Whether it’s grooming a country club green or making a slow climb up a 22,000 foot mountain on a fixed line, Steve Cook, 56, is someone who appreciates the methodical; the time it takes to reach a desired result.
The Oakland Hills Country Club Superintendent will leave his Milford, Michigan home for 31 days this October to climb Nepal’s Ama Dablam, a 22,349-foot mountain that is widely considered more difficult, technically speaking, than Mt. Everest.
Cook’s mission stems deeper than just wanting to summit where the air is extremely thin. He will be raising money for Make-A-Wish® Michigan, where the nearly $30,000 he has raised so far will go toward granting the wishes of four children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Making it Possible
Cook and his wife, Robin, don’t have children, but Robin has volunteered at Make-A-Wish Michigan for over 10 years.
“I just wanted to make it a trip that was about something more than me,” Cook said. “I was pretty familiar with the cause because of my wife. Seeing first hand what a difference Make-A-Wish makes for kids, it just made sense to me. I can’t even imagine having a 6 or 7-year-old kid that has cancer.”
Cook is 90% of the way to his $30,000 goal, which equates to $1.34 for every treacherous foot he will climb. Of course, conquering Ama Dablam is the goal, but back home, the objective is to make dreams come true for multiple children, whether that comes in the form of a shopping spree or a trip to Walt Disney World® Resort.
Cook’s donors or “climbing team,” as he likes to call them, have come from all walks of life, be it family and friends who have contributed to the cause, or club members that just happened to hear about his upcoming adventure and wanted to chip in.
Being Smart and Strong
Ama Dablam incorporates a little of everything from the climbing world. The mountain, which looks like the Matterhorn, requires scrambling and fixed-rope climbing on a class 5 route all while navigating ice and snow.
Cook, who will be on the mountain for 16 days, will be accompanied by a team of Sherpas and international climbers wanting to summit the peak for their own reasons.
He will battle both his age and his lungs, which are accustomed to sea level.
“It’s a very technical climb, so I’m trying to focus on my technique,” Cook said. “How to handle the rope, making sure you don’t use any excess energy, making sure my winter camping skills are honed in. I’m hoping that will give me the edge. There’s just no way of knowing genetically what your body will do at 20,000 feet.”
Cook’s first big climb came in 2009 when he reached 14,409 feet on Mt. Rainer, though, that didn’t require much technical skill. Since then, he’s completed more complicated high-altitude climbs in Colorado and Wyoming.
Cook puts in 12 hours of training per week, doing CrossFit workouts, long distance bike rides, lengthy hikes, and workouts on a hill with a heavily-weighted pack. Nearing the tail-end of his training, now the goal is to trust in it and remain injury-free
A Climber and a Mentor
Originally from Taylor Ridge, Illinois, Cook has always enjoyed golf and the outdoors. He lived next to a golf course as a child, and learned the sport early. He wanted to be a forestry major in college until he got a job on a golf course one summer. Then he ended up earning his degree in horticulture from the University of Illinois and since 1987, he has worked on courses from Chicago to Paris.
Seventeen years ago, he took a job at Oakland Hills, where he has led the grounds crew and mentored the up-and-comers wanting a career in the industry.
“My purpose in life is to hopefully make a difference for other people,” Cook said. “I think that comes mostly from work. We’re a top club, and I’m able to hire young people such as college kids who want to come work for the summer. They might be getting a degree in turf or a degree in business, and I’ve taken enormous pleasure in coaching them and mentoring them in how to be a better person.”
Clearly, Cook knows what it takes to be “better person.” In climbing and on the golf course, he rises by lifting others up.
To help Cook reach his $30,000 goal, visit Steve’s Wish Climb.