January 12, 2007

A sad day in the mountains

I just heard today from Ted that Brad Washburn has passed. Here is the article from boston.com.

I personally met Washburn in 1999 before our trip to Denali. George used some connection to get us a visit to his office in the Museum of Science. I was captivated by how much energy was contained in his small frame. Although at that time he was somewhat advanced in years there was no evidence of his slowing down. Huge black and white photos of remarkable mountain features were stacked about his office like so much cord wood - when any one of them would have been a treasure in a mountaineer's home. Paper and gear and food was spread out over several tables in the back of the room.

He spun a tale about a friend who left the tent in the middle of an Alaskan gale and was gone for quite a while. When they grew worried and went to look they found him finishing a tiny igloo not far from the tent. It seemed their friend was tired of heeding nature's call in the gale and built a person sized igloo directly over a six inch crevasse that disapeared into the glacier below. A polar privy!

Then he lept to his feet excited to share a new discovery he had recently made in expedition food - triumphantly he dug out a box of instant oatmeal - Shaws brand I believe. I wonder now if he was having a joke at our expense!

It's a sad day in the mountains.


  1. Washburn was a hero of mine as well. His photographs were incredible and I think that he was underratted. I attempted to get him to come out to TI and give a talk to the kids when I was working at the Willauer. I talked to his assistant a few times and tried hard to make it happen but it never came together. I also remeber when you all went to see him in 1999 and you had a signed copy of one of his books. It is a sad day in the mountains indeed, thanks for the post.

  2. I didn't realize you tried to get him out to the island - that would have been a cool deal if that had gone through.

    His photos are definately underated - perhaps because his scientific angle, he wasn't doing it for pure art.