Adam Helman Memorial Page
January 2015



Adam Helman passed away on January 9th, 2015, at his home in San Diego. He was a close friend of mine and a partner on many hikes over the years in California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Montana. I had known him through his role in creating and maintaining the County Highpointers Website, which he started in early 2000. That December, I met him for the first time as we climbed Caliente Mountain and Big Pine Mountain, two big peaks buried deep in the coastal ranges of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, California.

Over the years, we would meet yearly or so, depending on our schedules and peaks of mutual interest. We always seemed to meet in some way-out-of-the-way spot in the middle-of-nowhere. We'd talk about mountains and mathematics. He was as smart a person as I have ever met. He could get talking a million miles an hour, but he was interesting, and genuinely a good person with a good heart.

Adam's claim to fame was being the second person ever to hike, climb and visit every single one of the county highpoints of the Western United States. This project consumed him for over 12 years, completing it in 2012. He authored two books: on Prominence and of his county highpointing project. I own copies of both, and they are a fantastic memento to remember him by. For a man who stood about 5-3 and weighed about 110 pounds, he was truly larger than life.

Happy trails, "up there"!

Photos (Click to enlarge)

Adam is kneeling in the front, as we
pose for a group image before our climb
of Granite Peak, Montana, August 2002

Adam is standing in back on the right.
We unfurled the American flag on the summit
of Granite Peak, Montana. This photo was
part of a poster called "Flags Over America"
created on the one-year anniversary of the
September 11 terrorist attacks.

Adam and Edward Earl as we hike out
from our successful summit of Truchas Peak
in New Mexico, June 2003.

The gang of us atop Weaver Peak
in Arizona, January 2009.

Adam and his beloved truck, "Denaly",
Sierra Estrella in Arizona, November 2009.

Adam holds a block of cheese on top
of Peacock Peak, Arizona, April 2011.

Cuyamaca Peak Memorial Hike, February 15, 2015

Approximately thirty people convened at the Paso Picacho Campground near Cuyamaca Peak to honor our mutual friend, Adam. The event was organized by his San Diego-area friends, but attendees came in from as far as Washington and Colorado, plus me and Scott Peavy from Arizona.

I had driven to California two days earlier and had hiked three peaks, Tecate Peak, Potrero Peak and Stonewall Peak. I had planned to camp here at the Paso Picacho Campground, but it was filled as of yesterday morning, so I camped a few miles north at Lake Cuyamaca.

We all met at the day-use parking area of Paso Picacho, all arriving between 8 and 9 a.m.. I met many people for the first time after years of "knowing" them through various online groups such as Adam's website. I also saw others that I had not seen in over ten years in some cases. It was nice to meet (or re-meet) everyone. Even though the circumstances were sad, this was a positive way to honor our friend.

Our plan was to hike Cuyamaca Peak. I had hiked the peak with Adam back in 2008. For some people, this would be their first climb of this peak. The route is the narrow paved road that leads to the top. We strung out on the hike up, but all of us were on top within two hours after starting. The paved "trail" makes the hike easy, but it's still a 2.5-mile grind with 1,600 vertical feet to gain. The day was sunny and slightly warm.

Once at the top, we milled around for over an hour. We took photos and rested. Then we had an impromptu memorial, with Adam's long-time climbing partner Gail Hanna reading two passages from the Old Testament. A few of us then gave short speeches, including me. This was a moving, emotional experience. Personally, it helped me to come to terms that my friend Adam isn't coming back. I am still deeply saddened by his death and will always be. I was appreciative of the entire group. Adam sure had a lot of friends from all over the world.

We then hiked down and spent a couple hours eating and drinking underneath the shade trees nearby the campground. By 3 p.m., the event started to break up. I left not long after, and got as far as Yuma before hunger and tiredness suggested I spend the night in the area, rather than push on home. I stayed in Wellton, Arizona.

Those in attendance were: Dave Covill (from Colorado), Bob Bolton and Don Nelson (who had driven from Washington to attend), Scott Peavy, Greg Slayden, Jim Retemeyer and his wife Oleta & son Seth, Mihai Giurgiulescu, Coby King, Edward Earl, Gail Hanna, Jay Dolan, Mark Adrian, Terry Flood, Phil Rogul, John Strauch, James Graham and his daughter (age two, wore her tutu for the hike), Richard Carey, and many from the San Diego area hiking club(s), whose names I regrettably cannot recall.

I cannot thank the organizers enough and everyone for sharing in the spirit. I cannot think of a better way to honor Adam. I hope he was watching us from above, making sure we all actually tagged the summit rock to make it "count"!

(Bob Bolton's photos posted on Facebook)

Photos (Click to enlarge)

We assemble in the parking lot

Walking up the road

All of us at the top

Shot of me and others

Taken from the top rock

View west

Some old trees survived the fire

North and Middle Peaks

Stonewall Peak


(c) 2015 Scott Surgent.