January 16, 2012

Requiescat in Pace

R.I.P., Jack Roberts


Seven or so years ago, I was new to ice climbing. I hitched my wagons to a few climbing friends, and went off to Ouray, CO, to the ice climbing festival held there every year. It's four days of ice climbing, celebration of the mountains, and friendship. Gear vendors "rent" their wares for the price of an ID card and a promise to bring the gear back. It's the sort of place where your handshake is credit enough... you promise that you'll bring those $250 crampons back, and that's all they ask.

I've been every year, save the last two, since 2004. I've been fortunate to meet and talk to some world-class climbers. The sorts of folk that look at a mountain different than most folks. Your average guy, he looks at a mountain and sees the big picture. He sees the summit, peeking out between the clouds, and he sees the lake at the base, a result of years of glacial runoff, and he sees the snow on the cap, high enough and cold enough to last the summer.

Not these folks. These are MY people. They look at a mountain, and they see the path an avalanche will take... there, that gully between the ribs of rock, that's where you don't want to be. These folks look at a mountain and they notice "Hey, I bet that ribbon of ice will stay well into the late months, since it's covered from direct sun." They see the danger, sure, but they see opportunity too. A chance to face the hill. To find out if your mettle is enough to get up and down and home in time for supper.

Jack was one of those folks. He'd climbed things that people said "Can't be done." He climbed for the pure, selfish reason of "I saw it, and wanted to climb it."

He'd been climbing for over 40 years. Longer than some of us have been breathing air. Climbed when it was illegal, then legal, then illegal, and then legal again to climb in some areas.

This weekend, he climbed his last climb. Here, in Colorado, he fell while ice climbing. From initial reports, it sounds like he fractured his pelvis and suffered hypovolemic shock, leading to cardiac arrest.

Jack was a world class climber, who commanded audiences to listen to his exploits. He was respected by thousands, known personally by dozens, but he never failed to give a kind word of encouragement to folks that didn't have his skills.

Even if one of those folks was a new climber who had hitched his wagon to a few climbing friends, and didn't know a crampon from a crevasse.

Rest well, Jack. I'll see you again someday.

1 comment:

Old NFO said...

Condolences for the loss, any time a mentor is lost, I believe a little piece of us goes with them.