Fisher, 71, climbs Azorean peak
Eddie Fisher, 71, is proud of his most recent feat.
On a trip to the Azores this summer the veteran runner climbed to the summit of Mount Pico with his wife, Dengie, and their 11-year-old daughter Seri.
Set on Pico Island, it sits 7,713 feet above sea level and is one of the highest peaks in the Atlantic. It is said to be taller than Mount Everest if measured from its underwater base.
The Fishers decided to attempt the climb, having read an article in The Royal Gazette about Bermuda residents Tricia and Mark Walters, who moved to the Azores because the cost of living was so much cheaper.
"I enjoyed the story so much that when a direct flight became available we researched the islands and booked a flight for our family," said Mr Fisher. "During our preflight online research we read about hiking the tallest underwater volcano/mountain in the world, Mount Pico.
"Naturally, on reading this my family started training by hiking Fort Scaur, Hog Bay, Princess Hill and Mount Kilimanjaro sand dune near Horseshoe Bay – this in ignorant bliss, thinking we were fit for this challenge."
On Pico Island, however, the Fishers were told that if they wanted to proceed they had to hire a guide "for their safety". If they did not and they ended up needing to have someone rescue them, they would incur a €1,500 fee to cover the required helicopter costs.
"It's not my style but to ease my wife’s worrying mind and having read of broken legs, getting lost, the changeable weather and general horror stories – which, I did not reveal to my unsuspecting fellow climbers – I booked a guide and filled in the form," Mr Fisher said.
"After spending the day buying hiking poles, knee braces and packing our backpacks and filling the water container housed within – together with enough food to last the ten-hour ordeal – we went to sleep early."
The family woke the next morning to a disappointing e-mail.
"[They said] they were ditching us. They cancelled our booking as they could not guarantee our health and safety as one of us was over 65 years and our daughter Seri was under 16," Mr Fisher said.
"They stated there was little chance we could complete the climb and advised us to hire a bike and pedal around the island. This concept was a non-starter as my wife can’t ride a bike so … back to plan A."
With the assistance of "a fantastic lady" in the booking office at the base of the mountain, the Fishers were able to organise a climb.
"We explained what had happened with the tour company, expressing our frustration and anger at having planned and trained for many weeks," Mr Fisher said. "Susana Silva was beyond amazing, incredibly efficient with a genuine care for tourists and love of her job."
Finally, after a two-day delay, they received the green light to climb, carrying with them a "compulsory GPS device in the event they need to find you".
The Fishers started their trek on a sunny, clear day. At a distance they could see the mountain top "poking through the fluffy clouds".
"The trail turns from what little soil there was to rocks and boulders," Mr Fisher said. "And then there is the real reason it takes three to three-and-a-half hours to climb and four to four-and-a-half hours to get back down – shale. The particles are so loose that it’s akin to skating on ice."
By the time the family reached the climb's midpoint, they had to use their hands to help them move. Although he considered himself fit because of his many years of competitive racing, Mr Fisher was grateful to have the excuse of photographs whenever he felt in need of a break.
"It got pretty steep and more than a touch scary as we neared the crater of the volcano that last erupted 200 years ago yet still issued forth steam," he said.
The crater’s edge was like "a scene from a moon movie". Only once he was there did Mr Fisher realise the true challenge was scaling the "piquinho", the pinnacle of the mountain that could only be accessed by a "full-blown 100-metre rock climb" without any ropes or steel pins.
The Fishers dumped their backpacks and rested as they contemplated what their next move should be.
"[We were] looking at the final hurdle all silently thinking should we even try this? Suddenly, we realise the clouds are below and very few people are here at the top in the event [we needed them]."
It was around that time that Mr Fisher's legs started to cramp up "as a result of the constant bending and pushing off".
Adding to his woes, the electrolyte-infused drinks he started out on the climb with were "long gone".
Mr Fisher was mentally preparing for the expensive helicopter ride back to base but his wife started massaging and gave him a few stern looks "as if to say this time you really messed up".
Meanwhile, his daughter, who had not suffered at all, insisted they had to raise the flag "from the top not the nearly top".
"So onwards and upwards, as the photos show, we conquered what many did not," Mr Fisher said.
The closer they got to the top the higher the temperature rose, which brought to mind "the New Zealand volcano that suddenly sprang to life".
"The downward trip was treacherous and dangerous," Mr Fisher said. "One had no choice but to step on stones and shale which give way. I fell twice, with Seri making good use of her dance and gymnastics skills to avoid hitting the deck via balancing acts while her mother [walked] as if on a road."
Just when he thought it could not get any worse, the "full-blown rain" started to fall. Somehow they made it safely back to base.
"We were all alone on the mountain with Seri leading [the way], singing songs at the top of her voice.
“Thank God we made it safely. The view from a distance really brings it home that this is a lifetime family achievement,” he said. They celebrated with a “wonderful sea food meal including octopus, squid, lobster, crab and different kinds of fish”.
Although he has “no immediate plans for climbing, having climbed a volcano that technically is taller than Everest“, Mr Fisher offers the following advice to anyone considering following his family's path:
“If training in Bermuda for Pico don’t believe that hiking Fort Scaur or Princess will be enough, even multiple times, during a four-hour hike. Maybe try numerous times up to the top of Gibbs Lighthouse starting at the Waterlot – and take lots of energy drink to avoid cramp.
“Also on a clear day you don’t require a guide, however, having a child with a fearless sense of adventure along with goat in his/her blood helps.“