Isenberg makes 300th climb up Transfer Trail
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Nick Isenberg, the Glenwood Springs reporter and documentary producer who after four years of climbing the five mile 1,352 vertical foot trek up Transfer Trail to the top of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park gondola 70 times by his 70th birthday has now made the climb 300 times by his 73rd birthday. We asked him to tell us about why he did it and what was involved.
I wasn’t trying to set any kind of record. I was just trying to find a way to get some exercise in the summer when I can’t ski. I don’t play golf and I don’t play tennis, so I was looking for something else I could do.
Since Glenwood Springs has a gondola that operates year-round, I thought about riding the lift up and walking down Transfer Trail, which really is a very steep dirt road that goes by the park. But I decided that would be too hard on my knees. So late in the fall of 2008, I hiked up once and saw that it was do-able. So the next year I claimed up 19 times and 29 times the following year. But I had a setback in 2011.
I was the second most premature baby to survive when I was born in 1942, (90 days premature and weighed 2 lbs 11 3/4 oz.) and been totally blind in my right eye almost since birth as a result of being in an incubator for 10 weeks with too much oxygen pressure. In March of 2011, I became legally blind in my left eye as a result of complications from surgery on it. Then, within four months, I also had a heart attack and had surgery for crushed cartilage in my neck.
It was kind of a pits summer and I had doctor’s orders not to climb at all that summer.
I’ve had two cornea transplants in my left eye since, one in 2011 and one in June of 2014. The second one is helping, but it may be December of this year or January of next year before we know how much. In the meantime, my vision fluctuates between legally blind and slightly better. So I have to use a white cane most of the time when I walk and hike.
After I started climbing again in 2012, I was having coffee with a friend and I realized that if hiked up 15 more times by June 10th, I would have climbed 70 times by my 70th birthday. But I wasn’t sure if I could do it, because up to then, I had never made the climb two days in a row. I not only reached that goal, I climbed up the mountain 70 times that summer, 81 the next year and 75 times last year. I reached 300, May 31 after 25 hikes up the mountain so far this year. I plan on climbing up 50 more times this summer.
I figured out that I claimed a total of 1,500 miles and more than 406,600 vertical feet. That’s more than to the top of 29,029 foot Mount Everest from sea level 14 times.
I have already climbed almost 34,000 vertical feet so far this year. I climbed twice in one day a number of times and three times in one day three times. So, now I’ve set a another goal. I want to climb four times in one day, which would be 20 miles and more than a mile in vertical feet at least once this summer.
I found out about my almost record breaking premature birth when I had to go to the emergency room at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, New York where I was born and the nurse told me, “You’re pretty famous around here. You were the second most premature to live.”
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Born in New Castle, Alice McKennis Duran learned to ski at 2 at Sunlight Mountain with her father and older sister, Kendra. She also had a brief stint training with the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club prior to joining the national team.