John Childrey

Climbing Mountains with John Roper as Experienced by John Childrey

The first mountain I climbed with John was in 1996; this one was an actual mountain following our class reunion. I had traveled to Seattle to stay with Karen, Aaron and John. John took me to an early hydroelectric power station east of Seattle and then the mountain. At least he called it a mountain peak, and he awarded me my first Washington peak! I am still dubious since my notion of mountaineering is hanging over a vertical cliff and having the rope sever .... Well, no need to embellish too much on this sport of John's; he's made it another year.

Actually, I suspect, the story begins sometime in the summer of 1958. John is hurling from the altitude of a pitcher's mound. I looked at that fast ball heading, literally heading, toward me with as much fear and trembling as any rope climber sailing downward, seeing the ground approaching at 32 ft/sec/sec. I don't remember ever hitting one of John's pitches. Babe Ruth League was a monumental mountain for a newly discovered nearsighted kid from the east. I also thought the mosquitos in New Halem were twice the size of their Concrete cousins and the baseballs were about half the size.

But John and I were generally amiable competitors in other sports as well. There were academic peaks we vied for: who had the better score on this test or that. Those were such important mountains to climb in our teens. The academic scaling made easier by the competition with each other and others, like Tim Roetman, Jim Thomson, Sue Soder - and still others listed in the 1959 Yanica.

John allowed me to tell about his mountaineering experiences in an academic presentation in California a while back, and provided me and my audience with photographs of Jack Karouac's fire lookout mountain in the Cascades. These are the kind of literary peaks I've chosen, and while I admire and wonder at the physical nature of the peaks John's hiked and climbed, I marvel at the lives he heals, the pain he eases.