Stephen Hance believes the one thing you can buy that makes you richer is travel.
Hance, who has hiked and climbed through places like the Sierra Mountains, Overland Track in Australia, the Canadian Rockies and Mount Rainier in Washington, just to name a few, won't have to pay a dime for what might be his greatest adventure.
The Oklahoma City resident recently won the Backwoods “Ultimate Outsider” contest and will receive an all-expenses-paid 21-day trek in Nepal. He will hiking through the Himalayas to the South Base Camp of Mount Everest, where climbers begin their ascent to the top of the world's tallest mountain.
“It's a definite bucket list item to get to see the biggest mountains in the world,” said Hance, a surgeon at Equine Medical Associates in Edmond.
The “Ultimate Outsider” contest was open to residents in the nine states where Backwoods stores are located. Hance had to provide photos and videos for the contest to explain his love for the outdoors.
He said it's rare even when he travels on business that he doesn't take a sleeping bag, backpack and some type of tarp along.
“If there is any chance for an adventure, I will take it,” he said
As one of the nine finalists selected by Backwoods, Hance then conducted camping seminars at the Oklahoma City store and led a group on a hike through the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge to help seal his victory.
“Stephen, through extensive video content and photography, really showed us what it is to be the 'Ultimate Outsider',” said Jennifer Mull, chief executive officer of Backwoods.
“He invited the community to join him in the outdoors and presented everyone with the tools to do so through clinics. An avid traveler himself, Steve implanted the ‘go outside' bug in all of us.”
Hance doesn't consider himself “a full-out mountain climber.”
“I just enjoy being outdoors,” he said. “I spend a lot of time on hikes, extended days out. It's a passion of mine. I love the mountains. I love the visuals. I love the ridges. I love getting above the tree lines.”
Next week, Hance will be traveling to the Wapta Icefield, located on the Continental Divide of the Canadian Rockies in the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. In October, shortly after his 50th birthday, he will leave for Nepal. He also will get to meet world-class alpinist Ueli Steck.
“He is the Lance Armstrong of climbing,” Hance said.
The South Base Camp of Mount Everest in Nepal is located at 17,000 feet. The trek to the South Base Camp is traveled by thousands each year.
Leaving from Kathmandu, it usually takes eight days to get there, including a couple of days of rest to get acclimated to the altitude.
The journey is famous for its spectacular mountain peaks. Supplies are carried by local sherpas or porters with the help of animals, usually yaks, but it still will be arduous.
“This is an ancient pathway that the Nepalese people have been using for years,” Hance said. “You don't have to climb hand over hand and crawl but it is a strenuous activity in that air that is considerably thinner. There is a considerable elevation gain that is required.”
A former scoutmaster for Boy Scouts Troop 162 in Oklahoma City, Hance calls Mount Everest “the granddaddy of all mountains.”
“The incredible thing about this is the ancient society, the huge, gigantic mountains that are there and the fact it is the top of the world,” he said. “Everest itself is the tallest location on Earth. Getting to witness where that mountain is just an incredible privilege.
“It's going to be a great adventure.”