Adventurers of the CMC – Makayla Braden
Get to know Makayla Braden, a Colorado Mountain Club Trailblazer and High Altitude Mountaineering School Graduate.
Written by CMC Marketing Content Intern Drew Kort
The version of Makayla Braden that exists today, the veteran CMC member and the accomplished technical climber and mountaineer, is a version of herself that did not come into being overnight. It is a version of herself that took patience and a positive, adventure-driven spirit. It is a version of herself that exercised grit and determination in the midst of tribulation. Her path to find and follow her passion is as much a story of learning and growing from that tribulation as it is of an unrelenting lust for exploration.
Originally a Midwesterner, Makayla came to Colorado in 2005 to attend Colorado State University in Fort Collins where the adventurous drive and spirit on campus was infectious. “I met a lot of people that were born and raised in Colorado who loved to get out, or just active people who came from other states,” she said. This is where she was introduced to more demanding and intense alternatives to hiking and camping. “It scared me a little bit at first because I didn’t have any technical skills in rope or rock,” she remembered. “I started dabbling and got addicted to it a little bit.”
From there, Makayla focused on honing her skills and expanding her horizons, and she joined CMC to do just that. She joined the Club just over three years ago, and her membership got off to an interesting start. “I didn’t join in time to get into a lot of the summer programs that year, and I was interested in all of them,” she recalled, “so while I was waiting it out I actually stalked a couple of trip leaders, but I’m friends with them now,” she joked. After squeezing her way into a few programs, she was off and exploring.
Makayla then got involved in more rigorous and technical trips and classes with the CMC where she began to not only develop her passion for climbing and mountaineering, but also learn and bond with others that shared her interest and drive to improve. It was during that time that she found the group that she climbs with to this day. They call themselves the “Tiny Sticker Crew” or the “TSC” because of the tiny Colorado stickers they have cut out and placed on their gear.
After a while, the TSC decided to collectively progress through the CMC’s High Altitude Mountaineering School (HAMS). They yearned to travel and climb as a unit, and HAMS was the perfect way to prepare them. A trip to Washington’s Mount Rainier was scheduled at the conclusion of classes to celebrate the group’s hard work and dedication.
When the Mount Rainier trip finally arrived, things didn’t go as planned. Mother Nature threw a wrench into the TSC’s plans. The combination of an injury to a key team member and iffy weather surrounding Mount Rainier forced the unit to shift their attention to Mount Adams. From there, the training and preparation paid off. “Even though we had our sights set on a different mountain, Adams ended up being everything we wanted,” she said. “When we got up there, it was really intimidating. It was 19 hours moving, but we ended up pushing through.”
Makayla is a good source of advice for those starting out, too. She’s been at the top of the mountain, but she’s been put down by the mountain as well. Some of that advice is derived from an accident she had while attempting to climb 30 Centennial Mountains before her 30th birthday. Eight summits away from her goal, Makayla and her climbing partner triggered a small rock slide that left her hospitalized. “It certainly puts the power of the mountain in perspective,” she said. “It humbled me and taught me to respect those tall beasts, but didn’t strike me with fear. If anything, the event inspired me to get out more and persevere and overcome any obstacle in the way.”
Despite Makayla’s thorough training and on-mountain experience, she knows that climbing is inherently risky and dangerous. “You’re always going to think you’re more prepared and experienced than you are, always check yourself and be real with yourself,” she advises novices starting out. “A lot of people don’t want to start at the basics, but the small things are very important.”
After all she’s accomplished, Makayla continues to set new goals and dream of bigger challenges. Something she knows for sure: she wants to scale big mountains. While they might be considered pipe dreams at this stage, she’s considering Denali and Everest, and no one should be surprised. When asked about the future in general, she simply declared: “bigger, higher, better, more.” Not a bad motto to live by.