When I Thought Climbing Was Normal

At the time it all seemed kind of matter-of-fact normal. I climbed Mount Hood at 15. Climbed Rainier the summer before I turned 21. Climbed Baker the summer before I turned 31. Climbed Adams the summer before I turned 41. And I felt challenged by these climbs, for sure – felt like I’d had to push myself to get to the tops of these peaks – but this is what the people around me did. I guess this was my “normal.” It’s not been until recently that the significance of those climbs has really hit me. And I’m kind of astounded by myself, to tell you the truth. I mean… who did I think I was that I would even CONTEMPLATE climbing those mountains?!!

I’m reading a book by Joe Wilcox right now about his climb of Denali back in 1967. He references Mount Rainier several times in his book – talks about how Rainier is often used to prepare climbers for major expeditions and how it’s used to test the strength and ability of climbers to see if they are fit to climb in major expeditions. A lot of expedition climbers are from the Pacific Northwest because of their experience on Rainier. And most folks who come to Rainier to climb it have probably been preparing for that climb for months or even years. It is a big deal. Apparently.

Here’s how I got to climb Rainier: I was working in the gift shop at Paradise – hiking around up there before and after work – my body was used to the altitude. I was sitting outside after work one evening – looking at the mountain. My friend, Perky Firch, who also worked at the Paradise Visitors Center, was sitting next to me. I said to her, “We’re going to climb that mountain.” She said okay. I called my dad to ask him if he could guide us to the summit, and he agreed to be our guide. Two weeks later we were standing on the top of Rainier.

And the sheer naive confidence of my young self – the fearless innocence of it all – astounds me!

What a blessed life I’ve enjoyed! What opportunities came from being Dee Molenaar‘s daughter! I don’t think I fully appreciated that until now.

-Karen Molenaar Terrell

(Excuse the quality of the photo. I was too lazy to take it out of its frame on the wall.)

Karen on the summit of Rainier – with her father, Dee Molenaar on the left, and her brother, Pete Molenaar, on the right.

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