Singlaub joins elite mountaineering list
Call him Mr. 138.
John Singlaub, Zephyr Cove resident and executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, on July 5 became the 138th man in the world to climb the highest points in each of the 50 states.
From the scary-even-for-a-professional, three-week race against the elements to the top of Denali, Alaska., to a day hike up Mt. Driscoll, La., where he was greeted on the trailhead at dusk by two rare black foxes, Singlaub’s journey to see America from atop each “high point” began almost four decades ago. Aug. 16, 1968 to be exact.
“My grandfather drove me and my parents to Brasstown Bald, Ga., part of a relaxing drive through the country near their Mountain City home,” Singlaub, 54, wrote in his journal. “My father had just returned from Vietnam. I had just graduated from high school in northern Virginia. My grandfather took a picture of us with the Brasstown Bald tower in the background, and recorded the event in his diary, which he maintained meticulously for 47 years.”
Two decades went by before Singlaub was to attempt his next climb. After being relocated to Colorado for work, he was inspired once again to climb mountains that surrounded him.
“It wasn’t a mission at first,” Singlaub said. “I just got to 10 high points when I decided to do all of them.”
High points, Singlaub noted, are not necessarily the highest mountaintops.
“It is what it sounds like, the highest point in every state,” Singlaub explained. “In Nevada, for example, the highest point is the side of Montgomery Peak – a California mountain. The highest (Nevada) Mountain is Wheeler Peak. The only other state like that is Connecticut. It’s a funny thing that not quite everyone understands.”
Another thing people might not “get right away” is that the technical difficulty of climbing a Denali or a Mount Ranier in Washington state was not the most insuperable part of Singlaub’s journey. The real obstacle in many cases he noted was simply gaining access to the peaks themselves.
“Some of these places are on private land,” Singlaub said. “So, you’ve got to time it right. If you miss your window, it’s another year wait.”
Singlaub’s 49th peak, Jerimoth Hill, R.I., is only open for climbing on Sundays of federal three-day weekends. This is why he made his ascent up that high point on Sunday, July 3, just two days before he was scheduled to climb his 50th and final peak, Mount Katahdin, Maine.
It was for the final ascent that Singlaub “ended the journey the way it started – as a family affair.” Wife Katy, Washoe County manager, as well as son Niki, 30, from Bend, Ore., and daughter Aneka, 26, from the Lake Tahoe Basin made the final ascent as a family.
But, by the end of the day, Singlaub’s reflection was specifically on that first climb so many years ago.
“I guess when you come to the end, or literally the peak, of a climbing experience you want to be surrounded by the people you love most whether they’re there in person or not,” Singlaub said. “I was lucky enough to have both.”
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