Climber Lance Garland on his best adventures, tips for surviving the wilderness & getting hitched in France

Climber Lance Garland on his best adventures, tips for surviving the wilderness & getting hitched in France

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It’s fair to say Lance Garland is a thrill seeker. Joining the Navy as a teenager, he loved setting out on six-month deployments, exploring ports across the world.

Back home, Garland became a firefighter, because it’s hard to find a more noble adventure than containing fires and saving lives.

But Garland’s true essence is in the mountains. Living in the Pacific Northwest, Garland is able to access some of the most beautiful, and remote, mountain ranges in the country. For a kid who was always on the move, he’s found a great landing spot.

“I don’t do well with being bored,” he said. “I want to be physical. I want to feel like I’m being challenged. I want to feel like I’m seeing the world and doing something.”

Garland has accomplish that goal. But for the longest time, couldn’t find any other queer people who were also setting out for long expeditions in the wilderness.

That’s the prevailing reason why he’s decided to start his project, Beyond the False Summit: A Matterhorn Expedition to Unearth the Queer Pioneers of Alpinism. In it, Garland plans to highlight the experiences of LGBTQ+ climbers throughout history, telling their untold stories.

Garland was recently awarded the prestigious Hidden Compass 2024 Pathfinder Prize; and this summer, he and his team will travel to Switzerland and climb the Matterhorn, one of the highest summits in the Alps. Curious adventure seekers will be able to read about his group’s experiences in next year’s Pathfinder issue of Hidden Compass.

Queerty recently caught up with Garland to talk about his craziest climb, tips for surviving in the wilderness and his equally daring boyfriend. Here’s what he had to say…

QUEERTY: Why is it important to highlight queer climbers?

From a personal perspective, pretty much everywhere I went in my life, I was the only gay guy. Often, I was the first one that people had met. I was finding my own way, and I didn’t have the exposure to people like me who have done stuff like that. So that’s what this project came out of. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started searching: Where are these people in history? Where are these role models? I started to find them, and was like, “I need to share these stories now.”

They really reinforce these archetypes that represent me in culture, and I want to share that with other people. The more I talk about this search for role models with other queer people, they’re always like, “I’ve always felt the same thing. Where are our people?” It’s just about sharing.

Who are some notable queer climbers you would like to shout out?

Jeffrey Winthrop Young is a phenomenal story. He lived a big, beautiful life. He would be classified as bisexual, he met a woman later in life, had kids. But he definitely lived as an open gay men. Then I found so many others. John Menlove Edwards was a climber in the Lake District of England. When you connect with these climbers, they connect you with other climbers, too. George Mallory was a famous climber, and I would say he was bisexual as well. That’s what this project is: it’s going into the evidence, going into their life, their choices. Those are the three I’ve been really exploring.

Then another is Richard Halliburton. He was a huge character in history, wrote books and traveled with his partner. But it was low-key at the time. So we show his history for what it was. We get to talk about it now.

What’s your craziest adventure to date?

It’s so hard to just pick one! I do climb a lot in my local area, the Pacific Northwest, and there’s a range of mountains in the North Cascades range called the Pickets Range. It’s super hard to get to, it’s out in the middle of nowhere. You have to hike for days to get out there. I’d say that’s probably the craziest adventure. You’re going through rivers, you’re going through hoards of mosquitos. You’re getting lost trying to route find through the wilderness. Then finally, you come out on this summit, and these ridge lines. There’s just no civilization in sight. It’s an incredible experience.

Biggest survival tips for being out in the wilderness?

You always have to have a way to get clean water. Part of that is having a good filter. I use a lot of squeeze filters, cause they’re light, and you can just scoop water out of creeks and stuff. But also having purifying tablets in case you come across stagnant water. Water is life. You need clean water, and you’ve gotta be able to drink. And food, of course. You need to have food.

What do you like to eat out there?

I feel like that changes over time. I used to love dehydrated meals. Getting mac n’ cheese in the woods is great. But now I’ve started hiking with not fresh food, but fresher food that hasn’t been dehydrated. Last summer I brought out smoked salmon with me, and that was so good, to have somewhat fresh food in the middle of nowhere.

I notice on Instagram you have a ton of pictures traveling with your husband! How did you guys meet?

Oliver is from LA. We met online, and his mom lived up here in the Pacific Northwest. He was visiting for Thanksgiving one year, and we met like ships in the night. We had one opportunity to meet; I ended up meeting his sister on the same date. Long story short, we dated long distance for a while, and then he moved up here. We live on a little farm with two dogs, three goats and a lot of chickens and ducks. It’s a really wonderful feeling to have hoped for love and marriage, and having it actually happen. It’s a good story.

What do you guys like to do together?

Snowboarding is a huge thing we do. We’re very much into the outdoors. I also still sail. I have a little Norwegian wooden sailboat. We do that all summer long. We go hiking and camping. A lot of those things we do for fun are outside.

What have been some of your favorite adventures as a couple?

We were in France, Chaméane, about six years ago now. We were doing some backcountry snowboarding, and he took me down this crazy run, and then ended up proposing to me in the middle of the mountains. It was absolutely a surprise, and incredible experience. I’ll never forget it! So I would say that’s one of my favorites. 

What are you looking forward to this spring and summer?

Most of my focus has been coming into the Beyond the Falls Summit and climbing in the Alps. We’re going to do a week. Oliver isn’t a climber, I’m the climber. So I’m gonna climb for a week, and then after that’s over, me and Oliver are going to go into the Italian Dolomites, and explore and hike and see the mountains in Italy. That’s a super fun part of that trip. We also go to the San Juan islands in Washington State every summer, and up into Canada. We’re really close to British Columbia, which is an outdoor paradise!


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