With the exception of Devil’s Thumb, I’ve had generally bad luck with the weather during the past year. September, which is normally a wonderful month in the Cascades, was horrible. I went down to Yosemite for most of October, and the weather was actually better back home in the Cascades! Ah well, I nonetheless got some good climbing in, and worked on my fist jams, offwidths and chimneys, which are definitely weak points for me. A highlight was climbing the Astroman-Rostrum linkup with my friend, Sam Piper, and I was pleased to just barely manage it all free.
There is a meter of new snow at 5,000 ft. in the Cascades, and so on Wednesday I had my first day skiing of the 2010-2011 winter. Dan Aylward and I skinned up to Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier. The ski down, with lots of wind-affected snow, was less-than-ideal, but not too bad for pre-Halloween!
Unfortunately, on our way out skiing we learned of the death of yet another friend and local climber, Joe Puryear. Joe was climbing in Nepal with Dave Gottlieb and broke through a cornice while unroped.
Joe’s skill as a climber is apparent to anyone who knew his climbing accomplishments. Joe was also a very kind and unique individual. His quirkiness caught me off guard the first time I met him, but I soon realized that he simply enjoyed a hobby that is a favorite of mine as well: acting weird and watching people’s reactions!
Joe was one of very few North American climbers currently practicing old-school alpine-style climbing in the Himalaya. He and Dave Gottlieb have been quietly racking up a slew of first ascents during the past few years, usually in remote, relatively unexplored areas. By old-school I mean that they were tackling big, snowy peaks with lots of difficult corniced-ridges and snow climbing – a type of climbing that doesn’t garner a lot of attention these days, but in actuality is often more difficult than WI6 or M6.
During the winter break of my last year of high school, I spent a week climbing waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies with Joe and Mark Westman. Joe was undeniably the rope-gun. In recent years I sometimes crashed at Joe’s house in Leavenworth before a winter alpine-start in the Enchantments, enjoying the company of Joe and his wife Michelle. He will be missed by many.
Joe leading the last pitch of The Sorceror, Feb. 2003
Joe leading the last pitch of Murchison Falls, Feb. 2003