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Roseville woman is on the rollercoaster and climbing again

Rick Hitch said she could do it; now Loretta Hitch will climb Mount Kilimanjaro in tribute to her husband and their daughter
By: Bill Poindexter, Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Rick Hitch had goals. Loretta Hitch plans to fulfill them.

Hitch collapsed and died May 1, 2011, on Mount Everest. His death, while climbing his last of the Seven Summits, came seven months after their daughter, Cory, passed away at the age of 25.

In the nearly two years that have passed since Rick’s death, and 2½ years since Cory’s passing, somewhere in that grieving process, Loretta said she “hit upon an epiphany.”

“Life is a rollercoaster,” she said. “I had been on it and lived it prior to Cory and Rick dying, with its ups and downs. I decided to get off of it for a while and waited until it was my turn to get back on. I didn’t stop living life; I just paused and reflected on what is important in life and to grieve for those in my life that were no longer part of it.”

Loretta Hitch is hopping on the rollercoaster again. To honor her late husband and their daughter, she’ll climb Mount Kilimanjaro in July. Rick was inspirational and a motivator, as the players on his 29 soccer, softball and swimming teams in Roseville would attest. He always said she could climb the mountain in East Africa, and should have climbed it with him. So, she’s doing it.

“Rick had the confidence I could do it, so I can do it,” Loretta said. “Rick was a very inspirational man. He brought out the best in everyone that he came in contact with. He continues to inspire me to do my best even now.”

Loretta, like many people, isn’t so comfy cozy with heights. On the other hand, she has no problem with altitude. She spent three weeks with Rick at Mount Everest’s base camp, elevation 17,500 feet. And while Kilimanjaro summits at 19,340 feet, there are no exposed heights.

“It’s really a hike,” Loretta said.

With guide Sheldon Kerry, the team of eight to 12 climbers will average five miles a day and make an elevation gain of 13,000 feet over seven days. The team will depart at midnight on the day it reaches the summit.

Loretta also reached out to Max Bunce, Rick’s guide and the man who tried for 45 minutes to resuscitate him on Everest, to get his thoughts on her climb.

“He said, ‘Yeah, no problem,’ ” Loretta said.

Now, she’s training. Loretta started rock climbing to take on that fear of heights and made it to 75 feet recently. She’s been on 10-mile hikes, climbing the same stairs at Woodcreek High School’s football stadium that Rick climbed, and bike riding.

“I want to be over-prepared,” she said.

Loretta will haul 15-20 pounds, including clothes, water, a hard shell for rain and pictures of Rick and Cory.

“Deciding to climb Kilimanjaro is a tribute to Cory and Rick,” she said. “Their spirit, memories and love will be with me.”

Rick made another promise to their daughter, Ali, which Loretta also plans to keep.

“Rick promised to take her to base camp (at Mount Everest), so now I’m honoring that promise,” said Loretta, who plans to make the trip in March 2014, when Ali has a break in medical school.

At base camp, in the Nepal town of Gorakshep, they can view a plaque dedicated to Rick that includes his motto, “Live a Story.”

“Six months ago, I just never thought I’d be doing this,” Loretta said. “My time with him has made me a better person. That is one thing that I have learned. He had such dedication to achieving his goals.”

Contact Bill Poindexter at billp@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.

 

FRIENDS FOR SURVIVAL

Anyone wanting to support Loretta Hitch’s climb of Mount Kilimanjaro can make a donation to Friends for Survival, Inc., a nonprofit assisting people who have lost a family member or friend to suicide. Contact Friends for Survival at (916) 392-0664.