Remember Jesse Itzler? Last we wrote about him here, he had written a book called Living With a SEAL, in which he told the story of hiring a U.S. Navy SEAL to live with him for 30 days--and kick his butt.

Why did he do that? Mainly because it would be incredibly hard. That's the same rationale behind his latest adventure: renting an entire mountain, and climbing it 17 times in a row. When you add the summits together, they'll work out to over 29,000 feet, which happens to be the total vertical distance of Mt. Everest. 

Yes, Itzler is a little crazy. In fact, I flat out told him that when he invited me to do the 17-trip adventure with him this weekend. (I had to turn it down; my wife's parents are visiting this weekend, plus I have to take my toddler daughter to swim class.)

Clearly Itzler and I live very different lives. Yet, he managed to recruit 150 other people to do it with him.

"I just think I'm always looking for someone new," he told me. "I learn so much from these kinds of events, being outside for a long time, being really challenged. I'm just sick of marathons and obstacle courses. I wanted something to be memorable and special."

Everything has a price

Background on Itzler: He's an entrepreneur and motivational speaker who is the part-owner of the Atlanta Hawks, founded Marquis Jet and Zico Coconut Water, and is married to Sara Blakely, the self-made billionaire founder of Spanx

He's also run a bunch of marathons and 100-mile ultra-marathons, and after each of his big physical events, he told me, people kept asking him if he'd want to climb Mt. Everest.

"The answer is that I do want to climb Everest, but I don't want to go to Everest. I don't want to be cold. I can't take the time. It's just not practical. But then I thought I'd bring it here," he said.

Bringing it here involved renting Stratton Mountain in Vermont for the weekend, turning it into an event, and attracting people who were willing to pay $3,500 each for the adventure.

By the way, I'm sure you're wondering what it costs to rent a mountain. Itzler didn't want to say, except to comment: "It was a negotiation. You know what I learned? Everything has a price."

Who else is this crazy?

Climbing Stratton 17 times will take the average person about 24 hours total--although the event last three days, so it's not as if you have to do it all without stopping. Hikers will climb, then board one of the mountain's gondolas for the ride back to the base, and then do it again.

The atmosphere will be "Burning Man meets Ironman," according to the website for the event, and will include "a base camp village with bands, bonfires, food and drink. All participants sleep in tipi style tents with actual beds and heaters."

As for who's doing it, some of the participants are Wall Streeters, CEOs and other super-wealthy people. But there are also world-class athletes, along with "a really interesting mix," Itzler said. "Sixty percent are parents: hardworking moms and dads that are investing in themselves for a challenge."

Among the others:

  • a New York City firefighter and a Suffolk County, N.Y. police officer,
  • a former NFL player,
  • an athlete who recently rowed a boat across the Atlantic Ocean, and
  • an ultra distance runner who was the first woman to win the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon.

As difficult as it seems, Itzler said he's confident most people could reach deep to finish the challenge. His training hasn't been all that out of his usual norm, he said, although he hasn't used an elevator or escalator in two months, and he's done a lot of training going up office steps and in stadiums. 

It's not a race, he emphasized, and "we're not going to announce the first person to finish. It's an individual challenge, no awards. Anyone who can walk, most people are capable of doing this if they want the challenge badly enough."