John Graham Photo Member #: 59
Member Year: 1977
John Graham
Bio Summary
Community Activity Summary
John's involvement with the Pikes Peak Journal newspaper led to many community activities. He was active in Boy Scouting programs in Manitou Springs, serving as Cubmaster for Park 18 and later in several adult scouter positions with Troop 18. He served on church committees. He was elected Mayor of Manitou Springs in 2019.
Occupation Summary
John Graham was editor and publisher of the Manitou Springs weekly newspaper, The Pikes Peak Journal, from 1979 to 1997. He later worked as a software Engineer at Schriever AFB from 1999 to 2019.
AdAmAn Service
Served as Trailmaster, appointed by President Ken Geddes, 1980-1985 Served as Vice President to President Bob Stafford, 1985-1989 Served as President, 1990-1994
Hiking, reading, camping, backpacking, skiing, travel, art, astronomy, hunting.
Climbing Experience Summary
Ascents of 32 Colorado 14ers, some multiple times. Numerous ascents of Pikes Peak (45 winter AdAmAn Club climbs, several summer AdAmAn special-event trips, and Boy Scout and other climbs. Extended backpacking trips in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and New Mexico.


Bio Detail
Community Activity Detail

John Graham's involvement with the Pikes Peak Journal led to robust community activity in a great variety of activities touching on all aspects of community life. Most of this was done in the context of the newspaper and was performed without other official standing. Such is the nature of a small town and its newspaper. A few roles were somewhat more formal, such as service on the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

John was heavily involved with Boy Scouting programs in Manitou Springs for about a dozen years, serving as Cubmaster for Pack 18 and later in several adult scouter positions with Troop 18. The Troop was very active in the outdoors with many trips in the region and extended wilderness adventures in Idaho, New Mexico, and Utah.

He served in various church committee positions.

He was elected Mayor of Manitou Springs in November 2019 and started a two-year term in January 2020.

Occupation Detail

The Pikes Peak Journal had been the Graham family business since 1926. John took it over as the third generation owner, following in the steps of grandfather William J. Graham and aunt, Francis C. Graham and parents, Joseph and Eileen Graham. John operated the newspaper and served in every capacity of the business, ranging from the customary duties of editor and publisher, to the more mundane tasks of production and distribution. This was typical of small, family-owned weekly newspapers. He sold the newspaper to Colorado Community Newspapers in late 1996 and worked for the buyer until late 1997.

Climbing Experience Detail

Ascents of 32 Colorado 14ers, about half of those multiple times (more anticipated in the future).

45 winter Pikes Peak ascents with AdAmAn Club plus a couple of summer club climbs with fireworks shows to celebrate the Colorado Centennial and an Olympic Festival.

Other ascents of Pikes Peak with Manitou Springs Boy Scouts, friends, and once with the Pikes Peak Marathon.

Extended backpacking trips in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and New Mexico.


Memories From First Climb

This was December 1970. Dr. Bob Stafford was the new member. There were 12 climbing members and each was allowed to bring one guest. With a climbing list limited to 30, that left room for half a dozen guest climbers who were considered "guests of the Club." I was a senior in high school and was fortunate to have gotten selected in this latter category. There were a fair number of sons accompanying their dads that year and in the following ones.  (My father had broken his right leg in a skiing accident in 1947 and spent two years in a cast. This forced him to give up the AdAmAn Climb, so I never made the climb with him.) 

While this was a wonderful experience, the sons were expected to demonstrate vigor and enthusiam by carrying group equipment, such as Coleman lanterns, makeshift buckets, and Jim Bates' camp gear. Barr Camp had no caretaker or even an "owner"" at the time, so arriving at Barr Camp meant that firewood had to be gathered and water located and brought to camp. We helped the new member prepare the traditional bonfire which, depending on snow conditions, varied in its location between a rock outcropping about a quarter mile down Barr Trail from the Camp and AdAmAn Point. As I recall, that year the fire was at the location near Barr Trail. All of this activity made the afternoon pass quickly but it was huge fun. Cooking was done individually, with each climber lighting up a small gasoline stove in the cramped cabin space.

Club members had improvised a number of "buckets" from two-pound, or larger, coffee cans with baling wire handles. The primary purpose was for hauling water to the cabins. We simply took water out of the stream above Barr Camp, at that time there being no plumbing or creek diversion to channel the water to the cabins.

Lightweight down sleeping bags were just becoming available. Most of the climbing party still used the older style, heavy rectangular bags that were not practical for backpacking. Consequently, the Club hired wranglers to horsepack the bags to Barr Camp for the first night and then take them back to town. It was not uncommon for the stream just below the lunch tree to have frozen, overflowed, and frozen some more at this point to create a minature glacier. The horses dreaded the ice. That year was typical and we used the homemade buckets to collect gravel to throw on the trail. This gave the horses better footing but they were often still pretty reluctant to push onward. 

The "youth corps" did a lot of the trail breaking. This was expected but we all welcomed it. That year there was about 8-10 inches of fresh snow near timberline -- soft, fluffy and pristine. Photographer Jim Bates took advanatage of this by having Bob Stafford lead us off the trail to climb over fallen logs and between trees covered with snow. There was a lot of snow through Dismal Forest but I don't remember it being extraordinarily deep above timberline -- deep in some spots, crusty in others, and windswept elsewhere -- typical AdAmAn conditions.

It was also very common for the first climbers who arrived at the summit to remove their packs and, without much delay, head back down to help the other climbers on the last leg. I remember doing this. We also set up the fireworks mortars, which were two steel rectangular boxes roughly three by five feet and maybe two feet, or a little more,  deep. There were two boxes and each held one 6-inch in diameter steel pipe and one 8-inch. The boxes were positioned for the show and sand was packed around the pipes. The sand was a safety precaution to absorb the concussion of a misfire if a firework shell blew up in the pipe. 

Member Lyman Blakeman, who had retired from making the climb, would arrive on the summit well before our arrival to have hot chocolate and soup ready for us. This was a godsend. In contrast to recent times, that was the extent of the communal food. Otherwise, each of us prepared our own dinner in the summit house.

Throughout the climb, one or two members would carry a radio from one of the commercial radio stations in Colorado Springs and give play-by-play accounts of the climb. Ed Wallick was particularly famous for this, and gave some really animated -- and sometimes dramatic -- explanations of our antics. On the summit, the radio broadcast continued all evening long, with the public calling in to ask questions or make comments. Many of the callers were, of course, family members or friends. Climbers would be crowded into one of the larger backrooms of the summit house to listen, or to periodically respond to callers. Others would retreat to the larger restaurant and shop area of the summit house to cook, visit, or sleep wistfully. 

Besides Lyman Blakeman, several other retired members were on the summit and there were others who had driven to Glen Cove that morning and hiked up the road. Bob Ellingwood was one of the retired members and was our "Firemaster," the guy in charge of overseeing the fireworks show. I was among his recruits that evening for the show. 

Bob would organize a six-man crew for each of the two mortars. Three of us were "runners" -- simply tasked with carrying shells from the summit house to the mortars, where we would quickly but carefully hand the firework to the "loader" who would careful lower it into the mortar and hand the fuse to the "lighter." (The loader clearly had to be the most intelligent member of the crew and had to avoid putting a 6-inch shell in the 8-inch pipe.) The lighter held a flaming railroad fusee -- basically a wind-resistant torch -- and stood back while this was happening. Once the shell was placed in the mortar pipe,  the lighter would step forward and everyone else would step back. The lighter would kneel next to mortar, pull a paper safety cover off the fuse, light it, and duck. If everything went well, there would be an immediate explosion and the display charge would be hurtled 500 or 600 feet into the air. Most of the time this is what happened. 

Next, the sixth member of the team -- the "cleaner" would rush to the mortar and reach into it to grab any burning debris left in the tube. (This sounds foolish, but the club always managed to find two volunteers for this among the 30 in the party. Always single young men with no dependents.) Rarely was there any flaming material in the mortar, but on the off-chance that there was, we worried that it would ignite the next shell prematurely during the loading. Members would tell the cleaners that theirs was the most important task of the show, and the cleaners would believe it.

Generally, this process went well with the explosives doing what they were expected to do. Nonetheless, sometimes the fuse burned more slowly, which added considerable tension to the fast-paced business of feeding the show. I think there was really only one tense moment my first year. A shell "lingered" in the pipe and its display discharged at a low elevation. 

After the show, I rode down with Dr. George Lindeman and his son, Ted. Dr. Lindeman was the club President then and had considerable experience with the fireworks, not all of it pleasant. He gave Ted and me a history of the club's fireworks experiences and I realized how cavalier I had been, seriously underestimating the potential hazards of a cataloupe-sized chunk of black powder. Since then the club has adopted much safer methods for conducting the fireworks show. Shells are denoted electrically, with 90 feet of separation from the shooter. A misfire is far less worrisome. Nonetheless, there was a certain romance and excitement in being only a few yards from the explosions.

Memories From First Member Year

The weather that year was pretty accommodating and made my job pretty manageable. There was a nice blanket of snow on the ground near and above Barr Camp but nothing too intimidating. In terms of pacing the group, we managed to keep a steady rythmn on the second day. It was sufficient for everyone to stay fairly warm. Better, I think the last of the party reached the summit only 20 minutes later than the first, nice since I wanted to get people up in one group as much as possible. This was one of the few years when I was near the lead. Most of the other times I hung back, either as the official Trailmaster or to help whoever was, and that had often been Bob Stafford.

Something that was rather odd about my time as new member was that a couple of "old" AdAmEn had shown up with little warning to make the climb. These were Stan Balcomb and Vernon Tombley, who had become members long ago and had moved away. They had more or less lost their club ties but decided to get together again. They really did not have any close ties to people in the club, although several members did remember them. They pretty much stuck to themselves and actually traipsed off ahead of the main pack. That was a bit odd but was no big deal and I was told that had always been their style.

I built my bonfire at AdAmAn Point, all with the customary assistance of the other climbers. It was about regulation size as I recall and I remember proudly explaining to Dr. George Lindeman how I expected the flames to migrate through the wood. 

Ken Geddes had just become the new President, taking the reins from Dr. George Lindeman. This represented a noticeable change in styles. Dr. Lindeman was accustomed to running an operating room -- he was more likely to announce what we were going to do. Geddes was a lawyer and often sought feedback and consensus. Both were fine presidents and took good care of the club. 

You cannot, of course, have something like this happen without having a tremendous sense of satisfaction and pleasure course through you. The members warmly congratulated me throughout the climb, particularly at the summit.  

Memories of Family

My first memory of the Club came from my father, who became a member in 1938. He shattered his right leg skiing in 1947 and stopped making the climb, so I never made the climb with him. I remember when I was about seven, he and I were walking down Tejon Street in the afternoon on New Year's Eve day and stopped to wait for the light at Pikes Peak Avenue. There wasn't much snow about, but it was very, very cold and windy. He looked west to Pikes Peak and said that the AdAmAn climbers should soon be reaching the summit. He gave me a little explanation about the club. As a seven year old, I couldn't believe anyone could be so crazy or reckless as to do something like that. I was a little disturbed that my father was endorsing this behavior. Thus, my first memory of the club is that it was an odd organization. Six decades later, there is still some truth to that observation. God bless the AdAmAn Club in all its quirkiness.

My father had quite a number of AdAmAn stories and I have included them in his section. He had climbed with all of the original members. Similarly, my wife, Sue, the first woman added to the Club, has accounts in her section, and my brother, Michael, is responsible for his section.

As of 2020, our son Jeff has made three climbs as a guest. This included the year we had to turn back, owing to the extremely cold weather on the mountain. Another year he helped carry Carl Lindeman to the summit after Carl had injured his knee. As an Air Force officer stationed outside of Colorado, it has been difficult for him to be involved much with the club or to pursue the hiking and climbing that he would like. Hopefully, his next assignment will be to the Air Force Academy and he will have new options.

Favorite Memories from Climbing Fourteeners

Many of the climbers that I remember from my early years have passed on. Bruce Sommers was a particularly wonderful friend and many times we completed the climb together. He was a gentleman who always treated others warmly but I can only remember feeling that a special friendship existed between us. Ken Geddes and Bob Stafford both entrusted me with a variety of tasks, and I appreciated their confidence in me. We were a good team, which is what the club needs to be. 

Ed Calvert, Bill Arnold, Arnie Magnus -- these are names that some of us today cannot put a face to, much less remember their good humor, quirks, and friendly trailside chats. Some others are more readily remembered -- those great gentlemen, Al Pierce and Ed Kirches -- quiet, brave and smart, good candidates if you ever got to adopt an uncle. Most of us from a certain time remember Jim Bates; no one forgets Jim Bates. He was remarkable and a tireless club promoter. 

I like the cold, clear air on AdAmAn Point, when you can see at least a little into the distance. I think of the old AdAmAn members, passed on now but still a special part of a great tradition that I have held the deepest affinities for, that has welded great friendships for me. My life has been greatly enriched by those days striding up the mountain, marching alongside my friends, hearing about their year's experience from last time to this time. 

Memories from Favorite Mountain Climb
Pikes Peak is my favorite. I've had great trips with family and friends. What guy wouldn't want to take his wife to the world's strangest New Year's Eve party? The times with AdAmAn friends are extraordinary -- the group is close-knit. I've made the climb with my sons, and that was very special, as it was a ritual moment in their paths to manhood. There have been other special moments, from bighorn stumbling through the fog into our path and memories of old friends who are no longer with us.
Memories of Favorite Gear
Most of my gear takes on a "beloved" quality after awhile. That said, my down bag has done remarkable service, even in 25 below zero conditions. My old Optimus cook store was a workhorse and never failed to start, even in the most difficult conditions.
Memories of Worst Gear Failure
I've never had a serious gear failure on the AdAmAn Climb.