UCC Mainstream Online

Training with tires for Mount Denali climb

Melinda Benton / Mainstream
David Rickman tows a large tire repeatedly up and down the Tech Center parking lot at UCC.

Students at the Technical Center on the west side of campus have been noticing an unusual sight most afternoons.

A man with a large pack on his back repeatedly drags a heavy tire up and down the hill from the gym to the childcare center. The tire is connected to him by a long rope attached to his back as if he were the legendary Sisyphus himself.

David Rickman, an emergency room doctor at Mercy Hospital in Roseburg, Oregon, is training to climb the tallest mountain in North America. A seasoned climber, Rickman is taking on Mount McKinley in Alaska, also known as Mount Denali. Denali stands 20,320 feet high at its peak, ranking as the third highest of the Seven Summits, the seven highest mountains on the earth’s seven continents. The only two higher of the seven summits are Everest in Nepal at 29,029 feet and Argentina’s Aconcagua at 22,841 feet.

Climbing these mountains is no small undertaking; it requires extensive experience, training and a large quantity of cold weather gear specific to high altitudes.

To date, climbers have made more than 40,000 attempts to climb Denali, resulting in 122 fatalities, with 44 bodies still remaining unclaimed on its peaks. The altitude, exposure and crevices are extremely dangerous.

Rickman will be joined by two of his adult sons on this 22 day expedition and will be guided by Mt. Trip Guide Service, one of six guide services available for this particular mountain (the guide service provides three guides for every six climbers due to the intensity of the trip). 

This expedition begins in Anchorage where an air taxi will drop the group off at an elevation of 8,500 ft. From there each man will carry a pack weighing between 40 and 60 pounds while also pulling a sleigh weighing an additional 30 to 50 pounds attached by rope to the bottom of his pack. This is why Rickman is at UCC with his tire training.

Due to the high altitudes, the men will do more than just go up and forward as one might assume. Instead, the expedition, while ascending the iconic West Buttress route, will practice the “climb high, sleep low” concept. They will go up the mountain and leave the gear then return to a lower elevation to sleep for that night, continuing this pattern to increase their elevation slowly so that their bodies can adjust to the altitude.

Rickman has several mountain climbs under his belt, including Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua and Europe’s Mount Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps. He has also climbed locally and chose his home in Oregon due to the close proximity of mountains like Shasta, Hood and Rainier.