Tom Gerughty RIP


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Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 2, 2013 - 01:35pm PT
Apparently Tom passed away on Aug 26. I have not seen Tom for many years but we shared some memorable times together in the Valley and Meadows in the 60s. Superb climber and photographer and always fun to be with.

Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 2, 2013 - 02:10pm PT
This is news to me, Joe. Higgins and I had made a number of attempts to see him over recent years, having no clue what condition he might have been in. We thought he was living in the house in San Francisco on California St, not answering his phone or responding to his mail. Was he 66 or 67?

He and I were very good friends 1970-1971. He was living in the Valley, working for Ansel in the lab and helping also with the seminars the Studio would have, say with Uelsmann and Caponigro, for example. In his own right, he was a marvelous nature photographer, worked in 2-1/4 format. His background was nuclear engineering and so after some years, he was working at Mare Island where the nuke submarines were stationed. His longtime girlfriend Gail was a Best (as in Studio), I believe, and stuck with him for many years as his life worsened.

He is often recalled for his two scary-assed experiences: leading the FA of Pywiack Dome, "Dike Route" unable to descend, barely able to proceed, horrified and young. The other event was his accident on the Nose when his prussiks failed somehow, sending him sliding down the fixed line while he tried to stop his rapid and frightening descent with his bare hands. I am not sure he ever got over that experience and his hands were deeply scared from it. He came to a stop when he reached the end of the rope to find he had earlier tied into it and had been safe the whole time. Perhaps symbolic for him, as life went on later.
Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
Sep 2, 2013 - 02:47pm PT
Tom worked as a guide for YMS for a time, and beside his talents was always a lot of fun. Sure sorry to see him go.

As of a year or two ago, Gail - a fine artist and person - was well and teaching ceramics at a college in CA.
Eric Beck

Sport climber
Bishop, California
Sep 2, 2013 - 03:29pm PT
Tom was my partner for the Steck - Salathe and Leaning Tower. He had the flared chimney below the Narrows and went right up it. I thought that this was easily the hardest pitch on the route.

He, Mike Cohen, and I did an ascent of the Apron, Coonard, Oasis, and the seldom climbed Hinterland.

Social climber
Butterfly Town
Sep 2, 2013 - 03:37pm PT
I spent a lot of time with Tom Gerughty in the Valley and Tuolumne. He'd come up to Yosemite in his Ford sedan loaded with camping and climbing gear and an inevitable case of albacore tuna packed in water which he guarded jealously, saying that it had to last him all summer. Yet he was generous of spirit, friendly, with an easy laugh and a great sense of humor.

He had an especially loose and well-built pair of shoulders which he'd show off in amusing, amazing ways rather like a contortionist.

He was the recipient of one of Frank Sacherer's famous statements when following one of Frank's difficult leads, "Get off the bolt, Gerughty!" when he was resting out of sight of Frank. Yet Frank knew from the momentary lack of struggle from below, that Tom had taken a rest using the aid of a protection bolt.

Tom and I did the second ascent of the Kor-Fredricks route on Sentinel, and we really enjoyed that climb as well as each other as climbing partners.

The last time I saw him, I think, was in Tuolumne in 1969 when Norman Clyde, Sheridan Anderson, and I were sharing a campsite in the old Sierra Club campground near Soda Springs. Both Tom and I took advantage of the opportunity to photograph the two of them.

I wonder what became of Tom's photos from that evening. Would Gail Ritchie, Tom's long-term girl friend, know?

I remember Gail from several of her visits to Yosemite; she was always a friendly and lovely addition to our small social circle in C4.

I think it was Eric Beck or Chuck Pratt that started the idea of calling us by our first initials, followed by our middle and last names. Thus, Tom became T. Charles Gerughty, and Pratt became C. Marshall Pratt. Tom was an advocate of that practice.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 2, 2013 - 04:28pm PT

Sonoma, CA
Sep 2, 2013 - 04:28pm PT
The photo at the top was sent to me by email by Gail Ritchie. Her notation was that it was taken on the face of Half Dome. I have offered to restore the photo for her. Does anyone know who the photographer was or what the date was?
He was born 10-10-1946 and was 66 when he passed away, far too young. The photo of him photographing Norman Clyde is priceless! Debby and I lived in the "6th Ave delicatessen & commune" in the late 60's, and it was owned by Nick Colapietro, Tom's uncle, who didn't mind renting to "hippies and climbers" Sheridan Anderson and his girl friend also lived there. Later, Gail Ritchie also lived there.
I am attaching two photos I have of Tom climbing, taken in 1967.[photoid=319245]

Sonoma, CA
Sep 2, 2013 - 04:31pm PT
Oops! One of the photos did not post. I'll try again
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 2, 2013 - 04:33pm PT
Riley....Tom slowly slipped away from us. Many were very fond of him in many ways too and for decades, so when his paranoid schizophrenia grew extreme enough and overtook him, he was trapped behind this wall beyond help. For awhile he wrote a few of us these crazy and dismaying letters from "there". These were in the Seventies. He would write how he was hounded by men gesturing to him "in a yellow manner" from street corners and elsewhere. And plenty more of this sort of thing and always quite elaborate. Heartbreaking.
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Sep 2, 2013 - 04:39pm PT
Condolences to all his family and friends.

The Dike route is a great line and that story of his lead is a classic. The first ascent was a large adventure on small holds.


Ice climber
Soon 2B in Arizona
Sep 2, 2013 - 04:41pm PT
The photo of him photographing Norman Clyde is priceless!


sorry to hear of his problems, and ultimate passing.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 2, 2013 - 04:50pm PT
Tom G. was with us on the first two El Cap rescues July and October 1970.

I remember him stating to us in worried tones, "Friction goes up hyperbolically to the radius of the rounded edge" in the general chaos of the SAR situation, many talking, few hearing him, nearly everyone at task with something or other in the mobilizing situation on the very edge of the great stone.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 2, 2013 - 04:52pm PT
I recollect somehow that the prussik accident was on the Nose, with Covington, and Tom was using Jumars. Attempting to use them for a lateral traverse? His hands were a mess.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Sep 2, 2013 - 05:23pm PT
It is surprising and sad how many talented and likeable people lose touch with reality. Sounds like he might have been bi-polar. RIP

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
Sep 2, 2013 - 05:28pm PT
Johnny Bachar just scored a partner and spotter.

Rest in peace, Tom. God bless you!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Sep 2, 2013 - 05:33pm PT
From another thread:

Dick Erb

June Lake, CA

Topic Author's Reply - Dec 9, 2009 - 08:55pm PT
In Tom Gerughty's accident, he was jumaring up the rope with them right side up. He arrived at a carabiner where the rope beyond it was horizontal. He unclipped the top jumar from below the biner and reclipped it above. He did not however push the bottom of it into alignment with the rope and the cam did not fully engage. He then unclipped the lower jumar and the uppper one popped off. He fell to the end of the rope to which he was tied.

Mountain climber
honeoye falls,ny.greeneck alleghenys
Sep 2, 2013 - 05:36pm PT
Bless Mr.Gerughty

That was my mothers maiden name,spelled the same.
Do any know where he was from?
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 2, 2013 - 06:22pm PT
Wilbeer, I think just SF

Trad climber
Sep 2, 2013 - 08:06pm PT
Anyone know the circumstances of his death or if any memorial is planned? I remember Tom for his quiet but keen passion for the mountains and nature. He and I did the first ascent of The Vision, Phobos and Demios. He paused on descent of The Vision to point out the shining glacier polish and view west, his eye always going to beauty. We both were shamed into good off width by masters of the day, Bridwell in my case, Sacherer in his case. So we shared tales of woe.

In time, it became clear Tom was suffering from mental illness as I and wife Nancy had him for dinner in the early 80s. He did send a Christmas card every year but did not respond to notes or calls in the last many years. I only hope he was in touch with his family throughout.

Thanks to all for posting pictures bringing his youthful days back to us. He was a good soul I will remember especially in my Tuolumne rambles where other good ghosts also now roam.

Tom Higgins

Trad climber
Sep 2, 2013 - 08:12pm PT
great photos, boo dawg.

and i love those two restored shots.

condolences to the friends and family-- i didn't know him, just the stories.

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