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February 21, 2013

Spurling -- a life of ups and downs

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“All these activities saved my life,” he admits. “Due to my genetic history, I have severe coronary artery disease, resulting in two major blockages.”

Four years ago, he suffered a major heart attack, ending up in the emergency room at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“My cardiologist told me I survived because all my exercising had created natural bypasses around the blockages,” he said.

Having dodged that bullet, Spurling was then diagnosed with cancer, which he overcame with radiation treatments. To stay in shape, he runs three days a week and works with a personal trainer another three days. Twice a month, he’s scaling mountains, regardless of the month.

Much of it has been around Northern New England. He’s already climbed 200 of the highest peaks in New Hampshire and done more than 120 in Vermont. In Maine, he’s attempting the 200 tallest. He has 40 of them left.

Virtually all these mountains are without trails, which requires bushwhacking. He uses maps, compasses and GPS devices to find his way. The full-body workouts have gradually turned into an art form.

“The trees are very thick and there are numerous blow downs to get through,” he explains. “It’s challenging, fun and definitely an acquired taste.”

Having scaled well over 500 mountains, it’s hard for him to choose a favorite. If he did, it would be Barren Mountain in Baxter State Park, Maine. The fact it’s an all-day bushwhack to reach the summit, only heightening the desire, giving him views of Katahdin, the Klondike and the remainder of Baxter State Park.

His favorite non-New England peak is Mount Shuksan in the Cascades of Washington State, surrounded by glaciers, steep snow fields and crevasses.

“The last 600 feet is a vertical stone pillar known as ‘the Pyramid,’ which requires the climber to wear bullet-proof protection with your climbing ropes,” he says. “It’s the most challenging peak I ever climbed, including the Swiss Alps.”

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