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Meet Katelyn Kommer and Alex Kereszti of Small Towns to Summits in San Diego

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katelyn Kommer and Alex Kereszti.

Katelyn and Alex, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
It all started with a dinner at “The Grill” in Lone Pine, CA after a one-day summit of Mt. Whitney: the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. As we dove into our burgers, fries, and root beers; our server made sure that we were taken care of and was incredibly interested in our story. Upon telling him of our summit, he was very impressed and kept asking us more and more questions. It took way too long for us to direct our questions back to him. He told us he had hiked Whitney three times, and his excitement in speaking with us was palpable. We spent the rest of our meal getting to know as much as possible about Bobby in the little time we had. As we drove home the next morning, in our talks about all that we had just experienced in summiting Mt. Whitney and spending time in Lone Pine, we kept circling back to our brief but meaningful interaction with Bobby. This is where Small Towns to Summits was born – in the simple idea of getting to know the people that give life to the places to which we are drawn to climb.

Nearly a half year later, we’re still cramming in coffee shop dates into two incredibly busy schedules to bring our project to life. From returning back to Lone Pine to interview Bobby, to writing grant proposals in the car on the way to the mountains, and even a few FaceTimes across international borders – we have laid the groundwork for this project. Since that late October summit, we have spent every single day dedicated to making this dream a reality.

Here’s the plan: this summer, we will climb the tallest peaks in six states: northern California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado await us. Along the way, we will be spending time in the communities that surround these mountains and gathering the stories of the people who make up these small towns. While we cannot yet even begin to anticipate how it will feel to stand atop the highest points of these six states as we simultaneously weave together the narratives of all those whose paths we cross, we know that this project will forever change our lives. The story of Small Towns to Summits is the story of two young and passionate women who aspire to share their personal journeys as well as the various voices we gather along the way. We hope that our story continues to inspire others to chase their passions and live their lives without glancing in the rearview mirror.

Today, our main focus is on fundraising for the project. The length of our road trip will depend upon the amount of funding we receive to cover gas, food, and any other living expenses during the trip. Before the trip, we have a few big purchases (camera equipment, mountaineering gear, etc.) to cover in order to ensure the safety and quality of the final products.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The past six months have been extremely challenging with nearly every moment of our time scheduled. Katelyn is a full-time student with a part-time job, and Alex is a full-time employee and teaches spin classes as well – so finding the time to start up and promote Small Towns to Summits has been exhausting yet exhilarating.

Since the initial launch on March 25th, the amount of positive outreach and support we have received has been overwhelming. Since then, we’ve been attempting to balance weekly blog/vlog posts with still making sure we raise enough funds, all while preparing for the trip itself.

Right now is probably the hardest part. We’re both still fully committed to our other responsibilities, but the project start date is growing closer. We have about two months to raise the rest of the money that we need, and while the amount that we have already received has been reassuring, we still have a bit of a way to go to reach our goal.

We’re both incredibly optimistic that while the project will be a huge amount of work, being able to dedicate all of our time to Small Towns to Summits will lend itself to our very best and highest quality of work.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Small Towns to Summits – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
Katelyn:
I’m currently a full-time student at the University of San Diego. I will be graduating at the end of May 2019 with an undergraduate degree in Sociology and a minor in Spanish. For me, this project will be an opportunity to complete an independent research project before I apply for graduate school. With the help of one of my professors, I applied to get this project approved by USD’s Institutional Review Board and was accepted. With IRB approval, I will be able to publish a final journal article from my findings on the road. With my sociological training, I have learned how to conduct meaningful interviews, as well as write and carry out theory-driven research that will eventually be able to connect all of the stories we collect during our time on the road. I’m known for always being an outgoing and friendly person who is able to simply get people talking about themselves. I’m so excited to be able to use this easy sociability to share stories from small towns across the Western US with the world.

Alex:
I am currently working full time as a digital marketing manager while instructing spin classes on the side. With my current company, I’ve learned how to create and share inspiring social media content that encourages people to get outdoors. For this project, I will be showcasing the individual stories we gather on a digital platform. I’m known for bringing people on sunrise summits and being able to capture their individual essence through photography, even after a 15-mile hike. I have created branded content but this will be my first personal project within the field of documentaries.

Aside from our project being one of a kind, we’re both really proud of how our different skill sets come together and compliment one another. On the road, Katelyn will be doing all of the interviewing and written portions of our shared content, and Alex will be recording and putting together all of the visual content.

Together, something we’re extremely proud of is the depth and range of interests that our project covers. The story of Small Towns to Summits is meaningful to backpackers, social scientists, residents of small towns anywhere, or anyone who has had a story they have felt is worth telling.

While there is clearly so much incredible outdoor and adventure content out there, what really sets our project apart is that there is a specific scientific focus on how these individual stories exemplify how humans uniquely find a connection to nature.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Katelyn:
As previously stated, I plan to eventually pursue either a masters or doctorate in the field of social sciences. I have always loved both sociological research and storytelling and would love to write an ethnography some day. Small Towns to Summits is the perfect opportunity for me to practice both my interviewing / research techniques as well as writing personal narratives. Before I begin this next degree, I plan to travel or work for at least 2-3 years in order to allow myself time to be certain on whichever program I decide to pursue.

Alex:
For me, Small Towns to Summits will be the initiation of my transition from a 9-5 life to pursuing photography and filmmaking full-time. I am looking forward to developing my technical mountaineering skills in order to capture stories driven by outdoor athletes to be able to understand and share in their experiences as I document their adventures.

For both of us, the start of Small Towns to Summits is a massive change in both of our lives. Working together on this project will both help us in the different directions we are planning to go in the future, but pursuing this independent project full time is the biggest transition we anticipate for the time being.

We have scheduled a fundraising event with a local spin studio. Check it out!

https://www.facebook.com/events/2217291841917761/

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Alex Kereszti (personal)

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