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Skip Green, 1934-2010, early Boulder climber/rescuer
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By Rich Farnham
Jan 16, 2010
I wanted to share a few stories I heard today at the memorial service for Skip Green. I knew Skip as a teammate on Rocky Mountain Rescue, something he’s been doing since 1953! Today I learned more about his early years as a climber in the Boulder area, which I thought might interest this forum. There are some nice obituaries here, here, and here that tell more about the incredible life he lived.

Skip was on the first ascent of the N face of the Matron in 1951 (although MP, and presumably the guidebooks, don’t list him). One of his climbing partners that day (I believe it was Karl Gustafson) spoke about the climb at the memorial service today. He said they went up there “to check it out” that day with no intention of actually climbing it; as such, they had a rope, but only minimal technical gear. They managed the ascent, but barely had enough gear to get back down. I didn’t follow the details, but he actually described tearing something off his pant leg to serve as part of one anchor.

More impressive to me was the first winter ascent, solo, of the East Face of Longs in February 1953. My math puts him at about 19 years old at the time. Incredible! Today his brother read a note that Skip left behind as he headed off to do the route. It seems Skip swore his brother, and a few close friends, to secrecy about his plans; but he did write them down in case anything went wrong. He made it to Chasm Lake on the first day, and set up camp there. His plan was to try the North Chimney the next day. Apparently he took some sort of fall in the North Chimney and retreated back to Chasm Lake. He was slightly injured from the fall, “making it difficult to walk” according to his brother telling the story today. But rather than head out, he tried a different route the next day. At this time I don’t know his exact route. At the time they apparently called it the Glacier Route (discussing it later, many of us assume this to be Lamb’s Slide). I don’t know what route he took to the top from there, but he did summit, and came down the Keyhole route. His tent and sleeping bag were still at Chasm Lake, so he endured a cold night at the shelter by the keyhole and came out the following day. At the trailhead the rangers issued him a ticket. This was still during the time when you were required to register for climbs on Longs. Skip knew he wouldn't get permission, so he didn't ask. Photos from his climb are visible here

In the 60’s, Skip was the manager of the CU Mountain Research Station on Niwot Ridge; and was a master at operating in the atrocious conditions that occur up there. He built his own house, “off the grid”, just north of the research station, and continued to experiment with wind power and other low impact living technologies. Throughout this time he continued his involvement with the rescue group. He had no equal on a snowmobile, and developed many techniques for over-snow evacuation. His last mission with the group was last summer, for a total of 57 years of helping people that were lost or injured in the mountains. Many of my role models in the rescue group described Skip as their role-model. Always calm and competent, and somehow always prepared for the unexpected.

I feel lucky to have called him a friend. He will be greatly missed.

FLAG
By Joseph Crotty
From Broomfield, CO
Jan 16, 2010
Maltese cross.
Rich,

Thanks for sharing. The photos were awesome! Every time I think I am doing something "new" I know a talent like Skip has already "been there done that."

FLAG
By Jim Amidon
Jan 16, 2010
J TREE
WOW what a life.

Taking on Longs at that age and the gear he had......

Phew.......

RIP

FLAG
By Rich Farnham
Jan 16, 2010
Some additional notes:

It turns out that Kiener and Vaille did the FA of "Kiener's" in January 1924, so Skip's was not the first winter ascent. I may have misinterpreted the information as it was presented to me. Perhaps Skip's climb was the first solo winter ascent of the East Face. Regardless, it was an impressive feat for a 19 year old in 1953. FA or not.

Also, I'm stuck with the conundrum that Skip would likely not appreciate me posting this information. He was far too humble to advertise his accomplishments. But sometimes stories are worth telling even if the subject is too humble to spread the word. I think climbing history is worth recording and love to learn the story behind the climbs that I do. From reading MountainProject, I can tell many of you feel the same way. Understanding the bold nature and pure style of those that came before us allows us to strive to respect this ethic in the climbs that we do.

Skip lived his life in a pure and minimalist style. By sharing stories about this we inspire others to do the same.

FLAG
By DaveC
From Louisville, CO
Jan 17, 2010
Back lit maple leaf turning from green to red
Jim Erickson's "Rocky Heights," 1980, does credit Skip Greene & Karl Gustavson with the 1951 1st ascent of the N Face of the Matron. From Karl's recounting at Skip's service, they were disappointed to discover a previous party's piton near the summit, and thus realize they had not done the 1st ascent of the Matron. The retreat sounded a bit of an epic, apparently necessitating the re-use of the 1st ascent party's pin.

For whatever its worth, I don't think Skip "did" email. Certainly he was not an MP member, so I figure Skip would be as indifferent to an MP forum about him as he would be to any other conversation that he wasn't present for.

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By slim
Administrator
Jan 17, 2010
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.
the north face of the matron was a pretty kick ass route for the time period. given their equipment, footware, etc, it is quite impressive. RIP.

FLAG
By Buff Johnson
Jan 18, 2010
smiley face
Thanks for a cool write up, Rich.
He was really a super guy.

FLAG


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