How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

Mount Baldy (3)

Devil's Backbone, Mount Baldy, California. August 2015
Devil’s Backbone, Mount Baldy, California. August 2015

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”

Satchel Paige

Now that I have a little more time on my hands, I’m actually a lot more active. Here are a few pictures from a hike to the top of Mount Baldy a few weeks ago. The summit is a little over 10,000 feet and on a clear day you can see downtown Los Angeles, which is about 35 miles away.

A few years ago, as a Father’s Day gift, my family and I climbed 10,834 feet to the top of Mount San Jacinto near Palm Springs. Actually, in the past 5 years, I have managed to climb all the tallest peaks in Southern California except for one. Sounds really macho, right? Not really.

Ironically, I owe all my motivation for these experiences to a 64 year old grandma and 75 to 80 year old Asian ladies. Sounds crazy, but absolutely true.

About 6 years ago, I actually ripped my bicep tendon while playing racquetball and it had to be surgically reattached. I was still practicing martial arts pretty seriously at the time and this may have been a contributing factor as well.

As a result, many of my friends started telling me I was too old to be participating in these kinds of activities and needed to start “acting my age”. I was actually beginning to accept this until the day I went in for the surgery.

The prep nurse was a very sweet 64 year old grandma, who had a sign over her desk that read, “I Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.” Now of course, if I was too old to play racquetball, she was surely way too old to climb a mountain that is over 19,000 feet high. At the time, it really never occurred to me that it could be her, so I asked her who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. She smiled and replied, “I did, of course, silly.”

She went on to tell me that she trained for it by climbing all the local Southern California mountains every week, but the one she hiked the most was Mount Baden Powell, at just over 9,000 feet. Needless to say, I was stunned, but inspired. I thought, if this grandma could do it, how hard could it be? I was in fairly good shape so I made plans to do it as soon as I healed.

As I soon as recovered, I did no training, grabbed a friend who was in the military with me and headed up the mountain. Suffice it to say that it was brutally hard and we turned back less than halfway through. Even after training and finally making it to the top, I noticed that there were a good number of older Asian ladies who climbed to the top without even really breaking a sweat!

On my second success attempt, we ran into a group of Asian ladies who not only encouraged us and beat us to the top, they also disclosed that the group ages ranged from 75-78 years old and they did that hike three times a week! While I was eating lunch at the top, I told this story to a gentleman who then ashamedly told me he was 82!

I realized then that whether you get old or not isn’t as much about biological age as it is about activity and mindset. I have an uncle who is 13-14 years older than me who still works out at the gym every day for a least a couple of hours. I actually hate going with him because he never wants to leave.

Inspired by these folks, I’ve been hiking the mountains ever since and hopefully will continue into my 70’s and 80’s. The funny thing is on that every single hike to the top of a mountain, I still see a lot of folks who are 25-30 older than me make it to the top. For some reason, a good chunk are always Asian ladies. At least, these days they don’t always beat me. Sometimes we make it at the same time. 🙂

I’ve often heard the term that age is just a number. These folks have taught me in the best possible way that although aging is inevitable, getting old is optional.