PARADISE, Wash. – William Painter’s record as the oldest man to reach the top of Mount Rainier has been broken – by William Painter.
By making it to the 14,411-foot summit at age 82, the retired plutonium worker from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation beat the mark he set more than a year earlier.
Lost on the way down was his treasured old Army hat laden with memorabilia he began collecting after he started climbing seven years ago. A gust of wind blew the hat into a crevasse as he was descending.
“The mountain demands sacrifice. The most extreme is a human life,” Painter said. “My hat was my sacrifice this time.”
About 10,000 people attempt the summit every year and half make it, a third of those with a trained guide. Rarely are more than one or two a year older than 70 or younger than 10, Mount Rainier National Park officials say.
As it turned out, Painter was signing the summit guest book as Aidan Gold, 7, of Bothell, was heading down from the top the morning of July 18.
The boy has scaled about 90 lesser peaks with his parents since age 3 but is well over the record young age for Rainier, 4, set by a boy who took seven days to reach the top with his family in 1999.
Parents Warren and Julie Gold said their son probably was capable of getting to the top of Rainier a couple of years ago, but because he has Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism, they held off until they decided he had the “maturity of mind” for such an effort.
“The most important thing is not getting to the summit, but getting down,” Painter said.
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