Kyle Atkins has seen a lot of ups and downs in his life - 1,000 of them to be exact.
With his 70th birthday looming, the Soulsbyville resident succeeded in reaching the summit of his 1,000th mountain peak in September to become part of a select group of climbers. Fewer than two dozen climbers in the U.S. can boast of such an achievement.
"My philosophy is you ought to find the easy way up the mountain," said the tall and lean Atkins, who looks fit enough to climb another 1,000 peaks.
He chose Tower Peak near the Sonora Pass for his landmark summit in the
Sierra. It was the same peak he climbed during his first
mountain climbing trip back in 1961. Since then, he has averaged 20
climbs per year for the past 50 years.
He has stood atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, set up camp at the
summit of Mount Whitney in California and watched the sunset from the
peak of Mount McKinley, also know as Denali, in Alaska. He even reached
the snow-capped summit of Aconcagua, a 22,841-foot-high peak in the
Andes mountain range, which is the tallest mountain in the Americas.
A retired science teacher from Curtis Creek Elementary, Atkins has lived most of his life in Tuolumne County.
His wife, Margret Atkins, who is also a retired Curtis Creek teacher,
often accompanies him on his outdoor expeditions. She has an impressive
133 summits under her belt, and even climbed while pregnant with each
of their two children.
The couple met in history class Modesto Junior College, and the
rest is, well, history. They married in 1963 and have two sons, one
grandson and one granddaughter.
Shortly after meeting Margret, Kyle Atkins embarked on his
inaugural trip to Tower Peak in 1961. He placed a picture of Margret
between the pages of a mountaineering log, where it remained until she
came with him to fetch it nine years later.
"If I was a writer, I could write a love story about our climbing adventures," Margret Atkins said with a smile.
Kyle Atkins is fascinated by geology and has collected rocks from his
1,000 climbing trips. Each thumb-sized piece of granite, basalt or
limestone is carefully numbered and arranged in homemade display boxes.
One of the most harrowing climbing trips Atkins can remember was in
December 1976 when he led a group of Boy Scouts to a peak in the high
Sierra. The group set up camp at the summit when a blizzard struck.
"It hit us at about 2 a.m. and we commenced to packing up in the dark to get off that peak," he said.
The temperature dropped to below freezing and snow flurries blinded
the climbers as they made their way down a the icy rock face. The
blizzard shut down the Sonora Pass for traffic and Atkins and his Boy
Scout group had to drive back into Nevada and down to Carson Pass to
make it back to the Mother Lode.
His other accomplishments include climbing all of the tallest peaks
in all 50 states and climbing four of the so-called "Seven Summits,"
which include the tallest mountains on each continent.
Kyle and Margret Atkins enjoy reminiscing about watching "the green
flash" during a sunset on top of Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in
Hawaii. Sunsets are one of the highlights of mountaineering, Atkins
"There's always a different sunset and it's always a delight to
watch the shadow of the peak as it touches the shadow of the earth," he
Never one to bask in the glory of a mountain conquest for too long,
Atkins already has his eyes set on his next goal: to be the first
person to climb all of the peaks from Donner Pass to Walker Pass.
Contact Ryan Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4526.