When someone asked George Mallory why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, the explorer famously responded, "Because it is there." If you were to ask Keith Garman why he is heading to Tibet's high plateau at an age when most men are ready to retire, he would probably answer, "Because it is there -- and because I am an Eagle Scout."
For more than half a century, Scouting and exploration have been the twin themes of Garman's life, so it is no surprise that this life member of The Explorers Club would mount a multiyear expedition to the roof of the world.
Born in 1939 in rural Ohio, Garman lived the idyllic life of a farm boy until age 13, when his family moved to Troy, Ohio, in search of new opportunities. Garman protested the move and his new surroundings by joining in childish pranks like tossing two-by-fours out of a lumberyard. Then he discovered Scouting and "took off like a rocket," he said.
Garman became an Eagle Scout in 1954 -- coincidentally the 50th anniversary of the founding of The Explorers Club. Two years later, he participated in a nationwide contest to send an Eagle Scout to the Antarctic, 26 years after Paul Siple went there with Admiral Richard Byrd. Siple himself was one of the judges.
Although Garman was not selected as that year's Antarctic Scout -- that honor went to a fellow named Richard Chappell -- he retained his interest in exploration. Eight years later, he was inducted into The Explorers Club as the organization's third-youngest member.
In 2003, Garman began building support for his High Plateau Expedition, a planned four-year effort to explore the geographical, geophysical, and geological history of the Plateau of Tibet. In a series of meetings across the country in 2003 and 2004, Garman outlined his plan to take core samples up to depths of 20,000 feet at 16 different locations across the plateau.
Since then, he has been shuttling back and forth between the United States and China, including a reconnaissance trip last year that marked the formal start of the expedition. Fittingly, that trip occurred 100 years after The Explorers Club was formed and 200 years after Lewis and Clark began their exploration of the territory of the Louisiana Purchase.
Perhaps most importantly, the start of Garman's expedition occurred 50 years after he received his Eagle Scout badge. "Until I got reinvolved in Scouting in the last few years, I hadn't realized how much Scouting has meant to my life," Garman said. "The BSA saved me and made me."
And not only him. Whenever he speaks about his expedition, Garman talks about the importance of the Scouting program. He points out that the three youngest men ever elected into The Explorers Club are Paul Siple, Richard Chappell, and himself -- Eagle Scouts all.