Dean's Summit Music Project - 2023
Updated: Sep 23
I train for yearly attempts at Mt. Shasta summit, roughly fourteen thousand feet up, where I plan to perform, record, and film myself making electronic music. I began this project both on mountains and out in deserts about 13 years ago, in 2010. For all I know, I might have even been the first to perform mobile music outdoors in this manner, and at this rate, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm also the last one. The project does get kind of crazy, but I have no plans to give up on it. My goal for Shasta has been part of the Summit Music Project, a greater mountain project that I've been working on for as long as the desert one. The SMP included multiple American-summit targets, most of which have already been hit. So far, I've done Mt. Hood summit, Mt. Whitney summit, Mt. Adams summit, and the Mt. St. Helens crater rim. I have footage of those moments, and I'll probably share more soon. But indeed, this all pretty much leaves Mt. Shasta.
I've attempted Rainier numerous times but finally dropped that goal because of high risk levels, so Shasta is what remains of my volcanic targets within the continental US.
(The following is mostly for those who stay updated on this project through social media, but it explains a bit anyway.)
Me and my new climbing partner, Frank Prinzen (the other half of our electronic duo Lyrus), headed out towards Mount Shasta Summit this week with full gear and equipment. We felt strong in our ascent, but we didn’t make the summit due to equipment complications in freezing temperatures. I would give you the details, but this one feels a little too embarrassing, even for humanistic blogging. I’m good with it, though. Even after 5 months of part-time training, I’ve probably never felt better about walking away from a failed mountain attempt. This one is even more of a decision than an inevitability. I could easily head back up and try again right now, perhaps even performing music at the summit in these conditions. But this would obviously hamper the performance somewhat, and it just doesn't make sense to me when considering that I also have to prepare for a concert approaching here on the ground soon. (Will post separately about that within the week.)
I mean, this year I decided to start prioritizing obligations to fellow human beings rather than to nonliving objects like mountains. The mountains are beautiful and vital for the planet, and they stay around much longer than we do, but somehow they still aren't as important as we are. As funny and obvious as that might sound to some, it’s still the type of thing I’ve only recently come to fully understand after a decade of these climbs.
I passed a point of no return with this mountain project a few years ago. It held me back from achievements that I might have reached otherwise by now and even prolonged certain aspects of my personal evolution as a human being. But I suppose that's the sacrifice required for a project of this nature and natural landmarks of this magnitude, even if it amounts to nothing in the end. Whether or not these summit attempts have held me back, for better or worse, they have become a part of my life now.
To some, the goal might seem like it should be an easy enough thing to have achieved by now—performing, recording, and filming live electronic music at the top of a cascade volcano more than 14,000 feet up—but doing so decently depends on many factors and conditions all aligning perfectly. This year, I was even diagnosed with a knee condition that's irreversible, which slowed my training far more than in previous years. Overall, though, this was just another obstacle, which this project has made me no stranger to. I toughed through it, strengthening enough for another summit attempt this week with a 55-pound pack strapped on. It felt great. Still, yeah, these details are what have taken my goal more than a decade to achieve, especially when considering the summits I've already reached. They all demanded no less time or effort.
One thing I can promise you is that performing this type of electronic-ambient music at the top of high mountains is a truly amazing experience—I mean, hey, at least when it works. When the preverbal wind is at your back, it's truly astounding and not something easily described. It's a much different feeling than what conventional performance spaces yield on the ground. On occasions where everything aligns at the summit, it totally justifies the struggle. The music and scenery are magnificent up there, and being a creator in that moment is surreal. The sound is just as expansive as the setting, which you are somehow both creating in collaboration together. It's wild.
My attempts on Mt. Shasta have also kept me in top shape on a yearly basis, to the point where I often have enough strength to overcome plenty of additional obstacles in life in general. So, I’m grateful for that development alone.
I’ll try Shasta again next year. It'll probably still be sitting there. Maybe the other half of Lyrus will even join me again, or someone else will, or no one will, as usually preferred. Regardless, next year will be the next attempt, and I'll post the results on all my walls, including this one. I may also share some shots, videos, and moments from previous summits soon, and/or anything else regarding this crazy-arse adventure I've been on for the last decade.
Thank you for your attention, and more soon.