Charlie Lincoln is about to be in denial in Denali. That's Denali National Park in Alaska, home of Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in the U.S. at 20,320 feet.
He trains six days a week, including workouts at ClubSport in San Ramon, high-altitude exercising in low-oxygen chambers at Quad in Pleasanton and weekend hiking up Mount Diablo with a 60-pound backpack and 10-pound ankle weights.
I happened to catch Charlie, a former Danville resident and business owner, on his one rest day last week and we talked about his upcoming climb and training regime. I get tired just thinking about all he does daily -- the one-hour warm-up at ClubSport doing, you know, ellipticals, the StairMaster, the treadmill and weightlifting.
Then it's off to do a couple of one-hour classes at Quad, then another hour at an even higher altitude in Quad doing his own exercises. And three days a week he hikes Mount Diablo and once a week works with a trainer for flexibility. You have to be a fitness fanatic to do all that, right?
"I'm not a fanatic, I'm not," Charlie said. (That's why I think he's in denial, plus I like the wordplay with Denali.)
Charlie and fellow Alamo resident Jim Brandt depart for Alaska next week, where they'll meet up with the rest of their group (two other climbers and two guides from Alpine Ascents of Seattle). Then they board a light plane with skids, he said, that takes them to the bottom of the glacier, where they get their equipment situated and begin their climb June 10, each wearing a 60-pound backpack and pulling a 70-pound sled that holds food, fuel for the stove and extra clothes. He said hopefully they'll be close to the summit by Day 15, and then they still have to get down the mountain.
"Ain't this fun," as my dad used to say when we passed a motorcyclist in a rainstorm.
Seriously, Charlie's mountain climbing is quite an accomplishment. He's 61, 5-foot-9 and weighs 155 pounds. "You have so much more fun if you're in great shape," he said. "I don't want to hold anyone back; I want to be the strong one."
Charlie said he and Jim are all that's left of about 10 guys who formed DARE (Dads Ascending Rare Elevations) about 18 years ago. Seven of them climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa together in July 2008. Charlie has successfully climbed three of the Seven Summits (the highest mountains on each continent).
In addition to Kilimanjaro, he summited at Aconcagua near Mendoza, Argentina, and Mount Elbrus in Russia. He has also climbed Mount Whitney, at 14,505, the tallest mountain in California, Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helen's in Washington and the 14ers in Colorado. I asked him why he does these grueling, dangerous climbs.
"It's because only a small percentage of people have done it, and it's a good way to get out with friends," he said. "You meet other climbers, you're out in the middle of nowhere, and you just keep going. I've had some fantastic experiences."
Charlie watched the Olympic torch being carried up Mount Elbrus on television during the recent Winter Olympics in Socchi. "I could see where I was when I summited," he said. "Not many people could say that."
Of course, there are plenty of hours of discomfort to get to the top. He remembers sitting in a tent on Mount Rainier at 11,200 feet during a blinding snowstorm that sounded like a locomotive roaring past. The climbers had to dig the tents out of the snow, and he asked himself, "What am I doing here?" He actually had four bars on his cell phone and called his wife, Carolyn, who was in Alamo enjoying all the comforts of home.
"When I come back, I'm pretty wiped out and spend two or three days crashed out on the couch. You always come back with something hurting, your badge of courage. With me, it's usually my feet. I always lose a toenail," Charlie said.
If he achieves the summit of Mount McKinley, only three of the Seven Summits remain as a challenge: the Carstenz Pyramid in Indonesia, Australia/Oceania, Vinson in Antarctica and Mount Everest in Asia. I asked Charlie if it was his goal to climb all seven.
"I take it one at a time," he said.
Best wishes to Charlie and his group as they take on one of the biggest challenges of their lives.
Contact Georgia Lambert at email@example.com.