By April Gaydos
While I sit here sitting safely at my desk writing this article about Dr. John S. Dahlem, Audubon's January guest speaker, the 73- year-old retired high school principal is ascending a volcanic mountain in Ecuador. It might be an understatement to say that John is an "avid" mountain climber. Since 2000 he has scaled The Seven Summits, the highest mountain peaks of each of the seven continents, and has racked up many notable first-time mountaineering achievements.
As a kid, John loved going out in nature, enjoying many hiking and camping trips with his family and as a Boy Scout. From these experiences, he developed a passion for mountain climbing. By the time he was teaching high school in California, he had been to the summit of California's Mount Whitney several times and was ready to move on to the tougher, more technical, Mount Rainier in Washington state.
One mountain led to another, until eventually he and his son and climbing partner, Ryan, set a goal of mastering the Seven Summits. They had already reached five of the seven summits, the remaining were the easiest: Mount Kosciusko in Australia and the most difficult: Mount Everest in Asia, the highest mountain on earth. They set their sights on Everest first.
On May 24, 2010, following a grueling and storm-laden 60-day trek, John and Ryan reached the 29,035 foot summit of Mt. Everest, and John became the second oldest American and the oldest father-son combination to ever stand atop the world. On Christmas Eve of the same year, they climbed to the top of their seventh summit - an accomplishment that has only been attained by 416 people in the world. Next John went on to complete the Explorers Grand Slam, which includes climbing the Seven Summits and pulling a sled to the North and South Poles.
Since 1953 when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, made the first recorded successful attempt of Mt. Everest, there have has been vast improvements in equipment and technical know-how, but mountain climbing still remains an extremely risky undertaking that stretches a person to the physical limits. What compels a person to confront nature's most daunting contests of spirit and energy? What does it take for a person to withstand weeks of exhausting effort against the toughest elements of nature? How does one prepare mentally for the danger and trials of scaling a mountain? How does accomplishing these extreme feats change a person's outlook on life? And how does one come up with an encore after they have attained the highest peaks and journeyed to the ends of the earth?
John will be visiting our hillside town of San Miguel in January and will answer these kinds of questions and recount his climbing adventures at a special Audubon Nature Matters event at the El Nigromante/Bellas Artes on Monday, January 9 at 5 pm. The presentation features dramatic accounts and stunning images of his journeys into thin air that are sure to take your breath away.
Audubon de México Nature Matters Talk
Extreme Nature: Conquering the World's Highest Peaks
Monday, January 9 5:00 pm
El Nigromante, Bellas Artes, M. Malo Auditorio
Hernández Macías 75
100 pesos (Audubon Members Free)