Bringing Karma to Great Heights

Bringing Karma to the greatest heights.

Anthony “Mic” McClaren is a Karma member who marches to the beat of his own drum and controls his destiny.  A litigation attorney in Los Angeles, it often comes as a surprise to many to learn that Anthony McClaren is also very dedicated and accomplished rock, ice, and mountain climber.  Anthony has climbed the Atlas range in Morocco, the Pyrenes range in Spain, the Rocky Mountain range in Colorado, and most recently climbed in the Southern Andes range in Peru.  Always training for various climbing objectives, Anthony regularly climbs rock and ice in the Sierra Nevada range, as well as in and around the Los Angeles basin.

Recently, Anthony traveled to Peru and climbed Nevado Coropuna, the highest volcano in the country at a respectable 21,079 feet, and also one of the highest peaks in South America.  He did so under the sponsorship of Karma International.  In training for the climb, Anthony, accompanied by his wife and climbing companion Nancy O’Brien, traveled through the southern portions of the country for 18 days, taking in the sights and enjoying the culture, but also training at very high elevations in preparation for the climb.  After landing in Cusco, Peru, traveling through Machu Picchu, climbing Putucusi Mountain, and traveling to Lake Titicaca, Anthony headed west to Arequipa, Peru, to make his summit bid on the “Apu” of Nevado Corpouna.

Following a respectable 5 day climb, Anthony stood atop of Nevado Coropuna at 8:15 am on October 8, 2014, bringing with him the Karma Flag and sharing Karma at the highest levels.

When did you join Karma?  What brought you to Karma?

I joined Karma in October 2013.  I owe my wife a great deal of recognition and support for suggesting I consider membership.  She is savvy and a great partner, and she knew the organization would be a great opportunity for philanthropy and networking.  I was initially drawn to Karma for its ideals, image, and brand.  However, following the relationships I made with Robert Golden, Eric Stotz, Marvin Epstein, Paul Reder, and Charles Campbell, I knew it was the right place for me.

Tell us a little about your law career (education, practice, etc.)

I run my own civil litigation practice, focusing on small business litigation, employment litigation, and some personal injury and workers compensation matters.  I attended law school at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, and have been practicing law since 2004.  I am admitted to practice in California, New York, and the US Supreme Court.  I can be distinguished as an attorney because I truly understand the art of counseling and how psychology and sociology are interrelated and so important to complete representation of a person in a legal crisis. 

One of your passions is rock climbing.  When did you start and what made you engage in such a risky sport?

I have been climbing something, anything, for as long as I can remember.  When I was 7, I remember climbing up rain gutter pipes on 3 story buildings, as well as climbing trees, fences, anything that could be climbed.  I also grew up in Colorado for a few years, and love the presence and power of the mountains.

I can trace my modern climbing career to when I traveled in Switzerland in 2003.  A burly Swiss man challenged me to summit a 10,000 foot mountain, and following an 8 hour day and some very badly blistered feet, I was hooked.  I returned to Sacramento and began to climb under the tutelage of my mentor, who taught me all disciplines of climbing in the Lovers Leap and Desolation Wilderness areas of the Northern Sierra Nevada range.

I climb because it gives me freedom.  I have a lot on my mind, all the time, but as soon as I begin climbing anything, I focus only on my climb.  It has to be that way; the risks of losing your focus can cost you your life!  I also feel rejuvenated and able to attempt anything else after I complete a climb.

Can you tell us about your most memorable climb?

My most memorable climb was when I solo climbed Split Mountain, elevation roughly 14,255 feet, with a picture of my Mom, who was on her death bed at the time of the climb, on August 7, 2009.  I dedicated the mountain to my Mom, completed a 16 hour solo climbing day, and drove 12 more hours to say good bye to Mom, who died 2 days later at the age of 52.

Have you had any dangerous incidents while climbing?

All climbers have 9 climbers lives, and I am down to 6.  My other most memorable climbs are the ones where I have come the closest to failing, and failing in climbing carries with it the highest consequences.

In April 2013, I was involved in what’s known as a “self-rescue” of my partner, 400 vertical feet off the deck, following some serious miscommunication and misunderstandings.  I had never been involved in such an event, and did not really have the training to attempt the rescue.  So, I exhausted 2 of my climbing lives that day, because with hindsight I engaged in risks that could have been fatal, and could also have been avoided.  I have the benefit of “experience” now, from that day and a couple of others, and I continue marching forward and pushing the envelope as hard as I am able.

I also almost took a fatal fall while ice climbing in 2012, which cost me a climbers life as well.

Karma sponsored your climb to Nevado Coropuna, outside of Arequipa, Peru. Can you tell us about that?  Who else climbed with you? What made you choose this destination? 

Often my climbing objectives are borne from other non-climbing related factors.  For this climb, Nancy wanted to see Machu Picchu, and as we were traveling to Peru, I decided we must also climb a worthy objective.  Ultimately I settled on Nevado Coropuna for its height, remote location, and geographic convenience.  I also am interested in climbing much higher than 21,000 feet, so I was curious how I would perform at this altitude.

I planned to summit Coropuna without the benefit of any sponsorship.  However, a few months before the climb, I reached out to Robert Golden and mentioned what I was doing, and how it might bring some Karma to Karma, to have its image brought to the summit of Coropuna.  Bobby “convened the council” and the idea was well received.  Eric Stotz had a massive Karma Flag made, and also gave me a very long (and ultimately very cumbersome) pole to hoist the flag, and I carried the flag and pole with me as we backpacked through Peru.

Coropuna is located about 150 miles north of Arequipa, the largest city in the southern part of Peru.  In order to reach the mountain, you travel 12 hours by 4x4 vehicle, to a very remote location, and are dropped off at the first base camp of the climb.  We were accompanied by a local guide, Angel, as well as porters Teo and Paul.  We established Camp 1 at 15,000 feet (pretty high start, but no complaints here) and the following day proceeded to Camp 2, elevation 17,500 feet.  At that level we were in glacial territory, and performing well.

At Camp 2, we rested for a few hours, and at 11pm on October 7, we began gearing up for the summit.  We did not have the luxury of much sleep before we began our ascent.  We disembarked from Camp 2 and started climbing at 1am on October 8, and watched the sun rise as we made our way up the mountain.  I considered the terrain to not be too terribly technical, but it did require crampon use, roped in climbing, and was being done in very cold weather at high altitude.  I estimate the temperature was at its coldest  -20F.

My wife had some major issues with her hands being cold, and even after I gave her my inner gloves she was having many difficulties, so she began her descent after achieving a respectable 20,400 feet.  She descended with Angel, the guide, and I pushed on with the porter, Paul.  Paul and I gained the summit at about 8:15 am, and following a few pictures we began our descent.  I felt very strong  on the summit, and was very proud to stand on Coropuna and put up the Karma flag.

We descended back to Camp 2, broke camp and descended down to Camp 1, and were picked up and shuttled back to Arequipa, following another 12 hours, arriving at 11pm on October 8.  So, we were in motion for 24 hours, and it was a long day.  Climbing is often not just about the climb; it’s the logistics, the food poisoning, the inevitable mistakes which are made, the delays, the dangers, and the long days.  In this case, I’m happy to say we made it back safely.

Any other interesting facts about you that you would like to share with other Karma members?

I played football in high school, and then rugby in college and law school.  I lived in Italy when I was a teenager and moved around the world, and as such I adjust easily to most social situations.  I am an American, through and through, but my heritage is Scottish and German.  I have traveled to the place where the name McClaren (and yes, McLaren the car) originate, and I met the current chief of Clan McLaren.

How would people describe you?

I suppose in a few words I would be described as resilient, honorable, ambitious, decisive, eccentric, moody, and layered.

What is your mantra?

Play hard, play to win, but play fair.  Never give up.  Always remain humble.  Stand by your word.  Treat the environment with respect.  Everything in moderation.  Avoid greed.

Where will you climb in the future? For any charities? 

I plan to climb the seven highest points on every continent (known as the “Seven Summits”), without supplemental oxygen, and though I don’t yet know the charity, will do so to bring awareness to environmental causes.