(Tctimescom) Andrew Hudgins decided when things started to go downhill in his life, that he would begin an uphill ascent to a new perspective. That’s why you’ll find this 54-year-old Fenton Township (Michigan) man climbing Cerro Chirripó, at an elevation of 3,820 meters (12,530 feet) is the tallest peak in Costa Rica, and the second highest in Central America, on Oct. 25.
“I’ve had a rough couple of years,” Hudgins said. “My dad died, I went through a divorce. When I shifted away from sitting at home to living again, I started looking at my bucket list to think of all the things I could do, but I wasn’t in shape to do any of them.”
Hudgins did a lot of research on building muscle after age 50, began to eat mostly fish and chicken, and trains daily with weights and a cardio routine. Over the past year, he has lost almost 80 pounds, training at Anytime Fitness in Fenton.
He’s at the gym by 4:30 a.m., then begins his workday at Oxford Bank in Lake Orion. His employer was so impressed with his plans that they paid for his gym membership. “I’ve never attempted anything like this before,” Hudgins said.
The first item he checked off his bucket list was a bike ride through Manhattan in New York City, which he accomplished in 2016.
Then he visited the rainforest in Costa Rica and began to see the possibilities. “I chose this mountain because it’s one of the only places on earth where you can watch the sunrise over both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at the same time,” Hudgins said.
He will be staying at a hostel in Rivas, a modern hamlet in the General River Valley near the city of San Isidro. His biggest concern is the four-mile trek from Rivas through the rainforest to get to the base of the mountain.
“I hear there are snakes, tarantulas and poisonous dark frogs, but I don’t know how much is true,” Hudgins said. “I’ll be staying on the trail. When I get there, I’ll be at 1,500 feet, then will have to ascend another 8,000 feet to base camp,” Hudgins said. “I’m estimating it will take about eight to 10 hours.”
He wants to be at base camp by 4 p.m., well before it gets dark, so he’ll be leaving by 6 a.m. He’s expecting the overnight temperature to be about 40 degrees. He’ll then begin his final ascent to the peak the following day.
Hudgins new-found athletic prowess and mountain-climbing goals have gained him quite a following on his Facebook page. “I found out I’ve become a huge inspiration for all these people,” he said. “I get tons of texts, emails and letters.”
He said he’s also a much more positive, outgoing person than he used to be. “I look at everything with positivity,” he said. “I used to be private, now I reach out to people with the message that ‘you can do it, too.’”
Next year, Hudgins is looking at going to China and following the Great Wall or visiting the temple, Angkor Wat in Thailand. “It will be one of the two,” he said. “I know only one thing. I’m not going back to ‘Fat Andy.’”