78-year-old sets age record summiting McKinley

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A 78-year-old climbing veteran with an artificial hip has become the oldest person to reach the top of Alaska’s Mount McKinley.

Tom Choate of Anchorage completed the climb Tuesday, after reaching the summit of North America’s tallest peak June 28.

The previous oldest person to reach the 20,320-foot summit was 76-year-old Japanese climber Michio Kumamoto, the Anchorage Daily Newsreported.

Choate, a retired biology professor, first climbed the mountain in 1963 and he returned in 1983, 1993, 2003 and this year, reaching the summit in five different decades.

Speaking by phone from Talkeetna, Choate said he climbed McKinley this time with an artificial hip that was implanted last year.

“I was only up to four hours of exercise. But up there, waiting for the weather, I got fitter and fitter, where I could do six-, then eight-hour days,” he said.

Choate, who calls himself an “old mountain goat,” said weather delayed reaching the summit, including a freak electrical storm 700 feet from the top. His climbing team also was stymied by fog and high winds.

Storms delayed his party’s descent.

On his latest summit, Choate was accompanied by climbers Steve Gruhn and Bruce Kittredge.

“The more interesting record in my book is that I think it’s the greatest duration of time between a climber’s first ascent and most recent ascent,” Gruhn said.

The climbing team accommodated Choate’s artificial hip by setting up extra camps between established resting spots. That meant bringing more food and carrying more weight.

Gruhn said he was particularly gratified to know that an Alaskan has reclaimed the title of oldest climber.

Choate also seemed satisfied to kick back and bask in his accomplishments.

“I’m overly relaxed at the moment,” he said. “I’ve been sitting in the snow for the past 47 days and all of a sudden I’m sitting here in the sun.”

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