Physician Summits World’s Seven Highest Mountains — And You Can Join Him

Derick Alison
Derick Alison
7 Min Read

After a decade of expeditions around the world, Kentucky-based emergency medicine physician Ben Mattingly, MD, has finally summited the highest mountain on each continent — a feat known as the seven summits.

While chipping away at the seven peaks, Mattingly has been simultaneously growing his business, Wild Med Adventures, which runs “adventure CME” trips around the world to train healthcare professionals on real-world situations that could happen while mountaineering, white water rafting, hunting, biking, and more.

MedPage Today caught up with Mattingly, who we last spoke with nearly a decade ago when Wild Med Adventures was just getting off the ground. Since then, thousands of physicians and other healthcare workers have gone on adventure CME trips with him, and the company’s offerings have expanded; in addition to mountain-based trips, they now offer diving, off-roading, and wellness retreats — and yes, there’s still a duck hunting trip.

Mattingly’s career combines medicine and adventure, yet he didn’t travel much growing up in Kentucky. A year-long trip to New Zealand with his wife and kids further ignited his love for travel and adventure.

“I think I’ve always had sort of an adventurous spirit. And I think what you’ll find is a lot of people who go into emergency medicine already have a little bit of a love for adrenaline,” he said.

The Seven Summits

Mattingly also founded a Wilderness Medicine Fellowship at UMass Chan Medical School-Baystate in Massachusetts, and together with the first fellow, Joseph Schneider, MD, he ascended Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, the tallest mountain in the Americas, in 2013. That experience introduced him to an opportunity to climb Carstensz Pyramid (also called Puncak Jaya) in Indonesia, which he summited 2 years later.

After that, he and his wife, Jennifer Mattingly, PA-C, who also helps run Wild Med Adventures, led an adventure CME trip to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in 2016. Later that year, he also climbed Mount Elbrus in Russia.

Then, in 2019, Mattingly, his father, and frostbite expert Chris Imray, PhD, summited Mount Vinson in Antarctica. Mattingly had grown more confident and experienced at this point, and decided to summit Mount Denali in Alaska without a professional guide like he had on the other trips. His first attempt in 2017 had bad weather and was unsuccessful. But in 2021, alongside his father and eldest son, he reached the top of Denali.

Finally, last year, Mattingly’s ascent of Mount Everest — the tallest mountain in the world — sealed the deal, though the experience was not without challenges. He first led a Wild Med Adventures trip to Everest’s base camp and stayed to tackle his last peak. His dad was supposed to join, but got sick and had to turn back for medical care in Kathmandu. Mattingly and a Sherpa forged on through Everest’s notorious foot traffic, waiting their turn and for a weather window to finally make the ascent. Making the way back down was treacherous, too; another party fell down, knocking down Mattingly and injuring his leg, which he later found out was a torn meniscus.

“If I’d had broke my leg there, it’s probably game over,” he thought. Luckily, he pushed through the excruciating knee pain and made it to the bottom safely, for which he said he’s fortunate.

Going on Wild Med Adventures

Mattingly leads most Wild Med Adventures trips himself and said he gets a lot of repeat customers who come back from one adventure ready to embark on another. It’s also fairly common for spouses to come along. Plus, he noted that many people come back from trips inspired to make changes in their life. For instance, one attendee who was actually a banker found a passion for wilderness medicine and went back to PA school.

It makes sense that someone with an emergency medicine background like Mattingly is drawn to this work, but he said the trips make all physicians more well rounded, even if the topics don’t play heavily in their day-to-day practice.

For example, going on a hunting-based CME trip gives insight on patients who hunt, and how they may have increased risk for heart disease. Even for cases where a stranger needs help from a doctor, having refreshers on tourniquets or frostbite could come in handy and save someone’s life.

One of the company’s most popular trips is the annual trek to Kilimanjaro, where participants experience altitude sickness together and have conversations about relevant health issues along the way.

“So you’re going over all of the pathophysiology of altitude — what is high-altitude pulmonary edema? What is frostbite? How do you take care of it? How do you treat hypothermia?” Mattingly explained.

Meanwhile, diving trips focus more on topics such as decompression control, hemorrhage control, and jellyfish stings. He hopes to add trips for rock climbing and skiing to the roster in the coming years.

A more recent addition were wellness retreats at serene destinations, like a lodge in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

“Those have been really popular because I think the medical community is falling apart, to be honest,” Mattingly said. “I’m seeing young guys finish residency and then only 2 years out, they look depressed and tired.”

He sees small-group adventure CME trips as an invigorating alternative to the traditional CME acquisition.

Trip prices range from $1,500 for shorter trips and wellness retreats, to upwards of $10,000 for the longer trips, and the cost doesn’t cover airfare. CME credits vary as well, ranging from around 10 to 20 per trip. More information is available on the Wild Med Adventures website.

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    Rachael Robertson is a writer on the MedPage Today enterprise and investigative team, also covering OB/GYN news. Her print, data, and audio stories have appeared in Everyday Health, Gizmodo, the Bronx Times, and multiple podcasts. Follow

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