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U.S. & Mexico Border

April 2017

In 2016, Leslie Irby was battling depression and anxiety that was connected to her service while on active duty in the United States Navy.  She explored ways to combat her emotional trauma through traditional medicine and did not find the help she needed. Instead, Leslie turned to an unorthodox form of treatment - a thru-hike on the 2,650 mile long Pacific Crest Trail.


There was only one problem.  Leslie did not have the gear required for the journey.  A close friend and SEAL, Michael Hardin, solicited help from his fellow operators and they all donated the gear to Leslie.  She sold most of her belongings and mentally prepared herself for what the next several months would bring. Most of that was unknown.  But she had the grit and the determination, and now she had the tools to begin the journey. In April of 2017, she embarked on her journey at the Pacific Coast trailhead along the U.S. and Mexican border.  Bag on her back, a spring sun that hung high in a cloudless sky, and a brand new adventure was at her heels.

Over the next several months she endured long days in all types of weather and persevered through periods of solitude that were punctuated by moments of interaction with fellow thru-hikers.  

She marveled at the beautiful expanse of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in central California, roamed through the Pacific Northwest in the foothills of Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier, and took her pack off for the last time at Monument 78 at the Canadian Border.  Extended periods in the backcountry can make or break a person.  Hot days followed by cold nights, ripping through miles at sea level and then laboring above 13,000 feet, the silence of solitude juxtaposed by its ironically deafening roars.  It was her against the world and it was her against her. During this hike, Leslie discovered a new breed of determination and discovered healthier coping mechanisms that was the catalyst for healing.


This experience begged the question of who else needed backcountry therapy?  There are millions of veterans who suffer from depression, anxiety, physical disabilities, PTSD, and other wounds that people may never hear about.  These questions were the springboard for Climb Four and our goal is to provide a kit of the essential pieces of gear to make the backcountry more accessible to the men and women who need it most.

by the numbers


Our age demographic

This accounts for 32% of the nearly 19 million veterans currently in the United States.


Average Annual Income

The average annual income for male and female veterans is $37,307 and $31,810.



There are nearly four million veterans with physical and mental service-connected disabilities.


Paige Gardziola
Chief Operating Officer

Paige grew up in the Detroit area and enlisted in the Navy when she was 20 years old. Since then she has deployed to Southeast Asia to provide humanitarian relief aid, participated in a mission to Laos to recover the remains of a pilot from the Vietnam War, and now works in Naval Special Warfare. She is continually inspired by the drive and dedication of those around her and wants to give back to the community that taught her so much. Joining the Climb4 team has given her the opportunity to help veterans find the ways to explore healing in the outdoors and connect with shared experiences.


Bianka Desure

Grant Coordinator

Bianka was born and raised in San Diego, CA.  Being surrounded by military her whole life, she felt a passion to serve and joined the Navy in 2011.  After six years of service, she decided to leave the military and moved to Washington State where she currently lives and is studying to be a personal trainer with plans to further her education in Kinesiology.  Bianka is responsible for all grant writing for Climb4 and has a shared passion of helping her fellow veteran community.


Michael Hardin
Collaboration Manager

Michael was born in Ft. Smith, Arkansas and grew up in Arlington, Texas.  After college, he joined the Navy to become a SEAL.  After nine years of service, he left the Navy and earned his masters degree in psychology from Pepperdine University.  He currently lives in Denver, Colorado where he enjoys hiking 14'ers, training in jiu-jitsu, snowboarding, and rock climbing.  He is currently the operations manager for a brain treatment facility and a project manager for a research study funded by SOC-F.

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