View from the top: Keith Garlinghouse fulfills quest to summit the ‘14ers’

November, 2012 Posted in People, Sports & Recreation

By James Day

Scott Garlinghouse

Keith Garlinghouse and his daughter atop Capital Peak, one of the dozens of “14ers” he’s summitted.

“When I was a teenager, quite often I would lay on the couch and thumb through a book on the Colorado 14ers. It was after my Dad took me up one that I became obsessed with the idea of climbing them all. I would read and reread about the peaks and dream of what it would be like to climb each.”

The dream is now complete for Keith Garlinghouse.

On Aug. 4, the 50-year-old Scotts Mills resident summitted Holy Cross, a 14,009-foot peak in the Sawatch Range in Colorado, completing a quest that germinated in his teens, a stamina-sapping effort to climb all of the 14ers, mountains in the continental United States that are 14,000 feet or higher.

“When I laid out the last trip it became obvious that finishing with Holy Cross worked well logistically,” he said. “I also thought it would be a neat to finish with it because of the spiritual significance of the peak and symbolism. Completing the 14ers on Holy Cross is metaphorically like finally finding the Holy Grail after many journeys and a long search.”

Along the way Garlinghouse had a lightning scare in Colorado, battled with one challenging peak four times and survived a harrowing descent of one of the tallest mountains in California after suffering from a potentially fatal illness.

The dream began in Colorado. Which fits, since 58 of the 74 14ers Garlinghouse scaled are in that state. There are 15 in California and one, Mt. Rainier, in Washington.

Keith Garlinghouse

Keith Garlinghouse

“In Colorado, climbing the 14ers is a big deal,” Garlinghouse said. “It was popular when we started, and it has become even more popular since. All kinds and ages of people climb the 14ers in Colorado because they range from trail hikes to difficult and dangerous climbs. I have seen 5-year-olds and 65- or 70-year-olds climbing the easier peaks.

“I think the reason why it has caught on with so many people is the number of peaks that exceed 14,000 feet. It’s not a trivial amount, but also not an extreme number so that one can expect to climb all of them within a reasonable amount of time if you keep after it. It’s an obtainable goal.

Garlinghouse picked up the climbing bug from his father, Grant. Keith’s first attempt at a 14er, Longs Peak, failed when he got altitude sickness and had to turn back 100 feet from the top. His first success was Grays Peak, near Denver. Keith and Grant climbed 12 14ers while Keith still was in high school. He picked up a few more during his college days and tackled all of the West Coast peaks between 1995 and 2007. In 2008 he decided to finish the job, and in the next four years he added 39 Colorado 14ers to the list.

Garlinghouse, who moved to Scotts Mills in 1987, was accompanied on his quest-finishing Colorado trips by climbing partners Jane Diefenbach of Washington, D.C., and Paul McClellan of Bend. Each of the trips was a venture organized by the Chemeketans, a Salem-based outdoors club.

Garlinghouse summitted seven 14ers solo, and his most prolific year was 2010, when he added 11 mountains to his list. Along the way were adventures to last a lifetime.

The lightning scare

The Garlinghouse File
Keith Garlinghouse, 50, of Scotts Mills
is a City of Salem utility engineer.

FAMILY: Wife Joyce; children Bridget,
18; Lindsey, 16; Cory, 11

LATEST ACHIEVEMENT: In August he finished
climbing all mountains of 14,000 feet
or higher in the continental United States

OTHER HOBBIES: surfing, sea kayaking,
river running, hunting, fishing, biking,
hiking, skiing


Garlinghouse and his father were on Quandary Peak near Breckenridge, Colo., when “our hair suddenly stood straight up and the metal in our packs and boots started clicking like a typewriter, indicating an approaching electrical storm. We ran off the summit and lightning struck the summit when we were about 100 feet below.”

Trial on Williamson

Garlinghouse had his scariest moments on Mt. Williamson in California. When he reached the summit with climbing partners McClellan and Rich Hinkle of  Silverton he “had difficulty breathing, was dizzy, and felt really spacy.”

On the way down Hinkle hurt his knee (an injury that eventually required surgery) and Garlinghouse’s temperature reached 105 degrees. McClellan carried Garlinghouse’s pack, and he spent one night sitting up because his lungs were filling with fluid and he heard gurgling sounds. After two days of descent the group drove to a hospital in Bishop, where Garlinghouse spent three days after being diagnosed with high-altitude pulmonary edema or HAPE, which can be fatal if not treated quickly, and the best way to deal with it is to get to a lower elevation and seek treatment as quickly as possible. “Paul McClellan saved me on that climb,” Garlinghouse said.

Favorite peak

“The best 14er in my opinion is Mt Rainier. It is a tremendous mountain that is incredibly big, amazingly beautiful and offers a wide variety of routes from simple to difficult and dangerous. We are very fortunate to live in the Northwest near this amazing mountain.” Garlinghouse has submitted the 14,411-foot peak via five different routes.

Toughest climb

Starlight Peak in the Palisade group in California. It took four attempts for Garlinghouse to summit Starlight. Twice, climbing partners experienced problems and they had to call a halt. On visit No. 3 a thunderstorm hit when they were on the summit ridge, and they had to retreat into a gully. They were successful on the fourth attempt.

“The summit of Starlight is called the ‘Milk Bottle’ because it’s a small rock monolith on top of an exposed ridge and it looks like a milk bottle,” Garlinghouse said, noting that “the summit is no larger than the seat of a kitchen chair. All the routes to the summit ridge of Starlight are long, difficult, and dangerous.”

Garlinghouse’s “day job” is as a utility engineer with the city of Salem. His wife, Joyce, teaches math at Mark Twain Middle School in Silverton. Joyce joined him on some of his college-era climbs. Daughters Bridget, 18,  has been up 11 14ers and Lindsey, 16, has scaled two. Son Cory, 11, has climbed some smaller peaks but no 14ers. Yet.

Keith Garlinghouse

Keith Garlinghouse on Temple Crag in 2005

“The trips with my kids have been an amazing experience,” Garlinghouse said. “It’s such a joy to have the opportunity to share my love of the mountains with them, to build memories together and share experiences. It’s an amazing experience to be part of their development and to see them overcome challenges, grow up, and climbing is especially suited for personal development.”

So what’s next?

“This 14er project dates back some 35 years to a childhood dream that was encouraged by (my) Dad. The fulfillment of that dream is satisfying, but it’s scary to actually fulfill it. What do you do after completing a dream?”

Garlinghouse then lists some possibilities: the Wallowa Mountains, the Elk Horn Range, the North Cascades and Olympics plus the Tetons and Wind River Ranges, and the Bugaboos in British Columbia. He said he’d “like to do as much skiing and surfing as possible.

“There is no shortage of beautiful places to visit and enjoy … only the time available to enjoy them.”

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