John Hudson - a lost great one


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Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 11, 2010 - 01:09pm PT
One of the best things about my life is the amazing people that have become my friends and colleagues. John Hudson is one of those who died much too young. I heard he fell into a crevasse.

He was very talented on rock, snow and ice; strong and very energetic. I considered him reckless and tried unsuccessfully to rein him in a bit. I think if he had survived, he would be one of the great ones in our community.

I understand Hudson was a Gunks climber who frequented the Tetons and Canadian Rockies. I didn't know him well, but did a few climbs with him. I think he climbed regularly with Art Gran and perhaps Jim McCarthy. I would like to learn more about him if other people can contribute their memories.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Dec 11, 2010 - 02:15pm PT
I climbed with John a bunch in the Gunks. He died on a trip to South America on a mountain with Roman Laba; I'm afraid I've forgotten the details. What I remember is getting a long letter from him several weeks after we learned of his death, a deeply poignant visitation from an already departed soul and dearly missed friend.

What I remember is that John and Roman were on a ridge unroped with John out ahead. He moved onto some snow he judged unstable, turned around and said to Roman, "I think we ought to rope up here," at which point the snow gave way and he fell down a big face---I don't think his body was ever found.

John did some relatively big new routes in the Tetons with Art Gran while still a teenager. The climb in the Canadian Rockies he did with Robbins was written up by both of them in counterpoint style, revealing the thoughts and competitiveness each was feeling during the climb.

One of the things I remember about John is that he didn't seem to breathe hard on overhanging rock, a fact one hardly noticed until one got on the moves, at which point it became amazing in retrospect.

Those of us left behind have by now soldiered on through entire careers, climbing and otherwise. As we find ourselves bearing witness to our own slow declines, the lines of the famous Houseman poem come to mind,

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

And yet we would not trade faded glory for a life so suddenly interrupted. It has been many years, and yet we miss you still, John.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 11, 2010 - 02:35pm PT

Ways to the sky: a historical guide to North American mountaineering
By Andrew Selters, American Alpine Club pages 255-256


Social climber
Salt Lake City
Dec 11, 2010 - 07:07pm PT
There is a nice piece about JH in Jack Turnor's excellent book, Teewinot.

Mountain climber
Dec 11, 2010 - 08:26pm PT
Thanks for the post. I remember John well from my climbing and ranger days at Jenny lake in the early and mid 60's. Red hair, glasses, very intellectual and a great climber. I remember talking with him about the Geophysical Year, a great event. Funny what we remember.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 11, 2010 - 09:08pm PT
here's what I could tease out of the thoroughly frustrating AAJ Online search engine

Hudson, John R.
AAJ 1962:
p 218: Symmetry Crag #1, Southeast Ridge. Fred Beckey and John Hudson climbed this new route from Cascade Canyon on September 4.

p 222: Lost Temple. Almost invisible against the north face of East Temple as you look at it from Big Sandy Lake is the 1000-foot monolith, Lost Temple. Its inside detachment from the main face is about 300 feet high, but our studies showed no reasonable direct route there because of virtually impossible slabs and overhanging caves in the chimneys leading to the inside notch. Cracks and flakes on the north corner seemed to offer a oneday route. On August 27, from the ridge crest where the north corner juts upward, John Hudson led a diagonal crack on a giant slab, which tended to put one off balance when jamming with the left hand and foot. FRED BECKEY

p 223: First Ascents and New Routes, Southern Wind River Range. We are uncertain how much of our route on Mount Temple's north face, which we did on August 22, is new, but we believe that the upper half, above the glacier, is a complete deviation from a climb done in 1946. Because Bruce Monroe and I lacked ice equipment, we kept to the rock margin on the right of a small glacier and encountered friable rock. Climbing was mostly fourth class with one sixth-class and one difficult fifth-class pitch. Time from Deep Lake to the summit was 6 1/2 hours. The next day Yvon Chouinard, Art Gran and John Hudson made the first ascent of Steeple. FRED BECKEY
The Southeast Face of Mount Temple AAJ 1963 p407
JOHN HUDSON and I had come to attempt the 4000-foot southeast face of Mount Temple, the tenth highest peak in the range. John, probably one of the most promising young mountaineers in the United States, had his first season in the mountains last year, and it was a great one. He made four major new routes and two first ascents of peaks. Not bad for a sixteen-year-old!
p 410: Mount Moran 1922-1962 LEIGH N. ORTENBURGER With sections written by James P. McCarthy, Pete Sinclair, John Hudson, Don Anderson, Fred Beckey and Ted Vaill

Though the standard South Buttress route of Moran has long been considered enjoyable technical climbing, it was not until 1961 when Dave Dornan and Herb Swedlund climbed the East South Buttress that the possibility for other routes was realized. In late August of 1961 Yvon Chouinard and Art Gran looked over and climbed a few pitches of the west face of the South Buttress of Moran, but a Wind River trip intervened and on their return snow and cold weather prevented an attempt. Again this summer Yvon had to return to California before a try could be made.

With some misgivings I consented to join Art and on August 24 we were rowing across Leigh Lake and wondering if it is really easier than the trail after all. From camp just below the first lake in Leigh canyon, we set out the next morning with food and water for two days, a bivouac sack, down jackets and climbing gear, including forty pitons. From the second prominent inside corner to the left of the ridge crest, perhaps 800 feet above the valley floor, we climbed forty feet free to a stance protected from rockfall and started up, The first two pitches were on the easy but rotten rock which forms the first ledge of the standard route. On better rock the next lead follows a series of small inside corners up to an easy slab which we climbed diagonally to the left. Art next led a beautiful flared chimney, first stemming and then climbing the left wall with one piton for aid until he could exit right to a belay point. A long moderate lead brought us to the large ramp which cuts the west face. After a 50-foot traverse left, we continued up two fairly easy pitches to the base of steeper rock, the beginning of the more difficult portion of the climb. On well-fractured but overhanging rock, Art was forced to lead the 80-foot pitch primarily on direct aid. As I chopped the pitons out, I began to doubt the wisdom of my decision to come, but this was the only part I did not really enjoy. A steep slab diagonally to the left brought us to a rather discouraging point. The line above was blocked by huge overhangs and traversing looked difficult. The key turned out to be an interesting direct aid traverse left for 25 feet to a flake which we climbed to a slab. From here we followed moderate slabs up and to the left to a small ledge. We paused before the next section, which looked difficult.

For the four or five pitches of the steep section we had followed a line of weakness through the overhangs which led diagonally up left from the first nailing pitch. An attempt to rappel straight down over this high angle rock would lead to the embarrassing position of being suspended free from the rock at the end of the rope. Diagonal rappels or climbing down would have been possible but tricky. After contemplating this idea and fortifying ourselves with more gorp and water, Art tackled the next lead. A short bit of mixed tension and free climbing and a diagonal traverse left between large overhangs, requiring some direct aid, brought us to a small belay ledge, The easier angle of the rock reassured us that we could finish the climb that day. A long climb took us to a large broken ledge where we again stopped to eat and admire the view. A short traverse right and moderate climbing up a buttress took us to an easy chimney, which we followed for two pitches to third-class rock, where we unroped. After climbing over a small spur, we took the standard descent route downward until darkness forced us to bivouac. The night was warm and pleasant; in the morning we finished the water and most of the food and started down. The 1500-foot slog gave us time to meditate on the disadvantages of kletterschuhe, the importance of water, and the recollections of a beautiful climb.

This is the longest technical climb in the Tetons, being 1800 feet long with no pitch below class 4 (5.0). We were ten hours on the face. We placed and removed 42 pitons. The route is a Yosemite Grade 4 with a technical difficulty of 5.7 and 6.7, but if combined with the south ridge, would probably reach Grade 5. Pitons needed: 10 horizontals, 2 knifeblades; angle pitons : 6 3/4-inch, 2 1-inch, 1 1 1/2-inch, 1 2-inch.
Climbs and Expeditions AAJ 1963
p 488: Disappointment Peak, Northwest Chimney. Art Gran and John Hudson on July 5 made a new route on the northwest face of Disappointment Peak by selecting the distinct ledge and chimney system which is between the northwest crack and the northwest shelf.

p 489: Mount Owen, Southeast Face. It is surprising that there have been only two climbs on the face between the south ridge and the regular Koven couloir of Mount Owen, especially since this is the most accessible portion of the mountain. On August 18 Ants Leemets and John Hudson made an apparently new route on this face which lies west of the Chouinard route of 1957.
New Climbs in the Wind River Range AAJ 1963 p421
At the conclusion of the 1961 season, snow storms had kept John Hudson and me from completing a route on the very attractive east face of Wolf's Head, one of the major peaks in the cirque.

AAJ 1964: 72-74, 203,
West Face of Mount Brussels AAJ 1965 p324
John Hudson and I felt that a second route on Mount Brussels should be attempted on the side opposite the east buttress route. In the late afternoon of August 7, we crossed the Athabaska River in a cart suspended from a steel cable. We packed part way up the Fryatt Valley and after a night's rest pushed our camp to 8000 feet at the base of a small rock face, directly below the west side of the Christie-Brussels col. The next morning it was snowing. In the afternoon we ascended to the col but the storm forced a retreat. While descending, we noted with dismay that an ice cliff with partially detached blocks lay 500 feet directly above our camp. Sleep came hard that night.

AAJ 1966: 25-29, 41-45,
AAJ 1967: 283-286, 369,
AAJ 1968: 60-65, 121, 169,
Climbs and Expeditions AAJ 1969 p378
Talkeetna Range. The year's noteworthy climbs in this accessible range began on March 3 when my wife Grace and I with Dub Bludworth made the first ascent of Eska Mountain (5680 feet) by its southwest ridge. On July 6 Bob Spurr did better than on two previous attempts on "Lower Tower" (6129 feet) and made its first ascent with Jack Miller and Bill Burnett, climbing the west ridge. Curt and Gretchen Wagner spent nearly two weeks of bad July weather in the Mint Glacier area at the head of the Little Susitna River. They compared the granite towers they named "Spearmint," "Doublemint," "Troublemint" and "Bubblemint" to the Bugaboos; they were unable to reach any of these major summits, though they attempted some of them and did climb minor spires. On July 20, Don N. Anderson and Don W. Anderson climbed "Outpost" (5750 feet), two miles northeast of Snowbird Mine; the next day, accompanied by Mary Wilson, they climbed the three highest "Goodhope Towers" (5750 feet) and the Andersons alone went on to climb "Turnkey" (5538 feet) from the south. Grace and I made the second ascent of Turnkey by a new route with John Hudson on September 8 when we traversed it from northwest to southwest. Gayle and Helen Nienhueser made the first ascent of "Monarch Peak" (7108 feet), the highest on the.Anchorage D-3 quad, on August 12 by its southeast ridge and the following day they climbed the more difficult P 6869, two miles east. Granite Peak (6729 feet) had its second ascent on October 20 from Bill Babcock and Hans Van der Laan, but six years should not lapse between ascents of such a fine and easily reached mountain.

AAJ 1970: 53-54, 160, 170, 179; obit. 1970: 219-220

[this would all be more readable if Tom shortened his URL reference above...or STForum was a bit more intelligent about the boundaries]

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 11, 2010 - 10:20pm PT
Thank you very much, Ed. I was with them on that 1962 trip to the Wind Rivers.
peter laue

Mountain climber
Mar 28, 2013 - 01:28pm PT
As I grow older the memories I have of the people who have been my true friends , rather than fading, come into sharper focus. John Hudson and I were both students at Cornell in 1968. I was a wanna be rock climber and John was the real thing. I remember that he slept on the floor without any mattress so he could sleep comfortably on a rock ledge and he liked to walk down halls, dragging his hands on the cement block walls to toughen his finger tips.
I talked him into taking me with him on one of his frequent trips to the Gunks. John taught me everything I know about rock climbing on The Four Horsemen and other climbs, childishly easy for him, while I wondered if it was safe to climb with my knees banging together so violently.
The next day was so hot we searched for a place to swim and were arrested for swimming in a reservoir (we didn't know!). They wouldn't take our checks and we (John,myself and my wife!) spent the day in jail until Dick Williams bailed us out. John spent the time doing finger traverses across some steel beams on ceiling of our cell.
John Hudson was a friend and he taught me things that have lasted a lifetime.

Alan Rubin

Mar 28, 2013 - 02:59pm PT
I missed this thread when it was posted the first time around. The thread title is totally accurate. John died at a young age already a very accomplished climber but one who still hadn't reached his full potential, more importantly he was a very bright and personable young man who was alot of fun to be around. I only climbed with him on a few occasions but always greatly enjoyed being with him and still miss him.He is one of far too many friends lost long before their "time". I posted a brief mention of him in one of the Gunks/Vulgarians threads a few years ago---forget which one.

Mar 28, 2013 - 06:46pm PT
I knew John in the late 1950s, before he developed into an outstanding climber. I think we may have done a minor FA on some ridge on the south side of Disappointment Peak. I have little recollection other than him being a nice guy and easy to get along with. So sad he's not with us.

Trad climber
East Coast
Mar 28, 2013 - 08:23pm PT
I think there must be at least two John Hudson Memorial Routes in the Gunks. There is the John Hudson Memorial Route in the Trapps a.k.a. Trashcan Overhang, and I remember also doing a pretty cool two-pitch 5.9 out at Bonticou Cliff, which someone told our party was also the John Hudson Memorial Route.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Mar 29, 2013 - 12:37am PT
The real and only official John Hudson Memorial route is at Bonticou Right. John did make the first (free) ascent (toprope, 1965) of the Trash Can Overhang, after which it became Hudson's Boulder Problem.

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Mar 29, 2013 - 01:05am PT
Everyone! Thank you so much for the history.

Regrets on my part at never meeting John Hudson.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 29, 2013 - 01:55am PT
One summer night a bunch of us were gathered around a big fire pit in the Tetons CCC climbers camp for a Teton Tea Party presided over by our elders: Bill Briggs, Art Gran, 'Charlie Brown', and Gary Hemming. (John Gill was usually fast asleep by this time...)

Conversations were quieting down late in an evening of too much wine, when a full moon arose, greeted by cheers and wolf calls.

An inspired teen-age John Hudson stood up from his seat on a log in the dim light and called out, "Let's do a moonlight climb up the Grand Teton! Starting in five minutes...grab your ice axes and let's go!"

Over a dozen of us responded, streaming out in a ragged line across Lupine Meadows in the moonlight. John set a fast pace up the trail to Garnet Canyon as the number of people in the group gradually diminished behind us. Less than a dozen people made it up as far as the meadows in Garnet Canyon.

A few more dropped off the enterprise as we trudged up past the Petzoldt Caves and they curled up among the rocks to rest. The rocky slopes from there to the first snow fields claimed a few more stragglers (including my regular climbing partners Joe Feint and Doug Thompson's brother John?) who sank down to sleep among the boulders. As we reached the Lower Saddle, only John Hudson and I were still steaming along.

By the time we reached the Upper Saddle of the Owen-Spalding Route in the calm moonlit night it was everything I could do to match his pace. We scrambled up the upper section of the peak as early daylight was coming back into the sky.

I'll never forget the sight as shoulder-to-shoulder together we poked our heads up over the summit to look towards the eastern sunrise. Just at that moment the upper edge of the sun popped up above the horizon, with the West Face at our backs still claimed by the night, and morning before us to the east.

We were overheated from our fast pace and cooling fast with little protection from the fresh morning wind. So we started back down, with our legs tremoring a bit from the climbing effort and the change of pace. Lacking a rope, we down-climbed the icy chimney.

We raced each other flat out downhill together in a heady dizzy state-of-mind; feet cold from the snow and heads overheated from the exertion; calling out a wake-up call as we passed each of the sleepy-heads in the morning sun. I recall being worried that John was not being sufficiently cautious on the steep snow slopes, as I tried to give myself adequate run-out room if necessary for a self-arrest.

We made it back to the Jenny Lake CCC Camp by noon, and figured we had done the round trip in 13 hours; which was unheard of in an era when the route was usually done in two full days.


Trad climber
Mar 29, 2013 - 07:18am PT
I remember watching John climb Nosedive, at the Gunks, with seemingly little effort.

I was impressed, but never got a chance to climb with him.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Mar 29, 2013 - 12:39pm PT
Anyone have photos?
Alan Rubin

Mar 29, 2013 - 01:32pm PT
Peter, There are photos (at least one) of John buried on one of the old Vulgarian/Gunks threads---maybe someone more proficient can locate and post a link. I have a few slides but they are sadly deeply buried in my mess nor am I equipped to scan and post--someday maybe.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Mar 29, 2013 - 03:15pm PT
Alan, I have a scanner and would scan slides and negatives for you... free of charge no strings attached...

...don't let that be an inhibition!
Alan Rubin

Mar 29, 2013 - 03:20pm PT
Thanks Ed, there is a problem that we are seperated by the continent!!!!! I do have a friend with a scanner who helped me scan in one unfortunately blurry slide (on the Donini Appreciation Thread) but I don't want to overstep my "welcome". Alan

Mar 29, 2013 - 05:17pm PT
Tom, I remember that escapade you guys pulled. Thank God I was asleep at the time!

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