EVEN THOUGH HE’S TAKING A FEW GAP YEARS TRYING TO BE THE FIRST OPENLY GAY PERSON TO CLIMB THE SEVEN SUMMITS, THE MOST DANGEROUS THING CASON CRANE ’17 HAS DONE IS GETTING BEHIND THE WHEEL
Name: Cason Crane
Age: Too old… (It’s a sensitive subject. I was born in 1992…)
Intended Major: Woody Woo
Hometown: Lawrenceville, NJ
Residential College you’re hoping to be placed into: Anything except Forbes!
What inspired you to climb the Seven Summits?
When I was young, I used to dream of climbing to the top of world. As I grew older, this fascination and passion developed into a love of the outdoors and of hiking. When I was 15, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro—the highest mountain in Africa at 19,340ft—with my mother. When I crested the Stella Ridge on Summit Day, I knew that climbing mountains was something I wanted to do with my life. So when I began my gap year after graduating from Choate last June, I decided I would try another mountain. During my training with my coach Lydia Bradey (the first woman to summit Everest without oxygen) in New Zealand a couple months ago, I decided I would commit to doing the rest of the Seven Summits, and to do it for a good cause.
What summit are you most excited to climb and why?
The one I’m most excited about is Carstensz Pyramid, because it’s the truest “adventure” expedition of the seven. Carstensz is in the middle of the jungles of Irian Jaya. And the jungles are inhabited by cannibalistic tribes who only became exposed to Europeans three decades ago. There’s a lot of risk involved, and risk excites me.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned from your project so far?
My most interesting observation so far is that almost everyone I know who climbs at high altitude considers climbing to be an almost spiritual experience. I’m not a religious person at all, but the closest I ever feel to God is on top of a mountain.
When you’re climbing, what’s one thing you miss about life on “lower” ground?
What I miss most is my family. When I was climbing up the Canaletta on Aconcagua (the hardest part of the entire route, and ~2 hours from the summit), I was thinking about my family and I started crying as I thought of how proud my four little siblings would be when I summited. That gave me the energy to push me to the top. So I miss them a lot, but they also help to motivate me.
What’s the scariest thing that’s happened to you on a climb?
The descent from the summit of Aconcagua was the most harrowing experience I’ve had so far. We had to make our summit push a day early to avoid a huge five-day storm that was sweeping in, and the weather began coming in when we were approximately an hour from the top. We kept going despite the weather and made it to the summit before the weather had deteriorated much, but the weather got much worse very quickly. My visibility on the decent was less than 1 meter. The winds were blowing 70+ mph and whipping my face with snow. It was rough. That was when I learned that getting to the top is great, but you’re only halfway done when you summit. Getting down safely is just—if not more—important. And it’s often harder, in my opinion.
What’s one thing that you have to have with you?
My journal. I try to keep track of all my expeditions so that I can look back on them later. And it’s amusing to read how incompetent I sound when I’m writing at 20,000ft.
In one sentence, what do you actually do all day?
I try to make myself and the world a better place.
What is your greatest guilty pleasure?
My greatest guilty pleasure is definitely young adult fantasy novels (e.g. Twilight, The Hunger Games, et al.). Either that or sweetened condensed milk straight from the can.
What are your pet peeves?
I don’t have any!
Who’s your favorite Princetonian, living or dead, real or fictional?
My parents, David Crane ’81 and Isabella de la Houssaye ’86. They’re truly my heroes and I’m so thankful for their exceptional support for my endeavors and their unconditional love for me.
What do you plan to do at Princeton?
Ask me that when I get there. Until then, I don’t want to think about it. 😛
What makes someone a Princetonian?
A disturbing fetish for cuffed pants, tweed jackets, and bowties.
Do you know all the words to Old Nassau?
Nope, not yet.
What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is losing a family member. I’m very close with my family, and I think about my parents and four younger siblings daily.
What makes you laugh?
Sarah Silverman, Russell Peters, Margaret Cho, the Anscombe Society.
What makes you cry?
Sappy chick flicks. Yup. No lie.
Where do you do your best thinking?
I do my best thinking when I’m outdoors, either on a run or in the mountains.
What’s hanging above your desk and/or bed?
A framed, antique photo of the Old City of Jerusalem from atop the Mount of Olives.
Who is your mortal enemy?
I’m not someone who makes enemies. Seriously, I try to be friendly with everyone, even people I don’t particularly like.
What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve done in the past year?
Get behind the wheel of a car. My driving needs some work…
In 25 years, you will be …
Still on a gap year.