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Red Cross Counselors Offer Help To Grieving Families

By Lornet Turnbull, The Seattle Times

ARLINGTON, Wash. — Slowly, gradually, the families who have suffered the loss of loved ones and homes are starting to talk to mental health counselors about what comes next.

“They haven’t talked about recovery yet, about where they’re going to live. But that’s starting to happen,” said Ron Matayoshi, an American Red Cross volunteer from Honolulu who is providing mental health counseling. “That’s where case work comes in. It’s been a week now. People need services, they need to see to their financial needs, manage their families, get back to housing. It’s very important for them to … take care of their emotional needs.”

Matayoshi, a professor of social work at the University of Hawaii, is one of nearly 300 Red Cross volunteers from across the country providing a range of services to victims of the Oso-area mudslide, their families and rescue workers and other volunteers.

He has the soft, soothing voice of someone trained to listen.

When he arrived last week, Matayoshi was assigned to the Red Cross shelter at Post Middle School, where families displaced by the disaster have been staying and where relatives of victims — many from out of state — have been showing up.

A few days ago, he was reassigned to the staging area for volunteer rescue workers at the Oso Fire Department, where he’s talking to workers faced with the gruesome task of searching for those missing.

What he found here, Matayoshi said, is not quite what he expected.

“I expected to find what they tell me is a normal disaster,” he said, describing a scene where small pockets of family members surround the victims and professionals search for the missing.

“I didn’t expect the kind of tight-knit community that exists here, where everyone has been impacted by this disaster,” he said.

Matayoshi said a lot of what he and the 34 mental health counselors do is observe, build trust and wait for the right time to approach grieving families or volunteer rescue workers and to get them to talk about what they are feeling.

“They don’t just come up to you and say, ‘Let me tell you my story.’ We are developing relationships. We are new here. We are outsiders. We want to provide a friendly ear.”

Once they approach, he said, the counselors “kindly probe.”

In their search for closure, the families talk about how to identify a loved one, he said. “They want to talk about DNA testing, the length of time it will take to make an ID, how it is done.”

“We hear them asking the questions of the incident commander.”

He said the families frequently are surrounded by relatives and friends. “We watch. You don’t want to be a pest.”

“There are quiet moments when we can approach, happy moments when we can approach. You sometimes see them looking at pictures and passing them along and talking about them. That’s a private time, and not the time for me to go in and ask, ‘Who is that?’”

Then there are those moments, he said, “When they hear news from the incident commander that is too overwhelming and you see some stand up and have to leave. These are moments you just watch and see.”

“The losses are pretty significant. The stories they are telling are unreal. I cannot imagine the pain they are going through.”

He said those who need long-term help are referred to a case worker.

Matayoshi said he’s met family members who have come from across the country and want to reach the slide site.

“They don’t understand that the zone is now a biohazard,” he said.

Rescue workers, he said, want to talk about the process, what they see. “This is a slow process and they don’t want to miss anything. Inside they are thinking of the families.”

David Ryder

Christian-Based Aid Organization To Allow Gay Marriage For Workers

By Lornet Turnbull, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — World Vision, the international Christian-based aid organization, on Monday made a surprise announcement on one of the most divisive social issues of the day, saying it will now employ Christians in the U.S. who are in legal same-sex marriages.

The Federal Way, Washington-based humanitarian group delivered the news to employees in a letter from President Richard Stearns.

Calling gay marriage one of the stormiest issues that has divided denominations, congregations and families, Stearns said leaders “wanted to prevent this divisive issue from tearing World Vision apart and potentially crippling our ability to accomplish our vital kingdom mission of loving and serving the poorest of the poor in the name of Christ.”

The company said its employee-conduct policy has been updated to reflect the change, which comes more than a year after a majority of Washington­ians voted to legalize same-sex marriages, now legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

The decision, first announced on the website Christianity Today, followed years of prayer and discussion by the board, he said, and added that it in no way suggests an endorsement of same-sex marriage.

World Vision continues to affirm “traditional” marriage as a God-ordained institution, Stearns wrote, but added that leaders also recognize that many of the 50-plus denominations his employees are part of have sanctioned same-sex marriage in recent years.

He said he is not bowing to outside lobbying or any concerns about government funding, but on this divisive issue is choosing to defer to “the authority of local churches” that have been struggling with this issue for some time.

“I want to reassure you that we are not sliding down some slippery slope of compromise, nor are we diminishing the authority of Scripture in our work,” Stearns wrote.

With more than $1 billion in revenue, World Vision is the largest global Christian relief organization, with more than 40,000 employees in 100 countries, including about 1,200 in the U.S.

More than 15 percent of its employees worldwide are not Christian, though all its U.S. employees are, and they are required upon employment to sign a statement of faith affirming that they believe in the deity of Jesus Christ and the Trinity.

Stearns said the organization will continue to require that statement from all employees and to expect abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage for all staff members.

The announcement comes as gay-rights advocates across the country continue to gain substantial ground on same-sex marriage and as religious organizations struggle with how to reconcile the apparent conflict with their teachings.

Fourteen federal courts have struck down anti-gay-marriage laws since the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled that federal agencies cannot deny benefits to people in same-sex unions.

Photo: Amy the Nurse via Flickr

Catholics Reflect On First Year Of People’s Pope

By Lornet Turnbull, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — In November, the priest at Assumption Catholic Church in North Seattle mailed a letter of welcome to parishioners, including members long dormant — those divorced and remarried, gay, tired or simply disillusioned.

“We are living in exciting times,” Father Oliver Duggan told them. “Our church, which so many had written off as not relevant in this time and age, has suddenly come to life.”

For this he credited Pope Francis for not only inspiring his own pastoral work but for breathing new life into the Roman Catholic Church. While the new pontiff hasn’t changed church teachings, the father wrote, “he has been applying those teachings in a loving and caring way.”

A year after Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio stepped onto the balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica to present himself to the world as Pope Francis, Duggan’s words stand as testament for many — Catholics and non-Catholics — who believe this “people’s pope” has shifted the tone and softened the image of the 1.2 billion-member church.

To be sure, the pontiff’s actions and remarks in his inaugural year — from challenging trickle-down economic theories, to reforming Vatican bureaucracy to urging church leaders to stop their obsessions over hot-button social issues — have done nothing to change doctrine.

Francis still says “no,” but in a kinder, gentler way, to some of the church’s more complicated and thorny issues around reproductive rights, sexuality, married priests and women’s role in the church — issues especially polarizing in the American Catholic church.

Just last week, while still maintaining the church’s firm position on marriage, he called on its leaders to explore how civil unions might provide health-care and economic benefits for same-sex couples.

“I don’t believe he will change doctrine; that won’t happen,” said Sharon Hanses, 79, a lifelong Catholic and member of St. Paul Cathedral in Yakima, Wash.

“But I do believe he’s changing hearts.”

Almost from the start, the Argentine and first Jesuit pope grabbed the world’s attention for being the most relatable in modern history: tooling about Vatican City in a 30-year-old Renault, washing the feet of female convicts, posing for selfies with visitors to the Vatican.

Francis eschewed the spacious apartments of his predecessors to live instead in a small suite in a Vatican guesthouse.

Named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 2013, as well as Man of the Year for the LGBT magazine The Advocate, he is hailed as the most influential world leader on Twitter with more than 3.7 million followers and is the most talked-about person on the Internet.

The first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years, Francis has made strong pronouncements about income inequality and treatment of the poor, and in his homily at a Mass on Ash Wednesday, said the best way to give was to not expect anything in return.

He has spoken out against careerism in the church and the Vatican, and called for a “synod on the Family” this fall after ordering a survey of Catholics on a range of social issues — from same-sex marriage and unwed cohabitation to contraception, and the place of divorced and remarried people in the church.

Perhaps the most quoted words of his papacy, “Who am I to judge?”, have given hope to gay Catholics alienated by the church and became the rallying cry for students at a Catholic school in Sammamish,Wash., who saw injustice in the December firing of their gay vice principal after he married his husband.

“Personally, I think he’s a saint,” said Stephen Dofelmier of the pope. Dofelmier grew up in the church, left after getting a divorce but returned to Assumption after receiving one of Father Duggan’s “welcome back” letters.

Even after his first marriage was annulled by the church and his second marriage recognized by the church 10 years ago, Dofelmier said he still didn’t feel comfortable going back, given the continued hard line on a range of matters.

Duggan’s letter, he said, re-energized him and allowed him to see that change was possible — not just in liturgy but around the idea of being a good Christian.

“I feel like I’m coming back to a kinder church,” Dofelmier said. “I admire this pope, particularly his humanness.”

Father Duggan said that although he’s seen some faces he hadn’t in a while, it’s hard to gauge the impact of his letter.

“I recognized there are some Catholics who needed to be reinspired, who are sitting at home rather than being in the church,” he said.

Zeena Rivera, a senior at Holy Names Academy in Seattle, said she’s excited about the progressive stance Francis is taking on things she cares about — around gay rights and the needs of the poor.

While so many Catholics of her generation have left the church in frustration, she said, Rivera plans to stay: “I can’t wait to see what happens next.”

“I have hope because so much change is happening in leadership under this pope,” the 17-year-old said.

Yet for all the good feelings Francis’ papacy is generating — from within the halls of the nation’s Catholic schools to Catholic-run charities — some say the pope has failed to fully address some of the deep conflicts within the church.

The new pope, they say, has rarely spoken out about priest sex abuse, and three months after Francis created a commission of experts to study the best ways to protect children, no members have been appointed and no action taken.

In an interview with an Italian daily last week, Francis struck back, insisting that despite its transparency and responsibility, the church has repeatedly been criticized.

While his polling numbers far surpass those of the church he leads, in some cases reaching levels that would make him the envy of politicians, none of it appears to be bringing members back to the pews, according to a recent Pew Research Center report.

John Schuster is a former priest who lives in Port Orchard, Washington, and heads a chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP); he still meets with victims today.

“He’s pretty much a PR pope,” Schuster said. “His hype and all his nice words are not matching his actions. He’s starting to show cracks in his message … and people are going to hold him accountable.”

Others prefer to believe that Francis is laying the foundation for changes yet to come, including his recent appointment of 19 new cardinals — his closest advisers in shaping church policy — all from throughout the developing world.

The Catholic Church is global, they point out, with members hailing from cultures where addressing crippling poverty is a greater priority than some of the concerns in the West.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, a devout Catholic who went outside the church last summer to marry his longtime partner, said Francis offers “hope of a church once again committed to the poorest among us.”

AFP Photo

Deported Immigrants Know Consequences Of Participating In Bring Them Home Campaign

By Lornet Turnbull, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — Three years ago, Dolores Lara was stopped by Yakima, Washignton, police on suspicion of DUI, jailed and turned over to immigration authorities, who deported him to his native Mexico.

The father of three, who had labored for more than a decade picking vegetables and fruit in Eastern Washington, struggled in Tijuana to find employment, occasionally picking up work at his nephew’s auto shop.

On Monday, Lara joined 30 other undocumented immigrants who showed up at a border crossing in San Diego, California, seeking to re-enter the U.S. to join family they had left behind.

Another, larger group is expected to attempt a crossing later this week.

Participants in this radical national campaign, called Bring Them Home, know they won’t be allowed back in this country, and that their actions could well land them either in detention or back in Mexico — facing a 10-year or permanent bar to re-entry.

Lara was not allowed to enter.

As the number of deportations under the Obama administration approaches 2 million, Bring Them Home is one of several actions by immigrant advocates here and across the country designed to draw attention to the impact of deportations on families and point out Congress’s inaction on immigration.

Proclaiming not one more deportation, advocates have been protesting outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, for several months. Inside the facility, frustrations over deportations triggered a hunger strike last Friday when as many as 750 of the 1,300 detainees on Friday stopped eating and demanded better food and conditions, as well as better pay for detention-center jobs.

As the strike entered its fifth day Tuesday, the five immigrants still striking were isolated in a pod and being medically observed.

A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said center staff had been meeting with detainees and that some of their concerns were being addressed. But one of the strike’s leaders told advocates late Tuesday that he planned to continue “for as long as it takes.”

Another action was launched last week by the national group We Belong Together, made up mostly of women immigrants and their supporters: a monthlong fasting campaign expected to roll into the Seattle area later this month. It continues several acts of disobedience that included a sit-in last November at the Bellevue offices of the state Republican Party, where 33 women were arrested.

The group wants to pressure key Republicans to take up immigration legislation this year or risk losing the women’s vote this November.

Republican leaders in the U.S. House have said they are unlikely to bring up immigration this year.

“This surge of activity is all over the place,” said Rich Stolz, executive director of OneAmerica, the state’s largest immigrant-advocacy group.

A delegation from OneAmerica is in Washington, D.C., meeting with members of Congress.

“Immigrant communities are struggling to keep together, having had the promise of immigration reform pushed forward and pulled back, pushed forward and pulled back,” Stolz said. “We’re seeing a lot of tactics under the common themes of keeping families together.”

But Ira Mehlman, Seattle-based spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors immigration enforcement, said the number of deportations is inflated and pointed out that this administration, he said, unlike previous ones, counts among the deported those who are apprehended at the border.

“In reality, if you look at the total number removed by this administration, it’s the lowest since the Ford administration,” Mehlman said.

Mehlman said the anger over the impact of deportation on families is misplaced.

“It’s the violators that are putting families in jeopardy, not the law itself,” he said. “Children are not human shields.”

This is the third major action for Bring Them Home, a campaign organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance.

Two separate groups of immigrants participated, most of them young people who had been brought illegally to the U.S. as children and then deported. Upon trying to re-enter at the border, most were detained when they claimed political asylum, saying they feared returning to Mexico.

A few were deported.

It’s unclear how many of the 30 undocumented immigrants who the campaign said tried to enter on Monday were allowed to enter the country.

At Lara’s side as he lined up to be processed at the Otay Mesa border crossing on Monday was his 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, who was born in the U.S. and had gone to visit her father in Mexico even before the details of the re-entry campaign were firmed up.

His 21-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, a student at Heritage University in Toppenish, Yakima County, who had first come to the U.S. with her parents and younger brother in 2000, said she talked to them both as they were lining up, waiting to be processed by immigration authorities.

“I told her she would see my dad arrested and detained but that she had to be brave; I told her that everything would be OK,” Elizabeth Lara said from San Diego.

Her father, she said, was aware he could be turned away. “He decided to take the risk for the chance to return home to his children and family,” she said.

She said she last saw him last year when she, her younger brother and Jessica traveled to San Diego and went to Border Field State Park, where they could talk to him through a fence.

“We were able to spend three minutes with him” before they were told to leave, she said.

“It’s sad that we had to be reunited with our father through a fence.”

Anunska Sampredo via Flickr

Washington State To Same-Sex Domestic Partners: You’re About To Be Married

By Lornet Turbull, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — Thousands of gay and lesbian domestic partners in Washington state who have not married or legally dissolved their unions by the end of June will have their relationships automatically converted to marriage — courtesy of the state.

It’s the final piece of the state’s same-sex marriage law — a provision about which many couples are apparently unaware and one sure to trigger some uncomfortable conversations.

Although domestic partnerships are essentially marriage by a different name, “people don’t think of them as the same thing,” said Jason Halloway, president of QLaw Foundation, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender bar association.

Those being plunged into matrimony will no doubt include couples who simply hadn’t given it much thought.

Or there will be those who broke up in the years since they registered as domestic partners, some of them now married — illegally — to other people.

Some may be former Washington residents now living in other states — some in states where their partnerships aren’t recognized and where dissolution isn’t possible.

Many, however, will likely be couples like Seattle’s Jason Bennett and Michael Whaley, together 15 years, who had a big commitment ceremony and celebration eight years ago, and who now plan to simply let their domestic partnership roll into marriage.

“If you have been together a long period of time and consider yourselves married, going around the block a second time feels more technical,” said Bennett, 40, a Democratic political consultant. “We’ve been debating for a year, going back and forth. Who would we choose as justice of the peace? Who’d we invite? The expense. I think at this point, we’ll just let it roll.”

By mid-to-late March, the Secretary of State’s Office will send out notices to those in the domestic-partnership registry, alerting them to the pending change. As of Friday, an estimated 6,500 same-sex couples remained in the state registry.

Those in the process of dissolutions or annulments of these unions won’t be converted.

“We know there are scenarios we’ve not thought of,” said Pam Floyd, corporations director in the Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees domestic-partnership registrations. “I’m sure we’ll come up against those and will handle them on a case-by-case basis. This is the first time we’ve had to confront something like this.”

Washington lawmakers authorized domestic partnerships (DPs) in 2007, five years before same-sex marriages became legal. The law granted a range of marriage-like benefits to gay and lesbian couples, as well as to heterosexual couples in which at least one partner is 62.

At its peak, just before same-sex marriage became legal, some 10,000 couples were in registered DPs.

The same-sex marriage law signaled an end to domestic-partnership arrangements for most gay couples, giving them until June 30 of this year to either marry or dissolve their union — a process not unlike a divorce.

Some 691 couples — gay and straight — have had their domestic partnerships dissolved in the nearly seven years since that law took effect.

The June 30 conversion won’t affect senior couples in registered domestic partnerships _ gay or straight. Beginning July 1, domestic partnerships will remain an option only for them.

Halloway, of QLaw, said he’s come to realize, as he’s traveled across the state to talk about it, that many couples are unaware of the pending conversions.

He recalls one conversation in which a couple told him they had “signed up for the minimum.”

Many of the questions he and other lawyers are getting are related to taxes and finances, particularly in the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages.

“The difference between now and July 1 has to do with the mess of taxes,” he said. “You’re obligated, if you’re married, to file as a married couple.”

But even with the notice being sent out, there’s still a chance some people who get converted may not know.

Automatic conversions in the marriage law didn’t come about automatically. Even before the legislation was introduced, sponsors and their supporters had debated what to do with domestic partnerships for gay couples if the law passed.

The bill’s primary sponsor, then-Sen. Ed Murray, now Seattle’s mayor, said at the time that if gays gained the right to marry, same-sex couples should expect no more marriage-like options than opposite-sex couples.

Automatic conversions aren’t unique, either.

Those still in civil unions in Connecticut and New Hampshire were converted into married couples after those states passed same-sex marriage laws.

California, meanwhile, retained domestic partnerships for all couples — gay and straight — recognizing that some states would honor such unions even if they didn’t sanction gay marriage.

In Washington, even those whose domestic partnerships are converted to marriage without their express permission will find that the process for ending both is essentially the same.

“As long as couples know it’s happening, at least they can untangle it,” QLaw’s Halloway said.

AFP Photo/Joel Saget

Elite Mountain Climber Chad Kellogg Dies On Patagonia Peak

By Lornet Turnbull, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — In the world of mountain climbing, Chad Kellogg was a legend.

The elite alpinist has climbed some of the world’s highest and most challenging peaks — charging up mountains and breaking records for the fastest ascents.

Kellogg, 42, of Seattle, was killed Friday night as he and climbing partner Jens Holsten, of Leavenworth, Wash., descended Mount Fitz Roy, a prominent peak in the Patagonia region of Argentina.

The two had successfully summited the 11,000-foot mountain and were hanging together from a pre-established anchor when a rock fell, striking Kellogg and killing him instantly.

There will be no attempts to recover his body.

Word of his death shocked those in the Northwest mountaineering community, who describe a humble guy with unflinching dedication and almost unparalleled skills on some of the world’s highest places.

“Chad had unbelievable drive beyond most high-level athletes,” said his friend and fellow climber Gordon Janow, of Alpine Ascents International. “He was dedicated to the sport and lived to be in the mountains.

“The amount of training, persistence and wherewithal it takes to do what Chad does puts him in a class with 0.01 percent of the climbing population.”

Kellogg grew up in the Seattle area, honing his skills on the mountains here. He turned to climbing after his goal of becoming Olympic luge racer ended.

He once held the record for the fastest ascent-descent of Mount Rainier — a climb he had made numerous times — going up and down in just under five hours. The record has since been surpassed.

Over the years, Kellogg had amassed an impressive record, scaling previously unclimbed mountains in remote parts of the world.

In 2003, he entered his first speed-climbing contest, on a mountain in Kazakhstan, where he took home a gold medal. And Kellogg still holds the record for the fastest round-trip climb at 23 hours and 55 minutes of Denali’s West Buttress route in Alaska.

But Mount Everest continued to elude him.

Three times he set out to break the speed record on the world’s highest mountain — alone and without oxygen, something few climbers attempt. He never summited the 29,029-foot mountain and planned to try again next year.

Kellogg’s success on the slopes of mountains came up against unimaginable loss in his personal life.

On his 2010 attempt to summit Everest, he had planned to spread the ashes of his wife, Lara Bitenieks Kellogg, who had died three years earlier in a fall from Mount Wake in Alaska’s Denali National Park.

Kellogg had received word of her death in a phone call while climbing an unclimbed peak in remote China. Less than a month after he buried his wife, he was diagnosed with colon cancer.

More recently, he lost his only brother, two uncles, an aunt and grandparents — all while he was on climbing expeditions, according to his uncle Brent Kellogg. In 2010, Chad told Outside magazine he’s lost 17 friends over time.

Brent Kellogg said he last saw his nephew over the Christmas holiday at a family gathering.

“Chad was never content with climbing the conventional way,” including his attempts at Everest, his uncle said. And he said his nephew was conscientious about safety and often worked to make sure other climbers were safe. “He cared immensely about the climbing community.”

Chad Kellogg started climbing early — though it was trees he was ascending back in his early childhood.

From age 18 months to age 8, the family lived in Kenya, where Chad’s father and mother, Ric and Peggy Kellogg, served as missionaries.

His son loved to climb the trees there, keeping an eye out for poisonous snakes, Ric Kellogg, of Edmonds, recalls. He also loved diving and snorkeling when the family went to the beach.

His son caught the mountain climbing bug in his early teens after the family moved back to the U.S. The family had a house in Brier, and had as a tenant a climber who lived in the basement. Young Chad Kellogg started going on climbs with him.

“He was always adventurous,” his father said.

More recently, Ric Kellogg said, his son had found happiness with his girlfriend, Mandy Kraus, and was “very much in love.”

Ric and Peggy Kellogg had recently moved from a house to a condo in Edmonds. His son called him last fall and said: “‘Don’t sell the solar panel. I want to use them on a house in the Methow Valley,'” Ric Kellogg said. “He planned to build a house, raise a family there.”

Dan Aylward, a close friend who had climbed with Kellogg in the Cascades, said he visited with him in Patagonia in January.

“He was an independent thinker, and a visionary in terms of identifying routes up mountains and perfecting the style of climbing best suited to the route,” Aylward said.

He said his friend, a self-proclaimed Buddhist, used meditation to sharpen his mental focus.

“He always made sure to let those he cared about know it, and always was consciously and deliberately walking the line between maximizing the achievement of his personal objectives and giving back to the community that supported him,” Aylward said.

Robert Page, store manager at Feathered Friends in Seattle, which supplied some of Kellogg’s gear over the past several years, said Kellogg stopped in the Seattle store in January, just before he left for South America.

“He was one of the few people who does what he does, yet maintains a level of humility,” he said.

“He took time out to listen to people, regardless of who they were.”

Chad Kellogg is survived by his parents; his partner, Mandy Kraus, of Seattle; and his father-in-law, Robert Bitenieks, of Seattle.

Photo: Steve Ringman/Seattle Times/MCT

Elite Mountain Climber Chad Kellogg Dies On Patagonia Peak

By Lornet Turnbull, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — In the world of mountain climbing, Chad Kellogg was a legend.

The elite alpinist has climbed some of the world’s highest and most challenging peaks — charging up mountains and breaking records for the fastest ascents.

Kellogg, 42, of Seattle, was killed Friday night as he and climbing partner Jens Holsten, of Leavenworth, Washington, descended Mount Fitz Roy, a prominent peak in the Patagonia region of Argentina.

The two had successfully summited the 11,000-foot mountain and were hanging together from a pre-established anchor when a rock fell, striking Kellogg and killing him instantly.

There will be no attempts to recover his body.

Word of his death shocked those in the Northwest mountaineering community, who describe a humble guy with unflinching dedication and almost unparalleled skills on some of the world’s highest places.

“Chad had unbelievable drive beyond most high-level athletes,” said his friend and fellow climber Gordon Janow, of Alpine Ascents International. “He was dedicated to the sport and lived to be in the mountains.

“The amount of training, persistence and wherewithal it takes to do what Chad does puts him in a class with 0.01 percent of the climbing population.”

Kellogg grew up in the Seattle area, honing his skills on the mountains here. He turned to climbing after his goal of becoming Olympic luge racer ended.

He once held the record for the fastest ascent-descent of Mount Rainier — a climb he had made numerous times — going up and down in just under five hours. The record has since been surpassed.

Over the years, Kellogg had amassed an impressive record, scaling previously unclimbed mountains in remote parts of the world.

In 2003, he entered his first speed-climbing contest, on a mountain in Kazakhstan, where he took home a gold medal.

And Kellogg still holds the record for the fastest round-trip climb at 23 hours and 55 minutes of Denali’s West Buttress route in Alaska.

But Mount Everest continued to elude him.

Three times he set out to break the speed record on the world’s highest mountain — alone and without oxygen, something few climbers attempt. He never summitted the 29,029-foot mountain and planned to try again next year.

Kellogg’s success on the slopes of mountains came up against unimaginable loss in his personal life.

On his 2010 attempt to summit Everest, he had planned to spread the ashes of his wife, Lara Bitenieks Kellogg, who had died three years earlier in a fall from Mount Wake in Alaska’s Denali National Park.

Kellogg had received word of her death in a phone call while climbing an unclimbed peak in remote China. Less than a month after he buried his wife, he was diagnosed with colon cancer.

More recently, he lost his only brother, two uncles, an aunt and grandparents — all while he was on climbing expeditions, according to his uncle Brent Kellogg. In 2010, Chad told Outside magazine he’s lost 17 friends over time.

Brent Kellogg said he last saw his nephew over the Christmas holiday at a family gathering.

“Chad was never content with climbing the conventional way,” including his attempts at Everest, his uncle said. And he said his nephew was conscientious about safety and often worked to make sure other climbers were safe. “He cared immensely about the climbing community.”

Dan Aylward, a close friend who had climbed with Kellogg in the Cascades, said he visited with him in Patagonia in January.

“He was an independent thinker, and a visionary in terms of identifying routes up mountains and perfecting the style of climbing best suited to the route,” Aylward said.

He said his friend, a self-proclaimed Buddhist, used meditation to sharpen his mental focus.

“He always made sure to let those he cared about know it, and always was consciously and deliberately walking the line between maximizing the achievement of his personal objectives and giving back to the community that supported him,” Aylward said.

Robert Page, store manager at Feathered Friends in Seattle, which supplied some of Kellogg’s gear over the past several years, said Kellogg stopped in the Seattle store in January, just before he left for South America.

“He was one of the few people who does what he does, yet maintains a level of humility,” he said. “He took time out to listen to people, regardless of who they were.”

Chad Kellogg is survived by his parents, Ric and Peggy Kellogg, of Edmonds; his partner, Mandy Kraus, of Seattle; and his father-in-law, Robert Bitenieks, of Seattle.

Photo: NomadicEntrepreneur via Flickr