I’ve been climbing mountains since I was a kid. I suppose my fascination with summits began in the early 1960’s on an outing with our good family friends, the Sterks.

Phyllis Sterk and the author or the summit of Saddleback Butte, c.1960

Frank and Marion Sterk were adventurous people that lived way out there in a little place called Hi Vista in the Antelope Valley. To my brother, sister and I that was just about the edge of the earth, beyond which there be dragons.

One day in the mid ’60’s Mr. Sterk led us all to the summit of Saddleback Butte. I was about seven years old or so. As we approached the summit blocks, I raced ahead of the pack, jumped up on the top boulder and proudly proclaimed, “I AM THE FIRST ONE TO THE TOP!” Not being used to the thin air of the high desert, I got dizzy and promptly keeled over, splitting my head open on a sharp rock. I learned my lesson about pride before the fall.

I suppose the real lesson I learned was to be found in the old Buddhist exhortation: “When you reach the top of the mountain, keep climbing.”

After this ordeal Frank Sterk hunted around on the top and found a rusty tin can with a summit register and told us that most peaks had a little book for the people who climbed the mountain to sign in. I was enthralled. The idea that people did that: climbed mountains and left notes for others to read made a bigger impression on my seven year old mind than the sharp rock at the end of my boastful mishap. The fresh air, the boundless 360º vista — It was a big moment in my life.

I was hooked.

Since then I’ve climbed 406 named elevations and counting, including a majority of California’s 14,000 footers. This quest has led me and my friends to some strange and obscure corners of the world from Baja California’s Piccacho de Diablo to the Twin Sisters in Alaska’s Brooks Range. From Switzerland’s Uberrothhorn to the Sierra Nevada’s Bear Creek Spire. From Mt. Shasta to many of the high points on the offshore islands of California.

Here is a complete list:

On the Twin Sisters in The Arrigetch Peaks of the Brooks Range, Alaska. Probably about 8pm. That Wichmann’s Tower in the background. My friends Dave Jones left and Craig Stevens right.
The Twin Sisters. Climbed both summits a few days later.
First ascent of Balance Rock in the Sanra Monica Mountains
Dave Jones about ready to cross a formidable crevasse on Mt. Rainier.
Lake Tulianyo — the highest named lake in the United States — from Mount Russell
Mount Ritter. Note the high tech ice axe — a pine stick.
Spring ski trip off Tioga Pass Road. It was hard just to get up onto the snow to get started..
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