No room for error

Elverson dental partners Scott Wallace, left, and Jamie Wolitarsky recently climbed the 14,110-foot Mount Rainier in Washington State.
Scott Wallace, left, and Jamie Wolitarsky, partners in an Elverson dental practice, climbed Mount Rainier together. Here they are at their base camp at 10,000 feet, before starting the final climb to the top.

After climbing 14,410 feet to the summit of Mount Rainier, Scott Wallace knew exactly how he wanted to live the moment.

“I lost my dad 23 years ago and my mom six years ago,” said Wallace, a 55-year-old dentist from Elverson. “The first thing I did was find a soft patch of snow and make a big snow angel, so my mom and dad could see it from above.”

Wallace recently joined his friend and business partner Jamie Wolitarsky for the journey of a lifetime. Mount Rainier is 54 miles southeast of Seattle and one of the highest mountain peaks in the United States. It’s covered with snow and ice year-round and dominates the landscape. On a clear day it can be seen from hundreds of miles away.

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Wallace and Wolitarsky, who lead their dental practice in Elverson, were safety conscious at every point. They took a well-established route and joined 10 others in a group led by experienced guides. They were physically fit from hiking, skiing, bike-riding and many other activities, but they worked out for months to get into the best shape of their lives.

After all, what better way to celebrate Wolitarsky’s 40th birthday than climbing a mountain?

“If it’s fun, challenging and interesting, we both want to check it out,” said Wolitarsky, who’s married with two children and resides in Wayne in

Tredyffrin. “We like the action. Let’s get out there and live. Scott had some hesitation at first but he pushed through it.”

Wallace laughed and said, “We’re in the plane approaching Seattle and the mountain was on our side. It looked like a giant sheet of ice and as high as the airplane. I said to Jamie, ‘Who in their right mind would do something like this?’”

They headed to the mountain shortly after landing to get their equipment and begin training. They learned how to wield a pickaxe and walk in spiked boots called crampons to navigate the many glaciers they’d encounter on the way up. Their backpacks weighed 37 pounds and included one extremely important item.

“Sunscreen,” said Wallace, a married father of four. “The sun reflecting off the snow is much worse than just regular sun, plus the air is so thin there’s no protection. With all the equipment and everything, this wasn’t exactly like hiking in French Creek.”

They practiced the next morning, climbing 6,000 feet before returning to their motel for a good night’s sleep. And then, on Sunday, July 26, they climbed 10,000 feet to the base camp, where they rested for a few hours in small huts.

“Scott fell asleep and I tried like the dickens but just couldn’t,” said Wolitarsky. “I couldn’t wait to get going. Finally, at midnight we had to gear up and put on our harnesses, helmets, crampons, a light and backpacks. It was go time.”

Both the climb and full descent needed to happen before the sun began to melt the snow and make the trip too dangerous.

The entire group linked themselves together on a rope and up they went, with visibility limited to just tiny lights on their helmets.

“You’re trudging across the great unknown in the dark,” Wolitarsky said. “It’s not scary or menacing; you’re just there in space and time. It’s silent. You think about all kinds of things, like your family, whether you’re going to make it, how your breathing is, and how your feet feel and when the next rest stop is coming.

“It’s like you’re walking up a ladder of ice and rock, with no room for error. At one point the rocks looked like something on Mars. And then you reach the top and realize ‘we did this.’ You’re so energized and intense. We sprinted the last 30 feet to the highest point and jumped into the air and high-fived each other.”

Wallace then spent a few moments by himself, more than 2.7 miles above level ground, to connect with his parents.

“That’s the closest I’ll ever get to them in heaven,” he said.

The two friends explored the summit for about two hours, where the temperature was 20 degrees, before rejoining the group and reversing directions down the mountain. They were shedding their gear by 1 p.m. on Sunday, July 27, and a few hours later were back in the air headed home.

“It was still daylight and we’re driving to the airport,” Wolitarsky said. “I looked to the east and there was the mountain in all its grandeur. I looked at Scott and said, ‘We were up there this morning. Are you kidding me?’”

Climb » Page 4

After climbing 14,410 feet to the summit of Mount Rainier, Scott Wallace knew exactly how he wanted to live the moment.

“I lost my dad 23 years ago and my mom six years ago,” said Wallace, a 55-year-old dentist from Elverson. “The first thing I did was find a soft patch of snow and make a big snow angel, so my mom and dad could see it from above.”

Wallace recently joined his friend and business partner Jamie Wolitarsky for the journey of a lifetime. Mount Rainier is 54 miles southeast of Seattle and one of the highest mountain peaks in the United States. It’s covered with snow and ice year-round and dominates the landscape. On a clear day it can be seen from hundreds of miles away.

Wallace and Wolitarsky, who lead their dental practice in Elverson, were safety conscious at every point. They took a well-established route and joined 10 others in a group led by experienced guides. They were physically fit from hiking, skiing, bike-riding and many other activities, but they worked out for months to get into the best shape of their lives.

After all, what better way to celebrate Wolitarsky’s 40th birthday than climbing a mountain?

“If it’s fun, challenging and interesting, we both want to check it out,” said Wolitarsky, who’s married with two children and resides in Wayne in

Tredyffrin. “We like the action. Let’s get out there and live. Scott had some hesitation at first but he pushed through it.”

Wallace laughed and said, “We’re in the plane approaching Seattle and the mountain was on our side. It looked like a giant sheet of ice and as high as the airplane. I said to Jamie, ‘Who in their right mind would do something like this?’”

They headed to the mountain shortly after landing to get their equipment and begin training. They learned how to wield a pickaxe and walk in spiked boots called crampons to navigate the many glaciers they’d encounter on the way up. Their backpacks weighed 37 pounds and included one extremely important item.

“Sunscreen,” said Wallace, a married father of four. “The sun reflecting off the snow is much worse than just regular sun, plus the air is so thin there’s no protection. With all the equipment and everything, this wasn’t exactly like hiking in French Creek.”

They practiced the next morning, climbing 6,000 feet before returning to their motel for a good night’s sleep. And then, on Sunday, July 26, they climbed 10,000 feet to the base camp, where they rested for a few hours in small huts.

“Scott fell asleep and I tried like the dickens but just couldn’t,” said Wolitarsky. “I couldn’t wait to get going. Finally, at midnight we had to gear up and put on our harnesses, helmets, crampons, a light and backpacks. It was go time.”

Both the climb and full descent needed to happen before the sun began to melt the snow and make the trip too dangerous.

The entire group linked themselves together on a rope and up they went, with visibility limited to just tiny lights on their helmets.

“You’re trudging across the great unknown in the dark,” Wolitarsky said. “It’s not scary or menacing; you’re just there in space and time. It’s silent. You think about all kinds of things, like your family, whether you’re going to make it, how your breathing is, and how your feet feel and when the next rest stop is coming.

“It’s like you’re walking up a ladder of ice and rock, with no room for error. At one point the rocks looked like something on Mars. And then you reach the top and realize ‘we did this.’ You’re so energized and intense. We sprinted the last 30 feet to the highest point and jumped into the air and high-fived each other.”

Wallace then spent a few moments by himself, more than 2.7 miles above level ground, to connect with his parents.

“That’s the closest I’ll ever get to them in heaven,” he said.

The two friends explored the summit for about two hours, where the temperature was 20 degrees, before rejoining the group and reversing directions down the mountain. They were shedding their gear by 1 p.m. on Sunday, July 27, and a few hours later were back in the air headed home.

“It was still daylight and we’re driving to the airport,” Wolitarsky said. “I looked to the east and there was the mountain in all its grandeur. I looked at Scott and said, ‘We were up there this morning. Are you kidding me?’”

Climb

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