A Real Cliffhanger

At age 69, most people are thinking about taking life easy, slowing down a bit.

Not climbing Cerro Aconcagua – the highest peak in all the Americas.

But that’s Deputy Chief District Attorney Jack Strickland for you.

Last month, Strickland returned from a 16-day Argentinian mountain expedition that was cut short by violent winds that shredded his tent and forced him and other team members off the mountain before they could reach the 23,000-foot summit.

“It’s a mountain known for high winds, but these 110mph winds were the strongest they have had in a decade,” Strickland said. “At one point, I was on top of a ridgeline, unroped. The wind picked me up and spun me around midair. I tumbled and rolled and bounced 50 feet down the mountainside.”

A guy on another team was literally blown down the mountain while in his tent, Strickland said. One climber suffered frostbite, while another fell 350 feet. A guide got snow-blindness.

“They had to airlift them off the mountain,”  Strickland said. 

At his age, there are plenty of safer -  and well, more sane – pastimes Strickland could be doing than climbing mountains. But Strickland wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s fun,” he said, flashing a grin.  “It strips away all of the superfluous things that we normally worry about and deal with. I’m not worrying about cases in the office. I’m not worrying about paying bills. I’m not worrying about how I look and how I smell. It’s just between me and the mountain and you find yourself focusing on essentials. Stay fit, stay focused, stay alive.”

Jack Strickland on a previous ice-climbing expedition

Strickland fell in love with mountain climbing at age 12 after he climbed Mount Fuji in Japan while at Boy Scout camp.  He didn’t truly realize his passion, however, until about 15 years ago when he got involved with “guide service” climbing – outfits that lead expeditions on some of the world’s most challenging peaks.

Soon enough, Strickland was ice-climbing, climbing the Matterhorn, weaving the peaks of South America, and summiting Alaska’s Denali (Mount McKinley)- North America’s highest mountain.

“Social Security starts on your 66th Birthday and I turned 66 on the day I flew to base camp on Denali,” Strickland said. “Everyone on the mountain and back at our jumping-off point, Talkeetna, was very amused by that.  I’m always the oldest climber on the mountain. Anyone older than me is definitely crazy.”

- Melody McDonald, Public Information Officer

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