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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jack Roberts, climber, 1952-2012

Jack Roberts 1952-2012

Jack was a friend.  In the end a lot of things go through my mind about Jack.  Too many stories to remember and tell.  I was always impressed with Jack's climbs.  How could you not be!?  Jack wasn't perfect but he almost always had a smile  to share and he never uttered a bad word about anyone.  Both things I find hard to emulate. Those are also the things I find most  important to remember about Jack Roberts.  

Jack could tell his own story best I think.

"Life Training"
Thursday, May 12, 2011

By Jack Roberts

Here I am again running up the Mesa Trail in the early morning light with my dog Pisco, training for another South American climbing trip.

Pisco, with a smile on his face as well.  Here is why:

I’ve been watching my pulse, feeling my breath, counting the calories, the carbs and especially the fat content of all that I eat. I’m lifting weights on odd numbered days and climbing on all the others. That’s when I’m not guiding for a living as well. I’m trying to do the right things that make me stronger and more successful in the mountains - whatever that means. The training always changes. Sometimes I need to run more for endurance so I can fly like the wind on long, alpine routes. For other climbing trips I need to climb indoors and lift weights so I develop explosive strength for those steep, long free climbs that are always on my hit list. But one thing I do notice is that I am always training for something. What? And more importantly, why?

Mainly I’ve found that training for climbing helps keep my life simple. And in this day and age with instant meals, instant travel, instant information and instant gratification, life gets complicated. It’s not easy living a simple, uncluttered life. It takes work. Effort. Just like running, or climbing, or lifting weights. For me it’s important to not own a TV and to read a lot of books and to write. It’s important to cook my own meals and have friends to share those meals and wine with. It’s important to go outdoors often and return after a day out hungry, dirty, tired and sore. That always puts a smile of my face and makes me feel alive. It’s the simple pleasures that give meaning to my life.

Climbing for over 40 years has instilled values in me that go deep. The lifestyle that has evolved around climbing has now become more important than the actual physical sensation of moving on stone or ice. More important than reaching summits is living an examined life, making every action count.

Climbing has trained me well for life separate from the cliffs and mountains I play on. Climbing has taught me how to overcome fear, hesitation, self-doubt, sickness, hunger, fatigue and more. It has shown me the necessity of being alone occasionally, that being afraid is normal and that being in wild places where no one has gone before is a good thing. Climbing has taught me how to leave security behind in order to lead a more fulfilling life. It has taught me to conserve energy, and save money, time and resources. This lifestyle has given me everything. Whatever I can’t carry on my back has to be left behind, not only in alpine climbing but also in life.

This is what I m really training for as I run the trails or solo the Third Flatiron. A better life. It isn’t the physicality of the body that I am training for so much as it is to sharpen and hone the mind’s ability to let go of all the stuff in life that doesn’t matter. It is a constant reminder to keep my life uncluttered, simple and pure."

Name: Jack Roberts
born: May 29, 1952
Height: 5’ 10”
Weight: 170lbs

Best Rock Band: Rolling Stones

Favorite pastime: climbing

Married or single: married

Jack and Pam

Kids: no way! (Jack would have been great with kids as his students and clients all knew)

Claim to fame: Wearing a Victoria’s Secret dress in a La Sportiva ad  (seriously, he did that)

Favorite motto: “You might not find what you want but you might just get what you need”.

Favorite curse word: Piss Off!

Biggest turn-off: Lazy, fat people  (I often wondered why we ever got along)

Favorite climbing area: Tuolumne Meadows Why?: Perfect rock, perfect climbs, perfect weather.

How long have you been climbing?: 37 years

Favorite beer: Guinness

Current job: Professional climber/author/guide

Jack guiding in Cham 2011

Nominee for Coolest Song Ever: Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On”?

Number of US States visited: 38

Most famous person you’ve ever met: Ricardo Cassin

Place of birth: Los Angeles, California

Best movie ever: Apocalypse Now

Who’s #1 on your speed-dial? Tra-Ling’s Asian Café.

Favorite fruit: Banana

Most memorable outdoor accomplishment: Having established 1st ascent SW Face Denali

Something nobody knows about you: I secretly listen to Neil Diamond songs, WAIT, no I don’t!

Dog or cat person?: Dog of course…….Golden Retrievers ROCK!

Most inspiring person in history: Mahatma Gandhi

Most recently-finished book: “Marley and Me”, by John Grogan

Other Sponsors: La Sportiva, Bluewater, Mammut, Osprey, Bibler, GU, Sports Street Marketing

More questions for Jack Roberts:

Do you clip bolts, plug cams, stack pads, or crush ice?

Yes, I dominate all forms of rock and ice!!

Jack doing what he has done from the beginning and making it look easy.

How long have you been an athlete with La Sportiva?

Approximately 16 years...

What are some of your lifetime climbing goals?

To continue to climb to my maximum potential in rock, ice and alpine climbs. To establish alpine FAs until I drop.

Do you have a claim to fame?

The reputation of the shape and condition of my toes and feet have made me infamous. Even Reinhold Messner wanted to see them! Also, I'm the only male Sportiva athlete to appear in a dress in any ad.

Do you have any vices?

Yes, but too many to list here........

One of the real pleasures in in Cham with Jack

What makes you tick as a climber and in the real world?

Climbing stops the voices in my head from gaining control. If I stopped climbing I'd become dangerous.

What drives you to climb? The money? The groupies? The fame? What?

Alaska in '78

Definitely the fame. Groupies are over-rated. Money is....what was the question again? Seriously, the freedom of moving in the mountains either solo or with good friends feeds my psyche and makes me feel alive.

What is your favorite movie?

Apocalypse Now.

Do you have any nicknames? Explain:

Many old friends call me JACQUES rather than Jack. These friends felt that I had more style than the name "Jack" . implies.. The nickname stuck.

What’s the longest you’ve gone without sleep? Why?

Four days. On a new route on Denali. Altitude and stress kept both my partner and I awake. We spent that time in a Bibler tent waiting out a big storm.

If you had to be named after one of the 50 states, which would it be?

Alaska. Because I've spent over 20 seasons climbing up there and know those mountains to be the most beautiful.

What did you have for lunch yesterday?

Sushi. A Rainbow roll along with some salmon and tuna sashimi.

If you could hook up a thought monitor to your head, would you see pictures, hear words or would music be playing?

A visual of someone climbing vertical ice to the Rolling Stones song......Fancy Man's Blues....the lyrics appear in a bubble above the climber's head.

What really scares you about climbing?

It's very easy to mistake the sensation of feeling omnipresence for omnipotence and get severely hurt trying to understand the difference.

If your life was made into a movie, what would it be called?

The Unsolved Mystery of Alpine 3D version.

Where would you live if it could be anywhere in the world?

Mexico. Food is tasty, Tequila is the world's best alcohol, Surfing is the perfect compliment to climbing and the beach life down there doesn't get much better...

Have no food or have no gasoline?

Got beer and two sticks to rub together for my fire...... Why ask for more?

Do you wish you had sexier feet?

No one has sexier feet than I have. Didn't we have this discussion earlier?

Jack's feet, while working in the spring of 2011 before surgery.

More about Jack here:

God's speed my friend.  I wish I could do more.

Canadian ice in 2009

"Yesterday, January 15, Jack Roberts was climbing Bridalveil Falls, an almost 400-foot-high (150-meters) Grade 5 ice route up one of Colorado's biggest waterfalls. Jack, in his guidebook Colorado Ice, which details most of the state's ice climbs, calls Bridalveil Falls, "A climb of legendary stature and beauty" and "A Colorado and indeed an American classic."

Jack was leading the second pitch, a long steep pitch up a pillar on the right side of the falls, when he fell 60 feet about 12:20 p.m. His belayer was able to signal hikers below, who summoned the San Miguel County Search and Rescue group. While waiting for rescue, Jack suffered a cardiac arrest and died. The 18 rescuers were able to evacuate Jack, who had a broken hip, off the falls but their CPR efforts were unable to resuscitate him."

Photographs and quoted content are courtesy of Jack and a number of known and unknown Internet sources not credited directly.  I hope no one minds.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this piece by Jack.

fulton said...

Been thinking about Jack all day. Thanks for putting this together.

eelnej said...

A really lovely tribute. :)

Roman Dial said...

thanks. more to come from that tackle generation as it fades.

it was an important generation.

nice tribute to one of its guiding lights.

KWDilly said...

A sad loss. A wonderful eulogy.

Leon Sedov said...

A Great Tribute to a Great Man

Bill Amos said...

Great tribute Dane, thanks.

Rich B said...

Thanks for doing this Dane! Jack was good friend and a tremendous human being! I will miss his smile.

steve-o said...

Thanks very much for your tribute Dane, and sorry for the loss of your good friend. Jack certainly touched many and won't be forgotten.