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UWRF professor, family climb Grand Tetons together

November 4, 2011

This past summer Faye Perkins, 50, a health and human performance professor at the University went on a much awaited trip up the Grand Teton Mountains in Wyoming with her two sons Nick and Bobby Perkins-Mcintosh, nephew Nick Perkins, and a friend’s 16-year-old son, John Casady.

“I’ve been planning this for 16 years,” said Perkins. In 1995, Perkins, her husband, and a brother and sister-in-law decided to climb the Grand Tetons. “Part of this trip was planned because my brother died in 1987 and my brother, before he died, was a backpacker and mountain climber so we buried his ashes in Grand Teton National Park. This has always been a family pilgrimage; it is a very special place for our family,” said Perkins.

Perkins worked out and trained a long time for this trip, she ended up climbing and making it to the lower saddle of the mountain, but when she got to the lower saddle she ended up getting high altitude sickness. Everyone else made it, but for her the trip was over. “Ever since then I always said that I would go back and I will do this,” said Perkins.

Perkins’ oldest son Paul, who was seven at the time, told his mom that the next time she tried to climb the mountains he was going to go with to help her. The guidelines said that he had to be 16 so she had to wait until he was old enough. By the time her son was old enough to go, her other son Bobby, wanted to go as well, so she had to wait for him to get old enough for him to go.

“We were going to do it in 2009 but I tore a meniscus in my knee and ended up having to have surgery so then we couldn’t do it in 2009.” This same year, her son Paul started a Facebook group called “Operation get Faye Perkins to the top of the Grand Tetons,” a group created to encourage his mom to follow through with her goal. Through this group she got the encouragement and support that she needed to keep on with her goal.

“In 2010 we were going to do it but my youngest son Bobby was in Germany,” said Perkins.

Finally, in the summer of 2011, Perkins got the opportunity to once again try to conquer the mountain. “The first day we had to do a full day of rock climbing to make sure that everybody was able to do what was needed to do while rock climbing,” said Perkins. The next day, with the supervision of a guide, the group got packed up and ready to climb the mountain.

A lot of the climb was very treacherous. The first day the group started at 10 a.m. and got to the lower saddle at 6 p.m. where they stayed the night. It was eight hours of climbing up boulders, rough debris and going across some ice fields. “This was not easy. There were several times when I would think, ‘What am I doing?’” said Perkins. The group got up at 4 a.m. the next day, and with headlamps on, hiked for five hours until they got to the top of the mountain. They had to climb through areas with thousandfoot drops, so they really had to trust the people who they were with.

“From the top of the Grand Tetons you could see Lake Solitude where my brother’s ashes were. It was a very emotional trip,” said Perkins. “It is one of those defining moments in my life. When I am 90-years-old and look back at my life, this is one of the things that I will be really proud of.”

Perkins has no plans to slow down. “My question after climbing was, ‘What’s next?’” Perkins is planning this summer to attend the Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa with her sons.