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MODESTO, Calif. -Climbing a mega rock is akin to trying to build a solid credit union for Valley First Credit Union President Hank Barrett. Barrett recently climbed Yosemite Park’s Half Dome for the second time. The Half Dome is an 8,836-foot rock that takes a climber 4,800 feet above sea level. “Hiking Half Dome is one of those `must accomplish’ things in life,” Barrett says, “It’s a very doable hike, yet challenging enough to let you know you’ve accomplished something; you feel the pain for days afterward.” For Barrett, reaching the summit felt similar to achieving a 15-year milestone of upward growth as CEO. When Barrett came to the CU it had just $19 million in assets, one branch and 17 employees. Today the four-branch CU has $250 million in assets and employs 115. He got involved with the Half Dome at the urging of one of the CU’s board members who too had climbed it “At first I viewed it as just a day hike and substantially underestimated what it would do to me. Thank goodness enough individuals stressed that this wasn’t your typical day hike!” While running a marathon takes a higher degree of preparation, “the pain you feel when you finish is about the same,” Barrett points out. Fortunately, a friend who planned to do the hike, but became sick the day before, lent him his water purifier, altimeter and medical tape to ensure he was well equipped. “It was demanding to hike the 19 miles to the top and climb over 4,800 feet in elevation,” he said. For his second hike, his 16-year-old son shared in the experience. “It was special to be able to spend the time with my son, Alex.” [email protected]

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