January 11, 2022 by By Cathy Stack
Dierdre became an avid rock climber at age 60. She began the hobby as a way to connect with her adult son, world-renowned rock climber Alex Honnold. Alex has always loved climbing and talked about it incessantly. His frequent use of climbing jargon like “jugging” and “rapping” often left Dierdre feeling clueless, so she set out to learn more about her son’s passion.
She asked him to take her to the rock-climbing gym and instruct her. She soon discovered that she also loved the sport. While it presented a significant physical challenge, it also became a stress-relieving outlet for her. She carved out time after work to visit the climbing gym. As it became part of her routine, her skills quickly improved.
Deirdre learned as much as she could about the sport: the equipment, the physics and the angles. As she studied and practiced, she gained enough confidence to leave the climbing gym and try her skills in the mountains. There, she eventually made history.
At age 66, Dierdre embarked on ascending the summit of El Capitan for the first time. She completed the treacherous climb in impressive time. A route that typically takes other climbers four days, she completed in 13 hours. She reached the top after dark on that first successful climb.
When her milestone 70th birthday approached, she wanted to prove to herself that she was still capable of the grueling climb. She set a goal to climb El Capitan once again. This time, she wanted to reach the summit during daylight hours to take in the breathtaking view that she had missed the first time.
She diligently trained at Yosemite three days a week for 18 weeks straight. She hiked, climbed and trained on a pull-up bar to improve her arm strength. She then headed for El Capitan and proceeded to beat her own record. She reached the summit in six hours, with plenty of time to appreciate the mountaintop view, which she described as “unimaginably beautiful.” She called the experience “life changing.”
Dierdre admitted that she never in a million years thought she would climb El Capitan, which she described as a monster of a mountain. She said that climbing has taught her how to persevere through discomfort to reach a desired and worthwhile goal. She climbed in the cold and rain and did not complain. She felt it was a great privilege to be up on a majestic mountaintop, a place where she feels most alive and inspired. Dierdre now plans to travel the world and “climb every mountain.”
Dierdre encourages others to follow their own dreams. “You can do anything!” she enthusiastically said.
PassItOn and The Foundation For A Better Life believe that Dierdre Wolownick is a hero. Her action personifies the value of Perseverance. Please help us celebrate Dierdre and her outstanding accomplishment by sharing her inspiring story.
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