Adam Hodges file photo

Adam Hodges, a 1983 West Lauderdale High School graduate and now general manager of Anderson’s Health and Fitness Center in Meridian, is pictured last year at the center’s CrossFit room. Hodges originally planned to climb Mount Everest last year before the COVID-19 pandemic put those plans on hold. He’s now climbing the world’s tallest mountain this year and departed Meridian Sunday.

A year ago, Adam Hodges planned to be on his way to climb Mount Everest.

The COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on Hodges’ plans to scale the world’s tallest mountain, and while he was able to climb Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan last summer, Hodges still had his heart set on Everest. During the pandemic, China and Nepal both shut down travel to Everest, and at first, Hodges didn’t think he’d get the opportunity to fulfill this particular dream until 2022 at the earliest.

“A little over a month ago things started changing,” Hodges said. “The mountain opened up, and I was left with a tough decision on whether to go for it or wait for a better time.”

On Sunday, Hodges flew from Meridian Regional Airport to Houston, where he then got on a connecting flight to Nepal. He plans to meet up with long-time friend and experienced climber Craig Van Hoy before departing with him to Everest. That will allow Hodges to climb the mountain during the ideal time of the year — late April to early May, which avoids monsoon season and the jet stream.

Since taking up mountain climbing in the 1990s, Hodges, who is general manager at Anderson’s Health and Fitness Center, has a goal of climbing the tallest mountains on each of the world’s seven continents. He’s already scaled the tallest peaks in North and South America and Europe, and Everest would mark Asia off his checklist.

“I considered Kilimanjaro at first to knock out one of the other seven,” Hodges said. “Ultimately I decided on Everest.”

The planned climb isn’t just for himself, though. Hodges runs the Rock Steady Boxing classes at Anderson’s Fitness, a program designed to help people fight the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Hodges is using the journey to Everest’s peak to raise money to fight Parkinson’s, and he said the attendees of the class are close to his heart and are serving as inspiration for the difficult climb. Fittingly, Sunday’s departure day was also World Parkinson’s Day.

“We’re doing this in large part to promote awareness awareness and support for our local community,” Hodges said. “When I get back I want to do some amazing stuff and take it to the next level. We’ve had a long year like everyone else, and the Parkinson’s folks needed to stay away (because of COVID-19), but a lot of them have had their vaccines and are starting to come back to the classes. Last Thursday afternoon, there was a happiness within the group plus some new faces, so it’s starting to thrive again.”

While he’s excited to finally get the chance to scale Everest, Hodges admits it’s difficult knowing he’s going to be away from Meridian for several months.

“I’ve been thinking about this for probably 20 years,” Hodges said. “All of my climbs have led to this point. It’s incredibly exciting, but it’s bittersweet in that it takes so long to do and I’ll be away for so long. It’s really difficult to say goodbye to family members. I’m pursuing a dream and can’t wait to get to the mountain and go for that challenge, but being away troubles me.”

Hodges said he wanted to thank partners at Anderson Regional Health System, Meridian Regional Airport and Southern Pipe and Supply for their support and interest in serving Parkinson’s patients. Those wishing to follow his journey can like “Ascent For A Cure” on Facebook, where Hodges will be blogging his journey.

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