Glenwood man hikes Iron Mountain 70 times
May 30, 2012
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – For a 69-year-old man who has been legally blind since last year, Nick Isenberg manages to get around pretty well.
On Sunday, Isenberg completed his 70th hike up Transfer Trail over the past four years, a 2.5-mile, 1,300-vertical-foot trek to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park upper gondola terminus, high on Iron Mountain.
Once he makes it to the top, he grabs a gondola ride back down the mountain.
“It’s easier on the knees,” he explained.
On Sunday, Isenberg achieved a goal he set for himself three years ago – to climb Transfer Trail 70 times by the time he reached his 70th birthday, which is June 10.
He met that goal just in time to go to Denver Wednesday to be fitted for a special contact lens that could restore his vision in one eye.
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“So by my birthday, I will no longer have to use the white cane when I (hike) up,” Isenberg said hopefully on Tuesday.
He started walking up Transfer Trail four years ago as his own private exercise regimen, though he only made it all the way up the trail once that year.
The following year, however, he made it up the trail 19 times, and two years ago he made it up to the top 29 times, raising his total to 49. As his fitness level increased, so did his commitment to get to 70 by 70.
But last year, he said, he had health problems that forced him to abandon his task for the year.
Following eye surgery, his doctor told him not to hike up the mountain because it would cause unhealthy pressure on his right eye, which retains partial sight.
Plus, he said, he suffered a heart attack late last year, which left him short of breath and cautious about exercise until earlier this spring.
“The first time I went up this year,” he recalled, “I wasn’t sure I’d make it.”
Instead, he said, “It felt better than I’d ever felt going up before.”
So he kept at it. By Friday, he said, “I’m healthier than I’ve ever been. I’m the only person I know that weighs less and feels better the older I get.”
A a longtime news reporter (many know him as “Nicky News”), Isenberg moved to Glenwood Springs in 1977 to be news director for radio station KMTS-FM.
In 1980, he moved to Florida for a brief stint at a TV station there but returned to Glenwood Springs in 1984 and has been here ever since.
Although he no longer is in the news business, he has been making documentary films about topics that spark his interest. His subjects have ranged from thyroid cancer, from which he has recovered, to another titled “Are You Easy to Spend Money With?” about ways businesses can be more user-friendly and attract more customers.
Isenberg frequently can be spotted walking the streets of town, his white cane with its red tip tapping against obstructions, on his way to one errand or another.
He lost much of his sight last year, he said, as a result of complications that started when he was born 90 days premature and kept in an oxygen tent for six weeks.
The efforts to save him as an infant created problems.
“My right eye was destroyed completely,” he said, from high pressure in the oxygen tent, and his left eye was damaged.
“I’m the only person I’ve ever met that had this problem and wasn’t completely blind,” he said.
In recent years his vision worsened, and a contact lens would not stay put on his irregularly shaped eye. Last year he had surgery to sew the lens in place.
Complications set in, and he had more surgeries to correct the problems, finally undergoing a cornea transplant in December. He has been legally blind since the operation and had to give up driving.
His wife, Joan, picks up the slack, but he likes to walk.
“Joan has been driving me a little bit,” he said, “but I’ve been walking my ass off.”
At the doctor’s visit, Isenberg is to be fitted for a scleral contact lens that offers greater corrective coverage of the cornea.
If the procedure is successful, Isenberg plans to resume hiking and driving.
Looking ahead to the doctor’s visit, Isenberg said on Tuesday, “Joan will drive me down, but I hope that I’ll be driving back. I expect to see better than I ever have in my life if it works.”