Nile Sorenson, a 69-year-old patriarch in the Placentia California Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often mistakenly referred to as the “Mormon Church”), is probably not your “typical” patriarch, or at least not what most members perceive a patriarch to be. In a telephone interview with Deseret News, he noted that people perceive patriarchs to be “old men who just sit in their house and give blessings.” He said, “I do that, too.”
However, what sets Sorensen apart for the “average” patriarch is that he owns an ice ax, teaches technical climbing classes, and has reached the summit of world-famous mountains. He grew up in the shadow of Yosemite National Park and is an avid climber and outdoorsman. According to LDS Living.com, he “has climbed hundreds of mountains in the western United States, as well as the highest points in North America, South America, and Central America.”
Last July, he scaled the majestic Matterhorn, a pyramid-shaped peak with an elevation of 14,692 feet along the Switzerland-Italy border. Speaking of the adventure, he remarked, “How many patriarchs have climbed the Matterhorn? It’s probably a remote number. The Matterhorn is probably one of the most iconic mountains in the world. Everybody talks about Mount Everest and stuff like that, but almost everybody recognizes the Matterhorn. That probably a lot of that has to do with Disneyland. … It’s a cherry in the climber’s log of peaks.”
Reaching the peak of the Matterhorn was yet another spiritual experience that Sorenson can add to his list of spiritual experiences that he has had from reaching the top of a mountain. He said, “If you look through the scriptures, how many examples do you have of people going to high mountains? It’s a special thing to be up and above everything. When you get on to these peaks and you look down at the Lord’s creations, all the wonderful things, it’s an inspiring thing.” He credits having the stamina that is needed to continue climbing majestic peaks to being blessed with having good genes.
In order to prepare to climb the Matterhorn, Sorenson, an orthodontist living in Yorba Linda, California, trained for several months. He climbed several 14,000-foot peaks in California to acclimatize himself and spent two days a week sleeping at high altitudes above 10,000 feet, as well as, other activities. He then traveled to Switzerland with four mountaineering companions and admits that at first sight, the Matterhorn looked intimidating. He said, “I was confident when we left. I thought that I was ready. Then I saw the peak and there were a lot of butterflies.” It was his preparation and experience that helped subside any doubts that he had.
Sorenson further commented, “Knowing that physically you have accomplished this, that you have pushed yourself, but also that you’re now looking out on this wonderful creation that we live on, and you’re seeing things that 99 percent of the population will never see. It’s a neat feeling.”
After conquering the Matterhorn, Sorenson’s group went to France to tackle Mont Blanc, the highest point in Europe. Unfortunately, heavy snowfall caused officials to close the mountain. Sorensen refuses to let the setback deter him from scaling Mont Blanc and plans to try it again. For now, he will always cherish the memories of reaching the summit of the Matterhorn.
*Photo Credits: Nile Sorenson