Layton Kor and the Lettuce fettish.


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Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Jul 13, 2013 - 07:34pm PT

I'm not sure anyone really knew what plagued Layton back in the
day when he went off to Texas to that "retreat" for health reasons.
We know his lungs bothered him, and of course later there was
the speculation about Valley fever. Part of the regimen in Texas
was to eat only greens, and he got to liking that program. Later
he continued to eat lettuce and carrots, and they were cheap
bivouac food at a time when none of us had much money. They filled
the belly as well as anything. When I visited him at his parents'
trailer in Boulder, on a regular basis, he always kept a large
bowl of sliced carrots and celery. I think he did this because
he believed such food gave him energy but also simply because he
had developed a taste for such things. In fact Layton was quite
secretive about it all, and I'm sure there was more to the Texas story
than meets the eye. He has revealed a few things to Cameron Burns,
who is writing a biography, but I doubt Layton ever gave anyone
the complete story. We will never have everything. One thing we
do know, and it has nothing to do with his health problems back
then, he had his first contact with the Jehovah Witnesses while in
Texas. They "bothered" him then, but they got him thinking, and those
thoughts nagged him until finally in 1968, at a time when he was
kind of struggling with life and receptive, open and, as he was,
somewhat childlike, the Witnesses were there again and quick to
gather him in. Layton's dad was a Rosy Crucian and not happy with
Layton's conversion. I remember some screaming arguments that would
die down instantly when I arrived at Layton's parents' trailer to
meet Layton to climb.... My friend Larry Dalke, who climbed a lot with
Layton in '67 and '68, and who was in his own spiritual
crisis at that time, to say the least, followed Layton right into
the faith. They both worked hard to convert me to the faith, but it
was not to be....

I think Layton has had health problems much of his life, kept well
controlled it seems in part by his voracious attitude toward life and
his big hungry spirit. The psychedelic '60s, I think, did a fair bit
of damage to most of us, not just physically but especially mentally,
and certainly Layton did not escape all that crazy stuff. I
think he found peace in a new focus, when he joined the Jehovah
Witnesses. His somewhat obsessive-compulsive personality was such
that he focused intensely on whatever he was involved
with, first climbing for many years. When he switched that focus to
his religion and to family, he gave these much of that same innocent
wild devotion. I don't think he ever really got over the lung problems.
I don't remember a climb when he did not have some kind of
coughing spell. But later in life the doctors finally realized (after
a lot of bungling and incorrect diagnoses) that he had a kidney
the size of a walnut. Such a state of affairs was putting a strain
on his whole system. Fundamental renal failure was inevitable and
probably unavoidable.

I don't know a braver person, though, than Layton,
the way he went faithfully in for dialysis. I know I could not have
stuck it out that long, or half that long, on dialysis. He
did complain a lot to me about the effects of the whole process, but
he just fought on. The doctors in Kingman were about the worst anywhere,
and only when it was too late did they discover he had some kind of
colon cancer spreading throughout his body. The prostate cancer was
controlled for the most part and of somewhat minor significance,
but that was what the doctors wanted to focus on.
They had an attitude that they wouldn't do anything along the lines
of a kidney transplant or, basically, any kind of kidney treatment
until the prostate cancer was resolved completely. The prostate cancer
would have stayed right where it was, I suspect, and not bothered him
that much, for many years, had they not let the other cancer go
unnoticed and get out of control.... These are mostly just some
random opinions of mine, but I think they're not far off. I talked
with Layton a lot about these things through the years and,
especially, the last four or so years....

Bacon? I did see him eat a little when I visited him in Kingman, but
that was just his desire to enjoy life. Not much significance beyond
that. He had to watch his salt intake, I do recall.... Layton was
always a bit of an enigma. He might eat only lettuce and carrots
at a certain moment but then load up on all sorts of junk food. There
was a fellow who lived on the hill in Boulder back when, and he was
into the yen and yang of food. I caught him one day exiting a little
drug store by the old Boulder Mountaineer, with a big package of
Oreos. He had just given me a lecture, a few days earlier, on health
and proper eating. He held those Oreos to his breast and walked away,
escaped fast from me, with the worst air of guilt about him, as I
stood there with a smile.
Bad Climber

Jul 13, 2013 - 08:09pm PT
Thanks for that, Patrick. I appreciate your insights and experiences with the great man.


Boulder climber
Jul 13, 2013 - 08:33pm PT
Very interesting, Pat. I recall writing to Layton in the early 1960s while he was at that facility. He wrote back and commented that "You can get your protein from nuts."

You, of course, remember my Ft Collins bouldering companion,1967-1970, Richard Borgman, a pommel horse gymnast. His personality was a little like Layton's - always on the go, very active and energetic. Like Layton, Rich appeared to suddenly become religious while in grad school at CSU in microbiology. He left the campus and he and his wife became missionaries, spending many years working in prison systems in Africa. They were protestant and he spoke out against the Catholic Church for years. Then, seemingly abruptly, they converted to the Catholic faith around 2006. He can now be found here, I think: Rich Borgman in Georgia.

I would be curious about other climbers who took abrupt religious turns at some points in their lives.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Jul 13, 2013 - 10:50pm PT
By the way, Brokedown (Rodger), the Yellow Wall was done in about
'62, and the winter Diamond in March '68.

Yes, John, I well remember Rich Borgman -- one of the most gifted
natural boulderers on the planet. He was so light, so flyweight,
yet had amazing ability. My memory is that he could repeat
just about anything you showed him, but he didn't do new
routes himself, i.e. first ascents. I suppose that was a
temperament thing. But it seemed he liked seeing
how a route was done first? I remember competing against him in a
gymnastic meet, when Colorado University met Colorado State University. I
was on parallel bars, he on the side horse.
Camster (Rhymes with Hamster)

Social climber
Jul 24, 2013 - 01:04am PT
john hansen

Jul 24, 2013 - 01:22am PT
What a great thread.. a few months back I started eating an apple a day for lunch with cashews,, you know,,

for protein,,

I had forgotten how good apples were.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Jul 24, 2013 - 08:34am PT
Cam, did you write that obit?

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jul 24, 2013 - 09:31am PT
The first vegan meal I was ever introduced to was at Layton's parent's place. Interestingly they were vegetarians because they followed the Rosicrucian philosophy dating back to the 1400's. Perhaps it was partially in rebellion that Layton chose a more literalist philosophy with the Jehovah's Witnesses. I do remember that we were served a couple of vegetable dishes with pecans on the top so Layton was accustomed to the virtues of eating nuts before going to the sanitarium. After dinner we watched the Ed Sullivan show introduce the Beatles to America.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Jul 24, 2013 - 10:00am PT
It doesn't get richer than this!

Social climber
Jul 24, 2013 - 10:07am PT
Layton told me that his lung problems began when he was working at a plastics plant. his job was to go into a hot oven, putting plastic items in so they could bake and removing them when they were done.

He suggested that it was the extreme temperature fluctuations that were damaging, he would run in and be out very fast, over and over, all day.

My immediate thought was it was more likely the fumes--I'll bet he had no respirator or mask or anything, and this being around 1961 there would have been little concern for work-related hazards, especially long-term hazards.

Boulder climber
Jul 24, 2013 - 07:37pm PT
Even though Layton advocated nuts for protein back then, I stuck to my daily can of tuna regimen! Served me well over the years.

The idea of subsisting on lettuce is one I can't digest.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Jul 24, 2013 - 09:11pm PT
In a related matter, Bill Denz used to take cabbages on his walls. It turns out to be a terrifically wonderful thing, eating them when you are completely parched and sunstruck.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jul 24, 2013 - 10:09pm PT
Hey jgil, what about tuna salad?

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jul 24, 2013 - 10:10pm PT
And it just occured to me that breathing plastic fumes might have damaged his kidneys also since they and the liver are the main detoxifiers.

Boulder climber
Jul 24, 2013 - 11:09pm PT
Hey jgill, what about tuna salad?

Yep. About half the time I'd concoct that. Good stuff.

Trad climber
London, England
Jul 28, 2013 - 07:38am PT
Nope, the obit in the Telegraph was not Cam's work, I did it. Hope it passes the stringent Supertopo approval process ;)

Social climber
Jul 28, 2013 - 08:53am PT
Hey, seankelly, your obit gives a very good perspective. Good work.

No mention of lettuce, though. What's up with that?
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Jul 29, 2013 - 12:08am PT
As often as I climbed with Layton, and probably as often or
more than anyone, I never saw him eat nuts. He ate peanut butter,
though, mountains of it. I remember the drive to the Black Canyon
and how he had me making peanut butter sandwiches again and again,
each of which he consumed in a few big fast quick bites. I
couldn't keep up.

John, you may remember Royal talking about how tuna became a
Yosemite staple. I didn't like it, only because the oil got on
my fingers and made climbing more slippery and dangerous.

Jan, that's the first use I've heard of the word "sanitarium." Wasn't
it something else?

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
Jul 29, 2013 - 09:54am PT

I believe it's the spelling; should be sanatorium; with an "o" instead of an "a." Sanatoriums were normally for tuberculosis and respiratory problems; Sanatariums were for the mentally ill....

Social climber
Dalian, Liaoning
Jul 29, 2013 - 10:00am PT
Sanatorium and sanitarium mean the same thing.
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