Clearly, John Stenderup, who grew up over 30 years ago near Arvin, has overcome more obstacles than just a childhood fear of heights. Among his many accomplishments in the past 10 or so years are the successful ascents of Mount Everest, Lhotse and most recently K2 in Pakistan.
Stenderup will be speaking about his inspiring climbing adventures at the Kern-Kaweah Chapter Banquet at Hodel’s on March 30.
Garces High School graduate Stenderup began mountain climbing after graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he majored in agricultural business. Always a traditional sports kid, he played mostly ball sports through college.
“But I’ve always liked the outdoors,” he said.
After college, he began hiking with his dad, Arvin farmer Kent Stenderup, who was interested in becoming more physically active. His father’s first hike with his son was up Half Dome in 2010; then together they climbed Mount Whitney, into the Grand Canyon and up into the Tetons. A turning point in his son's life was meeting Geoff Schellens, a lead guide on the ascent of Mount Rainier.
“I attribute all of my success to Geoff," he said in a recent phone interview. "You have to learn by doing. He’s taught me all I know.”
After years of training and preparation, Schellens, Stenderup and their climbing buddies made Mount Everest in 2017 a priority accompanied by Kent, who stayed at the Everest base camp at 18,500 feet.
About his son’s dangerous hobby, Kent said, “I get excited with each expedition. I work on the excitement, and John’s mother, Patty, takes care of the worrying. We have to have a good balance.”
In mountain climbing, the young Stenderup said, success depends upon teamwork. “It’s important to surround yourself with incredible people,” he said. “Climbing is raw, and it’s all about your team, your relationships, and trusting one another.”
Stenderup considers himself lucky to have a job that allows him time off for training, travel and mountain climbing. His job with C.H. Robinson, a Fortune 500 transportation company, involves international travel in the arena of agricultural business.
At present the unmarried climber is ice climbing in Iceland, then after March 30 might take a two-week trip to Europe to explore Mount Blanc and the Matterhorn. He said he remains single because a family would likely cause him to compromise his climbing goals.
At age 33, Stenderup is both humble and philosophical about his accomplishments. His climbing adventures have taught him at least two things: “call your mom,” and “find somebody to help you through times of need.” These concepts, he said, are amplified in the mountains.
On the spiritual side, he finds that he can decompress in the mountains. “They help me put myself and my life into perspective.”
He has also been inspired by a quote from Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” That seems to sum up his last active decade, which also included being inducted into the Bob Elias Hall of Fame last month in Bakersfield.
The banquet starts with a social hour at 5 p.m. March 30 in Liberty Hall at Hodel’s, 5917 Knudsen Drive. Dinner will follow along with the keynote speech and chapter activist awards. Reservation forms are available on the chapter website at sierraclub.org/kern-kaweah or by calling Joyce Hulen at 496-6584 by the March 22 deadline.
Marjorie Bell is a member of the Kern-Kaweah Chapter of the Sierra Club.