A woman who climbs mountains

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Looking south towards midtown. 3:00 PM. Photo: JH.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023. Temps in the high 70s, massive  clouds, both white ones and dark ones and a bright Sun until early afternoon when it started to rain, then poured (with thunder in the distance). And so began the weather for the rest of the day and into the night.

Post-rain reward.

This past Saturday, I was a guest at dinner at Sette Mezzo of Gigi and Harry Benson and a friend of theirs, a Scottish woman named Kae Tinto whom Gigi described before we met as a person as a woman, “who travels the world climbing mountains, of all things…”

Turns out she made it a busy business. She organizes climbs but also loves mountains and loves the climb herself. And loves her homeland, Scotland. She just came back from a recent trek to the base camp of Everest, the world’s highest mountain (“above sea level”). She told me, “You’d be surprised how many people have always wanted to climb the highest mountains.” Mountaineering can be become almost an obsession that requires real discipline to survive. And it’s become a very popular sport for a man or woman of achievement.

Kae Tinto safely at Everest Base Camp — 5364m/17,600ft

Kae is a lot younger than I but old enough to have beautiful blonde twin daughters now in their mid-twenties who happen to be in the US right now; also totally Scottish — although her two husbands were not. And if she didn’t have a distinctly Scottish accent I’d believe it if she said she was from Malibu. She looks so Southern Cal. Blonde on blonde, lightly tanned, well dressed but relaxed. And a really nice woman; and a good mother, too!

Kae’s daughter Olivia graduated from St. Andrews University in 2021 with a Double First Class Degree in International Relations. She is also a model and just signed with Elite in NYC. Her twin Devenee lives in Edinburgh, Scotland and works in Property and Marketing.

Kae’s twin daughters Olivia & Devenee Sim.

Back to Harry and Gigi. Like Kae, Harry is entirely Scottish (Gigi’s a Texas lass) and from the same part of that world. The Scottish I know or hear about are generally lovely people who love their country. Kae is like that but also obviously enterprising.

Kae with “officially the coolest guy!” Sherpa Pemba Chongba, who is a FIVE-times Everest summiteer and a survivor of both the 2014 and 2015 disasters on the mountain. According to Kae, “the Sherpa people are some of the most incredible, yet unsung, heroes of the modern world!”
According to Kae, Sherpa porters carry RIDICULOUS loads in baskets strapped to their heads to serve Western climbers and trekkers.
These yaks are basic mountain transport as there are no roads. These incredible animals carry climber’s kits.

Dinners with Harry and Gigi are always interesting because of the vast experiences they’ve had with his extraordinary career  — and Gigi’s extraordinary management of his legacy. And their interest in people.

The variety in every way of Harry’s subjects is stunning, and no matter the subject or person, he gets it, you get it. He told me once that it started with the first camera he had when he was a young boy in Glasgow. He said that ever since then, he’s looked at life through those lenses; not around them or over or under. So you get an impression that strikes you as honest.

Harry and Gigi with Kae Tinto outside Sette Mezzo.

And of course Harry’s like that too. He’s seen it all; his camera and he can only show it as he sees it with that seven-year-old gene.

If you are interested in trekking with Kae, in particular to Annapurna Base Camp next April, contact her here.

More weekend fun included a trek to Cecconi’s at The Ned!

The Bad News. Came to me on Sunday when a friend emailed met tell me that Felicia Taylor had died. I later learned from her husband Peter Gottsegen that she died in her sleep three nights before on Thursday. 

Felicia and me in 2006.

Evidently she had been troubled for the previous few days with off-and-on harsh physical symptoms including fatigue. Her birthday was the week before — 8/28. She’d just turned 59.

I’d known Felicia for more than 25 years. You may have seen her during the time she hosted the Saturday Today Show on NBC and later for CNN. During those years I’d occasionally turn on the TV just to see her because she was so good. And the personality she revealed — friendly, kind, warm — was real.

There was a warmth about her that was contagious. And a sadness as well (that I attribute to her childhood – as it is with most of us). She married Peter Gottsegen a little more than a year ago. I remember her laughter which could be frequent, and hearty. She’ll be missed by many.

Sydney Shuman earlier this summer.

The other sad news for many was the passing also last Thursday of Sydney Shuman. I knew her the way we know neighbors — never close friends but with an agreeable and friendly respect for someone. I met her through some of her philanthropic work, as a member of the Board of Trustees of Carnegie Hall and the Rockefeller University Hospital.

I’d seen her only a couple of weeks before at dinner at Sette Mezzo, where she looked good and seemed her warm and friendly self. I never knew her age although I’m sure she was probably in her 70s. She will be missed even by this man who saw her only occasionally. 

I don’t know if Felicia and Sydney knew each other although I’m sure they were not infrequently in the same public rooms at the same time, both enjoying their company, and a gift to those around them.

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