Apr 252011
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Correction: In Tuesday’s Collegian, it was incorrectly stated in the info box corresponding to the article “CSU students conquer the Death March” that Jordan Diefenderfer’s father was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and died as a result. Rather, it was Haylee Korzendorfer’s father who passed away from the disease. The Collegian regrets its error.

On April 16, a group of CSU students huddled close in an abandoned parking lot late at night, nursing their blistered feet, praying for strength to return to their bodies. They had just finished hiking 25 miles through the Grand Canyon, but couldn’t rest much longer.

That was because in 12 hours, they had to be done with the second half of their trip.

“I could barely put my socks back on,” said Jordan Diefenderfer, a junior zoology major.

He remembers temperatures reaching 95 degrees during the day and 25 degrees at night.

“After being exposed to heat that whole time, and being more tired than we thought we were, and then the shock of it being really, really cold of the sudden, we were extremely sore at that point,” he said. “The shock to our bodies was crazy.”

Diefenderfer joined Haylee Korzendorfer, Acadia Gantz, and Ryan Beam on April 16 and 17 as members of CSU’s Outdoor Club to go on what’s known as the “Death March” among outdoorsmen –– a 50-mile hike from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim to its northern counterpart and back, to be completed in 24 hours.

Korzendorfer, who had plans to go on the march with her dad three years prior, was responsible for organizing the recent excursion, originally thinking it’d be a father-daughter excursion. But things changed for the freshman.

“Dad was diagnosed with(amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in August of 2009,” she said in a previous interview with the Collegian. “He died this January.”

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, causes the nerve cells in certain regions of your brain and spinal cord to gradually die. According to the Mayo Clinic, people with ALS eventually lose the ability to move their limbs and the muscles needed to move, eat, speak and breathe.

In honor of her father, she went on the march and invited friends to join her. The group turned it into a fundraiser for the ALS Association, which fights the disease through things like scientific research and awareness campaigns, raising $1,500 in total.

The money was not raised easily, however. Diefenderfer was injured two-thirds of the way into the trip.

“Jordan hurt his foot, and we still had 18-plus miles to go,” Korzendorfer said. “It was one of those moments where it was like, ‘No one can carry you up the canyon.’ You couldn’t really do anything for him.”

The group collapsed to the ground after completing the march, taking off their shoes and examining blisters the size of fingers that had developed over the course of the 30-hour ordeal. Even the drive back to Korzendorfer’s home in Arizona was challenging.

“On the way home I fell asleep. When I woke up, my body was so dead, I didn’t know who I was or where I was,” Gantz said. “It was pretty weird.”
The week afterward was spent recovering, but also reflecting on what had happened. Group members said they emerged from the Grand Canyon with a renewed sense of self confidence in their outdoors abilities.

“It was more a test of mental endurance than physical, I think,” Diefenderfer said. “Just a lot of pain management. It wasn’t so much about muscle fatigue as it was about mental fatigue.”

Added Korzendorfer: “I’m going back in October to do it again, actually.”

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:11 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.