Lindsay Peyton
Mark Gunlogson, who had been a guide with Mountain Madness since 1993, took the helm of the company in 2008. He recently moved the business from its location in Luna Park to a new space in White Center.

From the top of the world to the heart of White Center -- Mountain Madness sets up shop in new home

By Lindsay Peyton

Mountain Madness has long served as a base camp for climbers in West Seattle. It’s the place to go to hire a guide, rent equipment and plan a big adventure on peaks around the world.

The business has served customers from around the world since it opened in 1984. Recently, Mountain Madness moved its headquarters from Luna Park to 9249 17 Avenue SW in White Center, where the vista of Mt. Rainier provides the perfect backdrop for climbing enthusiasts.

The company’s owner, a third generation West Seattleite Mark Gunlogson said he wanted the company to remain in the area and looks forward to becoming part of the diverse White Center neighborhood.

He had searched for a new location for the growing business for quite a while before discovering an available space after lunch in White Center.

“I was just driving around, poking around, checking everything out,” he said. “And I stumbled upon this. It was totally lucky.”

Mountain Madness was founded in 1984 by the late Scott Fischer, who climbed the world’s highest and most challenging peaks, including Everest, K2, the Matterhorn, El Capitan, Mt. Blanc, Peak Communism and the Diamond Couloir of Mt. Kenya.

He served as a climbing instructor and guide for more than 25 years and decided to create the business. He created a number of the routes still used by the company today – and established its dedication to charity and outreach efforts. Fischer raised funds for both AIDS research and the international relief organization CARE.

In May of 1996, Scott climbed Everest for a second time. The trip resulted in a disaster, chronicled in the book “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. Fischer died as a result of a major storm that hit as his group descended.

Christine Boskoff then took over the company. A long-time athlete and engineer, she began climbing with her husband Keith Boskoff. She eventually quit her job and committed to climbing full-time. She became one of the leading female high altitude climbers in the world, going up Everest, Cho Oyu, Gasherbrum II, Lhotse, Shishapangma and Broad Peak, as well as Aconcagua, Carstensz Pryamid, Elbrus, Everest, Kilimanjaro and Vinson Massif.

In 2006, Boskoff and her climbing partner Charlie Fowler died while on a climbing adventure in the Sichuan Province of China.

Gunlogson, who had been a guide with Mountain Madness since 1993, took the helm and has worked to keep Fischer and Boskoff’s passion for adventure alive.

He had been climbing since age 15 in the Olympic and Cascade Mountains. He studied environmental science at college but pursued an unchartered career path, working as a fisheries biologist on Korean fishing boats, painting houses, trying carpentry, writing for climbing publications, teaching skiing and working on conservation projects in South America.

Gunlogson became a guide in 1987 and has since led trips to all seven continents, reaching the highest peak of six.

He was drawn to Mountain Madness, because he believed the company had room to grow.

“It was kind of small at the time, and there was a place for me to apply my knowledge,” he said. “Scott and Chris both wanted to be a more innovative company and to do more interesting trips. It was a dynamic, small company with a big name.”

Gunlogson had years of climbing experience on some of the most difficult mountains under his belt when he took over in 2008. He has continued to develop new programs ever since.

He explained that most of the business is conducted online – serving clients across the globe.

Mountain Madness offers everything from “one-day rock climbing near Seattle to the treks around the world,” Gunlogson said.

The company’s mission is to provide top-notch guiding and instruction.

“We’re a small company that’s able to be more attentive with our guests,” Gunlogson said. “We’re providing a high quality experience.”

Having high caliber guides is the secret to success, he added.

West Seattle residents mother and daughter, Megan and Tatum Dahl, agreed that the qualified guides made all the differnece.

“They hire the best in the world,” Megan said. “They’re organized, and they make it a lot of fun.”

Last summer, Tatum went for her first climbing trip with her parents, who have gone on trips with Mountain Madness for years.

Tatum said the guides made her feel safe. “They had everything figured out down to a T,” she said. “Our guides were fantastic. You could tell it isn’t just a job to them. They love doing it.”

Megan encourages Seattle residents to take advantage of having the company in their own backyard.

“How great is it to have a guide service right in the neighborhood,” she said. “They’re local and reputable.”

Mountain Madness has offerings for newbies and the most experienced climbers.

For individuals who want to hone their skills, the company offers climbing schools.

“You don’t have to have any climbing experience,” Gunlogson said. “We teach you the skills you need to get up the mountain.”

There are a series of courses and climbs recommended before attempting Everest.

Gunlogson said there are a number of options locally for those interested in trying a climb. He especially enjoys leading trips in the Cascades.

“It’s a total wilderness out there,” he said. “You don’t see people for days. It’s a totally different experience.”

The company can also create a custom trip for a group – and an equipment rental service.

Gunlogson often takes exploratory trips, always paving the way for new adventures.

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