Persevere and reach your ‘mountain-top experience’

Persevere and reach your ‘mountain-top experience’

Many people who may or may not have been great athletes in sports nevertheless often do things that are physically challenging, while demonstrating tremendous perseverance to celebrate significant birthday milestones.

Consider what Allan Bartel accomplished to celebrate his 50th birthday. Bartel was camp director at Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp west of Colorado Springs for many years. To celebrate his 50th birthday and the camp’s 50th year of operation and to raise funds for the camp, he climbed Pike’s Peak 50 times that summer. That’s quite an accomplishment given that the safe hiking season only runs from mid-June to mid-September.

My cousin and Tabor College alumnus David Klaassen recently celebrated his 75th birthday by climbing Mt. Bierstadt in Colorado.

When I asked him “Why?” he acknowledged, “Ultimately, it’s a simple lure. When you spend much time in Colorado you hear about all the ‘14ers’ (a mountain with elevation of at least 14,000 feet) and all the people who climb them. I had been wanting to join the ranks that included my son-in-law and my grandson, who was only 10 at the time.”

Klaassen said the feat for him was somewhere north of a six or seven on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being extremely difficult. He said: “I wouldn’t call it a 10, because it became more a matter of persevering and not saying ‘I’m too tired,’ than of being physically or technically incapable of doing it.”

My cousin acknowledged that he was “absolutely elated,” when he reached the top. He said although it’s cliché, there’s a degree of truth to what is known as a “mountain-top experience.”

He enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame thanks to a friend having created a sign saying, “I climbed my first 14er on my 75th birthday,” and pinning it on his back. “Total strangers were congratulating me and wishing me a happy birthday,” said Klaassen.

Younger and more experienced climbers could have completed the round-trip in 4-6 hours, but Klaassen said he was “having too good a time and didn’t want it to end, so we stretched it out to about 8-and-a-half hours. Mostly that had to do with following good advice to go slow and steady; be the tortoise, not the hare.”

The climb and descent were about 3.6 miles each way.

According to Klaassen, the most difficult part of the climb was the final 200 feet to the top. “The last 200 feet of elevation were a scramble up a steep rock pile of huge boulders that had looked like a modest little bump from far below.

Scrambling means there was no longer a trail. You have to select each hand and toehold and it requires total concentration. Finally realizing there are no more boulders above you is really exhilarating.

Of course, making the descent in those conditions is at least equally challenging. Once down below that scramble zone, it is mostly a matter of letting gravity provide the propulsion while you watch the cars in the parking lot below get bigger and bigger,” said Klaassen.

Climbing Mt. Bierstadt isn’t as amazing as climbing Mt. Everest, of course, but I’m impressed my cousin had the wherewithal and physical ability and stamina to do what he did at age 75.

My dad ran marathons in his 60s, so between my cousin and dad, what can I do to match their accomplishments?

I’m not really interested in running a marathon. I did enough running on basketball courts as a referee for 40 years.

Climbing doesn’t quite pique my interest either, although I’m sure the view from the top is amazing. But you can drive places to get a view from the top.

If I’m blessed to live to the ripe young age of 75, I’ll consider going to my “strength.” In fact, you could say I’ve been in training for years, but I plan to continue training until that time, so that by the time I’m 75 I can eat 75 chocolate chip cookies in one week. When it comes to chocolate, I’m no quitter!

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