Island climber scales Everest

Garrett Madison celebrates atop Mount Everest on May 21. - Photo courtesy of Mountain Link
Garrett Madison celebrates atop Mount Everest on May 21.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Mountain Link

Rainier, McKinley, Mount Blanc and now the world’s tallest.

Bainbridge Island is about five miles wide.

Turn it on its side so Restoration Point scrapes the clouds, and “Mount Bainbridge” would still be nearly 3,000 feet stubbier than Mount Everest.

A Bainbridge climber is the newest member of a small fraternity of islanders who have summited Everest, the world’s tallest mountain at 29,028 feet.

Garrett Madison, 27, reached the top of the world May 21 as part of an expedition that included three other guides and five sherpas.

Madison works as a climbing guide for Mountain Link, an international mountaineering service based in Bend, Ore.

“Were very proud of him,” said his mother, islander Mary Madison. “Of course you spend some days holding all thoughts, hoping he’s safe. I always feel better when I know he’s on his way back down.”

After descending Everest, Garrett Madison and the rest of the group were in Kathmandu at midweek awaiting a flight home.

Though unavailable for comment, Madison summed up his experience in an online journal.

“As seasoned climbing professionals we are reminded today that Everest truly is still a great mountaineering challenge, to be regarded with the utmost respect from anyone daring enough to attempt her summit,” he said.

Mountain Link chronicled the climbers’ journey online; details, pictures and videos of the expedition are available at

Madison graduated from Bain­bridge Island High School in 1997 and went on to earn an English degree from Western Washington University.

He first summited Mount Rainier with his father Chris at 16, quickly took to the sport and became a climbing guide during summers while away at college.

His climbing resume includes 92 summits of Mount Rainier, three expeditions to Mount McKinley in Alaska, four ascents of Mount Blanc in France and a crevasse full of climbs all over the globe, from Argentina to Tibet.

But no climb, according to fellow islander and expert scaler Ed Viesturs, equals Mount Everest.

Viesturs, who has been to Everest 10 times and summited six, said the mountain is the most difficult climb he’s ever faced.

“There are so many things that can go wrong,” he said. “As you get closer to the top the air is thinner, it’s colder and steeper, and by the time you get there you’re as tired as you’ve been the whole trip.

“That’s when you have to be the most focused, determined and strong.”

There are two main routes used by climbers – the southeast ridge, on the Nepal side of the mountain, and the northeast ridge from Tibet.

Madison’s team chose the former, and reached the summit nearly two months to the day after the trip began.

Nearly 2,000 people had summited Everest by the end of 2003 according to, and 179 people have died trying.

As for islanders who’ve snorted the razor-thin Everest air, Viesturs – who holds the distinction of climbing all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks – knows of none besides himself and Madison.

“There may be some that I don’t know about,” he said. “But as far as I know, it’s just he and I.”

Mary Madison expects her son to return to Seattle this weekend. He’ll likely be couch-bound more than snow-bound, she said.

“He’ll probably want to rest,” she said.

Regarding his future plans, Mary was reluctant to speak for her son, but said she doesn’t expect Garrett to quit climbing.

“This has been a great career for him,” she said.

“I’m sure that whatever he does climbing will always be a part of his life.”

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