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91-year-old Climber Returns From Mount Fuji

July 30, 1987 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Tired but triumphant after trekking to the top of Mount Fuji, 91-year-old mountain climber Hulda Crooks returned from Japan on Thursday saying the secret of her success was ″to take care of yourself when you’re young.″

Mrs. Crooks, wearing comfortable shoes, a baseball cap and a red, white and blue satin jacket that read ″Grandma Challenges Mount Fuji,″ was met by applause when she entered the terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.

Carrying a wooden walking stick decorated with Japanese designs, she first said she was tired and reluctant to speak to reporters, but grew animated as she talked about her accomplishment.

On July 24, the mountaineer from Loma Linda became the oldest known woman to conquer Japan’s highest peak.

Mrs. Crooks, who ate crackers, dried fruit and nuts to fortify herself during the jaunt, said the Mount Fuji climb was more difficult than her trips up California’s Mount Whitney because the turf was different.

″It was harder,″ she said. ″It’s a different terrain. It’s volcanic, loose stuff. It was different, but challenging.″

She said she would rest before planning another adventure but hinted she may attempt Mount Whitney again. Mount Whitney is the tallest peak in the contiguous United States, and Mrs. Crooks has been dubbed ″Grandma Whitney″ for her 22 acents of the 14,495-foot peak.

″The first thing I’ll do is rest up, then I’ll keep up my exercises, climbing stairs, and walking two to four miles a day.

″The secret is to take care of yourself when you’re young so you have something left when you’re older,″ she advised. Mrs. Crooks is a vegeterian who does not smoke or drink.

Mrs. Crooks passed through a shrine gate at the top of Mount Fuji, a 12,385-foot-high dormant volcano, at 3:45 a.m. last Friday after a difficult three-day climb. She was greeted by applause from employees of Dentsu Inc., the Japanese advertising firm which invited her to join their 60th annual company climb.

In front of a sign congratulating ″Grandma Fuji,″ she raised the American flag tied to her walking stick and climbed the final feet onto the summit. She watched the sun rise, bundled against the pre-dawn cold in a down jacket and vest and heavy red socks over sweat pants.

As she climbed the difficult trails on the windswept, barren Fuji and slept in primitive huts, Mrs. Crooks said she hoped her adventure would encourage people to reject limitations society sometimes places on the old and young.