Talk Story with Peg Foster
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Joined HTMC: 2006
Favorite hike: Anywhere on Tantalus
Favorite trail food: IPA beer at the end
Favorite hiking/Hawai’i book: Stuart Ball’s books
Interviewed by: Hawkins Biggins
Do you remember WHEN you joined HTMC?
I came back to Hawai’i to visit and look at Arcadia. That is when HTMC used to meet at Iolani Palace and carpool to the trail. I heard about it and went to the Palace and that was where I first met Brian Fagan and he gave me a ride. I hiked Olomana with HTMC before I was a member, I did all of the peaks with the club that day, even though it was horrendous. But when I moved back to O’ahu in 2006 I joined the club. Hawai’i’s trails are terrible, they are soft and crumbly, compared to other places. If you are going hiking in Europe or most other places, you hike wide and sturdy trails to get to the top of the mountain; here you go straight up to get to the summit. But the scenery in Hawai’i is far superior.
When did you FIRST START HIKING and why do you continue to pursue hiking?
I was born on Kaua’i. I surfed Brennecke Beach in Poipu where we had a beach house. The sugar plantation had a house in Kokee where I hiked the month of July every year until WWII put a stop to everything. I went to high school on O’ahu but surfed and swam. I hiked the Kalalau Trail before college.
I went to college in Illinois, graduated in 1952, and got married in 1953. In total we lived for at least a year in eleven different countries. Hiking started when we moved to Munich, Germany in 1966. The kids were old enough, so we hiked in Bavaria and mostly Austria. In 1968 we went back to Paris where I joined the Touring Club de France. Like HTMC they have Sunday hikes, long weekend hikes, and usually two week hikes all over Europe and the world in summer. I am still a member and until Covid I went back every year for a summer hike. These hikes in the Alps usually finished on a 4,000 meter summit.
I also started to do treks. My first was Everest base camp in Nepal in 1980. and my last was Everest base camp in Tibet in 2006. My highest was Chimborazo, Ecuador at 20,548 feet which I did in 1991. With my husband I also hiked long distance footpaths. In Spain the 500 mile Way of St. James Camino de Santiago; in the UK the Coast to Coast Walk; across Scotland on three different routes, several canal routes etc. The walks are more approachable – and I did them when I lived near those places.
Do you have a FAVORITE trail or area of O’ahu?
The mountain I really like is Olympus. When I wake up every morning I look at Olympus, so I have a soft spot for it. The beauty of it is that it is a reasonably accessible peak and you can see the rest of the island at the summit. I probably would not do Olomana three peaks anymore – when I hike nowadays I go in for two hours and then come out. I won’t do real spooky crossovers, no need to scare myself to death and get gray hair.
What MEMORABLE HTMC HIKEs would you like to share?
I really like Ka’au Crater. Once I went to the summit and crossed over to circle around but it was a bit scary. When I grabbed a big rock, it came out in my hand, I didn’t like that. But I can just see Dinosaurs in that crater, and it’s a nice hike up the waterfalls. I also like the crossover from Pu’u O Kona to Kuliouou. I did Manoa middle ridge crossing over to Mt. Olympus and there is that big rock you have to skirt around, woah!
Once I dropped a pole on that hike, but I used to put my name and address label on my poles and about a month and a half later, someone returned my pole, I don’t know who it was, I didn’t get to meet them, they just left it at the front desk.
You went on so many hiking adventures overseas, how was it affordable?
I have done very little stuff on my own. I always went with a group and we had an outfitter. I had sherpas and porters to go to K2 and those things, but no hotels, no hot showers. I did it all on the real cheapo cheapo – stayed in huts or 1 or 2 star hotels. It was affordable – I was living in Europe and my husband was earning pounds, we stayed in huts, it was not as expensive then – but I never traveled in luxury.
What food keeps you energized when you go on a hike?
I am a bit weird – I bring water, a small piece of cheese, a cookie and a fuji apple. I prefer granny smith apples but they are harder to find in Hawai’i. At the end of a hike I am a great beer drinker. I like IPA. Brian Fagen is my chauffeur for a price – beer!
You are such an inspiration on the trail, what do you think is the KEY to staying fit and active as you age?
I suppose that I have always been reasonably fit, I usually walk where I am going, rather than using wheels. One of the things that helps tremendously, I live on the 13th floor and I only use the elevator when I come home from hiking because of my muddy boots. The rest of the time I use the stairs and I go out a few times a day. My father was Swiss, so I am half Swiss, but my father was not active – he would get in his car and drive across the street to run an errand.
I hiked all those years that I lived in London and because of that I realized how accessible hiking is in Hawai’i. You can get to a trail in twenty minutes in a car. I hike twice a week with Tom Mendes and Brian Fagan. I don’t try to keep up with the young ones. It really is rather stupendous to have my daughter Bobbie here in Hawai’i now.
You have been on so many overseas adventures, were any especially MEMORABLE?
I am fond of K2 because it is a gorgeous mountain surrounded by so many high peaks. You travel to Pakistan and ride in a little crate attached to a cable across a raging river and then you hike up the valley where you get to the snow and ice, this huge area is called Plasta de concord. There are eleven 8,000 meter peaks in the world and from that spot, you can see four of them. You spend something like 11 days getting up to base camp with sherpas. I went with the Brits. Gorgeous mountains in every direction you look. And you are lying in a tent which is on a glacier and so the ground or ice is creaking and groaning and you wonder if the crevice is going to open underneath you.
In Ecuador we went to the countryside to look at condors – then we went to Cotopaxi which is the highest volcano in the world, but the weather was horrible so we went to Chimborazo, It was interesting because you drive to the hut which is already at 5,000 meters and the next morning you get up early and it takes 8 hours to get to the top of the mountain with crampons. The thing that is amazing about it is that Mt. Everest is the highest peak, Maunaloa the highest from the ocean floor, but if you measure Cimbaratzo from the center of the earth, it is the highest because it is at the equator where the earth bulges.
I have not had altitude sickness if I take time to acclimatize. The only place I got altitude sickness was going from the beach in the morning to the top of Mount Whitney on the same day – I had a pounding headache – other than that I have been very lucky.
The problem with the mountain places is that they are too cold. In Bhutan we did the Laya Trek, we went to Great Tiger Mountain, we did three five thousand meter passes back to back, it was a lot of work. We had horses that carried our gear, but when you get high up you switch to yaks. I do it because it is so gorgeous, and you have that feeling of “get to the top.”
Every summer I went with my French club somewhere, mostly to the Alps. We would go 3-4 days without guides, then 3-4 days with the guides who took us on the “high routes” (4,000 meter mountains). I don’t do real serious climbing, but I had an ice axe, and crampons. When you hike on a glacier you are almost always roped so you won’t fall in a crevasse. I was always last on the rope. We had a rule, in the morning the men look at the mountains, the women look at the valley when they pee so no one sees each other. I was the only foreigner on those trips, but it helped that I am fluent in French.
WHY is HTMC important to you?
The club has been fabulous. We hike all over the island. Brian Fagan gives me rides week after week. So I hike for the scenery but really for the super nice people you find in Hawai’i. The main reason that I hike is because hikers are such nice people, they are always worrying about each other and they think I am terrible because I won’t let anyone help me. I usually say no, because hopefully I can do it myself okay.
I went with Joe Busson to Spain, with Larry Lee to New Zealand, and with Ron Miller to Nevada. I did the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska with some club members – Stuart Ball, Lynne Matsuyama, Dr. Bob and Leonard Jacobs. It is a famous historic route because during the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800’s the Canadians did not want all of the prospectors to come, so they made them carry all the stuff they needed with them. So we hiked on this historic path – it was four or five days – three of the nights the tent was plopped in the snow.
Anything else you would like to SHARE?
When the world is calm again, and at peace again, K2 Base Camp is a fabulous, fantastic trek. You go to Pakistan and hike for about ten days on the Baltoro Glacier. You see it towering above at least five 8,000 meter mountains and best of all K2 a beautiful mountain. Your tent is on a glacier for at least six nights and the noisy ice as it flows along is amazing. No place for a delicate tropical flower from Kaua’i.
I had a bucket list, I don’t think it will all happen. I want to look at the tides at the Bay of Fundy (in Canada). I used to have a thing for swimming in ridiculously cold places. In College I swam in Lake Michigan and got triple pneumonia. I went with my husband Dick to Point Barrow, at the top of Alaska and I put on my bathing suit and the pack ice was about 3 football fields away. Dick said, I don’t think you want to do this, it was solid jellyfish. I didn’t go.
About Peg Foster
My mother came from Illinois and my father from Switzerland and they met in Hawai’i. I am an only child and I grew up on a sugar plantation on Kaua’i, we lived just down by the mill. We did not live in a fancy plantation house. My mother was very adventurous, especially way back when. I got a full scholarship from the Wilcox Family to go to Punahou and then went to Monmouth College in Illinois, where I graduated in 1952. I married in 1953. In total we lived for at least a year in eleven different countries. My daughter Bobbie was born in Japan and my son Bill was born in Canada. Bobbie moved to O’ahu recently and it has been great reconnecting. She is amazingly nice and it has nothing to do with me, it’s very special having her here in Hawai’i.
DATES & PLACES PEG HAS LIVED!
|1954||Palo Alto, California|
|1955-57||Palo Alto, California|
|1958||Burnaby, B.C., Canada|
|1959||Mill Valley, California|
|1960-61||Saint Cloud, France|
|1962||Vancouver, B.C., Canada|
|1963-65||Saint Cloud, France|
|1968-69||Saint Cloud, France|
|1970-71||Rhode St Genese, Belgium|
|1974||Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia|
|1988- 2005||London, England|
|2006||Arcadia, Honolulu, Hawai’i|