Gerry Roach is one of the most incredible mountaineers in history. He has climbed everything except the rock pile outside your bedroom window -- and he would if you gave him the address. He is 61 and maintains the spirit of a 16-year-old. Although he is starting to write about his adventures -- and talk about them too -- he is seeking new ones.
Roach, a software engineer from Boulder, Colo., is the author of a new, autobiographical book, "Transcendent Summits: One Climber's Route to Self-Discovery."
The point of the book -- Roach's first narrative after penning guidebooks -- is obvious once the cover is cracked, and soon became apparent in a recent interview.
"To keep the love for a lifetime," Roach said.
Roach was one of the first mountaineers to climb the seven summits, the highest peaks on the seven continents. He has climbed all 55 of Colorado's recognized 14,000-foot peaks and was the first climber to ascend the 10 tallest mountains in North America. Most mountaineers can't name them.
"I've been climbing for 50 years," Roach said. "It's a little scary. I've gone through generations of climbing partners. The spiritual aspects have kept me in the game so long."
Roach's book covers his climbing roots in the 1950s through 1964. It is planned as the first installment in an autobiographical series.
The early stages of the book explain how Roach and his best friend sneaked out of their houses after dark to make rock climbs. Then he touches on his problems being accepted by adult climbers and nurtured by others. Then he reviews special climbs, his transcendent summits, marking his spiritual development and precepts for life.
It is well known Mount McKinley, at 20,320 feet, is the tallest point in North America. Less publicized are Mount Logan in Canada's Yukon, No. 2 at 19,551 feet, and Orizaba in Mexico, No. 3 at 18,695.
Roach offered striking description of his approach to the summit of Orizaba while he was still in high school.
"In addition to the labor of love, there were ever-expanding views, and I paused to ponder," he wrote. "The lower world fell away until it was no longer recognizable as a place of cities, cars, churches, bases, bombs, bands, boats, pets, plazas, paintings, or other people-made things. The human world diminished, and the land took over. What I looked down on was simply Earth -- the land of sunrise, sunset, sky, air, rocks, roots, rain, soil, snow, clouds, couloirs, trees, lightning, thunder, volcanoes, mountains, shores, slabs, tides, water, sand ice, storms, rivers, avalanches, fog, forests, animals, people, and all things God made."
Roach was caught in a life-threatening blizzard with a group near the summit of 14,410-foot Mount Rainier near Seattle.
He wrote: "Death. Stinging death. I pulled myself farther out to be sure. Death! The storm raged worse than yesterday, and the lashing wind froze me instantly. Now, I smelled the fourth color. The color was death, and it tugged at my weakness. No! I didn't have time to bleed or die, and I certainly had no energy to cry, since my tears would have frozen anyway. I slipped down and swam back into the cave as new drift snow poured in all around me."
Roach joked that once after giving a talk on ascending the 10 highest peaks on the continent, someone said, "Boy, you made it sound easy."
Not even Roach would contend it all has been easy, but he will say it all has been fun or challenging.