Beginning project Seven for Soldiers in May 2021, Dawson set multiple records by rapidly completing a previously unheard-of number of global expeditions (in a single year), including summiting the Seven Summits (the highest peak on each continent); skiing to a pole (South Pole); traversing a desert (Mojave); and rowing across an ocean (Atlantic).
Mountain – Seven Summits
Location: Argentina, South America
Height: 22,837 ft.
Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Americas; the highest outside Asia; and the highest in both the Southern and the Western Hemispheres. Although not technically demanding (along the standard route), the mountain presents both high-altitude and weather challenges. Sustained storms can often strand climbers for days and cause temperatures to reach -30°F. Dawson’s first summit attempt in 2017 was ended by severe weather conditions at 22,000 ft. His team was turned around, with no climbers summiting for several days after. Similar to other climbs during this time, Dawson’s attempt was made at a bodyweight over 240lbs.
As part of project Seven for Soldiers, Dawson successfully summited Aconcagua on January 15, 2022. His two-man team reached the summit in only 3 days (normal trip is 10-14 days). Arriving directly from sea-level with no pre-acclimitization, Dawson battled acute mountain sickness (AMS) during the climb.
Location: Alaska, North America
Height: 20,310 ft.
Denali is the world’s tallest (base to summit) land-based and coldest mountain (-100°F). It is also the third most isolated peak in the world. Given its climbing distance, weather and remoteness, Denali is considered by most a more demanding mountain than Everest.
Dawson successfully summited Denali on June 30, 2021. Extreme winds, deep snow and temperatures well below 0°F drove many teams to turn around. Although it was a relatively short turnaround from Mt. Everest, Dawson climbed well, felt great and considers this his best overall expedition performance. As the tallest mountain on the North American continent, Denali was the second summit of project Seven for Soldiers.
Location: Russia, Europe
Height: 18,510 ft.
Mt. Elbrus is the highest and most prominent peak in Russia and Europe. It is situated in the western part of the Caucasus and is the highest peak of the Caucasus Mountains. The mountain is actually an almost symmetrical dormant volcano with two main peaks. Although it is generally not considered a technical climb, Elbrus is regarded as arguably the “deadliest” mountain in the world with approx. 30, on average, annual deaths. Weather is often extreme and highly unpredictable.
Dawson first summited Elbrus in 2017 at 240lbs over a standard 8-9 day trip. He returned for his second summit on August 12, 2021 in approx. 10.5 hours from Terskol village. As the vast majority of climbers begin their summit push from either the “huts” or “barrels”, it is estimated that less than 3% of climbers begin from Terskol village, 4,200 ft. below.
Battling strong winds, deep snow, heavy rime ice and whiteout conditions, Dawson and his climbing partner completed the entire trip in under 22 hours, including stops. As the tallest mountain on the European continent, Elbrus was the fourth summit of project Seven for Soldiers.
Location: Nepal, Asia
Height: 29,032 ft.
As the highest mountain in the world, Mt. Everest is widely considered the “crown jewel” of mountain climbing. Dawson first visited Mt. Everest basecamp in 2016 as part of a 3-week trek to examine his life in an effort to overcome continuous confusion, sadness and a sense of lacking purpose. This initial trip to the Mt. Everest region enabled Dawson to re-evaluate his life, purpose and priorities. These insights changed Dawson’s life forever.
Returning in 2021, Dawson successfully summited Mt. Everest on May 23, 2021 with a team from Mountain Professionals, led by renowned climber/polar explorer Ryan Waters. This trip was marred with relentless weather, avalanche and logistical challenges resulting from two cyclones and the COVID-19 virus. As the highest mountain on the Asian continent, this was the first summit of project Seven for Soldiers and its official launch.
Location: Tanzania, Africa
Height: 19,341 ft.
Mt. Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano that comprises three volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira. It is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest single free-standing mountain in the world. As with many climbers, Kilimanjaro was Dawson’s first “big mountain” with a successful summit in 2016 by way of the Lemosho route in six days. Climbing at 240lbs with no high-altitude experience, Dawson struggled with light AMS experienced by most climbers.
Dawson returned to summit Kilimanjaro on August 4, 2021 in 3 days along the Marangu route. Combining a loss of 40lbs (from his first summit) and existing acclimatization from Mt. Everest and Denali, Dawson climbed well and felt great during the entire expedition. As the tallest mountain on the African continent, Kilimanjaro was the third summit of project Seven for Soldiers.
Location: New South Wales, Australia
Height: 7,310 ft.
Mount Kosciuszko is mainland Australia’s tallest mountain. It is located on the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains in Kosciuszko National Park (part of the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves) in New South Wales, Australia. Formed by geographic uplift, the mountain was named by the Polish explorer Paweł (Paul) Edmund Strzelecki in 1840, in honour of Polish-Lithuanian freedom fighter General Tadeusz Kościuszko, because of its perceived resemblance to the Kościuszko Mound in Kraków, Poland.
Dawson summited Kosciuszko on a solo ascent on May 21, 2022. In doing so, he finished The Seven Summits (climbing the highest peak on each continent) and became one of a very small number of climbers to complete all the peaks in less than one year.
Height: 16,050 ft.
Mt. Vinson is the highest peak in Antarctica, at 16,050 ft.It lies in the north part of Vinson Massif’s summit plateau in the south portion of the main ridge of the Sentinel Range.
As part of project Seven for Soldiers, Dawson summited Mt. Vinson on December 16, 2021. His team battled a grueling summit day with high winds and plummeting temps that reached more than -30F.
OTHER mountain / Treks / activities
Location: Aosta Valley, Switzerland
Height: 14,692 ft.
The Matterhorn is a large, near-symmetric pyramidal peak in the extended Monte Rosa area of the Pennine Alps; straddling the border between Switzerland and Italy. It is one of the highest and most iconic summits in the Alps and Europe. As part of his technical training for project Seven for Soldiers, Dawson summited Matterhorn on July 5, 2019.
Climbing fully fasted (no food or calories of any kind), Dawson and his partner completed the entire climb in just over 7 hours. Cold temperatures and loose, challenging rock conditions made for a more difficult time. Numerous rock falls, weather and rock conditions led to multiple climbing deaths around this same time.
Mojave Desert and Death Valley
Location: Beatty, NV to Victorville, CA
Distance: 213 mi.
The Mojave Desert is a xeric desert in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the Southwestern United States. Death Valley is a valley in the northern Mojave and the hottest place on earth with a recorded temperature of 134°F. Route traversed the Amargosa, Panamint and Argus mountain ranges.
In October 2021, Dawson completed what is believed to be the first solo, unsupported crossing of the Mojave Desert, including Death Valley. He completed the crossing in 6 days and 23 hours. Throughout a majority of the crossing, Dawson was hampered by an advanced case of cellulitis in his lower left leg that required emergency room (ER) medical care following completion.
Distance: 66 mi.
The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole, Terrestrial South Pole or 90th Parallel South, is one of the two points where Earth’s axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on Earth and lies on the opposite side of Earth from the North Pole at a distance of 12,430 miles in all directions.
As part of project Seven for Soldiers, Dawson reached the South Pole on December 31, 2021. His team skied more than 66 miles across the Antarctic Plateau pulling sleds of approx. 200lbs. High winds and temps of more than -30F lead to numerous cold injuries and frostbite.
El Hierro to Guadeloupe Island
Distance: 3,084 mi (statue); 2,681 mi (nautical)
On March 25, 2022, Dawson and his partner, Patrick Favre, successfully completed their crossing of the Northern Atlantic along Tradewinds Route #1. The team rowed from the Canary Islands, off the coast of northwest Africa, to the French West Indies, Caribbean, in 53 days, 3 hours and 30 minutes. The team battled challenging weather conditions for nearly the entire trip; at one point being caught in “mixed seas” for 32 straight days. Additionally, it rained roughly 90% of days.
Once the trip began, the team rowed 24 hours a day until reaching land. Both Dawson and Favre each rowed 12 hours a day, over six individual “shifts” (ranging from one to four hours) with neither ever missing a single shift. Around two weeks into the trip, the boat’s automatic fresh watermaker was nonfunctional for a period, forcing the team to manually pump/clean ocean water for over three hours each day.