46Climbs Campaign for Suicide Prevention

“Our Social Wall Is an Important Tool We Use to Unify and Connect Our Participants During the Event, Despite the Thousands of Miles That Separate Us.”

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Two people in hiking gear and reflective sunglasses are happily smiling from ear to ear as they?re posing for a photo at the top of a summit with an impressive mountain range behind them.

In 2014, Kolby and Catherine Ziemendorf planned a climbing challenge during Suicide Prevention Week. Their goal was to climb all 46 Adirondack High Peak Mountains to honour a friend lost to suicide. They were thwarted by a bear, among other things.

But since then, 46Climbs has grown into a national, even international, event with hundreds of participants and a lively and active social wall. And it has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

46Climbs in 52 states and more

Every year, participants register on the 46Climbs website with a $25 donation. People can register alone or as a group. The hikes take place in September, the week after Labor Day. Participants hike or climb — at all kinds of skill levels — to raise funds which go to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. When participants reach their summits, they take a picture and post it to the #46Climbs social wall using the hashtag.

The 46Climbs stats for 2019 are impressive:

  • 676 participants
  • 196 times Mt. Everest Climbed
  • Over $102,000 raised for AFSP

We talked to co-founder Kolby Ziemendorf after 46Climbs had been using Walls.io for the second year in a row to find out more about how the social wall is helping to bring the community together.

Kolby Ziemendorf

Kolby Ziemendorf

Co-founder, 46Climbs

Could you tell us a bit about 46Climbs, how it works, and how it came to be?

In 2014, my wife and I attempted to climb all 46 Adirondack High Peak Mountains during National Suicide Prevention Week in honor of a friend I had lost to suicide my senior year of high school. After a very successful first few days, we ran into some obstacles (including an abnormally aggressive bear) that prevented us from reaching the goal.

However, we did not give up. We recouped and set out to hike a modified version of our original goal. We ended up raising $10,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention with our project.

Two people in hiking gear standing arm in arm in front of a mountainous landscape
Kolby and Catherine Ziemendorf

We saw an incredible amount of support from across the country and greatly surpassed our funding goal. We were overwhelmed with the realization that others had a similar need to heal by directing their struggles with mental illness and/or suicide towards the physical challenge of a mountain. So the idea for a national event was born on the trials of the Adirondacks. The “46Climbs” name stuck and the bear was added to the logo to represent the struggles that sometimes follow us all and our ability to overcome them.

Since 2015, individuals from across the country have united as one 46Climbs community, challenging themselves by climbing and fundraising to conquer suicide once a year during National Suicide Prevention Week. Since the first 46Climbs event, participants have climbed a cumulative elevation gain of over 600 times Mt. Everest and raised over $300,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Aside from the funds raised, this growing community has been a force for putting mental health in an incredibly positive light. Their action has sparked hundreds of conversations from social media to the remote backcountry.

How are you using your social wall for 46climbs? Which goals is the social wall helping you achieve?

Along with our map of each mountain being climbed, our social wall is an important tool we use to unify and connect our participants during the event, despite the thousands of miles that separate us.

When each participant reaches the summit of the mountain(s) they are climbing, they post a photo under the #46Climbs hashtag on social media, and we are able to see all the inspiring photos and stories flood in from across the country and beyond. No matter what social media platform you use, everyone can witness the power of this movement right on our website.

Screenshot of the 46Climbs website with an embed of the social media wall, which shows posts with inspirational messages and posts by hikers checking in für #46Climbs from a summit.

This is the second year you’re using a Walls.io social wall. Has your approach changed in any way?

The social media wall has definitely added another dimension to the event, allowing people to watch it happening almost in real-time. Our approach was the same as last year, just with 70% more climbers than last year — more than 670, spanning from coast to coast, plus Alaska, Hawaii, China, and Argentina!

What have been your favourite posts that have popped up on the social wall?

While all the landscapes are so incredible to see, my favorite photos are the ones with 46Climbers smiling ear to ear. Despite suicide and mental illness being a heavy subject, our event has an extremely positive, stigma-crushing tone.

I believe that this is the reason that the event has been so successful in spreading awareness as well as raising funds for AFSP’s life-saving research, education, advocacy, and help for those who need it. It makes us so proud to be a part of this incredible community.

What are your plans for next year’s 46climbs?

We will definitely be using the social wall again, hopefully with even more climbers! In the last two years, we have learned what an incredible tool it is to bring people together for this cause.

Community-building with a social wall

46Climbs started out as a fairly local event but has quickly grown both nationally and internationally. This is where the social wall comes in, connecting the community over long distances and creating a feeling of closeness by collecting all the shared posts in one place.

The 46Climbs event is supported by a combination of interactive tools — the social wall and the map showing the participant locations for each year of the event. Both the map and the social wall provide a way to see what’s going on and how the event has grown over the years.

Furthermore, both tools are easily adaptable and can support the continued growth of the 46Climbs community in the upcoming years.