To new heights: Hartselle Mountain Hikers travel the country in search of unforgettable moments  

Victor Fentanes-Orozco has seen parts of the world most people only dream about.  

At 15-years-old, while flying over an active volcano near Mexico City, he told his father he would one day visit the summit that was more than 18,000 feet in the clouds.  

He kept his word. In April 1985, Fentanes-Orozco enrolled in mountaineering school and by the next July, he was climbing.  

In 1987, Fentanes-Orozco, along with a former professor and a couple of friends, formed a group of mountaineers who spent their summers climbing the mountains of Peru, Chile and Argentina. During that time, the group tackled Cerro Aconcagua, often referred to as simply Aconcagua – a mountain in Argentina near its border with Chile. With its peak at 22,000 feet high, it is the tallest mountain in the western hemisphere.  

After college, when Fentanes-Orozco met and married his wife, he said he knew it was time to put the trekking polls and rappelling ropes down to become a family and career man. Immigrating to America in the early 2000s, a 13-year career with a local manufacturing company brought his family to Hartselle in 2002.  

 In 2011, when his son also named Victor, joined the local Boy Scouts troop, Fentanes-Orozco said traveling with the group of young men and being out in nature again, reignited his former love for hiking and mountain climbing.  

For me, me it was like, “Here we go,” he said. “That’s all it took. After a couple of years traveling with the Boy Scouts, I asked him ‘Do you want to know real mountains?’ and he said ‘Yes.’”  

In 2013, Fentanes-Orozco took his son, who was at the time 13, on a trip to the Pacific Northwest, to hike in the North Cascades National Park.  

“For me, it was like “Wow, I’m here again,” Fentanes-Orozco he said. “For him, it was a revelation.”  

The North Cascades National Park, Fentanes-Orozco said, is virtually untouched by visitors. Its 700 miles of hiking trails are visited by an average of 23,000 people annually, Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks average more than 4 million.  

The father and son duo, along with their friend, Carlos Carbajal now make up the Hartselle Mountain Hikers. They have made hiking and climbing trips in 2013, 2015, 2019, 2020, 2021 and earlier this year.   

When not traveling the country in search of their next climb, the trio are often training in preparation for the scenarios they will encounter.  

“Our training center is Hurricane Creek,” Fentanes-Orozco said. “That place has everything we need for training, of course, on a smaller scale.” 

While Alabama lacks the peaks Fentanes-Orozco is used to climbing, he said the Bankhead Forest, Sipsey River, Sipsey wilderness and Cheaha Mountain offer spectacular views and hiking trails that help prepare his team for their excursions.  

It’s on these training trips they practice rappelling and hiking, even the basics like how to pack a backpack.  

“That’s really important because if it’s not well balanced, one mile into that trip, you’re going to be destroying your hips and knees,” he said. 

In 2020, Fentanes-Orozco said he decided to take the Hartselle Mountain Hikers to the next level and add learned techniques that include walking over ice. During that trip they walked over a glacier on Ruth Mountain in North Cascades National Park.  

“It’s beautiful and perfect for a first experience walking over ice,” he added. 

The Hartselle Mountain Hikers nearly made it to the summit when they went back in June of this year when bad weather quickly forced them to abort their mission in the middle of their climb. Fentanes-Orozco had spent an entire year planning the climb toward what is called the Forbidden Peak – he said he has plans to return to take on the climb as a personal challenge. 

This month, the Hartselle Mountain Hikers will embark on a trip to the Sawtooth National Forest in Stanley, Idaho, where they will spend six days hiking and one day climbing Thompson Peak, which is 10,700 feet high.  

For Fentanes-Orozco, each peak is a personal challenge he must overcome.  

“When you’re planning the trip, you’re trying to figure out all the obstacles and difficulties you’re about to face,” he said. “When you reach that summit, personally, I feel like I overcame everything that was thrown in my way – safely. Sometimes the most difficult part of the climb isn’t the summit, it’s oftentimes somewhere along the way.”  

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