[Published in Apex to Zenith #50 – Third Quarter 2000]
“This is only closure of the chapter. The book remains open.”
Closure is a beautiful thing. On my third attempt on Denali within six years, I reached my 50th on June 20th with Rich White (who recently completed on Rainier). Big Mac remains awesome and awful at the same time and a peak I highly respect. Talkeetna was a dry town when we left.
Mount Washington was the first back in ’79 while on a scout 50-miler. NH was my old stomping grounds and every weekend I’d scramble up 4,000-footers, often dragging my kid brother Mark (HP completer #75). He was not impressed with my relentless forced-fun marches. When we thru-hiked the AT in ’87, we were dubbed the Blaze Brothers, I suppose because we hiked too fast. In some circles, the name has stuck ever since. I hit highpoints along the AT, sans any guidebook. I found out about the “club” in ’88 and its infamous mentor, Jakk Longacre, whom I met at two “inspiring” conventions in SD and CO. This was just the type of insane pursuit I was looking for: time-consuming, expensive and pointless.
A hardcore mountaineer may never aspire to complete the highpoints and that’s OK. Many of the “peaks” are mere molehills and that suits me fine. All have variety and all have “stories”· I attempted Borah in a June ice storm…solo.. twice…dumb!
Other repeats were Boundary – I climbed the wrong side of the mountain before I knew of a guidebook and Rainier – two whiteouts convinced me the Nisqually crevasses were calling my name. Then summit fervor: After a no-sleep night on Froze-to-Death with the tent pinned to our faces, I dragged Mark up Granite while he suffered vertigo, then we descended in a typical thunderstorm, convinced our ice axe lightning rods would be our demise – real dumb!
Then the tour de forces: we bagged Gannett on a three-day roundtrip on foot despite a blown-out knee, then soloed Elbert and King’s in back-to-back day hikes. As the Marines say, “That which does not kill you only makes you stronger.” Perhaps a little wiser too as I accept these “calculated risks.” I have no favorite highpoints, just stories.
As others have said, people make the trips. Kudos to Mark for enduring our excursions. Dave “Bubba” Bruneau and “Franko” Kehl suffered equally on our epic road trips and our quest for the perfect pizza and beer tavern (we’re still searching). They deserve much of the credit for my success. Lastly, my wife Liz knows first hand what it’s like to deal with my crazy pursuits. She knows, perhaps better than I, this is only closure of the chapter. The book remains open.