January 2019 - ATHLETE PROFILE
banner photo: Grandson Brady (yellow) and friend.
Occupation: Vehicle Technician
Family: Wife, Kathy; children, Gloria, Amanda, Sam, Hannah, John, Lauryn; and several grandchildren
Primary Sports: Bicycling, Hiking, Rock/Ice Climbing, Kayaking
By Skip Holmes
When I first met John at a Tour de Cure event I had no knowledge of his diversified and very active lifestyle. John has ridden in the Saratoga/Capital Region Tour de Cure for 14 years for his wife, Kathy, who has diabetes. He raises significant funds for this cause and currently is part of the Kivort Steel Cycling Team, which fundraises for the American Diabetes Association. His training time on the bike is usually in preparation for the Tour de Cure and that keeps him in shape for all the other activities he engages in.
John typically rides about 1,500 to 2,000 miles a year on his road bike. Many of those miles are accomplished riding from home to work and back. The ride home is less than 10 miles but has a variable distance depending on his work day. He described a tough day as having a 20-mile return trip, while a really bad day provides a 40+ mile ride home to work off the daily stress. He started cycling as a youngster and as many of his age will attest to, you were allowed to ride all day, but better be home when the street lights turn on in Troy and Cohoes where he grew up. He also spent time with the family outside on hikes and picnics when growing up.
John’s active lifestyle clearly resonated with me in many ways. He is also a hiker, paddler, rock and ice climber as well. Staying involved with outdoor activities was a challenge while raising six children so cycling took a back seat for many years. He started hiking in the Adirondacks when a friend asked him if he wanted to go on a hike in the High Peaks. His first hike was Phelps Mountain in 1999. As many of you will agree, that first hike started a quest to climb more of the High Peaks and become an ADK 46’er. To date he has completed the winter 46 twice and is working on his second round of hiking the 46 in the summer season.
Many 46’ers have tales of mishaps and misadventures. In 2013 John and a hiking partner were headed towards Mount Marshall and several other nearby peaks. They split up so his partner could climb a peak that John had already completed, while John continued on to summit Marshall, and then headed back down to the agreed meeting point. When the hiking partner failed to return John decided to go look for him. After following what he thought were fresh footprints in the mud he decided to drop his pack, go up another peak and look around. After ascending that peak, he realized that he was not going to find his partner, so he started to head back-down towards where he dropped his pack as darkness approached. It was getting late and his headlamp was in his pack along with all the other gear that would be necessary to spend the night outdoors.
He found a spot to build a shelter, spent the night in 50-degree temperatures and at first light headed back down, picked up his pack and returned to the Adirondack Mountain Club lodge. He spoke with a forest ranger about his missing hiking partner and learned that the rangers were about to organize a search to look for John. He also learned that his hiking partner had spent the night at the ranger outpost eating a hot meal and sleeping on a warm bed before returning to the ADK lodge. Fortunately both survived the experience and a search was unnecessary.
When you spend significant time in the Adirondacks meeting others who enjoy the outdoors there is a likelihood that you will get exposed to other challenging sports. John was introduced to ice climbing and became hooked. In some ways it is just an extension of hiking in the High Peaks, where you need an ice axe and crampons to get up and down some of the steeper slides, when they are covered in ice and snow. So the next step is acquire more gear and start to scale some of the amazing waterfalls that develop in the winter months. He has been ice climbing for about 12 years and that has been sufficient time to both develop his skills and have at least one significant fall. While John and a group of five others were climbing a section of ice called ‘Wild West,’ he took a 25-foot fall landing at the base of the waterfall in about four feet of powder snow, and managed to walk away with minor injuries.
As with many experiences there is always a valuable lesson learned from such an incident. In recent years, as the Adirondack ice became more unpredictable and less available given the changing climate, John started venturing into the rock climbing gym to enjoy the vertical challenge. He has recently introduced one of his grandsons, Brady, age 15 to the climbing gym and it seems his grandson is enjoying quality time with his grandfather. He has also brought his younger grandson, six-year old Chaz, on the hike up to Hadley Mountain fire tower and this past year they hiked Crane Mountain together. Seems like this youngster will soon be working on his 46er badge.
One of John’s winter hikes last year was with Brady and two other hikers on Giant Mountain and Rocky Peak. They were headed down in the dark with headlamps which can be a long hard winter hike. Brady kept falling behind and the group waited numerous times for the grandson to catch up. Near the bottom, about the last 40 minutes before the parking lot, the group was waiting too long and John became concerned about Brady. Two other hikers passed by and said Brady did not look very good and he was sitting down on a log. John told the others to continue down and wait in the parking lot, while John ran back up the mountain to find Brady.
The others waited a very long time for John and his grandson and they became concerned enough that they were considering heading back up the trail to find them. Just then they saw headlamps with John carrying two backpacks weighing about 45 pounds each with Brady following behind. It turned out that Brady was exhausted and John carried his and Brady’s backpacks the rest of the way out. They made to back to the car but it was obvious that John was also exhausted from carrying two backpacks.
When you like to spend time in the Adirondacks, there is this desire to have a base camp there. John and his family have a place near Lake Luzerne and can be found there any time of the year. Being near many of the lakes and rivers has also influenced John’s water activity. He described his garage in Lake Luzerne as a place to store all his canoes and kayaks. Heck, who puts a car in a garage these days anyway? John’s primary watersport is whitewater kayaking and he has several whitewater boats to choose from. He also has several styles of canoes to use depending on what the water conditions are. John is a handy guy with tools and has built several cedar strip canoes that are quite beautiful and get used regularly. He belongs to a small white water racing club and has organized the Tenandeho Whitewater Derby in Mechanicville (tenandeho.org). When the kids were younger the family would paddle down the Battenkill River, take out the boats and then hike back to get their vehicle.
When I asked John if he has tried Nordic skiing, he smiled and said, “Sure but only once last year.” I had to laugh and remind him that it was not a very good season for cross country skiing with the lack of sufficient snow. John is a guy who spends serious time outside enjoying all that he can fit into his weekends. He is one of those guys who has what we call a “well-rounded Adirondack resume.”
Skip Holmes (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Delmar teaches sustainable design at RPI. He is a member of Mohawk-Hudson Cycling Club and Capital Bicycle Racing Club. He can be found road and mountain biking, kayaking, hiking or Nordic skiing.