50 Completer stories on the web

Whetting your appetite for the First Quarter issue to arrive in your mailbox.

Here is a video of Mark Birkett becoming a 50 Completer on Kings Peak, Utah.

Will Stoll has created a nice Powerpoint slideshow of his 20 year adventure in becoming a 50 Completer.  The HP location map was created by Matt & Eric Gilbertson for their web site  http://www.countryhighpoints.com/us-state-highpoints/

Oral History of First 10 48 Completers

Charlie Feris (48 completer #11) gave a presentation on the first 10 48 completers during the 2010 Highpointers Convention. There is a colorful cast of characters and Charlie met most of them.

Mike Clemens Becomes First to Complete 50 States Solo

[Published in Apex to Zenith #54 – Third Quarter 2001]

With a solo ascent of Mt. McKinley in May/June 2001, Mike Clemens becomes the first person to complete the 50 highpoints solo!

Mike Clemens beside his RV showing his 50 state highpoint map.

A couple of issues ago, I sent in a write-up on my 48 completion, since I was thwarted (again) on Denali in 2000. This had been my second attempt (my first with Mountain Trip in ‘98) and I just wasn’t in climbing shape because of a bone spur in my foot. This year I decided I would give it a third shot, but do it my own way, which is solo. I’d climbed the other 49 HPTS solo and figured that after two previous Denali trips, I was ready for the “big one” to celebrate my 54th birthday.

Highlights of the trip: finding a little dead bird inside my boot stowed in the tent vestibule the second morning, being snowed in at 11,000’ camp for three days, spending a -30 degree night at Windy Corner, summit-ting at 4 am in clear windless weather, and pitching my tent in an inch of water on the way out at 8000 feet due to the big thaw this year.

Many, many new friends were made this trip, especially in the park service. They were absolutely wonderful: keeping me updated on weather, giving me advice on climbing conditions, and tracking my progress up the mountain. The Finnish team of 35 were a joy to behold as they leapfrogged around me making single carries to 11,000 feet. I was very saddened to see my new friends, the Texas Green Team, have to turn around because of sickness and minor frostbite.

Everybody asks, “What was your favorite?” and I will always say, ALL OF THEM! Each one is different and unique and poses it’s own set of problems and enjoyment. My first two years of HPing were done in a 35ft RV with-out a tow car, so getting that monster in some trailheads was 90% of the challenge. Driving standouts include: Mt. Frizzel, Sassafrass Mtn, Hamey Peak, Black Mtn, and Spruce Knob

Then, after 2 years and 35 HPTS I figured I’d need a tow car to get to some out-of-the-way spots, so I picked up a repo’ed ‘94 Chevy Cavailier and used it for Boundary Peak as its first test. Except for having to move the big rocks, to keep from dragging, it worked great and I towed it for the remainder of my climbs, behind my RV. I bought my 1990 Silver Eagle with 4000 miles on it in 1994 and put 66,000 miles on it through the summer of 2000, most of it highpointing and visiting all 48 lower states. Trust me on one thing, if you drive an RV to highpoints, you WILL become a good mechanic and home repair person.

My most memorable climb, both times, was Kings Peak in Utah. The scenery, the climbs, the whole experience was absolutely wonderful. My solo climb in 1996 was great, but my 1999 with my wife Linda, daughter Heather, and son Mac was fantastic. Sharing the great outdoors with my family is a memory I will always treasure, especially the part where the moose ran through our campsite at suppertime.

What will I do now? Well, believe it or not, I’m back to Denali in 2002 for a two-fold reason. First, when my 6 year old son started asking to highpoint in 1995, I told him I’d take him, as long as I had already climbed the ones he wanted to climb. So, as you’ve already probably guessed, all he needs now is Denali for his 50 sweep, since he and I climbed Rainier and Hood in June after my Alaska trip. And yes to the second reason – if we summit Denali in 2002, it will be my second time to the top of each HP peak.

After that, then I’m going to try something much more sedate—the Appalachian Trail in 2003!! Senior years and senior discounts are without a doubt – the BEST.

Dave Kennedy – A Gannet Peak Story – 50 Completion

[Published in Apex to Zenith #54 – Third Quarter 2001]

Dave Kennedy on a clear July day – Number 50!!

[Ed. Note – Dave has kept us informed of his exploits by sending us newspaper coverage of his quest. An excellent article (photos, tables, maps, etc.) was run in the Fresno Bee. This article resides in the Club archives]

July 18, 2001 on a flight to Idaho Falls to meet my friend John, from Boise Idaho, I was concerned over the elevation gain that I would expose myself to all in one day. Living in Fresno California at just 300 feet above sea level and gaining over 9000 feet in one day just to camp out before our trip to Gannett, was a sure test. I knew the pain was going to be inevitable but the misery would be optional. Being on many high peaks in the west I’ve always suffered the first day. Sure enough this trip was no different. Arriving at the airport in the morning would give us a jump on the day to get organized and deliver our gear to Bald Mountain Outfitters to pack it in for us. Courtesy of Delta Airlines my second piece of luggage came in on the later flight. No big deal though, it only delayed us a little. After delivering our gear to the outfitters we headed up the hill to Elkhart Campground and spent the night. I only received a couple hours of sleep due to the altitude being over 9000 feet, and a grizzly bear snorting all night, just John.

DAY 1. As we left the trailhead we noticed many cars in the parking lot but only ran into a few people along the way. We found many of the people hiked in to go trout fishing, but not to climb Gannett Peak. Who would be insane enough to climb Gannett from the west side? Was this going to be our passport to insanity? As we hiked along the trail we came across a few people that said it had rained every day they were there. From the Elkhart trail head we hiked with very light Camelbacks and rain jackets to the first Titcomb lake. We left the trailhead at 7:00am and met Patrick, our packer, by the lake at 1:00pm. We approximated the mileage to be 16 miles, which was very easy. We then hiked our gear up past the highest of the Titcomb lakes where there were many existing camps with rock walls, due to the high winds. I owe many thanks to my friend John for carrying the bulk of the weight to our camp. His pack had to be around 100 pounds and mine around 20 pounds. All along the way, as our pack service told us, the flowers were unbelievable. There was every color in the rainbow. The mosquitoes were severe as well but the windy conditions kept them at bay the higher we got. The outfitters told us that the mosquitoes were so bad that they would carry us away. Without this wind I believe that they would have. Over the years I met many people who said they would never go back to the Wind River Range again due to these blood sucking creatures. From our high camp at 10890 feet, Dinwoody Pass looked very dry with little snow. The pass was 2000 vertical feet of loose talus and looked very intimidating. As the sun was setting we were already in our sleeping bags trying to get some rest for summit day. Laying there with a major headache and upset stomach I was doubting I would be able to attempt the summit the next day. With all the uncertainty racing in my head all night, I would guess to say I only received about two hours of sleep.

Suddenly at 3:00am my alarm went off, time to get UP! For a mountaineer when the weather is good you gotta go for it.

DAY 2. (SUMMIT DAY) As I boiled my water for coffee I kept wondering how the heck am I going to climb this mountain feeling the way I did with my symptoms of altitude sickness.

I guess you do what you have to do. As I hurried and guzzled my coffee it was 3:45am by the time we left camp. With our head lamps on we scrambled over streams, and up and down rocks. It was a new moon which made it difficult to negotiate our way. Route finding was very difficult and the only light was about five feet in front of us from our headlamps. I knew we were in for a real sufferfest for the day, especially starting off feeling sick. As we spent several hours sensing our way through the rubble we were about a third of the way up the pass when I had to stop to take care of business. After about fifteen minutes of doing the dirty deed, we were on our way when I discovered I left my glacier glasses in the tent. Wow, what a rookie mistake. Climbing all day on glaciers would surely blind a person without protection. John was the man, he gave me his glasses to use while he wore his contact lenses that had UV inhibitors built in. As we climbed 2000 feet to Dinwoody Pass we watched the sun rise and shine on Gannett Peak. What a majestic summit in all of its glory! Looking over the Wind River Range at sunrise above the Dinwoody and Gooseneck glaciers was a sight I will never forget. As we started our descent down the Dinwoody Glacier tied together, with our ice axes in hand and our crampons biting into the ice, I knew at that point we were going to reach the summit. The conditions were very poor. The glaciers were very melted out for this time of year. We were stepping across and jumping many crevasses. John was leading and doing a very fine job at route finding. At this point the ominous clouds above us were very dark and it was snowing. We caught up to a NOLS guided group and passed them before the slopes of the summit steepened dramatically. Skirting around the bergshrund (big open crevasse) we climbed above it to a steep 50 degree ice face that was very hard consolidated snow. John took off leading and I had him on a hip belay. As the rope became tight I fol-lowed. Both of us climbing together on the same rope, was to say the least, concerning. We were, as some refer to it, “solo climbing.” If either one of us fell, that would be pretty much it, no summit, no fun, lights out! That didn’t happen. With the karma with us we continued our quest climbing over several rock ribs, more snow, and up to the summit ridge. It was there, five minutes from the summit, I told John, “this is my 50th hi-point”. I was trying to keep it a secret till the summit but I couldn’t. It was hard enough keeping it a secret for the last year. We arrived at the summit at 10:30am July 20, 2001. For me 15 years of traveling the country in the hope of summiting the highest point of all 50 states has come down to being here and now on top of Gannett Peak in the Wind River Range in Wyoming. We both had to keep the mojo working cause we were only half way and needed to get back to camp.

At this point we already had been climbing for seven hours and it was going to be at least another seven hours back. So far the weather was stable so we weren’t too concerned except for the warming conditions of the glaciers. As we took many pictures and did our celebrating on the summit, it was time to start heading down. It was very pleasurable feeling the thicker air as we scrambled down the rock and ice. We avoided the ice face by doing three rappels to the bergshrund, then glissading down to the glacier. We avoided climbing down another steep ice slope by scram-bling down a rock rib on to the Dinwoody glacier. As we roped up I thought we had it made, up and over the Dinwoody Pass and back to camp. After gaining and losing over 8800 feet so far, I thought whats another 3600 feet. As we continued on our way we noticed the glacier was deteriorating at a very fast rate. The crevasses we led over earlier were mushier and much more concerning. We did see one crevasse in particular where someone had fallen into and we could see their foot prints at the bottom. When you’re nervous you tend to be able to leap further and jump higher. We made it across the crevasses without incidence. Heading up the slopes to Dinwoody Pass the glacier had many small rivers flowing over it from the melt due to the cloudless sky. Occasionally clouds are a godsend in the mountains and this would have been one of those times. Our feet were soaking wet and the rope was absorbing much water which made it extremely heavy to drag between us. Going on the eleventh hour and only having a peanut butter sandwich and two power bars in my stomach we were running on empty and it was showing. Both John and I looked at each other in extreme exhaustion and said, “this is how we are suppose to feel, isn’t it great.” We would travel ten feet and stop to rest. The closer we got to the pass the further away it looked. Having worked our bodies so hard, at the same time felt so good. Many times along the way we looked at each other without saying a word, knowing that in a sick kind of way, we totally enjoyed using every ounce of energy to climb Gannett Peak. Out on the glacier the silence was deafening. We had to break on through to the other side. As we reached the pass the winds were strong. There were a few gusts that blew me around a bit. We did not stop due to the fact that our bodies were running on fumes, and if we did we might not get back up. We scrambled down a lot of loose talus and glissaded down several snow fields to save not only our knees but a lot of time. Once we reached the flats we stumbled several miles back to our tent. It was now 5:15pm and we gained and lost 12,400’ of elevation over 13 ½ hours, and climbed and scrambled over ten miles of rock, ice, snow, and two glaciers. I don’t remember much but I know we were extremely dehydrated and spent to the max. I remembered John saying, “I thought I was a hard man but this brought me back to reality” and “that was the hardest day I ever had.” I seconded that emotion. It was good to hear John say that because I couldn’t have expressed it any better for myself. As the sun set over the Wind River Range we were in our sleeping bags off in lala land.

DAY 3. (Recovery Day) We gingerly hiked down to Titcomb lake and hung out by the river. Walking around was fine as long as we didn’t have to hike up hill. Our highlight of the day was watching a mar-mot leap across the glaciated river we camped by. At first he was very apprehensive to cross and as time wore on he became more and more daring. Then, all of a sudden I saw him contemplating this jump that was around four feet and the ledge was also two feet higher than him. There is no way I thought. Then the extremist went for it. Smack! He missed it by a mile, and fell into the cold swift cur-rent. The marmot was saved by a rock he washed into, climbed up, and ran back into a hole. We were rolling on the ground in tears. I guess nature has its moments as well.

DAY 4. Feeling recovered we decided to climb another peak. We thought the peak we chose was West Sentinel Peak but it wasn’t. We found out later it had no name. It was conveniently located across the river from our camp and we decided to call it the Blob. It went down without a hitch. The views were spectacular. From an elevation of 12,205 feet we could see seven glaciers, hundreds of peaks, and many lakes we didn’t know existed. After getting back to camp the sky clouded up so we packed up and headed on down to a lower camp. Again, Johns pack weighed a ton and it wouldn’t take long for the effects to wear on him. The gnats were ferocious as well as the mosquitoes and horse flies. When the wind would stop, it was worse than the Chinese water torture. But fortunately the wind began to pick up again and the problem was only moderate.

DAY 5. (Pack Out) We left our gear at the lower lake for Patrick, our horse packer, and headed out with Camelbacks and nothing else. Along the way we came across many people hiking in. They were bent over carrying monster packs hating life. We made the best choice of having a horse packer take our gear in. I would recommend Bald Mountain Outfitters in Pinedale, Wyoming to anyone going into the Winds. These guys are the real deal. They are professional and will work with you on logistics and haul your gear further in than any other pack company. People along the way were asking us where our packs were. When we told them we cheated with a horse packer they all wished they did the same, except for one gentleman. He started lecturing me about how rewarding it was to carry all your gear on your back. When he was done I explained the severity of my neck and knee injuries, hiking over 5000 miles in the mountains including the John Muir Trail, climbing Denali twice, and this being the 50th state highpoint. He backed off, took a few pictures of us, and we were on our way down the trail. We hiked the rest of the trail out uneventfully and headed into town for a couple of cold beers. After getting our gear from our packer that evening, we stayed the night and headed home the next day.

John Lent: Mountains, Marathons and Memories – 50 Completions

[Published in Apex to Zenith #54 – Third Quarter 2001]

John Lent reaches #50, and Mary Ann Castimore finishes her Lower 48

It was the Fourth of July 2001 and Mary Ann and I were celebrating something really special. Not only were we celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary on the 4th of July, but we were also about to stand on top of my 50th state highpoint on Kings Peak, Utah. For Mary Ann it was number 49 & 9/10 for which she earns a unique distinction. Utah was particularly memorable for me because in 1997 it was also where I ran my 50th state marathon. Climbing the 50 state highpoints has brought countless memories of which I’ll share a few.

My first memory of reaching a state highpoint was in 1979 when a group of us climbed Mt. Elbert, Colorado. At the time it about did me in, and was one of the hardest physical activities I encountered. The farthest thing from my mind was the idea of an organization whose purpose is to climb all of the 50 state highpoints. It would be 17 years later that I met my wife and together we would join this unique club in pursuit of just that very thing.

Living in Colorado during the late 70’s and early 80’s was the perfect backdrop for climbing as I easily became hooked. At first I began collecting nearly all of the fifty-four 14,000 foot peaks, then eventually started climbing other high points out-side Colorado. After acquiring Frank Ashley’s book Highpoints of the States I added Mt. Hood (OR), Mauna Kea (HI) and Mt. Whitney (CA) to my list. When my work took me east in 1985 my climbing days subsided and got replaced by running marathons. I fig-ured there were no big mountains in the east so I began collecting different state marathons. During the next 10 years I climbed intermittently but saw the goal of running all 50 state marathons get-ting closer. This dream finally came true at the St. George Marathon (UT) in October 1997. Oddly enough there is a similar group to the highpointers called the 50 State & DC Marathon Club.

The highlight of my life came when I met Mary Ann while running on the Paulinskill Valley Trail a Rails-to-Trail footpath near our home in Augusta, NJ. The initial conversation consisted of my plans to climb Mt. Rainier, which she had completed, and Mary Ann’s plans to climb Mt. Hood that I had done years ago. This was truly the start of a good thing as we each found soulmates in each other. In 1996 she joined me for my Maui, Hawaii Marathon on the condition that we would climb Mauna Kea (again). When I ran my Florida Marathon we drove and hit all the southern and mid-Atlantic state highpoints en route. Every vacation was centered upon highpointing and marathoning. In time, we managed to finally join the High-pointers Club since we were becoming true highpointers.

In 1998 Mary Ann was a prominent member of an all women breast cancer survivor team, on an expedition to Mount McKinley called “Climb Against the Odds”. A documentary by the same name was filmed and aired nationwide on local PBS TV stations. (Visit the Beast Cancer Fund website at http://www.breastcancerfund.org/climb_return.html for complete story, also see reference page 33, issue #47 Fourth Quarter 1999 Highpointers Club newsletter). Unfortunately due to severe storms and illness the team made it to only 16,200 feet and did not summit. Of her teammates that were forced to go down Mary Ann was the longest remaining breast cancer survivor on the mountain. The following year Mary Ann and I returned to Alaska together for her second attempt.

For nearly two weeks we climbed strong before she succumbed to severe high-altitude sickness at 19,200 feet. In my mind, this gallant second attempt earned Mary Ann the 9/10 fraction toward her highpointing state total. The next day on June 8, 1999 I was fortunate to summit Denali carrying the prayer flags in honor of, or in memory of, all cancer victims. Words cannot explain the emotion and triumph I felt standing on top for the thousands of people who bear the load of cancer.

1999 was the also the year I took a sabbatical from work for Mary Ann and I to live our dreams. We purchased a new truck with slide-in camper and headed west. That summer we completed all of the hard summits on our first attempts including Granite Peak (MT), Gannett Peak (WY) and Borah Peak (ID). Granite was far more difficult than expected. The rock presented some real technical challenges. Gannett Peak was especially enjoyable with the long approach into Titcomb basin with some of the best wildflowers I’ve seen anywhere. The glacier travel reminiscent of Mt. Rainier made us keenly aware of how remote this peak is. That year concluded with five state high-points remaining. It was Memorial Day weekend 2000 when we flew into Duluth (MN) to capture the three Great Lake highpoints. This year (2001) on the same weekend we revisited Rhode Island for the prearranged opening just to make things official.

Finally, with two states remaining we flew to Las Vegas on June 29. The following morning we drove to Trail Canyon where we spent the night en route to Boundary Peak (NV). We used an easier access from route 264 at mile-post 25 as compared to the suggested milepost 19 & 20. Mary Ann and I reached the summit slower than expected but we were the only two people on the summit. We enjoyed perfect weather and extraordinary views on our 49th state highpoint. The following day consisted of driving to Evanston, Wyoming to prepare for our final climb of Kings Peak (UT). Our plan was to hike in from the north and camp at Dollar Lake at 10,785 feet elevation, a distance of about 7 ½ miles. The mosquitoes were in full force and obviously on vacation like us for the 4th of July holiday. We awoke at 5am to get an early start. The hike up to Gunsight Pass was pleasant and was highlighted by a sighting of a moose. Once over the pass we remained high at about the 11,800 foot level to save over a mile en route to Anderson Pass. From the pass it was an easy scram-ble to the summit. We made it – our 50th state, on our 4th anniversary, on the 4th of July – a triple celebration!

So, this story is a recount of how memories are made. Completing the high-points is just one facet of a lifelong journey. It has taken us to so many places in this country most people would have little reason to go to. For me running marathons in all 50 states compiled with finishing all the 50 state highpoints has brought memories to last a lifetime. Mountains, Marathons and Memories will remain our theme. What’s next you ask? … 46 more years to our 50th anniversary!

See you on the trails…John & Mary Ann

Kenny Pokora – Sunrise and Snowstorm: 50 Completions

[Published in Apex to Zenith #54 – Third Quarter 2001]

Wisconsin resident, Kenny Pokora, and wife Donna on Louisiana’s crest, Driskall Mountain.
Kenny finished #50 on Granite Peak.

Donna, my wife, and I started backpacking in 1978 with a trip to Bryce Canyon in Utah. In the years that followed, we visited many National and State parks throughout the United States car camping and numerous backpacking trips into the back country, the longest being an 8 day trip to Kern Canyon in Sequoia National Park.

In 1994, without any knowledge of Highpointing or the Highpointer Club, I got the idea of climbing Mt. McKinley. Realizing I needed special training and guiding to accomplish this, I contacted Alaska – Denali Guiding and signed up for a 10-day mountain-eering seminar on the Ruth Glacier. This trip not only gave me some of the knowledge needed to summit all 50 highpoints; it’s also where I met Rick Hartman. We’ve been together on numerous climbs and summits since the Ruth Glacier. Rick has become not only a good friend but without his help I wouldn’t have reached my goal of fifty summits as smoothly as I have. I can’t say thanks enough for all the good times we’ve had and those yet to come.

Donna has also been a huge part of my success having shared 40 sum-mits with me and been navigator on highpointing trips in 1998 and again in 2000 where we traveled over 5,500 miles in each of the two-week trips, collecting 34 highpoints along the way.

It’s been a wonderful experience the past 6 years, not only seeing parts of our great nation I probably would have missed if it weren’t for highpoint-ing, but I’ve met some very interesting and friendly people along the way.

I can’t think of any highpointing day I didn’t enjoy but the sunrise, sum-mit day on Mt. Ranier was one of the most beautiful; the summit of Mt. Marcy, with Donna, in near white out conditions was another one of my favorite days. The hikes in and out on so many of the peaks were just as rewarding as the summit themselves. Even the long road trips to some of the drive up highpoints bring back some fond memories.

In closing, I’d like to say thanks to everyone who’s helped me in reaching my goal and hopefully we’ll see you again either on the trail or at a conven-tion in the near future.

Kenyon Stebbins – 48-Completer #6 by age 14

As for a paragraph of my thoughts on being a “younger” highpointer, here’s my off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts. Now at age 51, as I look back on highpointing as a kid, I have nothing but wonderful memories. I went to dad’s immaculate files in my basement, and found July 15, 1962 for my #48, Mt. Rainier. Dad’s records also show that my first highpoint was Florida, at approx. age 1.5 years (Dec. 19, 1950).

I’d have to look more carefully to see if that Florida HP visit was to the Bok Tower, which for years was thought to be the HP.

I do know Rainier was #48. And I have very fond memories of that climb. The last 30 feet of very gentle walking in warm sunshine are especially memorable. My older brother Malcolm was a step or 2 ahead of me, and as he realized we were approaching the top, he stopped and waited for me to catch up, and put his arm around me, and we reached our 48th TOGETHER, so neither of us can claim to have “beaten” the other! We had never discussed this, and to this day I appreciate that gesture. Brother Winston broke his foot a week prior, and so was stuck with 47 until the next summer.

None of “us kids” ever had much of an interest in climbing Denali, although I did enjoy a week of camping in its “shadow” in 1984 at Wonder Lake. I do expect to get Hawaii someday, but it’s not a high priority, obviously, or I’d have sprung for the airfare by now. I figure that once I DO get Hawaii, I may set some sort of record for Most Years Elapsed Between New Highpoints, as it will be at least 40 years between 1961 and 2001

Going to 48 different states between the ages of 1 and 14 not only provided me with an opportunity to see a great many parts of the US, but also gave me a chance to see 11 wild” places hat today are disappearing all too fast. Climbing Guadalupe Peak in 1959(?), for example, was a real adventure, with no trails whatsoever – quite a contrast to the summit trail today.

Dad made sure that his 3 sons (of which I am the youngest) not only “went along for the ride”, but were active participants in the experience – helping to plan and navigate the highway routes, reading aloud from the AAA books to learn about the states and cities we were passing through, making sure no one forgot to pack all the necessary items for each climb – all helped to make each of us more aware and more capable kids-soon-to-be-adults.

Thankfully, Dad never “pressured” us to do anything we didn’t want to do. While each of us had one mountain that we struggled with (mine was Texas, Malcolm’s was Whitney (ironically, Whitney is his middle name!), and Winston’s was King’s Peak, we all “pulled together” when needed, and grew closer as a family.

We also had the good fortune to have a guide on many of the western mountains and we had the good fortune of being “weathered off” of only one (WA). In short, I highly recommend highpointing (we called it “state summitting” back then) for kids of all ages, as long as their parents do not pressure them into unreasonable or dangerous acts.

[Ed: Kenyon’s dad is 50-Completer Rowland Stebbins and his brothers Malcolm and Winston are 48-Completers.]
[Ed: You may want to listen/view the Oral History of First 10 48-Completers article which also talks about their adventures.]

Bill Smith’s Quest Spans 8 Years, from 1991 to 1999

[Published in Apex to Zenith #52 – First Quarter 2001]

Bill Smith and friends tackle Gannett Peak in 1993.

“I never met a highpoint I didn’t like.”

Having our first cold snap of the year in Shreveport (November 9, 2000), the temperature at 40d under beautiful blue skies reminded me of being on the top of a mountain out West on a late July morning. It has been a little over a year since I completed the 48 contiguous states and Hawaii. I finished with Missouri at our High Pointers meeting in September 1999.

I think it has taken me a while to grasp the fact that I’ve actually climbed 49 of the 50 high points in the USA. My interest in climbing started years ago when we would go camping in Arkansas and climb the highest hill in the vicinity. My first high point was Guadalupe Peak in Texas in March of 1991. I climbed this mountain with my son Russ, his wife Maria Elena, and my wife Martha.

Later, on a trip back from visiting our daughter Susan, who was attending the University of Colorado, we were pulling a small camper and stopped in the panhandle of Oklahoma. Picking up the Rand McNally map, I noticed the the high point of Oklahoma was nearby I asked around at the general store am got directions. That made my second high point in three months. Both of these were very beautiful areas that would not have visited had it not been for climbing high points.

At that time, not knowing tha there was organization of highpointers I thought it would be fun to climb the high point in each state. I stumbled o the Highpointers Club by accident. Someone at a sporting goods store in Shreveport told me that the High-Tec Shoe Company was sponsoring climber to scale the high points in all 50 states using High-Tech’s shoes. I called the High-Tech Shoe Company an talked with the vice president who informed me of the Highpointers Club. After contacting Jack Longacre and securing a Highpointer guidebook from Paul Zumwalt, I made up my mind do all the 48 contiguous states.

Not only has this given me opportunity to visit parts of the United States that I probably would never have seen, but also I’ve met some of the nicest people I’ve ever known in the highpointers from every state. Martha and I have had the pleasure of attending fo Highpointer cOnventions and corresponding with many highpointers over the past nine years. One who comes mind right off is Rick Craycraft, who filled the role of guide when we climbed Mount Hood. Another is Clark Hall, a very special person, who visit our home in Shreveport on one of I trips to the South.

Looking back at our highpoint adventure, there was not one highpoint that we did not enjoy the experience climbing. To paraphrase Will Rogers “I never met a highpoint I didn’t like.”

If I had to choose the one that got the most pleasure from, it would have to be Gannett Peak in Wyoming. The hike in and out of the Wind River Range makes that a very special place. My climbing group, which consists my sons Bill & Russ, my brother B. Hines, and occasionally friend All Maxwell, plans to make a return trip the summer of 2001 to that beautiful part of the world.

In closing, I would just like to thanks to all our highpointer friends who gave me advice and guidance reaching my goal. Perhaps, we will you again at the 2001 Highpoint Convention.

Bill Smith
Shreveport, Louisiana

Jay Wiener’s Long and Winding Road Takes Him to 48 Peaks

[Published in Apex to Zenith #51 – Fourth Quarter 2000]

Fit For A King – Jay Wiener on King’s Peak, July 11, 1999

“…my guide Allan was killed in a fall, while we were climbing the Grand Teton together…I needed lots of diversion to recover from that experience.”

An ABC television series of my childhood, The Patty Duke Show, in which the actress played identical teen-aged cousins, began with a musical introduction: “Meet Kathy who’s lived most everywhere, from Zanzibar to Berkeley Square, but Patty’s only seen the sights a girl can see from Brooklyn Heights. What a crazy pair!” My journey to 49 of the 50 highpoints has made me feel less like the insular Patty and somewhat as if I have been “most everywhere” like Kathy.

As with so many things in life, my pursuit of highpoints was happenstance and indirect. I was living in my hometown of Jackson, Mississippi in the early eighties, somewhat bored and out-of-sync with the remnants of the Jim Crow South. I found a kindred spirit in Virginia Foster Durr, a remarkable Alabamian, old enough to be my grandmother, who had been a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights movement; in fact, the mentor to Rosa Parks. I am probably the only high-point Honor Roll member who got there through political activism.

After becoming close to Virginia, a cousin said that I should meet Virginia’s niece, Kate Durr Elmore, another remarkable woman. Kate regaled me with stories of her years of climbing in the Alps—which sounded like the coolest thing of which I had ever heard. Many summers later, I have beaten Kate at her own game, having climbed 59 of the 63 4000 meter peaks in the Alps. My political involvement has fallen by the wayside. I eagerly pursue endurance sports instead.

Along the way, I moved from Mississippi to San Francisco. I never appreciated before moving what the proximity to major mountains would offer. It allowed me to train and climb peaks closer to home. I have climbed all 15 of the 14,000 foot California peaks, beginning with Mount Whitney in 1991 (two summers after I moved to California).

As I climbed more, I began to read more about mountaineering and travel elsewhere to pursue my passion. In May 1992, I went to Mount Rainier with a friend who wanted to climb it. The following spring (May 1993), we joined other friends and climbed Mount Hood. During August of 1992, I climbed Mount Elbert, when my parents had use of a cousin’s condominium in Aspen. After having done four highpoints without design, my curiosity was piqued to go to the highest point of every state.

Allan Bard, my mountain guide in the Sierra, told me that he thought that there was a book about state highpoints. My buddy — and fellow Highpointer — Ralph Renninghoff joined me at Boundary Peak in 1997, and Mount Humphreys in 1998, and Kings Peak in 1999. Ralph discovered the Highpointers, and its guide to the state highpoints, and shared the information with me. I was “off and running”.

Meanwhile, my guide Allan was killed in a fall, while we were climbing the Grand Teton together, during the Fourth of July Weekend, 1997. I needed lots of diversion to recover from that experience. I made a list of activities to lift my spirits until I moved beyond the trauma. Par-ticipating in cross-country ski marathons and aggressively pursuing highpoints were at the top of my list. Between Memorial Day 1998 and Labor Day Week of 1999, I visited 42 highpoints, reaching my 49th high-point, Mount Mansfield, on September 9, 1999. Along the way, I saw parts of America which I would have otherwise never seen and deepened my apprecia-tion for the beautiful, special, and var-ied country we have.

When I returned from New England in September 1999, Barbara Johnson—my Jackson next-door neighbor who, along with her late hus-band Dr. Sam Johnson, joined my friends and me at a brewpub in Flag-staff (where Barbara, Sam and I were attending the Arizona Opera’s produc-tion of Wagner’s Ring Cycle), immedi-ately after our climb of Mount Humphreys—asked what was the most memorable of the 49 highpoints. I said that Gannett Peak was the toughest on me, because I was out-of-sorts, the Delaware highpoint was the most tedious, because I found visiting the trailer park to be so boring; Mount Marcy was the most unpleasant, because Hurricane Dennis’ aftermath visited the Northeast, it rained end-lessly, and I became soaked to the bone; Mount Elbert was the most enchanting, because my guidebook promised that “everyone and his brother” would be on the mountain, and my friend and I encountered nary a soul from start to finish, on a breathtak-ing day; and Cheaha Mountain was the most special, because I was there while spending Thanksgiving with my family in Montgomery, and everybody with whom I spoke had fond memories of the good times which they had spent there, a ubiquitous experience of a state highpoint, which probably has no equal elsewhere. (Congratulations to the State of Alabama for making its high-point a state park, building a resort there, and encouraging its citizens to visit!).

When I showed my family my guide to the state highpoints while in Montgomery at Thanksgiving 1998, my uncle, Jim Loeb (who is well-read and scholarly but no outdoorsman) was so charmed by the book, particularly the geography and history contained therein, that he said that he would like a copy. It is easy to forget that our pursuit is more than about outdoor types hiking in far-flung places: The core of the Highpointers experience is the thrill of visiting places where we would otherwise not go, learning more about our country, and exposing family and friends to a world of knowledge which our pursuit allows us.

James Reilly Finishes the 48 Contiguous States on Granite Peak

[Published in Apex to Zenith #51 – Fourth Quarter 2000]

Doc Reilly makes his way roped up back across the snow bridge on Granite Peak, after a successful summit climb. Photo by Henri Butler.

“…the weather joined the party. It just rolled in…we clawed and grabbed at that mountain til our fingers bled.”

Time: End of May, 1999. Situation: deep snow, alone, and on the Froze to Death Plateau. I made it to base camp and looked onto Granite Peak. Cold wind blowing, snow, and no one knew I was up here. This sucks…The mountain, ice covered and corniced with black granite was an ominous sign. I started to set up camp when black clouds started coming round the mountain top. The clear day became darker. I had turned around the year before in a cloud that would not subside, it was warm at that time of year, July, and I had a commitment to climb Gannet Peak in Wyoming, so I had to give up the chance for the Montana summit.

But not this year, I am not the kind’a person to get turned back a second time! My hair on my arm started to rise up; you could feel the static electricity in the air. The storm started to move in off the peak and toward the Froze to Death Plateau. I could see a line of thunderstorms in the distance and the mountain howled with laughter. It was like the mountain was laughing at me.

%@#$, this, I’m out of here! You have to know when to say when, and that mountain, well, it will always be there. I trudged back down that plateau in a partial storm and managed to make it halfway down the switchbacks before the weather really hit. I camped in a makeshift cave til morning and beat feet to the car, to drive back to Cleveland with my tail between my legs. In my best Arnold Schwarzennager: “ I’ll be back!”

The beauty of the Club is the camaraderie we share in the highpoints we have conquered. This was accomplished on Granite Peak by using the club newsletter to bring fellow highpointers together. Henri Butler placed the ad in last year’s magazine in the Klimbin Kollaborator looking for others willing to climb Montana’s peak. He, like I, had been kicked off the big hill two times. He was also able to recruit Robert Delligatti, a highpointer with 46 of the 50 states to his credit. Both myself and Henri were on our 48th, with only this baby and Hawaii left.

I picked up Robert and Henri in Billings and off we rode to the start point at the Power Plant, carefully parking at a different spot since me and Henri on both occasions picked the same spot. Well not this year, and we held a prayer meeting with Robert leading the sermon. Why take chances? Let’s bring the Big Guy into this.

On we climbed to Mystic Lake and made camp. Dawn came early and so did fellow highpointers Jay Magiera and Gregg Sargis on a mountain climbing spree of the West. We agreed to team up and meet at base camp on the Froze to Death Plateau at the high camp on the base of Tempest Mountain.

An early start was agreed upon because the British climbers and the Canadians we ran across on two other teams didn’t make it and said the late start hurt them. At 4:30 the next morning we set out on a moon filled night that was great for this time of year. Little did Henri, Robert and I ever suspect that getting to base camp was the easy part.

We dropped off the side of Tempest Mountain and followed the contour of the mountain down into the valley. We gave up 800 feet and started to climb the ice fields to the snow bridge. We watched as the weather started to move in across the top of our mountain. We watched the clouds roll slowly from the southwest to the northwest in long gray and black billows of trouble.

Greg and Jay had crossed the snow bridge while Henri, Robert and I put on any hot gear we had as the rain started to pelt us and make life miserable. This was getting bad, I thought. This could turn to ice. We reached the snow bridge in time to see Jay and Gregg coming back across the ice bride. “It’s no good” Jay said this could get dangerous. Henri agreed; tomorrow we could try again. Robert felt it was early in the day and it might clear. Jay and Gregg decided to turn around and left.

Robert called Billings weather and they said it would be 30% chance of showers, so I agreed to go across and belay and if it turned to crap we could always turn back. Henri agreed, and I went across. Then came Robert and Henri. “Hey are you going for it?” shouted Jay. “We’re going to have a look!” “Well, wait for us.” Over came Jay and Gregg, and that was it, we were committed.

And then the weather joined the party. It just rolled in, right into us as wehe first of the three chimneys. Visibility was 20 feet. Rain changing to sleet. Snow pellets changing to rain. Wet moss and lichen staying slippery when wet. All of us route finding at one time or another as we clawed and grabbed at that mountain til our fingers bled. It suddenly dawned on me where I had seen this before. Gregory Peck and The Guns of Navarone. That was us.

We summited in a mist, unroped, with a hypothermic wind. We were at a critical point. If it changes to snow up here and the wind picks up we may have gone a bridge too far. Jay set the kernmantle rope that Greg had and we rapelled off the summit.

We made slow progress from there when we lost the cairns in the fog and rain. We gave up territory and came to a shear cliff and had to climb back up to do route find-ing. We worked together as a team, we rapelled and climbed down slowly and no one was hurt and no one fell. We were very fortunate. We made the top and worked as a cohesive unit under adverse conditions.

No one person was the leader and each contributed to the party. As we reached the ice bridge on the way down the sky cleared and sun spouted through the clouds. We walked down the ice fields and boulder hopped up Tempest Mountain back to base camp.

It took us 6 hours to get to the top and 9 to get to base camp. We were spent, well at least I was, and ready for bed. We took a team photo and Greg and Jay said they were out of there in the morning. We wouldn’t have made it without them, and then again they wouldn’t have turned around and fol-lowed us without second guessing a good decision to leave in the first place.
We did a leisurely breakfast in the morning and while descending along the Froze to Death we had to take lightning precautions from a storm that would have made climbing a no go for that day too. It was pretty cool; Rob-ert’s hair stood straight up.

“Get rid of the climbing sticks,” I said. Robert had those brand new extendable hiking poles. We found a low spot on the high ground, laid out a poly pad and waited for it to pass. More rain, more wind. As the storm moved to the valley lighting bolts crashed down into the pines below us. It was very pretty. In two weeks the state would be a disaster area due to all the lighting causing forest fires, but we survived. We didn’t beat the mountain, we survived it. It was fun. I highly recommend it. Like the bible, this mountain could be summed up in one word: VICTORY.