At the age of 65, Steve Swenson sat atop an icy peak in Pakistan enjoying the biggest meal he’d had in nine days. After spending days climbing the peak with limited food intake, this celebratory meal seemed appropriate. 23,100 foot tall Link Sar sits in a buffer zone between Pakistan and India. After previously failing to summit this same peak twice before, this was a huge accomplishment. Yet Steve explains that at this point in his life, it’s not about standing on a particular point on this planet. It’s about the partnerships and work it takes to get there. He truly believes the experience and work it takes is even more rewarding than standing at the top.
Steve, a retired engineer, has spent more than fifty years scaling rock and ice, according to Outside Online. Before he reached the top of Link Sar, he had managed expeditions to some of the biggest mountains in the world. Among these are Sasar Kangri II, Mount Everest, and the northern side of K2. He has been awarded the lifetime achievement award from the American Alpine Club in 2012 for all his climbing.
However, climbing Link Sar was no easy task. Steve and his team were just 300 feet from the summit when an accident happened. He fractured a slab of ice and almost had to turn around after falling nearly 100 feet before his rope caught him. Additionally, Link Sar is an extremely complex and difficult mountain. It full of ice cliffs that can break off in an instant. There are many dead ends too, which makes careful planning and training crucial to survival.
“There are no shortcuts to this”, Steve says bluntly. In order to train for this incredible summit, he began ice-climbing and skiing the Canadian Rockies six days per week. He trained for two to four hours each day, six days a week. He ran daily while carrying sixty pounds of water up a 4,000 foot mountain near his Seattle home twice a week.
Most older adults don’t plan to summit mountains during their retirement like Steve. But he comments on an all too common scenario for many seniors. They spend their lives looking forward to retirement but work too much, exercise too little, and are generally unhealthy during their golden years. However, the key is finding something that inspires you, whatever that may be. Steve gets excited about just the potential for more climbs. And that’s what keeps him going.