Sure it’s fun to blow out 70 birthday candles, but it’s even more fun to climb rocks. Especially red rocks. Giant ones. Just ask Jim Klein, who recently celebrated his epic birthday by “getting out of my comfort zone” and climbing up to the top of Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ. Jim was kind enough to sit down and tell us why he did it, and why this big red rock resonates for him on the threshold to a new decade. 

Jim, thanks for sitting down to share your story with Assured Allies. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure. I just turned 70 and live with my wife Beverly in Ohio. We have a son, Alex (32) who works for Ohio Health and a daughter, Madison (27) who is a Dr. of Veterinary Medicine. As for me, after receiving a BA from Rutgers and MBA from Columbia, I pursued a career with leadership positions in major global brands including Avon, Swatch, Universal Studios, Twentieth Century Fox, National Geographic and the Smithsonian. In my leisure time, I love the great outdoors to explore, hike and kayak.

And you just turned 70.

Yup.

And just posted to Facebook about your epic Cathedral Rock climb, reaching the “‘End of Trail’ marker just to prove that it is so not the ‘End of MY Trail.’” Did you hike alone?

No, you should never hike alone. I hiked with my wingman son, Alex, who is an expert hiker and trail guide, and my daughter Madison.

How did you come up with this idea, to celebrate 70 with a big climb?

We fell in love with Sedona back in 2019 and I told my family I wanted to climb the iconic Cathedral Rock for my big 70th birthday in 2022, giving me some time to prepare because it is a “bad boy” hike involving climbing, crawling, sliding, and technical skills that I didn’t have, but planned to learn on the job [smiles].

Some people have a fighting disposition towards aging. Is that you?

The best way to deal with aging is to not deny it, but to defy it by pushing your limits, leaving your comfort zones behind, and celebrating what is still possible. I have always been a positivist, even about birthdays. I actually have better strength and aerobic capabilities than I had 20 years ago, thanks to pushing my limits and by power walking an average of 10K a day for over five years.

How did 70 feel at the top of Cathedral Rock?

The climb pushed my physical limits! I crab-crawled up one big boulder on my hands and knees after falling back five times, ungracefully slid down big boulders on my butt, and climbed up through a 90ft tall crevice to reach the summit. At the top I found myself somewhat bruised and battered but thrilled by the accomplishment and the belief that the best years still lie ahead.

What are you looking forward to in the next decade?

I have officially retired from my professional career, but continue to enjoy providing pro bono guidance to some of my former companies. Beverly and I are not snowbirds but we do love mountains, so rather than buying a condo on the ocean, we plan to travel out West to the National Parks starting with the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. We also look forward to  some Napa/Sonoma Valley trips for some fun. In my consulting practice, I work with a lot of young people and inspire them to “Go West” to see the majesty of the National Parks, which have almost become spiritual for me and my family.

Most people have at least one health concern or scare before age 70. Have you had any and if so, how did you deal with them?

I just passed my annual physical with flying colors, but four years ago, I had a health scare when I was diagnosed with severe heart disease from a calcium score reading. They discovered it was a false alarm when they put me on a treadmill stress test that revealed I was in the top 5% of aerobic capacity for my age. Nonetheless, it changed my life. I changed my diet and started a fairly extreme exercise routine. A good scare is a good motivator.

What gets better at this stage of life?

My relationship with my wife and kids has never been better and we still love going on family adventures together. If you are physically fit and mentally still kicking, your outlook on life gets better with age.

What advice would you give others about healthy aging or aging well?

Stay physically fit and mentally healthy. And create your own adventures, because there is no better feeling than pushing your limits, leaving your comfort zone and experiencing the thrill of accomplishment. Never stop educating yourself and never stop exploring the amazing world out there.