The Atlantic's James Fallows investigated Ryan's athletic claims and found that in a 2009 interview with his hometown newspaper, Ryan said he climbed 40 out of Colorado's 54 famed "fourteeners," mountains with peaks over 14,000 feet. Fallows found that hard to believe, considering Ryan lives in Wisconsin, not Colorado.
Fallows turned to mountain climbing message boards for an insider's perspective. Fallows found that it would be highly unlikely for Ryan to have actually made all of the climbs he mentioned.
According to posters on the climbing site Super Topo, "The 54 peaks are scattered throughout remote parts of Colorado and you have to visit out-of-the-way little towns and valleys to tick the list, towns and valleys that you would never visit otherwise. "To have climbed 40 and not be a resident means that you would have had to devote entire summers to climbing fourteeners, in essence becoming a 'lifestyle' hiker/scrambler. I doubt Ryan had the time or dedication to fourteeners to take the required time out from his political career. Even if you did four a summer, that would be ten summers devoted to traveling to Colorado for the purpose of high altitude hiking. Even if you live here and can drive to the trail heads, forty is a huge commitment of time and energy."
According to the Atlantic article, many have bought into the image of Paul Ryan as a conquering mountain climber since the interview. Even today, journalists occasionally bring up his "fourteener" record as a mark of character.
The Denver Post, for example, praised Ryan for his "fourteener" record. "Why does it matter that Paul Ryan is a mountain man, at home above timberline on the fourteeners?" an op-ed asks? "Because there is no better index of character. It tells of someone's backbone under pressure, resourcefulness in facing adversity, and trustworthiness for power. Conservative or liberal isn't the point. The high peaks simply test your mettle. Declinists and defeatists need not apply."
If these criticisms are correct, it would make this the second time that Ryan his lied about his physical fitness in order to increase his campaign profile.
However, the Romney campaign seems to believe that Fallows has taken some information out of context in the article. After Fallows' article began making the rounds online, Brendan Buck, a Romney campaign staffer, sent the following email to Fallows.
"Hey James - caught your entertaining piece. Unfortunately, you've got some bad info in there. We're not sure where this started, but he's not said 40 different peaks, its nearly 40 climbs - with a number of peaks climbed more than once. He's been doing them for more than 20 years. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article from '09 doesn't say 40 separate summits, but instead, 'He is fairly careful about what he eats, performs an intense cross-training routine known as P90X most mornings, and has made close to 40 climbs of Colorado's 'Fourteeners' (14,000-foot peaks).'"
So, who's more credible here? Did Paul Ryan tell another lie about his athletic prowess?