Outdoors

Spokane climber, 65, plans Everest attempt

Dawes Eddy, a 65-year-old cost-estimator, isn’t going to let approaching old age stop him from attempting to break a world record.

The Spokane man is planning on climbing Mount Everest next year.

If he succeeds, he will become the oldest U.S. citizen to summit the 29,035-foot peak. A 69-year-old Canadian made it to the top last year.

“I made a decision in about July that I would try to climb Mount Everest,” Eddy said.

“I’ve always been interested in being on the outer edge,” he said. “I’m making this attempt just to see if I’ll be able to do it – just a personal challenge.”

Eddy, who is 5-foot-8, weighs 130 pounds – three pounds less than he weighed in 1961 when he graduated from Lewis & Clark High School. He graduated from Washington State University in 1965.

Since those days, he never stopped his exercise workouts. The man who turns 66 next month runs eight miles outdoors three times a week, year-round.

“Most people my age aren’t considering climbing a major peak like Mount Everest,” Eddy said in explaining his interest in physical fitness and diet.

He wants to be a role model and antidote to the nation’s growing concern with obesity, particularly among young people.

“I’m hoping my climb will draw attention to the fact that proper diet and exercise pay dividends in terms of slowing the aging process,” he said.

After college, Eddy worked nine years as a credit analyst for Dun & Bradstreet. During Expo ’74, he and a partner operated a riverboat ride concession on the Spokane River.

Since 1975, he has been a consultant in the asphalt maintenance field and, for the past five years, has worked for Arrow Concrete and Asphalt Specialties Inc.

Eddy has climbed 25 peaks around the world since 1985. He attempted to climb Mount Rainer 60 times and was successful on 37 attempts. He also climbed other West Coast peaks, including Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount Baker, Mount Shasta and Mount St. Helens.

During a 1999 solo climb of Mount Rainer, Eddy slipped. He slid and tumbled 2,000 feet down the Gibraltar ice shoot. Nearby climbers came to his rescue. He was airlifted off the mountain with a broken right leg.

As he was sliding dangerously down the mountain, “I didn’t think I would survive,” he said.

When his leg healed, he resumed his exercise and has returned for several solo summits of Rainier.

The accident didn’t dampen his love of climbing. He even named his chocolate Lab, Robson, for his favorite peak, in British Columbia.

In January, Eddy and a guide climbed the 20,700-foot Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador.

In 1990, Eddy joined acclaimed Spokane mountaineer Chris Kopcynzski in making the summit of Acongagua, a 23,000-foot peak in Argentina.

Kopcynzski and Spokane’s other famed mountaineer, John Roskelley, both encouraged Eddy’s plan to attempt Everest.

“Dawes is an outstanding athlete,” Kopcynzski said. “He’s got all the natural ability and the desire to do it, and that overrides most everything.”

Kopcynzski also said Eddy “has a successful track record in alpine climbing.”

But as people age, their oxygen saturation levels – the ability to get oxygen into the blood stream, measured in the so-called “VO2” scale – decrease. That means it takes longer to accomplish physical tasks.

Still an active climber at 60, Kopcynzski said he has seen his own “VO2” level sharply decrease since 1981, when he successfully climbed Everest.

“Just being older doesn’t mean you can’t climb,” he said. “You just have to go slower, take more time at acclimating to the higher altitudes and hope for a break in the weather.”

Eddy said he already has made a financial commitment and is one of 17 climbers signed up for the March 2009 Everest climb being organized by International Mountain Guides, a private company based in Ashford, Wash.

The price tag: $50,000 per climber.

Eddy, who is looking for sponsors or donors, got a Spokane Web design company, Alt29, to put together a site for him at eddyoneverest.com.

He is scheduled to leave Spokane on March 22. After stops in Seattle, Hong Kong and Katmandu, the party will travel to Lucla, Nepal. Eddy and his fellow climbers will spend six weeks at a base camp at the 17,300-foot level as they acclimate to the higher altitude.

The summit attempt is planned for mid-May – a time when the jet stream normally moves to the north, reducing winds that can reach 150 mph at the mountain’s peak.

His wife, Mary Kay, has joined him on some climbs, and his four daughters are lukewarm about his Everest plans, Eddy said.

“They’d rather I didn’t, but they’re supportive,” he said.

So is his 89-year-old mother, who still lives independently and continues to provide inspiration to her son.

“She walks every day and exercises,” Eddy said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Bill Morlin can be reached at (509) 459-5444 or e-mail: billm@spokesman.com

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Rich Landers

Rich Landers

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