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The Call to Adventure

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“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for.” —Joseph Campbell

The recording of my interview with Nick Ige ’25 and Kevin Fischetto ’26 begins with boisterous laughs and ends the same way, my questions broken by the occasional joke and always met with smiles. But those close to Nick and Kevin are familiar with the unmistakable seriousness about them — a sobriety betraying their lengthy journeys to find peace, as well as their unfathomable ambition.

The two met during Kevin’s stay at Harvard during Visitas last April, yet it wasn’t until this semester that the pair — both avid surfers and hikers — discovered their shared passion for taking on adventures in the outdoors.

“It’s one of those things that you can’t really put a finger on — the power of nature. It forces you to be present. And doing that with friends…” Kevin trailed off, shrugging and letting slip a small smile.

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In early October of this year, a plan for their next adventure was hatched — one that few people have ever dreamt of and even fewer have achieved.

Nick and Kevin first elected to summit Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro over this coming winter break. But the two decided that the highest free-standing mountain in the world wouldn’t be enough. Over the course of the following year and a half, Nick and Kevin will attempt to climb not just one mountain but seven, and not just any seven but the tallest on each continent — the famed Seven Summits. The challenge totals more than 130,000 feet of elevation. Only roughly 350 people have ever succeeded.

The task ahead of them is large in every sense of the word, but it almost pales in comparison to their journeys so far. Perhaps no pair of friends is better prepared, or more driven, to take it on.

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Sadness and loneliness are around me

They feel like old friends

There is an anger inside raging like the sea

I just want to hold her and love her till the end

—Nick Ige ’25

More is at stake in this quest than one would expect.

Alongside admission to Harvard, where Nick and Kevin are pursuing degrees in Neuroscience and Integrative Biology, respectively, the two lay claim to 16 combined years of military service and creation of the nonprofit “Dagger and Book.” Nick and Kevin aim to use their upcoming expedition to promote discussion about attending college among their fellow veterans, many of whom opt against pursuing secondary education for a variety of reasons, including lack of time and fear of not fitting in.

“I don’t really feel much older because of how awesome you guys are,” Kevin said, referencing other college students. “There’s a real value there, but people just don’t know.”

“Going to college is generally going to make your life better,” Nick added. “It’s going to force you to expand your thoughts. It’s going to force you to interact with people you don’t normally interact with.”

The two have Harvard to thank for meeting one another. But Harvard can only do so much to help students manage the “spicy feels,” as Nick referred to them, maintaining our conversation’s buoyancy while drifting into decidedly darker territory. This project is also very much about raising awareness for mental health. Nick shared his own grapple with depression, candidly recounting to me the feeling of holding an empty gun to his head while on deployment. The two believe that everyone can empathize with these kinds of emotions, regardless of experience.

“The hardest thing you’ve gone through is the hardest thing you’ve gone through,” Kevin said. “I don’t think you can marginalize one’s struggle. It could be anything.”

There is no one method of dealing with the feelings Nick and Kevin describe. Perhaps the answer sits among the clouds, awaiting those who dare to endure struggle, setback, and the elements together.

“Everyone’s suffered through depression and anxiety at some point in their life,” Nick said. “Coming back from deployment, friendship and adventure is what helped pull me out of that.”

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“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up.” —René Daumal, “Mount Analogue”

There isn’t a better metaphor in the world for overcoming obstacles and ascending from melancholic depths than climbing a mountain. Or seven of them.

“We want to learn from higher; we want to take away from the perspectives we gain while climbing,” Kevin said. “I think it would make us better human beings in the lower regions by suffering higher up — going through struggles with friends.”

While conquering the Seven Summits alone is not sufficient for accomplishing their goals, it’s another piece of the puzzle — a means of mobilizing what they’ve learned and sending a message.

“If two fucking dumbass SOF (Special Operations Forces) vets can do it — find each other, do this grand adventure together — then anybody can go do any adventure with their friends,” Nick said with a grin.

Everyone benefits from a risky undertaking. Climbing Kilimanjaro, however, let alone Kosciuszko, Puncak Jaya, Vinson, Denali, Aconcagua, and Everest, might prove too demanding for most people. But most people aren’t former Army Rangers or Air Force Special Reconnaissance Operators, either.

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“I have never seen a wild thing feel sorry for itself. A little bird will fall dead, frozen from a bough, without ever having felt sorry for itself.” —D.H. Lawrence

Much work awaits Nick and Kevin. Traveling the globe and acquiring adequate gear is as cheap as running more than 40 miles a week in preparation is easy, especially when you have class to attend afterwards. But if the fact that Nick and Kevin take consolation in the above quote says anything, it’s that nothing will get in their way.

“We believe in setting wild goals and working as hard as we can to achieve them,” Nick said over text.

For now, the pair will continue to fundraise and train before tackling Kilimanjaro and Kosciuszko this winter. You can support them by contributing to their GoFundMe or following Nick, Kevin, and their nonprofit on Instagram.

Harvard’s winter recess begins on December 18th. By the time exam period is over, Nick and Kevin will have touched down in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania — 7,500 miles away from campus.

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“For out of this tribulation there comes a peace, deep in the soul and surer than any dream…” —Alan Paton, “I Hold the Bandages and Ointments Ready”

Nick and I met on the club rugby team last fall. He introduced me to Kevin and their momentous aspirations only recently, but in the short time I’ve been involved with their work, the two have made unbelievable progress.

I firmly believe that this story about dedication and bravery deserves to be elevated in the Harvard community. The paths that brought them here and the path they intend to forge together are nothing short of legend — a modern Hero’s Journey. I also believe that the works this journey produces should be shared. Nick and Kevin recognize the value of introspection and original writing, creative or otherwise.

As such, this article represents only the first in a series. The “Dagger and Book” column will continue into the spring and hopefully beyond, documenting the process through a collage of quotes we find inspiring, journal entries, photos, and the occasional poem. I look forward to accompanying Nick and Kevin to summit Australia’s Mount Kosciuszko in January to provide some reflections of my own.

Until then, I ask that you support the two friends at the links above and make the most of what Harvard has to offer, as Nick and Kevin do: finding strength in each other and heeding the call to adventure.

When you reach the peak of the mountain, says the poet Kahlil Gibran, only “then you shall begin to climb.”

—Staff writer Charles W. McCormick can be reached at charles.mccormick@thecrimson.com. His column “Dagger and Book” explores the artistic experience of Nick and Kevin’s mountain climbing adventure.

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