FLEMING ISLAND - When he gets some free time from his multitude of school and home activities, 12 year old Mills “The Kid” Weinstein is tying knot with gloves and stuffing a sleeping bag into a …
FLEMING ISLAND - When he gets some free time from his multitude of school and home activities, 12 year old Mills “The Kid” Weinstein is tying knot with gloves and stuffing a sleeping bag into a tiny carrying sack because the next few months will see, hopefully, the completion of a daunting mountain climbing challenge.
“I get my school work done pretty fast and I daydream a little like, this is the summit of the mountain and I have to get there and I structure my workout or practice stuff thinking about how it helps on the mountain,” said Weinstein as he trained on endurance at the Barco Newton YMCA; cycling and treadmill work. “I have to be able to climb uphill with a 40 pound pack on for hours at a time. The only thing we can’t replicate in training is 11 degrees below zeroes.”
For Weinstein, the ultimate goal with his dad, Scott, is to complete a mission started five years ago of ascending the 50 United States’ highest peaks.
“Only one other 12 year has accomplished the challenge,” said Scott Weinstein, 41, Mills’ dad and climbing partner. “We had to stop last year for the COVID stuff because everything was closed all over the country.”
On Thurs, June 3, the Weinstein duo, plus a third climber, Andrew Bunn, of Jacksonville, will head to Alaska to attempt Mt. McKinley (Denali) which at 20,000 plus feet above sea level is the highest point in North America as well as the United State as the first of the final four ascents for the project. From there, the summer will bring attempts in Montana (Granite Peak 12,779 ft), Wyoming (Gannett Peak 13,804 ft) and the final ascent in West Virginia (Spruce Knob 4,863 ft).
“West Virginia is the last one because my family can drive to the top and meet us there when we finish,” said Mills. “My mom, Megan, has been our support leader throughout and it will be special.”
With the impressiveness of some of the altitudes the pair has reached, Scott Weinstein jokingly recalled that one of the lowest; Black Mesa (4,973 ft) in Oklahoma, was one of the shortest yet toughest ascents mainly because of oppressive heat and humidity.
“Each peak has its own unique challenges when it comes to the peak, the terrain, the animal interaction possibilities and the ease to travel to the site, find a jeep, get maps an such, but the weather is the biggest variable,” said Scott Weinstein. “Oklahoma was a like five mile hike, but it took us six hours. It was super hot. Mount Hood (Oregon 11,239 ft) was very technical with glaciers and crevasses and Driskill Mountain (Louisiana 535 ft) was in the middle of nowhere, a nothing climb, but was mosquito infested to the max. That was a terrible day.”
Scott Weinstein, an area rescue trainer for law enforcement and first responders, has been on the journey since the first day with Mills and sees Mills as his official climbing partner. “I have the unique relationship of father/son and climbing partner and I know that I have to train him down here to absolutely listen and do what I need him to do for us to be successful,” said Scott Weinstein, who was a state level high school wrestler for Bolles. “If we are clamped on to the side of a glacier and tell him to not move, I have to know that he will absolutely freeze until I am able to move to a position of safety. We are equals up there; proud father and son down here.”
The assimilation of preparing for an ascent and completing normal 12 year old tasks of school and home chores has come smoothly for Mills because both, in his opinion, benefit from each other.
“To be able to train and prepare then go on these trips comes from being focused and disciplined at doing the normal stuff; classes, tests, home stuff, because being responsible in all life challenges comes to a real fruition up on a mountain at 30 below,” said Mills. “There is a lot of focused problem solving in terrible conditions to survive. It’s all amplified by the extreme weather and cold.”
Mills Weinstein detailed some of the nutrition requirements for a successful ascent in relation to the fast-food thoughts of most teenagers.
“It’s a balance of eating as many calories a I can to, first stay warm, and, second, have the strength to keep moving,” said Mills. “Potato chips with salt is good and caffeine. Remember, we have to carry everything we might need for a day’s worth of climbing.”
Thus far, according to Mills, the duo has been successful because of the ongoing training and preparation done months before the ascents. Weinstein and wife Megan runs a non-profit, WILDedu, a Jacksonville non-profit that works with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida to provide outdoor character-building courses; such as repelling from the 40-foot Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighter’s Tower.
Weinstein noted the organization’s credo: “It’s okay to be scared in life. Courage can’t exist without fear, however, it’s more important to push past your fear.”
“Doing what we do; me and Mills, is a 50/50 success ratio,” said Scott Weinstein. “The bad 50 can be very bad and that is where preparation comes in. Fear is the great motivator.”