After battling long-haul COVID, Fargo explorer prepares for Mount Rainier

Lee Hoedl has climbed some of the highest mountains in the world, and now the clock is ticking toward yet another peak. This time, the Fargo explorer and adventurer is taking on the challenge after a brutal battle with COVID-19 and the long haul after.

Lee Hoedl climbs the steps of Shanley High School's Sid Cichy Stadium to train for his upcoming climb of Mount Rainier Wednesday, Aug. 10.
Finn Harrison / WDAY News
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FARGO — Long before the summer sun heats the day Wednesday, Aug. 10, the football stands at Shanley's Sid Cichy Stadium are home to Lee Hoedl, who is training for yet another mountain climb. He had already been there for three hours. His breathing was steady and heavy.

Hoedl and his son are preparing for a climb at Mount Rainier in Washington. Healthy lungs are everything as he prepares for the 14,000-foot climb.

The climb is set for Aug. 26, but Hoedl is no stranger to adventure. In the last few years, he has traveled the world to climb some of the biggest and best peaks from Russia to South America. He has done 17 mountain climbs in all.

"I enjoy it; I love these adventures," Hoedl said.

But as he trained for Mount Rainier, he was reminded of his battle with COVID-19.


"It's been harder. I lost two years of my life, in terms of training," Hoedl said.

Lee Hoedl on a previous mountain climbing expedition.
Contributed / Lee Hoedl

COVID-19 sidelined him over the holidays in 2020. Despite his physical fitness as a climber and marathon runner, COVID-19 was still a challenge.

"When they did a scan of my lungs, the doctor said it looked like somebody had taken broken glass and shredded it — just sprinkled it across my lungs," Hoedl said. "So, I spent the last year and a half trying to get my lungs back."

Throughout her recovery, Del Rae is thankful to be here, grateful for the support from friends and strangers, and hopeful of what is to come.

Every day since June — before the sun comes up — he has filled this pack with 60 pounds of climbing supplies and go to Sid Cichy Stadium to climb the stairs.

Lee Hoedl's battle with COVID-19 damaged his lungs, making training for climbing a mountain that much more difficult.
Contributed / Lee Hoedl

With his triplets now on their way to college, all the kids are out of the house, and Hoedl says this training period in preparation for Rainier has been powerful and reflective.

"For me, it is kind of a comeback, I am hoping," he said. "I don't want to sit in a nursing home some day and say, 'I wish I would've,' or 'I wish I could've.' I just want to go out and do it."

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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