Eddie Clark enjoys the view from one of his peaks.


Midlife Moments'

Midlifer of the Month

  Eddie Clark

 Portrait of a Midlife Discoverer

by Mike Bellah

   To compensate for activities lost to age many midlifers learn a new sport. Eddie Clark did. At 39, he took up mountaineering. In the last decade Clark has climbed in the Colorado Rockies, on Wyoming's Grand Teton and Alaska's Mt. McKinley. His sport has taken him to Europe and last summer to the Bolivian Andes.

Not only for the young

"A number of people seem to think that outdoor activities like mountaineering are suitable only for the young," says Clark. "That's not right--maybe rock climbing or sport climbing, but not mountain climbing." Clark points out that there are usually many routes to a mountain's summit. "Hollywood has glamorized the most difficult," he explains.

Not too risky

Clark says that mountaineering is not too risky if you're careful--a fact he thinks favors older, wiser climbers. "Sometimes it's not a matter of whether you can do it," he says, "but whether the weather will let you do it." Clark says that May winds on Mt. McKinley can reach 100 mph and temperatures can plummet to -40 degrees F. During a climb on McKinley, Clark's group found protection during a storm, while three young British climbers who kept going fell to their deaths. "They didn't know when to say 'whoa,'" he explains.

Takes training

According to Clark good training also can reduce the dangers of mountain climbing. He began his own career with a one-week course at the Colorado Mountain School at Golden. "If you can't afford the schools, find someone who is experienced and will teach you," he advises.

Mountaineering also requires physical stamina. When he is training for a climb, Clark runs and walks seven miles a day, five days a week. He says it takes the coming adventure on the mountain to motivate him. "If I don't have some kind of a carrot dangling in front of me, I'm kinda like a mule; I just quit going," he says with a smile.

Rewards are worth it

Clark sees many rewards to his sport. He enjoys the camaraderie of good friends and the beauty of the mountain. "A lot of people never experience first-hand the Alpine-glow," he says, referring to an effect caused by a sunrise viewed from above the timberline. 

I ask Clark if he is motivated by the adventure. "Some people equate adventure with risk," he tells me. "This may sound corny, but I served in Vietnam for a year as an officer with a combat unit. That's as much risk as most people see in a lifetime. I don't climb for the risk; I want to see what's on the other side of the mountain--get there and look and see."

Eddie Clark has found yet another secret to midlife vitality: not taking unnecessary risks, but making necessary discoveries, always searching for the other side of the mountain. We may not have to climb literal mountains to do it, but discovery should be a goal for all midlifers. And, who knows? What you find on the other side of your mountain may surprise you. 

You won't be the first. For on August 3, 1492 at the age of 41, Christopher Columbus set sail for uncharted western seas.

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