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Eric McCarty relays family biking-hiking tradition to his sons

CU Sports Medicine

AURORA, Colorado | Aug. 17, 2014
At age 12, Eric McCarty agreed to accompany his father on a 24-hour adventure from Boulder to 14,259-foot Longs Peak. His father, Cleveland McCarty, didn't know it at the time, but he was beginning a rite of passage into McCarty manhood.

"Cleve" and Eric completed what some now call the "Longs Peak Duathlon" in 1977, long before endurance events became popular. It was an adventurous 44-year-old testing his physical endurance and mental toughness side by side with his athletic 12-year-old son, Eric — a boy who went on to become a standout University of Colorado linebacker, a Rhodes Scholar finalist and is now one of the premier orthopedic doctors in the Denver area.

Eric, 49, has since completed the grueling Boulder-to-Longs Peak bike-hike-bike adventure with his two sons, Eric Cleveland Jr. and Torrance, when both reached age 12. Eric and Eric Jr., now 17, did it in 2009. Torrance, 12, and his father did so July 31-Aug. 1.

"This has turned out to be an epic father-son journey," McCarty said. "The Longs Peak trip as a youth gave me confidence and a belief that I could do anything. And now I am glad that I can do the same for my kids and hopefully instill the same belief in them."

Their trip features a 41-mile bike ride from the Boulder city limits to the Longs Peak ranger station, a 5-mile hike to the peak's base and a 2,000-foot climb to the summit. And that's just half of the trek.

"It was cool, a really good experience," Torrance said. "I liked that I was carrying on the tradition."

McCarty and Torrance departed Boulder at 10:30 p.m. on July 31 and returned nearly 24 hours later. Each biking segment lasted more than six hours. They did not reach the summit this time, turning back at the "narrows" at 13,800 feet when a storm lathered the rocks with ice and snow.

It was the third time in 37 years McCarty was overwhelmed with pride after testing himself with a male member of his family.

"Since I did this five years ago and also recently, I have had numerous fathers that said they were inspired by it and wanted to do something similar," McCarty said. "One man said that this is the type of thing that we are missing in society today — a rite of passage into manhood. He noted that the Native Americans had rites of passages for their boys. He encouraged me to share the story."

McCarty, the chief of orthopedics for the Colorado and University of Denver athletic programs, said he was unaware of any significant dangers before the 1977 adventure with his dad. But he couldn't sleep before taking his sons because he was so amped up and determined to make everything go right.

He and Torrance trained most of the summer, used the best equipment and had a plan to tackle every adversity. Eric Jr. and Eric's brother Somerset met them at the rangers' station and joined in on the ensuing hike.

"Having my brother and my uncle with us for the hike, it was really nice having them," Torrance said.

In 1977, Cleve and McCarty just winged it. They didn't wear helmets. Cleve was an avid outdoorsman who climbed each of Colorado's 54 14,000-foot mountains in 54 days in 1959, going solo each time.

His son isn't quite as adventurous.

"There is a lot of mental preparation, having to take care of a 12-year-old in the middle of the night and also take care of me. What if there is a breakdown with a bike? How do I keep him safe on the highway?" McCarty said.

Cleve knows the feeling, but he was oblivious to it in 1977.

"I never thought of it as a difficult undertaking back then, but the dangers have come up on my mind since," he said. "At the time, I just thought we'd do it."

Cleve, a retired 81-year-old dentist, never dreamed the journey would become family tradition.

"No idea, not even a hint, but it's worked out fine," he said. "It's been a significant part of the summer now. I'm really glad they did it. I was concerned for them because it's potentially dangerous, but they managed to get through it very well. I'm impressed."

Eric Jr. would like continue the tradition if he has a son. Torrance has mixed feelings.

"I kind of think of it as a once-in-a-lifetime thing," he said.

Story by Mike Chambers, The Denver Post

For more information, contact:
University of Colorado Department of Orthopedics
Anschutz Medical Campus, Academic Office 1
12631 E. 17th Avenue, Mailstop B202, Aurora, CO 80045
Email:  |  Web:  |  Tel: 303.724.1030

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