I just ran across this photo - so this is a pretty late post.
I was a member of the San Diego Mountain Rescue Team in the early 1970's. Kenny Cook was a strong climber & boulderer who joined the team around 1973 or so. He sought every opportunity to climb with more experienced climbers and I remember him as basically fearless. I don't remember how long Kenny was with the SDMRT. The last conversation I remember having with him was by telephone when he was looking for radios to take on an expedition. I didn't realize he'd died young.
Wow, I just stumbled on this gem of a photo. Mtn. Project surprises again. I climbed a bunch with Ken back in the '70s. He was a great guy , super solid and calm when the chips were down. We climbed the Higher Cathedral Spire in winter and made what was my first El Cap attempt in winter. We were lucky to survive the ice chunk (tv to refrigerator sized pieces) bombardment. I was just a kid but he, at 11 yrs. older, was a man. I looked up to him and would have followed him anywhere. He died way too young, it was totally unexpected.
Thank you very much for posting this picture. I have not seen the plaque since 1981, and I am moved to see it here now. I climbed with Kenny quite a bit from 1972 to 1979. He and Werner Landry were well known climbers in San Diego in the early 70s. Before I met him he had climbed a route on Foraker and later the Cassin Route on Denali, and some new routes in Little Switzerland. He did all the big ice routes in the Sierra and a few in the Tetons. He was one of the few people I knew of to climb the Weeping Wall on Suicide in crampons. I saw the pictures of the thin, transparent ice and the bolts they used for pro after chipping away the ice. They said it was falling apart and unclimbable by the time they got back to the base.
We once headed up to Tahquitz during one fat winter, but his Jeep pickup died in Hemet. We hitched ride to Idyllwild with a couple of climbers but had no place to sleep when we got there, and had left our sleeping bags in the truck in Hemet anyway. We just hung around until 4 am. then hiked up to the north face and started climbing with headlamps. He did most of the leading on ice, and was completely at home on front points. At one point he belayed off a sling on a huge, thick icicle at the overhang on the Northeast Face. We climbed the face twice by two routes and were done by 8 am.
He lived in Idyllwild in 1973 and did a new route on Tahquitz with Chuck Parker, On the Road. We put up some routes on the little domes surrounding Trono Blanco, and did the Pan Am with Landry and Dick Savage in 1975. Kenny spent a few days working on a new route up the right side of Keeler, but it was never finished. Werner and Kenny did a new route on Aiguille Extra, the East Buttress in July 1978. Kenny and I went to Canada later that summer. After warming up on the Black Ice Couloir and Mt. Assiniboine, we spent two weeks in Jasper waiting for good weather to do what we thought was a new route on Edith Cavell. We climbed the big rock wall below and left of Angel Glacier and then directly to the East Summit.
It had been storming for two weeks straight and we sat out one of the two forecasted clear days hoping that the avalanches would stop. There was a lot of snow, ice, and some verglas on the steeper rock. We started about 4am and about 9pm we were below the cornice. He climbed up into the cornice and tried to tunnel through, but fell off trying to get purchase in the soft snow. He went airborn three times . . . in the dark. My idea was to hack out a ledge and wait for light. In the morning we had swirling snow and about 50 feet of visibility. After we topped out, it took all of the day and half the night to get back to the truck, where we collapsed at 1 am, 43 hours after starting. But it wasn't a first. It had been climbed a month earlier (minus the 1000 feet of rock at the bottom) and dubbed the McKeith Spur.
Kenny was strong as an ox and my group, who were a few years younger, were all in awe of him. We used to joke that if there were no holds, he'd just make one. He never raised his voice or showed any sign of fear. Once when his PAT (paroxysmal atrial tachycardia) started on a climb, he calmly stopped, informed me that his heart was acting up and performed the Valsalva maneuver, then finished the climb as if nothing had happened.
He kept us entertained with tales of his truly hair raising experiences as a medic on a Special Forces B-Team in Viet Nam. He later used that training to get his RN, then to teach paramedics, a job he truly loved. His heart just stopped one night at home in December 1980. His wife was an experienced ER nurse and kept up CPR until the paramedics arrived. They all knew him and did not want to give up, but they were never able to restore a regular rhythm. A few hundred friends and acquaintances attended the memorial.