[Published in Apex to Zenith #50 – Third Quarter 2000]
Liz and I, grandparents of four with a fifth due shortly, started our highpointing adventure in 1994, when, as members of the Seattle Mountaineers, I convinced her to take the Seattle Mountaineers basic climbing course.
She had previously completed their snowshoe and scrambling courses, which gave her a headstart to the climbing course. One of the basic climbs was that of Mt. Rainier, which we did together. That That summer I wanted to visit states east of Montana,as I had never been east of that area. I thought that since we had some climbing experience we might try to go to the highest point of each state. I located Don Holmes book in Seattle, setting the stage for our adventure, which would consume 6 years of our lives.
That summer we set off in our camper with our goal set on our second highpoint which would be White Butte in North Dakota. With that highpoint under our belts we continued on picking up highpoints across the country, finishing that tour with Guadalupe Peak in Texas, which gave us 16 highpoints. The following summer we did a similar trip picking up 15 highpoints. We did additional highpoints until 1998 when we finally decided to tackle the infamous Mt. McKinley. Liz had told me previously that she would not do Mt. McKinley, but after some friendly persuasion I convinced her to try. Prior to our McKinley trip I found two people to accompany us down to Mexico, where we climbed Orizaba.
In mid-May of 1998 we set off on our McKinley trip. I had gathered together three other people to accompany us. We had a miserable time on the mountain as the weather was continually bad. We were spending four to five days at each camp due to bad weather. We finally reached the 14,000 ft. camp but spent 9 days there due to bad weather.
When we finally made a carry to 16,200 ft. one of our party members got frostbite and due to the length of time we had been on the mountain we decided to abandon our attempt. We even spent 3 days at the airstrip on the Kahiltna Glacier trying to fly off the mountain. By the time we left the mountain I had convinced Liz to go back and try again the following year.
In late May of 1999 I organized another team of five to attempt McKinley. We arrived on the mountain and began what turned out be a shorter trip than the previous year. Initially things didn’t start out too good since we had to wait in Talkeetna a day and a half just to fly onto the mountain. Once there everything clicked, as we arrived on the summit June 11 at 8:00pm. At that point we were the only group on the highest point in North America. Having completed the round trip in just 14 days, we were glad to be back home.
We now only had three highpoints to go to complete the 50. In August I led a team of four into the Wind River Range where we climbed Gannet Peak from Titcomb Lakes. In May of 2000 we went back to Rhode Island and completed that highpoint as we had previously just been to the sign on the highway.
After our Denali summit Liz had wanted to wait for the Highpointers convention in Hawaii to complete Mauna Kea, which would be our 50th state highpoint. I had agreed so we had to wait one year to complete.
The convention finally arrived so we flew out of Seattle on July 25 and arrived in Kona, Hawaii in the early afternoon. On Wednesday we walked around Kona and then our big day finally arrived on Thursday July 27. The drive up Mauna Kea was nice with just a few clouds around, but it did appear to be windy at the summit. We first stopped at the visitor center near 9500 ft. We spent a short time there and then proceeded up to the observatory area. Liz and I, along with several other people,, walked toward the summit. Just short of the summit I stopped and waited for Liz and from here we walked hand-in-hand to the summit arriving there about 10:00 am.
We had finally completed an adventure which was both interesting, challenging and had a few trying moments. We left Kona on July 30 and flew back to Seattle. It was really beautiful and as we approached the Seattle area the sun was just setting and as the plane banked to the north I looked out the right window and there was Mt. Rainier, our first highpoint.
What lies ahead for us I don’t know. But I am sure some adventure waits down the road.