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60+ And Still Reaching For Her Summit

February 24, 2024 4 min read 2 Comments

60+ And Still Reaching For Her Summit

Julia Hubbel at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. 

By Ray Glier

(This is a 800-word, 3-minute read. Take it as a Public Service Announcement from Geezer Jock. Just plant this PSA in your head).

Julia Hubbel, 71, of Eugene, Oregon, has been on a personal joyride for 12 years. It has been one calamity after another, which has included a broken hip, hand surgeries, foot surgeries, concussions, and more. Julia’s jubilee has included walking up Mount Kilimanjaro and floating the Nile…and falling off her porch.

She worries that one day all this “fun”—injuries included—will be snatched from her if she lets her guard down. Hubbel, who is a U.S. Army veteran and an adventure journalist, has a mindset that she will not be complacent, no matter the injuries and no matter the calls to relax.

That’s the lesson for Geezer Jocks in her newsletter, Too Old For This Sh*t and her website WalkaboutSaga.

The catalyst for fun is the falling down on your adventures…and the getting back up.

“When I turned 60 and decided to climb Kilimanjaro people were telling me I shouldn’t do it because of my advancing age and coming off knee surgery,” Hubbel said.

That was about 11 years ago and Julia scoffed at the permission structure in the U.S., which holds many older people back. She trained seven months and on November 17, 2013, when she was 60, Julia was in Tanzania and summited the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

“Standing on top of Kilimanjaro, I had a rock in my hand, and I was just dead tired at 20,000 feet, there's very little oxygen there," Hubbel said. "And all I could think of is ‘If I can do this at 60 then there isn't a whole lot I can't do’.”

Some of the things she does at less than full health seem reckless, like running up sand dunes six months after hip surgery. But Julia is not reckless. Reckless would be jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. Hubbel has jumped out of an airplane 131 times and had a parachute each time.

Speaking of falls, for someone who works on balance every day, she has had a lot of falling down injuries. That has more to do with over-zealousness than balance. She is just more motivated than most people. 

Why is that?

Julia grew up on a chicken farm in Winter Haven, Fla., the daughter of an Ivy League graduate (Cornell) who did what he loved, not what the prestigious degree mandated.

With an unconformable dad like that, it is easier to understand Julia’s wiring, right?

Hubbel has gone horseback riding in the morning and scuba diving in the afternoon in Costa Rica. She wants to go horseback riding in Mongolia, even with memories of an excursion on horses in northern Canada where Julia’s feet were pancaked by a hoof more than once.

“There’s a whole world out there,” she said of a plan to ride camels again when she heals.

Here is a link to a story of a camel ride in Tanzania in 2015.

Not surprisingly, Hubbel is recuperating from injuries in a gym, not a clinic. She does 100 push-ups without stopping and can do most of her workouts in her house. One of those workouts is lifting heavy weights while having a leg stretched out behind her. The goal with that is to do balance, strength, and core work with one exercise. It is not easy.

Julia’s jubilee will continue right after she uses this training to heal from the last Julia’s jubilee, which required multiple surgeries in 2023. She has been hired this spring to join a crew to chronicle and promote intergenerational rafting adventures in the west.

You can hear the voice in the back of the raft say, "How old is she? 71. Wow."

“In Kazakhstan, I smashed my pelvis, broke my arm, cracked my head,” Hubbel said. “I just keep on going and the reason I can is because I have spent so many years training. I don't give up.”

She let out a big sigh. “Too many people give society permission to steal our final years. Don't give up.”

The beast many of us fight, Hubbel said, is the “internal talk.” It has too big a space in our consciousness.

“We tell ourselves after we fall down, ‘I shouldn't have tried that or I'm too old’ and none of those things have anything to do with the truth,” Julia said. “You don't get to sail at the highest level of sailing without one hell of a wind in your sails and you've got to learn how to use it.”

Sunrise Nov. 18, 2013 on Mount Kilimanjaro. 

Julia on the walk up Mount Kilimanjaro. 

Push ups to get stronger for the walk up.

Julia, as you can see, takes her fitness seriously.

Geezer Jock ® is FREE. Please consider supporting me because there is value in storytelling. I have been telling stories for 48 years for newspapers and magazines and websites worldwide. I'm finally halfway decent at it. As always, "If you're not buying what I'm selling, it's my fault not yours." 


2 Responses

Craig Swagerty
Craig Swagerty

February 26, 2024

Great read, Ray, thank you. So inspirational from her persistence and determination.

Linda Robinson
Linda Robinson

February 24, 2024

Great review of Julia’s adventures. I’ve been following her writing on Medium, then WalkAboutSaga and “Too Old…”

So glad she linked to your website!

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