Cleveland Mather McCarty tribute
A longstanding pillar of the Boulder community, Dr. Cleveland McCarty was passionate about being the best dentist he could be, caring for his family — and mountains. He arrived in the 1950s to attend the University of Colorado and his legacy has loomed large over the city ever since.
Cleve was a Renaissance man and Colorado mountaineering pioneer who co-authored the first comprehensive guide to climbing in and around Boulder and whose climbing and nature photographs have adorned the walls of hotels and restaurants as well as the pages of guides and magazines.
On July 3, 2018, Cleveland Mather McCarty passed away from natural causes at the Balfour Retirement Community in Louisville. He was 85.
Cleve was born June 5, 1933 in Denver to Alston and Gertrude Cleveland McCarty, and it didn’t take long for him to discover climbing.
“The first time I started to grab the bark on a cottonwood tree out in the backyard … I could go right up it, and no one else could,” he said in 2005. “I like heights. I’m an ‘acrophile,’ if there’s such a word.”
Cleve graduated from tree and jungle gym to spire and mountain as a young teenager at Camp Cheley in Estes Park and the Garden of the Gods.
He attended Graland school in Denver and Fountain Valley in Colorado Springs and graduated from the Choate School in Wallingford, Conn. He attended the University of Kansas before graduating from CU Boulder in 1957 with a degree in marketing.
While at CU, Cleve fully embraced his love for mountains. He became a climbing guide with the university recreation center and the Colorado Mountain Club and was active with Rocky Mountain Rescue. With his friends Stan Black, Mark Taggart and others, he began to tackle routes on many now-classic climbs in the area.
In 1959, Cleve became the first person to climb all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks in 54 days on a bet from a fellow climber.
“He said, ‘Nah, nah, you can’t do that. I’ll bet you fifty bucks.’ I took him up on it. I don’t think he’s ever paid me,” he remembered with a chuckle. Ironically, Cleve had to abandon his first attempt at the feat after injuring his ankle on Grizzly Peak, which modern surveying has demoted to sub-14er status.
Nearly 35 years later, he joined his son Conrad in climbing a number of peaks, and guiding him on technical ascents of others, as Conrad followed in his father’s footsteps, summiting all the 14ers in just 31 days.
In 1961, he earned a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry from Washington University in St. Louis. While in dental school, Cleve met Jacquelyn Wedler, and they married in September 1963.
Cleve served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force for four years in Germany. Upon his return in 1966, he and Jackie bought their home in Boulder and he opened his dental practice, where he would continue to serve patients until his retirement in 2007.
Living in Boulder again afforded him the opportunity to climb and gave him the idea to author a guidebook to the area’s ascents.
“Our rope was too short, so we were left hanging out in space,” Cleve recalled of a harrowing rappel off the Matron near Eldorado Springs. “I thought, ‘Hey, there’s got to be a guide to this whole area somewhere.”
As it turned out, there wasn’t. So, in 1967, he co-authored the first edition of “High Over Boulder” with then-teenage climber Pat Ament. The first comprehensive guide to climbing and mountaineering in and around the city, the guidebook is now in its fifth edition.
Cleve would continue to tackle alpine challenges throughout his life, climbing the highest peaks in Europe and North America, including Denali’s challenging Cassin Ridge. In 1977, he and his then-12-year-old son Eric mounted their bicycles at 2 a.m. in Boulder, rode to the trailhead of Longs Peak, climbed the mountain via the technical Kieners Route, descended the Cable Route via rappel, then rode home in a single day.
“Our lights went out on the way down; we lost our batteries,” he recalled. “But my wife had come up in our old car, and she was able to get behind us with the headlights — somewhere near Lyons — and was able to stay behind us and give us light to get back to Boulder.”
Cleve was instrumental in the establishment of Boulder’s open-space program, serving on the board in its earliest years. He also served on the Colorado Chautauqua board of directors and was national director of the American Alpine Club.
In his career, he expected excellence from himself and his staff for every patient. As a result, 5280 Magazine honored him with its Top Dentist Award and he achieved Mastership of the Academy of Dental Dentistry. He was a lifetime member of the American Dental Association and served as president of the Colorado Dental Association.
Always a CU Buffs fan, Cleve and Jackie were especially ardent during their sons Eric and Tennyson’s stellar football careers, traveling to every away game. They continued to support the team after their sons graduated and Cleve became the unofficial CU sports dentist, taking care of athletes and coaches from many sports.
Cleve was a long-time parishioner at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church. In the 1980s, his faith found additional strength after he attended a Billy Graham event at Mile High Stadium.
He was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity and a founding member of The Meadows Swim and Tennis Club in Boulder and the Walden Hollow Fishing Club on the Colorado River in Granby. He also was a lifetime member of the Denver Athletic Club.
Cleve loved magic, often putting patients at ease with sleight-of-hand. And he always enjoyed his coffee, whether it was a 25-cent cup from Bova’s Pantry or a mocha latte at the Brewing Market.
Cleve McCarty is survived by five children, Eric McCarty and his wife Miriam, of Boulder; Conrad McCarty and his wife Kathy, of Boulder; April Shores of Arlington, Va. and her husband Ryan Shores; Chance McCarty and his wife Marjorie, of Laveen, Ariz.; and Somerset McCarty of Boulder; 11 grandchildren, Madeline, Cleveland, Shannon and Torrance McCarty of Boulder; Chase and Kelly McCarty of Boulder; Thaddeus, Mather, Luke, Ashby and Jacqueline Shores of Arlington; and step grandchild Rachel Samour of Littleton, Colo.
He was preceded in death by his parents Alston and Gertrude McCarty, his brother Alston Madden McCarty, Jr., his sister Ann McCarty, his wife Jacquelyn Wedler McCarty, and sons Cayle and Tennyson.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 21 at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Boulder.
Memorial contributions may be made to Colorado Mountain Club (www.cmc.org) or the charity of the donor’s choice.