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Monday, July 29, 2013

Mountaineering Mamas (and Papas)

So many younger people are too busy to do much hiking through the wilderness, but age has its privileges. Because we live high in the mountains of Colorado at a slower non-9-to-5 pace and this year has been exceptional for wildflowers, we get out there any chance we get.

But we all realize we have to be smart about it. After all, the equipment doesn’t work as effortlessly as it once did, and because we’re all on the shady side of 60, we’ve learned how to keep doing it. One of us has an arm problem, another, sciatica, and me, well, my depth perception kind of stinks. Still, we tackle long treks at altitude, even those coveted Colorado fourteeners (peaks over 14,000 feet).

While my 88-year-old mom keeps asking me when I’m going to grow up and act my age, I think I have. I’m out there hiking smart and loving it. We avoid scree, or as my friend calls it, ball-bearings. That’s the fine gravel that can make you slip and slide, especially going steep downhill. We use poles, especially for those sometimes treacherous water crossings, and we keep a steady but slow pace. And we pick our hikes, based on how well the body is working on a given day.

We seasoned citizens are of one mind on this. The important thing is to keep doing it. The more we do, the more we can. We just do it smarter than other hikers we’ve encountered: climbing high right after arriving from the flatlands, wearing open-toed sandals, not being prepared for changes in weather, and not carrying enough water for the distance and temperature.

Our hikes take us into some areas seldom seen by most people our age. There is a reason for that. It’s work! Not only that, but you have to develop a comfort level with bush toilets, rain and bugs. And as my husband would add, it helps to have a high tolerance for whining.

To be prepared for sudden climate changes and to tote enough water and calories to keep going requires a good day pack. I carry a large waist pack in the back with a water bottle holder on the front because my shoulders bother me with the traditional day pack. My friend with sciatica finds a well-fitting day pack with built-in water pouch hydration system the most comfortable. Day packs and waist packs should not exceed 15% of the body weight of that person. Make sure you allow room for food, first aid supplies: ibuprofen for muscle or joint soreness, bandages, cleansing wipes, antiseptic cream, sprain wraps, and moleskin. 

Now we’re ready to boogie up those mountains and have the time of our lives doing it!