Glenwood’s Isenberg completes 500th trek up Iron Mountain
Legally blind and one day shy of his 75th birthday, Nick Isenberg of Glenwood Springs completed his 500th trek up Transfer Trail on the side of Iron Mountain to the back wall of the Glenwood Adventure Canyons’ upper gondola terminus Friday afternoon, capping off the feat in just nine summers.
Looking for a way to get exercise during the late spring, early summer seasons, Isenberg started climbing Iron Mountain on his own around his 66th birthday.
As recently as last summer, following a fall in his own home, Isenberg has needed daily assistance from close friends to get up the trail, which is a 1,300-foot vertical rise that covers 3 miles. Based on his 500 hikes up the side of Iron Mountain, he has climbed the actual height of Mount Everest roughly 22 times.
Deteriorating vision and health has slowed him down in the last year or so, but he did the daily hike — sometimes multiple times a day.
“The interesting thing here is that I’m showing that you can get stronger and healthier as you get older,” Isenberg said. “I just started out doing this to get exercise in the summer because I don’t golf and I don’t play tennis. Getting a chance to reach the top for the 500th time is like graduating high school or college; it’s like, ‘Well, what do I do now?’ ”
A former news reporter, Isenberg moved to Glenwood Springs in 1977 to be news director for radio station KMTS-FM. In 1980, he moved to Florida for a brief stint at a TV station there, but returned to Glenwood Springs in 1984 and has been here ever since.
Isenberg says he was the second most premature baby to survive when he was born in 1942, (90 days premature and weighed 2 pounds, 11.75 ounces) and has been totally blind in his right eye almost since birth as a result of being in an incubator for 10 weeks with too much oxygen pressure. Late in 2011, Isenberg lost most of the vision in his left eye due to complications from a procedure, but that didn’t stop him from climbing up the Transfer Trail all these years.
As of the last six months or so, the vision in his left eye has deteriorated day by day to the point where he sees just light, even if that steadily dims.
Now that he’s reached the top for the 500th time, Isenberg said he’ll still do the hike, but not at the breakneck pace he has done of the last five summers. Instead, he’ll do it once or twice a week as long as he can get a friend or two to do the hike with him.
“I still want to stay in shape,” Isenberg said. “I wasn’t trying to set a record or anything, I was just doing this for my health. Next, I’m going to make a documentary giving people permission not to be old. I guess you could say I walk the walk in that regard.”