Tom Gerughty RIP


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Social climber
Reno, NV
Sep 2, 2013 - 09:14pm PT
T. Charles

The truth be known, T. Charles has not been with us for some time. But when he was with us, it was a wonderful time. Even in the best of days, he was a little vague and you sometimes wondered where his mind had been.
He used to bring a case of canned tuna to Camp 4, that he ate out of the can—after removing the oil—with garlic red wine vinegar. I ate it too, and still do, when nobody is looking. I remember that he and Valerie ate Pream straight out of the bottle. They sat at a picnic table with a spoon between them.
We used to drive around Joshua Tree in his ford falcon station wagon, one or another of us on the roof. Sometimes in daylight, and other times at night. We used to bloody our hands in jam cracks. In those days, nobody taped.
Every fall, T. Charles would purchase a couple of pairs of Levis and some white t-shirts, and he would go back to school in San Jose. Nucular Engineering, he called it. It took him months every year to recover from school, but he was always in great shape by September.
T. Charles had the thickest hair of anyone I ever met, and running your hand through it was like stroking a Yosemite Bear.
On occasion, Valerie would force him to write an actual letter. His most recent love was Point Reyes. We were going to join him there some day, but we didn’t.
We loved him and we miss him.

M. Peter.

Trad climber
Ketchum, Idaho
Sep 2, 2013 - 09:55pm PT
I spent a lot of time with Tom in Tuolumne and found him a fine mix of high intelligence, spaciness, good intention and friendliness. I liked him a great deal. My condolences to his family and friends. RIP
j. Gerughty

Social climber
Sep 3, 2013 - 01:05am PT
It is wonderful to see the posts about my eldest brother Tommy. He had been very sick with congestive heart failure the last 5 years - probably longer.
When our father was alive, we did not know how ill Tommy was. My brother David and I took care of him after our father passed. He became slightly more social. He was always kind, thoughtful,generous,stubbornly independent and interested in talking about travel and academics. When he recovered, he wanted to do a family river trip in the Grand Canyon. He often mentioned Gail and his climbing friends. We will do a memorial of some kind next month or so TBA. He will be cremated on the 5th and his name will be on a memorial wall at Cypress Lawn. I have been on the phone with Gail and she said she would help make contact with those who might wish to attend the memorial. I would really like more info on his climbing days, his accomplishments etc. I am sure those climbing days were the best part of his life. My email is
The Warbler

the edge of America
Sep 3, 2013 - 01:10am PT
I only have a few memories of him - all good.

A friendly, gentle character, and one of the boys.

2 l l

Sport climber
Rancho Verga, CA
Sep 3, 2013 - 01:34am PT
Amazing photos, Ken -- Thanks.

Mountain climber
Olympia, WA
Sep 3, 2013 - 02:52am PT
Tom will always stand tall as an icon of mountaineering for me. From the YMS tent at the TM Lodge in the late 1960's, Tom lead me and my buddy up on an overnight accent of Mt. Lyell that has forever changed my perspective of climbing, mountaineering, and wilderness travel. For about $30, Tom was assigned to lead two young teenagers up Mt. Lyell. Tom took the job seriously, but soon transformed our outing from an expedition into a super-adventure free of any regiment or rules (besides safety). Before I knew it, Tom Gerughty showed me alternatives to mainstream backpacking food, campsite location, and climbing etiquette and attitude. Tom's teachings on that simple trip affirmed and built on my earlier teachings from my dad, my uncle, Axe Nelson, Fossil Climber, and others about the lure and mystique that makes our love for our sport a passion and way of life. Thank you Tom Gerughty for the gifts you gave me on those few simple days together.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Sep 3, 2013 - 06:42am PT
Thinking of how smart Garooty was and how his Gail Friend loved to listen to what everybody knew was nowhere.

God rest ye Gherry mental man.

Gail played this tape in the Mtn. Shop constant, non-stop in the summer of '71.

"What's it like up there, T? Everybody wants to know."

Slab Happy Pinnacle.  The Dihardral.
Slab Happy Pinnacle. The Dihardral.
Credit: Tommy L/Mtnrproject
East Ledges Area
Slab happy Pinnacle—The Dihardral
III, 5.10. Tom Frost and Royal Robbins, May 1961. This severe route, which lies in the corner forming the right side of the slab, was climbed without direct aid in August 1964 by Frannk Sacherer and Tom Gerughty....Hardware: 15 pitons, up to 2 1/2”.
--1971 Green Guide, $6.95.

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Sep 3, 2013 - 06:50am PT
Thanks to all for honoring what sounds like a very fine man. He has left behind some legacies.....none more important than the lives he touched.

Climb on, Tom....

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 3, 2013 - 09:24am PT
Didn't really know Tom, met him once or twice in Camp 4. So very sorry to hear about his troubles and early death. Life can be so tough, I hope that he found some solace in his later years.

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Sep 3, 2013 - 11:23am PT
I remember sitting in the Lodge cafeteria listening to his re-counting of the jumar/Nose mishap. He most likely caused a lot of us to use a backup when jumaring.
A friendly, happy, positive force on the climbing scene.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Sep 3, 2013 - 12:28pm PT
So awesome how all the right people come out of the woodwork for certain threads.

His eyes are really telling stories in that first picture.

It sounds like he made some really positive impact, even with serious challenges in his life.

Off belay, belay off.
Anne-Marie Rizzi

Sep 3, 2013 - 01:29pm PT
I have fond memories of Tom.
Condolences to his loved ones.

Anne-Marie Rizzi

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Sep 3, 2013 - 01:37pm PT
He was a good friend, and took me climbing a couple of times when I worked at TML 1968-72. He told me about the fall on El Cap where he shredded his hands, and also the early adventures, when, as a frightened, (somewhat pudgy at first, he told me!)neophye climber, Sacherer would yell at him, "Come on you Chicken S, get your ass moving" or words to that effect. He had his demons, I guess, but the good side of him, what a wonderful, sweet guy.

Ice climber
mogollon rim
Sep 3, 2013 - 01:44pm PT
tom was an instructor for Ysm in summer 71?
my father had me takin climbing lessons there after a sierra trip with the scouts culminated in the meadows. Gerughty was our instructor at the puppy dome. After that summer they trusted me not to be killin myself.
always wondered what happened to him.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 3, 2013 - 02:56pm PT
Credit: Mouser edit Haan

Trad climber
Sep 3, 2013 - 03:17pm PT
Didn't know him, but echoing what survival wrote, there are some nice posts and pics on this thread from people who knew Tom and cared about him.

Social climber
An Oil Field
Sep 3, 2013 - 03:30pm PT
I wish that I had known him. I have a special place in my heart for those who suffer from mental illness. The stigma attached is awful, and often they suffer alone.

Man. Zipping down a rope sounds pretty hairy.


Trad climber
Fresno CA
Sep 3, 2013 - 04:33pm PT
I wish that I had known him. I have a special place in my heart for those who suffer from mental illness. The stigma attached is awful, and often they suffer alone.

BASE104, you express my feelings, too. As someone who has suffered and recovered from severe depression, but not alone, I wonder how many other climbers suffer from mental illness, and how many don't have the support I did.

In any case, this is very sad news to me. Like Warbler, I barely got a chance to meet him, but he was someone easy to like. It's meaningless to say we've lost too many, but I'll say it anyway. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.


Chris Jones

Social climber
Glen Ellen, CA
Sep 3, 2013 - 08:04pm PT
Tom was the most likable guy. In the spring of 1967 I quit my job and moved to camp 4. An expatriate English bloke with an uncertain future, I was welcomed by Tom and his circle of friends. The weather was pretty bad, so much time was spent hunkered down in camp - as Ken's wonderful photos attest. Tom had the most engaging laugh, was interesting to talk to, and on top of that was a damn good climber. We were lucky to know him.
Dick Erb

June Lake, CA
Sep 4, 2013 - 12:18pm PT
Arriving home after work near Seattle one day, I pulled the mail out of the mailbox, and there was a 9x12 brown envelope over an inch thick from Tom Gerughty. I was alive with wonder as I carried the package into the house. I hadn't seen Tom for years. Pulling the contents out of the package I found mostly photo copies of various newspaper articles as well as messages from Tom. He wrote that he had been working at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, and if I remember correctly one of his responsibilities was inspection. It seems he found many things that had been done wrong and covered up. He raised the alarm but didn't get the response he expected, and not long after he found his mind becoming overwhelmingly strange and thought he had been slipped some drugs, maybe LSD. (Tom had never gotten into the popular drugs of the day.) From there he went on to describe what followed which could be interpreted as frightening events or serious paranoia.

I found out that a number of my California climbing friends had received similar packages and most thought that these bizarre stories he told were the result of Tom losing his mind on his own, but there were others who agreed with Tom that foul play brought about the changes in his consciousness.
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