers take on the tallest summits in the world.
Rosenberg was raised in Glencoe, just north of Chicago. “Growing up, I’d always go to summer camps out in California,” Rosenberg said. “That’s when I started climbing. And I got pretty good at it. When I got a little older, I would climb some of the mountains out West.”
That when it became Rosenberg’s goal, to climb the highest mountains the world.
But before he started aggressively to pursue that goal, Rosenberg made the decision to attend college. So how did an aspiring mountain climber choose Indiana State, which is surrounded by mostly flat land and short, rolling hills?
“Honestly, because I got in,” he said. “But also, it was close to home. And they have a great athletic training program.”
When Rosenberg graduated in May 2016 with a major in athletic training, he began his work with RMI Expeditions a year later. He’s been pleased with his first season working on Mt. Rainier.
“This past summer I climbed the mountain 21 times,” he said. “We also do route work on the mountain, without clients, all on the glaciers. We’ll be shoveling the route out. So could be carrying gear or propane — I functioned sometimes as a porter.
“Mt. Rainer, that’s my love and my lady. I know every rock on the one route we always do. We’ve got five different routes.”
Rosenberg said teams usually go up with three guides and nine clients.
“We keep it pretty safe,” he said. “We — the guides and the clients — are all roped together. And the clients can’t go down by themselves. They have to be escorted.”
Rosenberg said one reason his team typically doesn’t encounter dangerous situations is because of preparation.
“Last season, as guide, I was never in a harrowing situation because we have our logistics and plan down pat,” he said. “We also vet our clients pretty heavily. The second someone shows weakness, we start talking to them, and if it continues, we say, ‘Hey, this might be your highest point.’”
The guides also constantly monitor their own comfort.
“As a guide, if I’m getting frostbite, there are problems, big problems,” Rosenberg said. “If you’re a professional athlete, there’s a lot of pressure to get the top. But if I’m not having a good time, the group isn’t having a good time.”
Eventually, Rosenberg would like to be a guide on taller mountains.
“I’m a first-year guide at Mt. Rainier, the highest mountain Washington. Next year, I could be doing the same stuff. But I also might be moved to Mt. Denali in Alaska (the former Mt. McKinley). I could be climbing the north side of Shuksan (in Washington). I think it’s the most photographed mountain the world.
“Over the next five years, I could be in South America or Europe or Africa.”
Then, if things pan out, Rosenberg said he might one day become a guide in the Himalaya Mountains in central Asia, separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau.
“The goal are the mountains in the Himalayas,” he said. “There are 14 8,000-meter peaks in the Himalayas, the biggest mountains in the world. And when you start working on those mountains, that’s when the big paychecks come.”
Rosenberg’s drive to pursue those dreams came partly from Indiana State Professor Richard Schneirov. While a Sycamore, Rosenberg took his “1960s Counter Culture” class.
“Professor Schneirov talked about being in the zone, focused on right now, not in the future or in the past. It’s kind of ageless. When I’m in the mountains I feel like I’m going to be 27 for the rest of my life.”
Even at his young age, Rosenberg is an advocate for other young people to follow their dreams.
“To anyone who has a dream, just freaking go for it,” he said. “I had a dream to work on a ski patrol — I did it in one year, but originally I wanted to be doing those things in five years.
“Especially if your dream is high, just go for it. Right now, I can do anything I want. But one day, my knees won’t work anymore, and it would really suck to do this job.”