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RECREATION / STEVE HENSON

Cyclist Finds McKinley Isn't Your Average Mountain

July 06, 1995|Steve Henson

We all remember Kevin Foster. He won't let us forget.

The 35-year-old longtime resident of Ojai spent 1993 and '94 taking a mountain bike to the highest natural point of 49 states, an endeavor he called "American Summits."

This followed an achievement that secured him a spot in the self-promotion hall of fame: cycling the Great Wall of China in 1990. Which followed his setting of a Guinness world record in 1989 for riding the entire New York subway system in the shortest time--26 hours 21 minutes 8 seconds.

Anyway, Foster needed one state to complete his version of a National Geographic puzzle: Alaska, meaning Mt. McKinley, the nation's highest peak at 20,320 feet. He had reached the peak of every other state either by bicycling or by carrying the bike on his back and assembling it at the summit.

Foster gave Mt. McKinley his all in May, but the mountain chewed him up and spit him back.

"Everything I feared would happen, happened," Foster said. "At least I didn't come back with frostbite. That's the only positive thing I can say."

Foster and two companions made it to 17,300 feet before turning back after spending five days huddled in a tent warding off sub-zero temperatures and blizzard conditions.

"We saw three deaths on the mountain," Foster said. "People just froze in their sleeping bags like human Popsicles."

Ominously, Foster's $11,000 bike was tucked inside a body bag that he carried on his back during the climb. He wanted to conceal his cargo because bicycles are illegal to take on the mountain.

Somehow, the word got out.

"At first, people we would pass on the mountain would guess, asking if it was a satellite dish or some sort of a sign," Foster said. "Finally, at 17,200 feet, we took the bike out of the bag and strapped it to our backpacks. I took the frame and the other two guys each took a wheel.

"Then, people said, Oh my God, it's a bicycle. It's unbelievable how word spreads on that mountain."

The Foster party stalled about 3,000 feet from the summit, unable to brave the numbing cold and dangerous winds.

The descent, however, was more harrowing than the climb. Foster fell into a deep crevice and tore a muscle in his shoulder.

Near the bottom, Foster bumped into his only bit of good luck. He met world-renowned climbing guide Vern Tejas, who expressed interest in helping Foster reach the summit next May.

"With Vern, I'll definitely make it," Foster said, pointing out that Tejas was the first to reach the summit of McKinley solo in the dead of winter. "He's a legend."

Meanwhile, Foster plans to cycle across Cuba in February in the name of goodwill, peace and pleasing his sponsors. He said the Cuban government is paying for his air fare and accommodations.

*

Formerly of landlocked Westlake High, Ryan Cox, 24, was named college sailor of the year for the 1995 season days before graduating from the Naval Academy in Annapolis with a degree in naval architecture.

Cox led the midshipmen to a third consecutive Yacht Racing Assn. national dinghy team championship this year during competition May 30-June 1 at Alamitos Bay in Long Beach.

*

Troy Dumais of Ventura won the one-meter springboard for boys 14-15 in the World Junior Championship diving trials at Moutrite, Ga., last weekend.

Dumais recently completed his freshman year at Buena High, where he finished second in the Southern Section Division I finals.

Dumais' brother, Justin, finished fourth in the 16-18 platform event.

*

John Catuna, a husband and father of three children, won gold medals in archery and air rifle competition at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Atlanta for the fourth year in a row. About 500 athletes participated.

Catuna, a Simi Valley resident who served in Vietnam, lost both legs to a viral infection in 1982, which forced him to give up his business as a painting contractor. He works full time for the Veterans Administration, helping manufacture artificial limbs and braces.

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