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

said.

"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

said.

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 rcampbell@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4526.

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