Chad Kellogg dies at 42; elite mountain climber

Chad Kellogg
Mountaineer Chad Kellogg, shown in 2004 in the attic of his Seattle home, where he stored his climbing gear, died Feb. 14.
(Peter Haley, News Tribune)

Chad Kellogg, an elite alpinist who climbed some of the world’s highest and most challenging peaks — charging up mountains and breaking records for the fastest ascents — was killed Feb. 14 while descending Mt. Fitz Roy, a prominent peak in the Patagonia region of Argentina. He was 42.

Kellogg, a Seattle resident, and his climbing partner Jens Holsten, of Leavenworth, Wash., had successfully summited the 11,000-foot mountain and were hanging together from a preestablished anchor when a rock fell, striking Kellogg and killing him instantly.

Word of his death shocked those in the mountaineering community.

“Chad had unbelievable drive beyond most high-level athletes,” said his friend and fellow climber Gordon Janow, of Alpine Ascents International, a Seattle-based company that provides mountaineering instruction and leads expeditions. “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% of the climbing population.”

Kellogg once held the record for the fastest ascent-descent of Mt. 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 Mt. McKinley’s West Buttress route in Alaska.


But Mt. Everest eluded 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.

A native of Washington state, Kellogg was born in 1971. From age 18 months to age 8, Kellogg and his family lived in Kenya, where Kellogg’s father and mother, Ric and Peggy Kellogg, served as missionaries.

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

Chad Kellogg caught the climbing bug in his early teens after the family moved back to the Seattle area, honing his skills on the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

“He was always adventurous,” his father said.

Kellogg had turned to climbing after his goal of becoming an Olympic luge racer ended.

But his success on the slopes of mountains came against tremendous 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 Mt. 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.

Besides his parents, Kellogg is survived by his partner, Mandy Kraus of Seattle.

Turnbull writes for the Seattle Times and McClatchy Newspapers.