Thursday, February 17, 2022

Go climb a mountain in memory of John Platt - we will miss him greatly!

Dave Beck, left, John Platt and Ruby camping in the mountains above McCall.
(photo by Dave Beck) 

Hi all, 

Last week, I woke up in McCall, packing up for ski trip in N. Idaho. And I saw some posts on Facebook saying, "RIP John Platt." 

And I'm like, what? No way! John Platt was the strongest outdoorsman I had ever met. He had a huge zeal for adventure. He climbed a new mountain almost every day. You were lucky if you ever had the opportunity to go on an outdoor adventure with John because he's so witty, smart and always looking at the bright side when things might look bleak. 

The sad news is that John had indeed suffered a heart attack and died after going xc skiing on a low-key adventure at Jug Mountain Ranch. Wow. He was 66. 

I feel fortunate that I knew John, going back to the mid-1980s, when he and Chris Haunold opened Idaho Mountain Touring in downtown Boise. More about that in a moment. 

John atop Castle Peak in the White Clouds with two friends (courtesy

In the meantime, I want to encourage outdoorsy people everywhere to go climb a mountain in memory of John ... His web site,, has tons of free information about his many outdoor and peak-bagging adventures in Idaho and elsewhere. Go check it out and plan your next adventure. 

Tom Lopez, a good friend of John's who did peak-bagging adventures with him all over the West, sent me a list of the top 20 people with the number of peaks they've climbed just in Idaho. John ranks #4, with 583. Lopez, author of the excellent guidebook, Idaho: A Climbing Guide, has notched an even 800. 

How many Idaho mountain peaks have you summited? How many arfe on your list? These guys are totally amazing! 

See the Idaho Statesman's article about John's life. Very well-done. Here's a link to his obituary, also very well-done. 

I loved this line from the obit: "By the time John rode his one-speed Sears bicycle over McKenzie Pass at the age of 9, he was giving his parents both grief and glimpses of the adventurous man he would become."

This was when his family lived in Oregon. His father had a long career with the U.S. Forest Service and frequently took the family camping. 

John developed solid outdoor skills at a young age as an aspiring bike racer and technical mountain and rock-climber. After he graduated from Boise High, he moved to Oregon to live closer to the bike-racing scene in Corvallis. His younger brother, Tom Platt, and Mike Cooley, followed him there and also got involved in bike-racing. Tom and Mike would later take over ownership of George's Cycles in Boise. Read my long-form feature about that history. 

John didn't do anything half-assed. He was the first bike racer to finish the arduous Bogus Basin Hill Club in less than an hour. He won the event three years in a row, in 1976, 1977 and 1978. Think about how many riders must have been inspired by his training and quest for excellence. 

When I moved to Boise in the mid-80s to write for the Idaho Statesman, I started a ski column, printed weekly. I wrote something about xc skiing at the time, and how I was noticing a new trend of people skiing faster than ever before on xc ski trails via skate skiing. I participated in a few 25K races in Colorado before I moved to Boise, skiing on classic gear, and clearly, if you were going to race, skate skiing was becoming the way to go. 

I remember John taking me under his wing and introducing me to skate skiing on the Bogus Basin Nordic trails. He gave me some free rental skis from IMT, and gave me a free lesson on skate skiing. It was a gentle way of showing me that this is the future, and you might as well embrace it! And of course, he was very good at it, very fast, because he always seemed to be in excellent physical shape! He just kind of floated through the mountains with seemingly no effort. I was impressed. 

The bottom line, John was always up for an adventure, and he was often willing to share the adventure with others. 

"He was all about finding adventures in the mountains," says friend David Beck. "No idea was necessarily bad. If you think about all of the people he touched with his adventures, it's just incredible - either through the trips provided on his web site or the trips he did with countless people over the years." 

Dave Beck and John Platt spent 5 solid years climbing peaks in the Lick Creek range and in other locations around McCall after Platt retired from Trek bicycles. "We probably slept 25-35 nights out on the ground each year together," Beck says. "I counted myself as an adopted Platt brother. There's just so many good things to say about him, and how he touched so many people over the years through outdoor adventures."

Lopez and Platt have bagged many a peak together in Idaho and the West. They used to go truck camping in Death Valley and bag peaks in that area during the winter. 

Wendy and I were spending a number of days exploring Death Valley for the first time in 2016. John saw one of my posts on Facebook, and he recommended a perfect day hike to a walk-up peak. We did the hike the next day. 

Thimble Peak provides awesome views of Death Valley.
John's description on was spot-on. 
At the summit of Thimble Peak. 

This is what Tom Lopez said about John on, an Idaho outdoor forum.

"John seemed destined to live a long life. The last time I climbed with him in late fall, he was unstoppable. We descended through 500 vertical feet of nearly impenetrable alders, with John leading the way like a bull moose. One of his nicknames was the "Alder King," because he dragged so many of us through alder patches. Another was "Lick Creek Johnny" because of his prowess at exploring the Lick Creek Range. ... I will grieve his loss for as long as I am kicking." 

John also gave back to his community through volunteerism. He's been a great volunteer for the Idaho Trails Association for a number of years. He also volunteered for Valley County Search and Rescue. I've seen him volunteering at the McCall Remastered Nordic race just about every year. The first time I did the 75-mile Cascade 4 Summits road ride, there was John at the aid station in Landmark at the top of the half-way point in the ride ... "I was like, thanks for volunteering, John! I'm surprised you're not doing the ride!" Well, they were short on volunteers in that location, and there was John, ready to help. 

Last June, I needed help during the work week to spread out trail-surfacing materials on the new Heinrich Demo Trail for Valley County Pathways. I asked John on short notice if he could help out, and he showed up with his brother, Tom, and some other friends. They put in a solid half-day of work before moving on to the next thing ... I was grateful for his help! 

John Platt is on the left, scraping road mix out of the mud buggy;
Tom Platt is on the right.  

Beck says when he and John would summit a new mountain peak, they would play a game called "NTP" or Name that Peak. They'd look around 360 degrees from the peak they're standing on, and see if they could name all of the peaks. Platt had an amazing encyclopedic knowledge of the mountains, and he often took pictures of mountain peaks from different angles to ensure he could recognize them from all angles. 

When you go to, you'll see all the references to the peaks he's explored, along with a fun narrative about the day's adventure, the people who went along with him, etc., and you'll have a better understanding of just how well-traveled the guy was. It's a lifetime project, and you better not waste a single day! 

Here's John's wife, Julie, and daughter, Jasmine, climbing up the face of Danskin Peak, where they ran into a thick patch of manzanita shrubs. He said he caught a little bit of hell for that! (courtesy 

Here they are on top of Danskin Peak, with Jasmine showing a sense of humor. You can probably surmise what Julie was thinking.  

"I thought I'd be able to hike with John for another couple of decades, but his life was an example of a life lived to the fullest," Beck says. "A life well-lived."

When you read about his life in the obit, you'll see he and his wonderful wife, Julie, raised two daughters, his father Richard is still going strong in his 90s. And as I mentioned earlier, he touched so many other people's lives through many outdoor adventures and volunteer activities. 

I hope you might be inspired by John's story. If you do try an adventure on, remember that all of these outdoor trips are a pretty major deal, if not a really big deal. Read up on the trip carefully and make sure you're ready ... that's what John would say. 

And if you'd like to donate to a charitable cause in John's memory, the family recommends the Idaho Trails Association or Valley County Search and Rescue 

Art Troutner, left, friend Steve, and John atop Cervidae Peak on New Year's Eve,
an annual tradition. (courtesy 

- SS

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