Ky. climber tired and still a little numb after reaching Denali's summit

jwarren@herald-leader.comJuly 2, 2009 

Breathitt County maintain climber Martin Douthitt says he's tired and his feet are still a little numb, but he's otherwise fine after his climb Sunday to the summit of North America's highest peak.

"None of us can feel anything on the bottoms of our feet, they're still numb from a little frostbite," Douthitt said Thursday afternoon. "But the feeling is coming back, and everybody made it off the mountain in pretty good shape."

Douthitt spoke by cell phone from the village of Talkeetna, Alaska, not far from the base of Mount McKinley, or Denali. He and two climbing partners reached Denali's summit, after being delayed for days by bad weather.

Douthitt, a Jackson businessman, is scheduled to fly into Lexington on Sunday. But he said he was hoping to get an earlier flight out because he's concerned about his two dogs and two cats, which friends have been looking after.

"I'm a little homesick and worried about my animals," he said.

Douthitt, 63, tried to climb Denali in 2007, but became ill and had to be evacuated off the mountain.

Finally making it to the top was satisfying, despite the two-year delay, he said.

"I was so disappointed two years ago; it really was an embarrassment," he said. "That thing has kind of haunted me ever since then, and I felt like I really had to go back and do it. I feel like I've redeemed myself."

Douthitt, who runs a hardware and landscaping business, didn't take up mountain climbing until 1999. But he now has climb six of the so-called Seven Summit, the highest mountains on each of earth's continents. The only one left for him is Mount Everest, the highest of them all.

But Douthitt said he still isn't sure whether he'll tackle the Asian peak.

"I've been talking to the mountain guides up here as to what my chances would be," he said. "I'll have to do a lot of soul searching on that."

Not that climbing Denali was a picnic. Though Denali is not as high as Everest, the location near the Arctic Circle makes it colder and, some believe, an ever greater challenge. Douthitt said he found out how tough the mountain could be on this climb.

"We got trapped at Camp 14, at 14,000 feet, in a snowstorm," he said. "It snowed five feet in eight days and we couldn't move. I thought it had ruined my chances of getting up. But then the weather cleared and we made a rush for the summit.

"A lot of it is luck on Denali," he said.

Reach Jim Warren at (859) 231-3255 or 1-800-950-6397 Ext. 3255

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