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‘At altitude’ with ageless living

From the September 2011 issue of The Christian Science Journal


Years ago my wife and I traveled to the state of Washington to spend the summer as campground hosts at Mount Rainier National Park so that I could make the two-day climb of the mountain. As a 30-year-plus resident of Colorado, I’d lived “at altitude”—most recently at 9,200 feet on a mountain near Denver. Through the years, I’ve summited many of that state’s 14,000 foot peaks. Mt. Rainier’s 14,410 foot elevation was no higher, so I wasn’t intimidated. I’d always wanted to try climbing on ice and snow with ropes, ice axes, and crampons, but during my working career I never had had the opportunity or time available to undertake a major climb. As a retiree, I had the time available to practice and train beforehand, and also the benefit of a climbing school and guide service. It seemed a doable activity.

When the day came for our pre-climb training session out on a nearby glacier, I was somewhat surprised to find I was at least 25 years older than any of my climbing companions. On the trail to the training site I had difficulty keeping up the pace, fell behind, and arrived late to the training site. By the end of the afternoon, it was clear that I wasn’t able to perform at the level required—and to continue as part of a group could have been a hazard to the other climbers. It was the hardest day of physical labor I’d ever experienced—and one of the most disappointing mental challenges. The most difficult temptation to overcome was the belief that I was just “too old” to participate in a young man’s sport. Interestingly, the experienced trainer/guide of our group—who had summited Mt. Everest eight times—never suggested age as a factor, but only the need for more and better training before I climbed again.

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