The Right Stuff – By Jeff Threde – Published in The St. Helena Star (CA)

“I’ve always had the attitude that if you’re afraid to die, then you’re afraid to live,” explained Yountville’s Michael Modzelewski.

Modzelewski, 31, returned to his peaceful Napa Valley home in December after a grueling climb up Mexico’s Mt. Orizaba, located 125 miles east of Mexico City, which at 18,855 feet is the third highest mountain in North America.

What makes his climb even more amazing was that this was only Modzelewski’s second snow and ice challenge.

“I was the rookie,” says Modzelewski of the six-person group he climbed with. “But when we finished they said I went from beginner to advanced in 5,000 feet.”

Although the mountain was extremely steep, sloping from 30-45 degrees much of the way, it didn’t require any technical or rock climbing techniques.

“It just took sheer stamina,” added the five-year Yountville resident.

This wasn’t the first time Modzelewski has pushed his body through a rigorous physical endurance test.

Last year he ran 21 miles across the Grand Canyon and he’s also run 28 miles through Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs to name a couple.

“Civilization is too confining,” said the man who once stayed on an island off the coast of British Columbia for 18 months studying bald eagles, not seeing another person for 77 days straight at one point. “You’ve got to get out and take a chance.”

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