My wife, Jackie, lived in Japan for years before we married. She always wanted to return, and because I had practiced a few Japanese martial arts for years, it had always been a dream of mine to go there too. So when I turned 50, we took a trip to Japan to attend a wedding, visit friends in Tokyo, Shimosuwa (Nagano), Uozu (Toyama) and Tateyama, and check out some sites, including Mount Fuji, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Miyajima Island.
While visiting friends in Shimosuwa, we stayed at the Masuya Guesthouse (マスヤゲストハウス). If you are ever in Nagano prefecture, it is worth spending a few days in the Lake Suwa area, and staying at the guesthouse, with some of the coolest people on earth (while sipping drinks with locals in the bar (pictured here), we were suddenly listening to jazz tunes and watching surfing videos projected on the wall).
While in nearby Chino, Jackie wanted to take me on a mountain climb that she had done years before - to the top of Mt. Kitayokodake (北横岳), one of the eight peaks of the Yatsugatake range. It is a modest scramble, but enough of a hike for a flatlander like me. Being my first summit, I found it so inspiring that when we returned to Canada, I knew climbing needed to be a part of my life - and so it would be.
When we returned to Winnipeg, Jackie and I immediately joined our local Alpine Club of Canada sections (Manitoba and Saint-Boniface), and began rock & ice climbing. The climbing community was incredibly accepting of a couple of older beginners - there was no shortage of experienced climbers wanting to show us the ropes (literally and figuratively). We were surprised at how many climbers there were around our age, many with extensive climbing experience at local crags, in the Rockies, in Nepal, and even the coveted Seven Summits.
This spry group of adventurists dispelled previous notions of people in their 50's, which for me was likely cast by TV shows of the 70's, where characters from such shows as All in the Family or Sanford and Son showed signs of advancing age, lounging in their recliners all evening in front of the tube as they ate their TV dinners. Interesting to note that Redd Foxx (Fred Sanford) was 50 and Carroll O'Connor (Archie Bunker) was 47 when the series started, hardly what I would consider old these days - 50 is the new 40!
So, Jackie and I were assimilated into the climbing community, and like many of our friends, climbing almost becoming a religion, with the outdoors our church. The mountains and climbing have become metaphors for life, teaching us patience, persistence and sense of adventure.
I have been rock & ice climbing and mountaineering for six years now, and attained my Top Rope Climbing Instructor (TRCI) certification from the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG), one of my many metaphorical mountains to climb.
Becoming grandparents has certainly affected our willingness to take risks. Rather than being a sign of slowing down though, I think this shift is a sign of evolution.
We're still climbing, but our adventures are "evolving". Now Jackie is beginning to write about our experiences, and I am beginning to spend time on both sides of the camera lens, my next mountain to climb as a budding filmmaker.
As our creative juices have begun to flow, Jackie and I realize how climbing (and nature itself) can be metaphors for life. There are always mountains to climb, some big, some small, some real and some metaphorical. So, Jackie and I created Midlife Mountaineer as a space to share inspiring stories from people who redefine what's over the hill.
We have begun production on our first film called Prairie Passion, which is planned for release in 2022 - stay tuned for our first trailer and some mini projects as we learn the process of filmmaking!