On an average day, Ken Curtis will most likely be in his office in Valencia at B&B Manufacturing, where he works as an engineering manager. When he leaves the technology and plane parts behind, Curtis heads home to be with his wife of 29 years, Amy. On the weekends, he answers his phone only after completing some landscape work in his backyard and he enjoys watching the occasional Dodgers game.
At first appearance he is a well put together family man with an established career, but if you take a closer look, you will see that he is holding a list of elevations and mountain names. Curtis has spent the last 10 years climbing the highest points throughout the United States, logging every peak and high point of each state, also known as "peak bagging". According to Summitpost.org, only 273 people are recorded to have reached the highest points in all 50 states in America and Curtis hopes to join them.
In 2007, Curtis received an invitation to summit Mount Whitney, the tallest point in California, from the vice president of B&B Manufacturing.That climb would become his first "bagged" peak and he has been climbing state high points ever since. "The president and vice president of the company have been on the top of a few of these state high points with me," said Curtis when expressing how supportive his work colleagues have been of his peak bagging.
From Britton Hill in Florida, the lowest of the 50, to Denali in Alaska the highest point in North America, Curtis has climbed 49 of them. However, not every climb has been a walk in the park. Curtis recalls of a time when he was forced to descend after climbing in elevation too quickly and began to develop a high altitude pulmonary edema, or HAPE, an altitude sickness that can be deadly if not immediately treated.
Other times, Curtis has turned back from his attempts to summit because of bad weather or if something "didn’t feel right." Part of the reason his wife fully supports the endeavor is because she can be sure he will walk away from a risky situation, a necessary ability for all mountain climbers.
On February 27, 2018, his 50th birthday, Curtis will attempt to summit Mauna Kea, the highest point in Hawaii – the final state on the list. He hopes to complete his 10 year mission at elevation 13,802, the highest point in Hawaii with friends and family by his side. Curtis will hike up six miles and ascend 4500 feet on Mauna Kea and expects it to take four hours.
"I'm hoping that the weather is such that my wife and kids are able to meet me on the summit, they'll just drive up there and meet me when I get to the top," said Curtis.
While he does not have a plan on what to do next once he has bagged all 50 high points in the United States, he is toying with the idea of completing the "Seven Summits" of which includes the tallest mountain in the world- Mount Everest.
Reprinted from The Santa Clarita Valley Signal