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AARP Utah Executive Council Member Summits Aging

0000016b-01af-dd13-abeb-61eff7e00000Executive Council Member Pam McComas decided that growing older didn't mean putting aside new dreams and challenges.  Here is her story of her summit of the Grand Teton this summer, with plans to do more:

I don't really know what it means to age gracefully. I started rock climbing on my 59th birthday and was hooked. At 60 I climbed a 1000 foot peak in the Wind Rivers. Honestly, I climb BIG mountains with friends half my age and, with few exceptions, they are just as tired at the end as I am. I'm not an athlete or in that great of shape but what I do have is the will. The will to climb, and the will to continue when I’m in pain or uncomfortable.  The will to believe I can succeed when it seems impossible. The "will" is free to everyone regardless of age.

To prove this theory, I summited the Grand Teton to benefit underserved teens through Big City Mountaineers. The intent of the Big City Mountaineers program is to provide teens an opportunity… an opportunity to see and experience things that most of these teens don’t even know exists. We want to allow these teens to see the world in a different way, test themselves a little physically and mentally, and come out on the backside of the experience realizing that maybe, just maybe, there is a little more to the world and to life than what they have been exposed to thus far.

I was by far the oldest person on the trip, let alone the oldest female. It began with a New Year’s resolution to climb The Grand and Kings Peak in Utah.  At 62, I knew I could do Kings but the Grand would be a stretch. Training consisted of some hiking and rock climbing, but not nearly enough as I found out on just the first day's hike of seven miles with a 5400 elevation gain while carting a heavy pack. I was slow and tired but the guides were kind and encouraging.

On the day of the summit, we awoke at 2:00 am and headed out with our headlamps, climbing gear and day packs. It became quickly apparent that I would have to find some strength within if I were to make it. I knew our guide thought I should turn back, but I ignored his suggestions and continued on. My mantra was "the rock will give me strength."  The Grand Teton is big and majestic.  It is beautiful from every view point. It is dangerous and unforgiving. Bad weather is always a threat and it is a race to get up and down before the afternoon thunderstorms.  And as everyone says, the joy of the summit was worth the agony of the climb. Or perhaps I made that up. In any case, I am ready for the next big adventure and I firmly believe that age is not a factor when the desire is there. I'm currently training for a summit of Kilimanjaro next fall.

Pam, we salute how you've "disrupted aging" and become an inspiration for others looking to climb new peaks!


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