Alaskan Legend Climbs Denali at Age 78

Bill Kittredge, Steve Gruhn, and Tom Choate (left to right) headed up Denali

Bill Kittredge, Steve Gruhn, and Tom Choate (left to right) headed up Denali. Photo by John Brueck / National Park Service.

7/11/13 - Tom Choate, who first climbed North America's highest peak in 1963, returned to the summit in late June just three months short of his 79th birthday. Choate, a retired professor who lives in Anchorage, climbed the peak with Steve Gruhn and Bruce Kittredge by the standard West Buttress Route. Last year, Choate had an artificial hip put in place.

More remarkable than Choate's age—which beat the old age record of 76 for a Denali summiter—was the nearly 50-year span between his first and most recent ascents, Gruhn told the Anchorage Daily News.

In addition to doing numerous first ascents around Alaska over the years, Choate has climbed Denali five times in all. The most remarkable was the first, in 1963, when he and three other men traversed the mountain from north to south—up the Muldrow Glacier  on the north side, and then down the West Buttress—and then, after a resupply by plane, three of them continued up Mt. Hunter's west ridge to make the second ascent of the 14,570-foot peak. Along the way, they did the first ascents of Hunter's middle and south peaks. After returning to their base camp, they trekked for seven days down the Kahiltna Glacier and across rivers and foothills all the way to Talkeetna on foot—all in all, an extraordinary 180-mile journey in the days when few people ever visited these mountains.

Date of ascent: June 28, 2013

Sources: Anchorage Daily News, American Alpine Journal