Ruben Olson: Abuelo of the Mountain

Posted by Jes Shapiro on

This Community Spotlight Blog focuses on one of our cherished Regulars, Ruben Olson. Sitting with Ruben at the Echo Canyon trailhead, hikers pour past, stopping to greet him and share hugs.  He is like our Abuelo, our Mountain Grandfather, passing out bits of wisdom and a wee bit of good natured, naughty humor. He can be seen regularly on both Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak (previously known as Squaw Peak, it is Phoenix’s second highest peak after Camelback)

CamelbackCulture Blog Ruben Olson

Early Life and Family

Ruben was born in Panama Canal Zone, making him a US Citizen. At age 15, he moved to live with his sister in Pennsylvania. As fate would have it, he developed asthma and was moved to Arizona for some relief. Growing up, at 26 he took a beautiful, younger bride.  They made a home and family together, having three children, two boys and one girl.  Ruben shares many lessons on the importance of compromise in a marriage. “That’s how you keep marriage together, you work with each other, half and half”

Ruben started his own window washing business doing commercial high rises and residences. He is very proud of his business success, citing his honesty as one of the biggest factors in keeping satisfied customers. “Honesty helps your business… and your life!” We couldn’t agree more

CamelbackCulture Blog Ruben Olson

A Love of Hiking and Community

Another thing he learned in his business? It gets HOT late in the day in Arizona, particularly from April to October.  So when Ruben began hiking Camelback 28 years ago, it was before going to work, around 3 to 4 am! “It was easy for me then, because I was a lot younger.” Ruben, now 84, still hikes between 2 to 4 days a week. Such an avid hiker he even celebrated his birthday on the summit last summer, surrounded by a lots of friends and lovely ladies.  Ruben enjoys a fair amount of local celebrity on both Camelback and Piestewa Peak— a fact that he finds quite pleasing

CamelbackCulture Blog Ruben Olson

When asked about his favorite thing about Camelback Mountain, he replies: “the people are so nice… being alone now it helps me because I can talk to people.” (Ruben lost his wife four years ago) He particularly enjoys his time holding court on the summit. Boisterous voices and hearty laughs can be heard rolling down from the top when he arrives and finds his spot. Many social media pages are strewn with photos of Ruben, standing sturdy with his trusty walking stick.  What else does he think makes the Camel special? “It’s hard” and that’s why he loves it.  While there are sections he will gripe about from time to time, he will tell you, “to me, all of it is favorite!” So true

CamelbackCulture Blog Ruben Olson

Gear and Tunes

Along with his walking stick, Ruben usually is wearing a helmet on Camelback— this is a safety precaution.  He has never had a big accident and he wants to keep it that way.  Also to that end, he takes care to ensure he always has good shoes with good grip on Echo Canyon.  Hiking for as long and as often as the does, Ruben has developed a four to five “shoe schedule”… and it works like this:  He pre-buys shoes long before he needs them, so he’s never left without.  His current, slightly aged pair, gets shifted to be used on Piestewa only.  While the newest shoes begin their life exclusively on the Camel and the oldest pair gets thrown out.  For those of us that hike and run often, this is probably a familiar scenario

CamelbackCulture Blog Ruben Olson

Also required hiking gear— his tunes! You won’t usually see him without his ipod. What music charges him up the double black diamond trail? “I listen to the Beach Boys… all the oldies, you know”— we prefer to say classic, just like him. Ruben confesses to also listening to some of “this new rap— even if they do it so fast I cannot understand it!”  He says he likes the drums and “I’m old, but I’m in with the new.” Staying youthful physically and mentally

CamelbackCulture Blog Ruben Olson

Sharing Wisdom

We asked Ruben to leave us with some wisdom he’s learned on our Mountain of Youth. “Hiking is good for you, it keeps you healthy. Believe me!” Watching him move steadily up the trail is proof of that and regularly inspires so many. “I recommend moving. Keep Moving.” One of the many lessons the Mountain teaches us. And remember Ruben’s asthma? He said about six years ago it just stopped being a problem! “I think it’s because I’ve been hiking for 28 years,” he says with a vibrant, proud smile

CamelbackCulture Blog Ruben Olson

Next time you’re on the Camel or Piestewa, and you cross paths with Ruben, say “hello” and grab a selfie. If you have a moment on the summit, sit a spell.  Our community is strengthened by our variety and differences, age included.  We can all learn from and enjoy each other!

CamelbackCulture Blog Ruben Olson

Thanks so much! 

Thank you for joining us and please check back by for future Camelback Culture Community Spotlight Blog posts.  Find our Super Camelback and other merchandise here. Be sure to keep up with the Community by following us on Instagram and Facebook for more Culture - Clothes - Community


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CamelbackCulture Blog Ruben Olson

Thank you also to the Community members that shared their photos with us:


Rod Comer

Jeremy Ogle @armsolo_

Grandma Sandy Kloch

Lourdes Morris @lourdesmorris9

Meeka Vigue @hikingstylist

Ron Harper @vegan_ron1969

Ken Koshio @kenkoshio

Paul Porras @purelypresentpaul

Adrienne Kane

Anton Obukhov @anton_108_

Alexis Franks @alexisalexislex

Jeep Burke

Kaitlin Rowland@kaitlin__rowland

Heidi Staudenmaier

Carmen Paloma

Tereza Mendoza

Jes Shapiro @jes_plus_az

Ben Shapiro @threehundredsunrises


Please let us know if you were not tagged properly!


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