After 50 years of marriage, Dave Wentworth, 73, and Barb Wentworth, 71, knew exactly how they wanted to celebrate their anniversary: âârock climbing.
Surrounded by their children and grandchildren on the cliffs of Devil’s Lake State Park, the retired teachers spent August 14 climbing steep trails and scaling rock faces while thinking about more than a half -century together.
âRock climbing is a sport for life,â said Barb.
The Welsh couple not only conquered Wisconsin State Park, they’ve also hiked mountains and climbed all over the world, together or separately.
In 1999, Barb Wentworth climbed the Kalapatar in Nepal, guided by world famous climber Pete Athans, after surviving breast cancer.
Wentworth, a retired physical education teacher, was in contact with various school districts in Wisconsin during his year in Nepal. Various educators have used his background for geography, sociology and science lessons.
She kept a heart monitor on her to track how she adjusted to the low-oxygen climate and would send her data to her students so they could study her heart rate. She also took notes on the culture and how Nepalese children lived on the different peaks, to answer questions from her students about how they went to school there.
In 2003, she also reached the summit of Kilimanjaro; her husband then joined her to hike the glaciers above Milford Sound in New Zealand. The couple then climbed several mountains in Colorado, including Long’s Peak and Twin Sisters.
âWe didn’t hesitate to do it,â said Dave. “This is what the bucket lists are for.”
Still on that list: Scotland, Ireland and round trips to Alaska and New Zealand.
The Wentworths first crossed paths as students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 1967, when they were both asked to do acrobatics for the school’s production of “The Tempest.” . They met in rehearsal, climbing scaffolding and ropes, before Dave invited Barb out with the “total darkness” of the theater.
“They had to redo the wiring, so they turned off the lightsâ¦ It was totally darkâ¦ But I was talking to a nice young woman – and I didn’t quite remember what she looked like – but I asked her to go and see. a play, and she said yes“said Dave.
Barb had been a cheerleader in high school and college because there were no girls’ gymnastics teams at the time. Dave was a gymnast at Custer High School (now Barack Obama High School) and continued his education through college.
They got engaged in 1968 on Grandad’s Bluff in La Crosse. After college, they married in 1970 at a church in Whitefish Bay, then founded a private gymnastics club and became coaches.
While rock climbing didn’t come until later in life (the Wentworths didn’t climb their first mountains until they were 50), the couple passed on their love of adventure to their children and often spend their vacations together climbing various peaks or trying new things.
âThey always wanted experiences; they valued the experiences for us rather than the things, âsaid Amy Shaw, the Wentworth’s daughter. âThere has always been adventure.
Shaw and his brother Andrew Wentworth took inspiration from their parents and converted their spouses and children to an adventurous lifestyle of hiking and mountaineering.
It’s something Andrew’s wife Karly said she never imagined doing before she married the Wentworths, but now she has the whole family to thank for their new adventures.
Dave Wentworth is still a rock climbing trainer at 73, and the two Wentworths have been loyal customers of the Adventure Rock franchise in Wisconsin for 22 years. They are passionate about not only the thrills but also the life skills that rock climbing can offer.
Their 50th anniversary ascent was facilitated by the Apex Adventure Alliance of Baraboo.
âLife has a lot of challenges, and some of them are more difficult than others,â Barb said. âClimbing is about surpassing yourself to meet these challengesâ¦ no matter the size of the challenge.
âYou don’t have to be good (at climbing), you should just want to be happy,â Dave said.
So what’s the secret to rock climbing at their age – or any age? The same thing that sustained 50 years of marriage, the couple said.
âA lot of confidence, a lot of forgiveness,â said Dave. “A lot of compromise and a lot of patience.”