Jeff Brown at the Lowell Riverfront Trail with the Cascades visible in the distance on Thursday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jeff Brown at the Lowell Riverfront Trail with the Cascades visible in the distance on Thursday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Mukilteo doctor’s ‘Seven Summits’ inspired more climbing adventures

After reading about Dr. Rick Thurmer’s feats in The Daily Herald in 2017, Jeff Brown set out to summit his first “14er.”

EVERETT — The photo in the newspaper showed a boy with a boot perched on a chunk of granite, grinning as he signed his name in the Mount Whitney summit register.

The image was burned into Mill Creek resident Jeff Brown’s head.

“Something about him as a 12-year-old standing there smiling,” Brown said. “I thought: That’s the attitude I have to take.”

Dr. Rick Thurmer, the boy from the photo, grew up to complete the Seven Summits, as featured in The Daily Herald in 2017. Reaching the highest peaks on the seven continents is something only about 500 people have accomplished.

Thurmer died last month in a climbing accident on Dragontail Peak in the Cascade Range. He was 66.

Brown reached out to the Herald when he heard the news. He wanted to talk about how Thurmer inspired him. After reading about his climbing career in 2017, Brown set out to summit his first “14er.” The highest he’d been before was 12,300 feet, at the top of Mount Adams.

“I struggle with exposed heights like cliffs and stuff like that,” Brown said. “But when I read Dr. Thurmer’s story. … I thought: That’s it.”

Jeff Brown and his father Daryl summited the California peak in just under a day. He remembers every minute.

The duo set out from the Whitney Portal trailhead around 10 a.m. Aug. 15, 2018.

Jeff had injured his Achilles tendon just days before beginning the climb. Every step was a gamble.

“I’m thinking: This could be my last,” he said. “This thing could pop at any moment.”

His dad, who last summited Whitney in ’81 was calm, cool and collected.

After climbing about 2,100 feet to Outpost Camp, they put up a tent and called it a day.

At 2 a.m. Jeff Brown popped out of bed, running on about a half hour of sleep. He got his dad to do the same. It was his first time hiking in the “pitch dark.” They lost the trail a few times, navigating granite slabs only distinguishable from another by their size. A trio of young women joined them, worried about losing their way.

After reaching Trail Camp at 12,000 feet, every step became a new altitude record for Jeff Brown. Looking east around 5:36 a.m., the sun crested the distant hills.

“Here you are: This tiny little ant on the side of this big, massive 14,000 foot peak,” Jeff Brown said. “And you got the sun rising in real time. You can see 400 miles practically in every direction.”

In just a few hours, they neared the top.

With 100 yards left to reach the 14,505-foot peak, the chunky granite summit hut where 12-year-old Thurmer was pictured came into Brown’s view. It was “like a mirage.”

“It’s almost like, is that real? Or is it just a figment of my imagination?” Brown said.

Daryl noted his arrival in the summit register.

“Daryl Brown, Richland, Washington. Second Whitney summit. 62nd birthday,” he wrote.

Daryl is an avid climber. He has done every peak in the Cascade range over 10,000 feet. He has also summited the 20,000-foot Island Peak in the Himalayas.

Jeff reached his first 10,000-foot summit on Mount Lassen at age 8, alongside his dad. He has been inspired by him since.

But he’d never really been able to follow in his father’s footsteps until reading Dr. Thurmer’s story and embracing the attitude of the 12-year-old boy in the photo.

Now, Brown has his own photo on the summit, standing beside his dad.

He has two copies of the photo framed, one on his dresser, the other on his desk at work.

“I keep it there to serve as motivation for a litany of days when things aren’t going well, or I feel like I can’t do anything right,” Brown said. “Truthfully, this moment right here was the one moment where I felt like, ‘OK, I really did something cool here. I did something noteworthy. I did something that could potentially inspire somebody else.’”

For Thurmer, climbing was his “way of seeing the world,” his wife Alma Thurmer told The Herald in 2017.

The couple met in 1978. Together, Rick and Alma climbed to Everest base camp, where she stayed until he made it to the summit on May 17, 2010. They traveled to Europe, Nepal, Australia, New Zealand and Alaska, almost always with a mountain to climb. And they raised three boys: Sean, Derek and Ryan Thurmer.

“I don’t want to pretend like I knew their dad, but I do want them to know that their dad meant something to me,” Brown said. “And I don’t know if there’s anybody else out there, but I would be willing to bet that there is probably another Jeff Brown out there, who maybe climbed Aconcagua or read Dr. Thurmer’s story and said I’m going to … summit Mount Everest. I just want his wife and his sons to know: Their father and their husband inspired me.”

Brown said he hopes to continue honoring Dr. Thurmer’s legacy. He has added Kilimanjaro and Everest base camp to his bucket list.

A memorial service for Dr. Thurmer will be held 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Holy Rosary Parish in Edmonds.

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; isabella.breda@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Alyvia Nguyen, 8, climbs on leaf shaped steps at the new Corcoran Memorial Park playground on Friday, July 12, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Bothell-area park ‘could not be a more fitting dedication’

In 2019, Jim Corcoran donated $1.5 million worth of land to become a public park. He died before he could see it completed.

Cars line up for the Edmonds ferry in Edmonds, Washington on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Ferry line jumpers face a $145 fine — and scorn from other drivers

Law enforcement is on the lookout for line cutters. It’s a “hot-button issue that can lead to something worse.”

Mother charged in Stanwood toddler’s fentanyl overdose death

Morgan Bassett woke up in January 2022 and found her daughter wasn’t breathing. Last week, she was charged with manslaughter.

FILE — Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) arrives to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 23, 2024. Former President Donald Trump has chosen Vance to be his running mate, wagering that the young senator will bring fresh energy to the Republican ticket and ensure that the movement Trump began nearly a decade ago can live on after him. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)
J.D. Vance is Trump’s pick for vice president

Vance, once a Trump critic, is an ambitious ideologue who relishes the spotlight. His selection comes just days after Trump survived an assassination attempt.

Former president Donald Trump is seen with a bloody ear as he is assisted off the stage during a campaign rally in Butler, Pa., on Saturday. MUST CREDIT: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post
Pops, screams and then blood: On the scene at the Trump rally shooting

Isaac Arnsdorf, Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post BUTLER, Pa. - The… Continue reading

Biden, Democrats, Republicans denounce shooting at Trump rally

Reaction pours in from government leaders

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.