For better and (only sometimes) worse, elite athletes are our role models. We admire their discipline and commitment; their strength and skill inspire us to reach higher in our own lives. When I talked to alpinist Hilaree O'Neill last month by cell phone from Everest Base Camp, I was blown away by her dedication to the mountains. Would I or could I spend 10 weeks hunkered down on the frozen flanks of the highest peak in the world? Probably not. But I can, would, and did spend 10 days finding my own edge in France, and whenever my conviction wavered, I thought of Hilaree. Badass.
But you don’t have to be pro to make a difference. Last week, outdoor gear giant The North Face launched a new Facebook app called Role Models, which encourages everyday adventurers to become outdoor mentors. The idea is simple: Make an online pledge to get outside this summer, and take someone with you.