Man recovering from heart surgery climbs to Mount Timpanogos Cave 100 times in 4 months

UTAH -- An American Fork father climbed to Mount Timpanogos Cave 100 times in four months, and he made those climbs after having open heart surgery in April.

Keenan Adcock, 51, finished his 100th climb on Wednesday.

He said he knew he was supposed to exercise lightly after his surgery, but initially he could hardly move.

“It was discouraging because for the first month I could only lift a coffee mug,” Adcock said.

But, one month later, he was pushing himself to greater heights.

“The first hike was shortly after heart surgery, and that was 80 minutes," he said. "I went with my daughter, and I was huffing and puffing every turn. I was barely making it. And this time, 30 and a half minutes. No huffing and puffing.”

It’s no easy hike, either. Cami McKinney, a Park Ranger and Chief of Interpretation and Education, said a lot of people underestimate the hike to the cave.

“Even though it's paved, it's not for the faint of heart,” McKinney said. “Most of us underestimate how challenging it can be, and I don't know if Keenan realized what he was getting himself into the first time he hiked it, but it's also addicting.”

The park service decided to celebrate its 100-year birthday this year by encouraging hikers to hike to the cave 100 times and receive a free jacket as their prize. They are also celebrating healthy lifestyles found at the park.

“The Timpanogos Cave trail is nature's alternative to the gym,” laughed McKinney. “We were all just rallying as we saw [Adcock] working towards his goal. And each time he hikes the trail, he seemed to get faster and stronger--soon he was leaving Rangers in the dust.”

“I knew I could do it, my heart just had to go along with it,” Adcock adds.

Adcock had open-heart surgery on April 11 to replace an aortic valve. His surgeon, Dr. Gilbert Schorlemmer, is a cardiovascular surgeon at Timpanogos Regional Hospital, and he was waiting there for Adcock at the bottom of his 100th climb.

“That is why I do this," Dr. Schorlemmer said. “To think that you can intervene in someone's life in a positive fashion and extend it is what it's all about.”

He said while Keenan was in good shape before the surgery, his heart condition caused him to slow way down, even in everyday life.

“Walking to the bathroom is a marathon for a lot of those patients,” Dr. Schorlemmer said.

Adcock had cow tissue shaped to perform like a human heart valve placed inside of him. He was proud to explain that he is “part cow” now.

“He is certainly someone to be admired,” McKinney said.

If you want to climb up to the cave, you have to do it by Monday, September 5. The trail will close six weeks early this season for a remodel of the visitor’s center. The current center is not even a real building, but rather a construction trailer. The old building burned down in 1991. Finally, it will be replaced this winter and spring. The new visitor's center is expected to open next June.