n July 8, 1990, Jeff and I completed our father/son project to climb the 50 state highpoints. For the finale, Mauna Kea, HI, we concocted something special: the first (as far as we know) sea-to-summit climb up the north side of Mauna Kea - all 13,796 vertical feet in one day.
At about 3:30am we touched our boots into the surf at Koholalele Landing on the northeast coast of Hawaii, and set a fairly direct course to the summit. (It was low tide, so maybe we went up 13,800 feet.) The trails/jeep tracks we followed faded away above 8000 feet, and the last 6000 feet we picked a route through the volcanic cones that characterize the upper slopes of Mauna Kea. At about 7pm we set foot on the summit, exhausted but exhilarated at completing the 50 in grand style.
Whether or not our sea-to-summit day on Mauna Kea was a first, this climb did set several other firsts:
the first father/son team to complete the 50 state highpoints
the first person (Jeff) under the age of 22 to climb all 50 (and the youngest completer at the time)
the first person (Jerry) to climb all 50 over the age of 50 (though by no means the oldest to complete the 50); I had climbed Katahdin (ME), Marcy (NY), and Guadalupe (TX) under the age of 50, so had to reclimb those in order to claim all 50 over 50.
This project, though we didn't know it would be a project at the time, started on Dec 29, 1987 with a winter climb of Mt Washington (NH). The next month we visited our neighboring state and scaled the ice-covered cliffs on the north side of Magazine Mtn (AR). In February I climbed a couple of highpoints in the south in connection with business trips. Then in March another business trip took me to California, just at the time of Jeff's spring break, and we climbed a snow-covered Mt Whitney. Those were all tremendously satisfying climbs, and all turned out to be state highpoints. As we savored these results over dinner one evening in late March, the All 50 Project was launched.
A peak-bagging frenzy ensued. We climbed at every opportunity, and together as much as possible. But we were in different parts of the country (Oklahoma for me, upstate New York for Jeff), both with busy schedules (work for me, school for Jeff), and therefore we climbed many of the highpoints separately; many of my climbs were in conjunction with business trips. It was fun to climb together, but also fun to compare notes on the others. In April of 1988 I established a personal goal of averaging two highpoints per month for the year, with a peak-of-the-week pace in the summer. The net result of these two initiatives was 31 highpoints in 1988.
In late spring of 1988 we began laying plans for climbing Denali (AK), the continental highpoint and a major expedition, in the spring of 1989. We put together our own Denali expedition, with the South Buttress as our intended route (our expedition name was the South Buttress Ridge Runners). However, heavy serac avalanche activity knocked us off that route (almost wiping us out in the process) and we resorted to the standard West Buttress route. We summited Denali, in rather good form actually, on a beautiful June 6, 1989.
Despite our success on Denali, we were disappointed that we hadn't succeeded on the South Buttress, as we had come to favor nonstandard routes. Some of the best of these were the Fuehrer Finger on Mt Rainier (WA), the north face of the Gannett Glacier (WY), and the northwest ridge of Boundary (NV), and of course the sea-to-summit day on Mauna Kea. Nonstandard routes can spice up otherwise relatively uninteresting highpoints, such as the north cliffs of Magazine (AR), the northern approach to Driskill (LA), the eastern approach to Spruce Knob (WV).
While Jeff and I didn't climb all of the state highpoints together, we started, finished, and planned together; we also climbed most of the "hard" ones together. So it was very much a father/son project, just as a decade earlier climbing the ADK 46 (New York's 46 peaks above 4000 feet in the Adirondacks) was a family project. What a super project climbing the 50 state highpoints is, especially as the father half of a father/son team - certainly a high point in my life.