Harkin goes higher than “Mile High” city

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) hosted a party for the Iowa delegation this evening on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Denver.  The venue was a rather posh Irish bar in downtown Denver which sides with Murphy’s Irish Stout in the Murphy’s versus Guinness debate (I know this because I know someone who tried to order a Guinness).  I failed to check on whether Beamish was on tap..

A group of Iowa reporters interviewed Harkin just outside the bar, on the sidewalk, and Harkin told the group he and his wife, Ruth, arrived in Colorado on Thursday.  "My wife and I went to Leadville, spent the day at around 10,000 feet and yesterday both Ruth and I climbed our ninth 14-er."

That word — fourteener — means a peak of at least 14,000 feet.  "Which one was it?" asked Ed Tibbetts of the Quad City Times. 

"Sherman.  We did Sherman yesterday," Harkin replied.  Mount Sherman reaches 14,036 feet above sea level  "We tried Sherman once before and we ran into both a time crunch and a weather crunch and we didn’t make it — this was several years ago  — and so I thought:  ‘Well, we’ll do it.’  So, we do Sherman and we get up there.  It’s a long climb. That’s a long climb.  It took us almost five hours from where we started, the trailhead.  So we got up there, just had our lunch and the storms came out and — I don’t know if you know Sherman; there’s some real narrow passages on Sherman and, God, the winds started and the storms started and all of a sudden we were in a hail storm.  So we put on our rain gear and stuff — and coming down these slippery slopes with all the hail and all of a sudden this lightning hits. I thought to myself: ‘God we’re Democrats.  They need all of our votes this year.  Please, not like this.’ So, we scrambled coming down…but we got down alright.  It was interesting being in a hail storm."

"So why do you do this?" I asked.

"I love climbing mountains," Harkin said.  "It’s good exercise.  It’s good for the lungs, but I started too late in life. I’ll never get all 53 done."  There are at least 53 peaks in the Rockies which reach 14,000 feet or above. Some sources I just checked on-line indicate there are as many as 55.

"Have you done Long’s?" Tibbetts asked. Long’s Peak reaches 14,259

"I haven’t done Long’s yet.  You see, that’s so far up north.  I always do the ones down south and they’re all bunched up. I actually did two in one day once, but you see I started too late in life," Harkin said.

"These are all in Colorado?" Rod Boshart of The Cedar Rapids Gazette asked.

"Yes," Harkin said, adding that he’d "been taking potassium pills since yesterday."

Just to recap, Harkin is climbing mountains at the age of 68.  Iowa’s other United States Senator, 74-year-old Chuck Grassley, runs up to 15 miles a week.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.