The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, July 18, 2019, Page 19, Image 18

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    THURSDAY, JULY 18, 2019 // 19
Rocky climb to redefi ning retirement
’ve seen a couple of my
friends wrap up their
work lives recently,
and now they’re curating
various versions of retire-
ment nirvana – whether
that means buying a house
on a golf course in Ari-
zona, trundling around the
country in a camper van,
or scheduling a cruise to
Alaska to see the glaciers
before they all melt away.
Good for them, I say,
but there are other folks
who take their retirement
years to a whole new level.
Dierdre Wolownick is one
of those, and Mountaineers
Books, the Seattle-based
press that publishes books
on outdoor recreation and
adventure, has just come
out with her memoir, “The
Sharp End of Life.”
In 2003, after raising
her two children to adult-
hood, and after both of
her own parents had died,
Wolownick ended her
unhappy marriage of nearly
a quarter-century.
Her ex-husband, Charles
Honnold, died of a heart
attack shortly thereafter.
Suddenly, Wolown-
ick was faced with set-
tling both her ex-husband’s
and her parents’ estates, in
addition to holding down
her job.
She had envisioned this
next chapter would be one
of freedom. Instead, it was
a continuation of her life
spent picking up after oth-
ers, now intensifi ed to a
soul-crushing degree.
To ease the stress, she
took her dog for a walk at
the end of each long day.
But Juno was an Alaskan
sled dog, built for pull-
ing, and those walks often
turned into jogs. Before
she knew it, Wolownick
was running a mile or more
every night with her pooch.
“Running became my
escape, something I did
just for me. Maybe the only
thing,” she writes.
One step led to another,
and at the age of 55 she
signed up for her fi rst 10K
Wolownick’s kids, both
of whom had become
extreme athletes at that
point, gave her their whole-
hearted support.
Stasia Honnold was a
long distance runner and
bicyclist, and Alex Hon-
nold was developing an
international reputation as a
free solo rock climber. (Just
two years ago he became
the fi rst person ever to do a
rope-free climb of El Cap-
itan, the 3,000-foot granite
monolith in Yosemite.)
Wolownick suffered
through that fi rst 10K and
resolved to train harder.
She went on to complete
four marathons.
Then at age 58, she went
on her fi rst rock climb-
ing foray with Alex. And
“lumpy old Mom” was
“After each new adven-
ture,” she refl ects now, “my
life changes a little more,
my world expands…. For
over twenty years, my
body had been trapped by
my circumstances, hadn’t
known the exhilaration of
exploring what I was phys-
ically capable of. Now that
thrill was back.”
And at age 66, Wolown-
ick set a record of her own
on El Capitan – becoming
the oldest woman ever to
climb that sheer rock face.
In rock climbing par-
lance, “the sharp end”
refers to the lead climber,
the one who is determining
the route. And, fi nally, that
is what Wolownick is doing
with her own life.
In “The Sharp End of
Life,” instead of retiring in
her golden years, Wolown-
ick is inspiring.
“The Sharp End of Life” By Dierdre Wolownick
Mountaineers Books – 256 pp — $24.95
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