Ken was a true leader. I recall the Bond Traverse in Jan/Feb 2004. There was a bitter cold, sub-zero stretch of weather; the week before a New Hampshire park ranger froze to death near North Twin. Crossing over Mt. Guyot some of us (like me) got behind the pack. There was a strong right quartering wind with a temperature near -12 F. The wind made it difficult to stand up so falling over into the scrub frequently was common. Ken was ahead of the last of us, but he dropped his pack and headed back on the trail to be sure we were OK, that we were going to make it, in spite of him being really cold and tired, and not knowing his face was beginning to incur some frost bite in spots. He herded us along. He felt responsible for our welfare and forgot about his own discomfort and jeopardy. A true leader is someone who will forget himself/herself at a time of great need and care for the needs of others. That was Ken. He was always there when you needed him. He surely will be missed.
Peace to you Ken!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Here’s to Ken.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
When we met a decade or so ago at a Wednesday evening AMC rock climb, I had no idea of the privilege that was soon to be mine. You were one of those individuals who was always welcoming and helpful to the new comers. You were always willing to provide a belay. You were always willing to mentor a new leader or a new ice climber.
We became friends and climbing partners. We spent many week-ends together climbing rock and ice in CT, NY, MA, NH, and ME.
At some point during our trips, you told me of your earlier, difficult, fight with cancer – the possible recurrence of which seemed an ever present specter. This explained, perhaps, why, at times, you seemed so… driven. You seemed intent on doing as much as possible with each opportunity that life afforded… to live each day as fully and as completely as possible. When “normal” people might be lingering longer over their morning coffee, we were roping up in -12 degree weather to climb grade 4 ice at Lake Willoughby; when “normal” people were starting their holiday shopping the week-end after Thanksgiving, we were gearing up in 6 degree temperatures, being hammered by 40mph winds and blowing snow, and suffering through -36 degree wind chill to make an early season attempt on Pinnacle Gully; when the rest of our party would be relaxing after the successful climb of a Cascade volcano, you would urge us back to the cars and on to the next objective. There was so much to do… and so little time.
But what I remember most, was the laughter. You could find humor and enjoyment in circumstances and situations that would make most people pale. Your head would go back, your eyes would twinkle, and then you would let roll with a full throated, belly supported burst of laughter. It was that, the laughter, that came to mind when I read the message informing your friends that your time with us was drawing to a close. It is… hard… to reconcile the fact that someone so full of energy and life is gone. It's too soon. It's much too early.
I’ll remember you on each and every uphill “grunt”. Along with the familiar weight of the pack, the familiar crunch of the snow, the familiar bite of cold air nipping at nose and finger, and the all too familiar tired legs and exhaustion, I'll remember that familiar laugh. Thank you for the mentoring and the knowledge shared. Thank you for the good times. And, most of all, thank you for sharing yourself. I, along with many others will miss the reality, and the possibility, of your friendship. Good bye my friend.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
One of Kens strong points was his ability to organize and he organized and ran some great mountaineering trips with meticulous planning and multiple objectives and backup plans. Many of the present CCM group had there first experience of the bigger mountains on one of Kens trips and I for one have great memories of those trips. They were intense, no sooner had one objective been achieved it was down, back to the cars and onto the next objective the same day. Although group size was limited ones ability to climb did not discount them and Ken welcomed and nurtured those with less experience.
Being in Ken’s company while climbing was always a trip, the sick jokes and when the climbing got tough the explicits came fast and furious, for those that didn’t know him they didn’t quite know what to do, for those that did, it was part of the game. I’ve missed Ken’s company, sharing a rope and his great trips these last couple of years and will continue to miss his company in the future years.
For a few years Ken kept trying to get me to try ice climbing. It became a running joke between us at the gym and at pizza afterwards. I kept telling him that I had tried ice climbing once and it was a miserable experience. I am a skier in the winter and rock climb in summer. Ken kept inviting me to go ice climbing with him anyway, and one year I decided to join him just before Christmas. We went up to Canaan and he led the first pitch of the popular Bicycle route. I scrambled and clawed my way up the first steep section to where Ken was watching me on belay. He listened to my wimpering and whining, and then smiled and offered for me to lead the next pitch. I thought he was crazy, since it was only my second pitch on ice. He assured me that it was easy and well within my ability. If Ken said it was so, then it was so. So, off I went. Ken and I swapped leads all day. He led the hard stuff, and I'd play on the easy stuff. An ice climber was born on that day due to Ken's patience and coaxing.
A few weeks later, Ken and I partnered up on the Adirondacks trip. I was amazed and honored that Ken would climb with me, a newbie on ice, for a weekend in the coveted DAKS. I figured he could have teamed up with another strong climber and kicked butt on some hairy ice, but Ken seemed to be just as happy to show me the ropes. On a rainy, unseasonably warm day, we climbed Multiplication Gully. Ken threw me at the first pitch with supreme confidence, and he climbed the very thin second pitch in great style. I had a smile on my face all day. The next day was extremely cold (-10 deg F), and we climbed at Cascade Pass. Ken led a climb (Sister's Right, Grade 4+) that I can only describe as amazingly hard. The ice was almost impenetrable, and Ken managed to get screws in somehow. He always cursed at a hard spot, and boy was there a lot of cursing going on during that pitch. Trying to follow him on it brought many of the same word choices to mind as I tried desperately to get up the frozen monster. After getting through the crux section, my hands hurt so bad that I had to stop and let the blood rush back in. The pain was excruciating, and I was a bit embarassed by the delay. Ken said it was normal and happens to all ice climbers. I finished off the pitch with a new found respect for Ken's climbing ability as well as his graciousness.
I climbed ice a few more times with Ken that season and was always amazed at how he could climb something that seemed almost impossible to me. We had great fun, and I climb ice today because Ken coaxed me into it and took the time to teach me how to swing an axe. Last year, Alex and I climbed Positive Thinking in the Adirondacks. Afterwards, we talked about Ken and what a great influence he was on our climbing. Ken had first taken Alex on the same climb several years earlier. I think he would have been pleased with our efforts that day. Thanks to Ken, we managed it safely and in good style.
I have missed climbing with Ken over the past few years. Now, I will miss it infinitely more. I will be thankful, though, for the opportunity he gave me to share some precious time with him.