Climber breaks own record as oldest on Rainier

Posted: Friday, July 29, 2005

PARADISE, Wash. (AP) — 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.

Now they plan to head for the Swiss Alps in August and later to a Mount Everest base camp.

By contrast, Painter, whose training includes more than 1,300 ascents of 800-foot Badger Mountain near his home in Richland while carrying 40-pound weights, was eager to get home to finish making 46 quarts of apricot nectar and 25 pints of apricot jam from the fruit of a single tree and get started on the tomatoes in his garden.

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