By: George Hubbard & Gene Mauk
After some 20 years of Sierra climbing, the appointed day arrived for Gene and me to lead our final peak on the list together. Having touted it as such in the schedule (with the teaser of many goodies at the post-climb bash), it was no surprise to us that 45 climbers showed up for the climb and 15 more for the party. After a half hour sign-in and waiver signing ceremony, we started up the Alta Peak trail from the Wolverton parking area at 8:30 AM. Our concern about impending rain from residuals of a storm (I encountered snow on the road driving in late afternoon the day before!) readily vanished as the stormy conditions of early morning gave way to clearing skies as the day progressed.
The climb up the trail was routine and quite comfortable as old friendships were renewed and new ones formed. Upon attaining Panther Gap, we were presented with an outstanding view of the high peaks of the Great Western Divide, enhanced by a veneer of new snow against a background of deep blue sky interspersed with big fluffy clouds. After taking it all in for 20 minutes we proceeded along the ridge, enjoying the superb views continuously. The drama built as Gene and I decided at the 2 mile to go point that we would have our final rest stop at a point 10 minutes below the summit and lead together the rest of the way (after appointing 15 duly qualified rear leaders, of course!).
I was surprised that after beginning the final portion that neither Gene nor I felt any great sense of accomplishment; I remarked to him that it was like a denouement after all the adversity we had experienced earlier in the summer in our efforts .to meet our deadline. However, we had vastly underestimated what was to come as relatively flat feelings gave way to an ever increasing sense of elation. To wit: as we approached the base of the summit block (actually, the summit platform, enough for 45 people!) we were greeted by mountain legends Doug Mantle and Duane McRuer who had unfurled a banner reading "Congratulations George and Gene'' that Evelyn DeChantillon had provided. At that point Gene and I stopped for a round of picture taking and solicitation of many climbers that helped us reach our goal over the years to join us in our final march to the summit. Carrying the banner, we finally arrived, arm in arm, to our long sought after goal at 12:45 PM.
The REAL fun began as round after round of hugs, kisses, and handshaking were intermingled with the satisfying sound of corks popping and the bubbly pouring. Our special event was well documented with uncountable photographs from what seemed to be 45 photographers. A special highlight was Pete Yamagata presenting us with a newspaper headline reading "Hubbard and Mauk Finish SPS List''. In 20 years of climbing, I have never felt more warmth and affection than I did at that moment from the many friends of long standing that I have climbed with over the years. Even more importantly, the feelings I experienced clarified for me why I climb: mainly because of the PEOPLE, with climbing as a means to an end. Consulting with Gene after the climb, he also experienced similar feelings.
We all enjoyed 1-1/2 hours of leisurely eating, imbibing six bottles of champagne and a few soft drinks, as well as every possible combination of group picture taking of the many elite climbers present: SPS list finishers, triple list finishers, former SPS chair- men, and the most exalted of all, former SPS chairmen AND triple list finishers: Bill T. Russell, Duane McRuer, and Doug Mantle. After Gene led all but about 2 from the summit area, I finally started down, not wanting to let go of this special moment in my life.
The descent was routine with all arriving back at camp by 5:00 PM. Even though group campsites were not available, John Secor and Doug Mantle had each obtained 6 campsites together so that we were all able to congregate in a single area. It was a good thing, because the spread of culinary delights filled at least 6 camp-tables! For those of you that missed it: the Holleman's provided turkey, Dave Dykeman brought forth BBQ ribs, Duane McRuer and Doug Mantle (who else?) spread around liver pete and caviar, John Gibba spoiled everyone with fresh strawberries and ice cream, as well as table cloths and firewood. Other entrees included shrimp, chili, and many wonderful desserts. Of the many list finishing parties that Gene and I have been to over the years, this potluck was the best! After dinner, both Gene and I were presented with some great unexpected gifts and testimonials that we will never forget: a bottle of Dom Perignon each from Doug and Duane, a huge blowup photo of me that was signed by many from my long time friends from work, Dave Michels, a wonderful calligraphy summarizing my mountaineering activities from my climbing companion Evelyn DeChantillon, a personally embroidered shirt to Gene from his daughter Cindy White, bottles of wine and ''NASA approved'' win cooler from Mike Manchester and Vi Grasso, and finally an PIPS shirt from Patty Kline, who was a bridesmaid at my wedding in 1966.
Speaking for both Gene and me (he reviewed this write-up before publication), this day was the highlight of our mountaineering experiences and made all the hard work of prior ascents seem worthwhile. We were especially gratified that both our families were there to share our special time with us and to meet our many wonderful friends. Thanks to all who participated for making this day one that will be the source of warm memories for many years to come - it was truly our "Altamite" experience! --George
George's words describe the climb and festivities beautifully. I just want to emphasize that I, too, was deeply moved by the genuine friendship and camaraderie shown by all who joined us. That so many people would give so much of themselves to make it such a wonderful occasion is mind boggling. Thank you all very much. --Gene
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