. . . to keep Dr. Bruce R. Terry from reaching its summit. He has conquered the topmost peak on all seven continents, after all.
RESILIENCE, DOGGEDNESS and inspiration: indelible factors that over the years have helped fuel Dr. Bruce R. Terry’s astonishing ascent of the highest peak on every continent—including Vinson Massif in Antarctica (16,050 feet) and, most recently, the most perilous hike of all: 29,029-foot Mt. Everest.
The Wayne, Pennsylvania–based educator and endodontist, 58, spent 60 days in Nepal this spring for the last and most arduous of his seven conquests. “I summited at 5:30 A.M. on May 23,” he says. “It was the second of the only two good summit days for the 2019 season.”
Ironically, Dr. Terry admits he’s far more comfortable hanging off a climbing rope with thousands of feet of open air below than he is on a ladder against the side of his house. “I do have a slight fear of heights,” he says. “It’s about the pitch or the tilt.”
A lifelong Eagle Scout who has led countless Boy Scout hiking expeditions, Dr. Terry practices at his own Endodontic Specialists, in the Philadelphia suburbs, and teaches at Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry. The past president of the Pennsylvania Dental Association—“I’m a nerd when it comes to dentistry,” he says cheerfully—credits his alpine derring-do, in part, to his “strong motivation to succeed.”
“Sometimes it was my physical strength or illness that would test me,” he says of his seven climbs. “I always just pushed through and finished what I started. On Everest I was sick for two weeks and thought I wouldn’t leave for the summit. I just willed myself to get better.” (He lost 14 pounds during the ascent but notes that that’s “about normal” for such an excursion.)
At the summit, literally on top of the world, Dr. Terry unrolled a celebratory banner he had made in secret before leaving Pennsylvania: EVEREST 2019—SUSAN, CAROLINE AND HENRY, YOU ARE ALWAYS IN MY HEART. YOU ARE MY STRENGTH. THANK YOU FOR HELPING DREAM BIG! The tribute to his wife of 32 years and their two children was apposite.
“I promised my family from the beginning that I’d never climb Everest,” he says. “But after I completed my sixth summit, they began to ask when I was doing it. They fully understood that it had to be done.”
Every one of his death-defying ascents offered unique insights in retrospect. “I walked away from each with the knowledge that I was a mountaineer, and getting better with each climb,” Dr. Terry says. “I learned about other cultures and places I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t traveled. I learned that people I called friends were more than that. Their concern for my safety reminded me of how much we mean to each other in this world.”
What’s next for this endodontist of such extraordinary extracurricular accomplishment? (Not cleaning his gutters, clearly.) He laughs. “Maybe a trek to the South and North Poles? Or maybe I’ll just learn to play golf.”