Erik Burgess, Published April 16 2013
Fargo man scaling Mt. Everest at 71 years old
Bill Worth would rather take a hike – up Mount Everest, that is.
Worth, who turns 72 next month, is now climbing the world’s tallest mountain with his 28-year-old daughter, Carolyn. When he’s not scaling mountains, Worth owns Worth Construction and lives with his wife, Cynthia, in Fargo.
“I just felt that it (climbing Everest) was kind of a risky thing to do at his age, but he is so physically fit,” Cynthia said. “He’s so conditioned, and so is our daughter.”
The father-daughter pair planned to reach the highest point in their journey on Sunday – around 18,300 feet at Kala Pattar, a popular site with scenic views of the Everest peak.
Everest itself towers 29,000 feet above sea level, and is located in the Himalayan mountain range on the border of Nepal and China.
For avid adventurer Tom Smith, co-owner of Great Northern Bicycle Co. in Fargo, only one word described his awe after hearing of Worth’s journey: “Wow.”
“I think it’s exceptional,” the 47-year-old Smith said. “I think it’s exceptional for people of any age to do it.”
Smith would know. He recently returned from climbing 22,841-foot Mount Aconcagua in the Andes mountain range between Argentina and Chile. It’s the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere.
“As people more advanced in their life choose to take on such challenges, whether it’s the Everest or just their Everest, I think that’s pretty amazing,” Smith said.
Bill and Carolyn aren’t exactly mountain-climbing novices. In 2008, the two trekked up the 14,411-foot high Mount Rainier in Washington state, although Cynthia noted that only their daughter made it all the way to the top. The father-daughter pair also trekked across Alaska a couple of years ago.
“They just thrive on this,” Cynthia said.
Bill and Carolyn were unavailable for comment because phone and email access are limited during the climb.
Perhaps the most difficult challenge in climbing a mountain is handling the altitude changes, Smith said. At 18,000 feet, there is about half the amount of oxygen in the air as there is at sea level, he said.
“So you’re getting by with just half the available resource there, and you need some of that just to keep your systems going, so the amount that’s left available for actually moving yourself becomes very, very low,” Smith said.
The Worths began training for the trek a year and a half ago. Last summer, Bill would walk 6 miles a day, Cynthia recalled. He would also load 20-pound bags of dog food into a backpack, lugging around the extra weight while doing cardio workouts at the gym.
After the three-week journey up and down the mountain, including tourist stops in numerous mountain villages, Worth and his daughter will return to the United States around April 21. They are part of a tour group of about 20 people being led by Alpine Ascents International, a Washington-based mountaineering and expedition organization.
“He’s absolutely just totally rejuvenated,” Cynthia said of her husband after he returns from long treks. “He’s tired, but he talks about it for weeks.”
What’s next on the trekking agenda? Cynthia said she’s uncertain, but she is starting to get used to being married to a rugged mountaineer.
“I guess if he wants to go again, he can go again. What can I say?” she said, laughing. “He just thrives on it. He just absolutely loves it, and so does my daughter.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518