Earl Redfern Appreciation and Memoir . . .


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Mountain climber
San Diego
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 13, 2006 - 01:37am PT
I first posted this in another thread. I think Earl deserves to have his own. I know there are so many climbers here at ST and out there who knew him better and climbed with him. It would be nice to hear your stories. He left a lasting impression on me. I enjoyed reading a few of his articles about his Baffin Island adventures at the time. I think he was a visionary in so many ways . . .

John Bouchard and Earl Redfern both inspired me to get into paragliding and to ultimately bring it back full circle and combine it with climbing.

Originally from the "Mussy Nebula" . . .

Gawd, I feel like I entered an alternate Universe in these long "Mussy Nebula" threads - wow! Weird stuff man. What the hell are you guys smoking, drinking, or dropping?

Here is someone I got to meet through rather unusual circumstances at the Mountain Room bar in YV -- Earl Redfern. I met him through a mutual friend Joe Yaggi.

Joe, a friend, climbing partner and fellow "SDSU Leisure Connection" outdoor leader and I, lead a trip to Yosemite with a van full of European and Asian foreign exchange students who were learning English at the American Language Institute at SDSU in the Fall of 1988(?) It was bitter cold on that trip and snowing in the Valley, so we inevitably did short day hikes all over the place, visitng the museum, van tours etc. and spent the evenings in the Mountain Room Bar dancing late into the night before crashing in large group tents in the reserved campground each night.

Joe knew Earl, and one evening we all met-up at the MRB and Earl immediately hit it off with some of the girls on the trip (and definately ending up sleeping with one of them later that night). On the same trip, I met a very pretty (and rich) participant, a Chinese woman named Theresa. We ended up dating for awhile afterwards back in SD (all I can say is wow!)

Anyway, after a nice evening of group dancing he invited a van full of us to his place in Midpines, and we witnessed a private slide showing of some of his latest Baffin Island multi-element big-wall ascents. We all ended up crashing at his place afterwards and drove back to the valley in the morning.

Earl's team intented to Skydive into basecamp, do a 1st Ascent route on Thor(?), and paraglide off the summit. The static line jump ended up getting cancelled at the very last minute, the climb was successful, and they didn't end up paragliding off the summit due to inclement weather but rapped instead. Still an amazing adventure. Earl was way out-there combining incredible sports together into one amazing multi-element adventure. He left a very big impression on me. He was a visionary.

He was also really into designing great outdoor adventure clothing, with the trade name "Thor" and everyone on the team wore his climbing garments. I hear they were and are pretty coveted garments. He even designed a multi-level "condo like" bigwall bivy-ledge the team slept in together. He was into everything, even BASE jumping, and had one of the coveted BASE patches for jumping off The Captain. He was also a private pilot. He did so many things and very well. Very inspirational individual and very cutting edge.

Saw Earl again in San Diego, and we talked for awhile when he came down to give a slideshow at the Sports Chalet. We shared good memories of that night in Yosemite and Midpines. Like I said, he was way ahead of his time in my opinion. I still feel that is the future -- doing all these activities in one grand multi-element adventure and pushing the envelope in many different directions all at the same time. You have to be good at many different things not just one. A Will Gadd kinda climber. What an absolute grand adventure.

I miss him.
Russ Walling

Social climber
Same place as you, man...... (WB)
Mar 13, 2006 - 01:50am PT
Earl "the Pearl" Redfern:

Sadly, the only pic I could find is one from a Base site that lists fatalities....

I can still remember him telling those stories of Baffin/Thor.... makes the small hairs crawl. Good Man.

Mountain climber
San Diego
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 13, 2006 - 02:37am PT
Normally, I would never do this, but considering the info is wildly out of date ('88) and he is no longer with us sadly (so don't try calling), I'm posting the one thing he gave me which amazingly I still had on my rolodex - his business card. He lived in Midpines then, not El Portal. Oops! Memory sometimes fails - it happens. So, the rest of that wonderful evening happened in Midpines.

Russ, thanks for locating a photo.

Anyone remember what issue his Baffin Island climb was written up in Rock & Ice, or other mag? I might be able to locate it and scan something.

Mar 13, 2006 - 09:39am PT
Spring/Summer of 86 Earl came banging on my cabin door at Midpines and wanted to do Roulette. I said Earl, you just put up the climb 2 years ago, why do you want to do it again?
Earl said that Don Reid was putting out a new Yosemite climbing guide and he wanted to submit a topo for the route, but couldn't remember some of the pitches!

He mentioned that the 2nd pitch was demanding and that I should lead the 1st pitch. When I asked him about the 1st pitch, he said that you hook for 50 feet and than you finally reach a bolt. My eyes bugged out and I politely declined (fool that I am).

Earl was an amazing person.

Mountain climber
San Diego
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 13, 2006 - 12:47pm PT
From a distant thread in April of 2004 . . .


Re: Valley Rangers and their M-16s Apr 10, 2004, 11:55am PST

By Lovegasoline

"This talk of Valley Tools and guns brings to mind the story of Earl the Girl (aka Earl Redfern). As he told it, & there is no reason to doubt him (his story is confirmed by others), in his Valley youth he had a bit of a reputation & was more piss and vinegar filled. He was hanging at the Deli whereupon a Tool engaged him and started to provoke him. Earl was drawn into a scuffle that he didn't initiate and he more than held his own. Then things deteriorated and the Tool drew his pistol. Earl grabbed the Tools pistol out of his hand and threw it onto the roof of the Deli! Earl was then floored by a several Tools, cuffed, and booked. He was looking at some very serious charges and a substantial jail sentence for assaulting a Federal Officer. The trial was set up and the Tool that pulled the gun was lying under oath and claiming that he was assaulted without provocation. Earl was getting railroaded. Just as the trial was to conclude a very elderly couple in the back of the court room stood up and said that the Tool was lying. They had seen the whole thing at the Deli. They said they were victims of the Nazis in Auschwitz, showed the tattoos on their arms, and said they would not stand for this type of abuse of justice. They said that Earl was assaulted by the Tool & he simply defended himself, and defended himself well and then was beaten to the ground by several Tools. The judge dismissed the case.

Is there a moral to the story? I don't know, but the possibility exists that at some point in your life (even in Yos) you may need to disarm a Tool. I guess that Tool could have shot and killed Earl and just might have gotten away with it.... it wouldn't be the first time a grudge was settled by an abuse of power & hiding behind the law.

Let's move onto C4 perimeter defence, shall we?
Why not go with full camo fatigues/combat boots and set up a perimeter defence, with wires & alarm on your specific campsite? Establish dominance and also control picnic table access. A formal sentry (in camos) guarding access to the food boxes to and eliminate usurpation of storage space. A sentry shotgun would be nice to greet new campers with on the site, but it's not necessary and can be controled with hand to hand. A machine gun emplacement on top of Columbia Boulder, though unnecessary, would be a nice touch.
On the issue of perimeter defence, I'd be pleased to see something done to prevent the NPS Rangers from surveilling C4 & environs. Stories abound of shotgun mics and night vision scopes used to effect nightime ops and busts. I'm open for suggestions, but I'd like to see some decoy 's and scrambling taking place to keep the sites secure from over zealous Tools. A few recon teams to flush nosy rangers out of the woods & boulders surrounding C4. Certainly anyone that pursues their pleasures in C4 should expect what’s coming, but circumstances such as they are, expedience and all that….

Speaking of Earl the Girl....
It's always a pleasure to witness base jumpers successfully out manoeuvring the Tools. It would be a pleasure to see advanced tactics done to secure the perimeter for base jumpers (RIP Frank). What night vision are NPS LEOs running these days? Decoy and diversion with some radio jamming would be a welcome addition to secure the LZ .
Last I saw Earl alive he had just executed a daytime basejump off Glacier point, was hotly pursued by a bad ass Tool halfway across the Valley on foot through hell & highwater....and outran him making his way to into the boulders above Awahnee where he bivied.
I loved Earl’s system to jump the Captain @ night. Ingenious and bold. In his day, he also put up some burly walls in the Valley. Earl was a true gentleman & a practitioner of authentic Southern hospitality.
RIP Earl."

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Mar 13, 2006 - 04:55pm PT

(I want to see more before I decide whether to add some 'Earl in Zion' stories.)

Mar 13, 2006 - 06:04pm PT
I knew Earl, seen all facets of his complex personalities.

He had a good heart.

Last time I saw him was after he came down off the top of the captain, no he didn't climb it that time. He hiked up there to jump off.

With NO parachute, nothing! He was on some bender over some girl and was ready to off himself he told me. I guess a few people that knew him were at the top and talked him out of it.

Other wise .... it would have been an appointment in "Bay number 3"

Big Wall climber
El Cap
Mar 13, 2006 - 06:37pm PT

Yep, that's when I first met Earl, Werner. I saw him down in the Valley a few days later. We were on a bender together but after a few days I had to tap out.... couldn't keep up.

I finally got him out of the Valley for a few days and managed to climb up in TM with him.

Great times we had and he told plenty of funny/crazy/awesome stories. Nice guy!!!
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Mar 13, 2006 - 07:12pm PT
Truth is, when I first heard the gun on the deli roof story from him I thought it was pure bull. Now I'm not so sure.

Who was actually there? Is there a record of the court proceedings?

I think its fair to say that Earl had a checkered history in dealing with some, myself included.
Its interesting to hear of him being suicidal over a woman. Unfortunately it seems somewhat poetic as he could be very exploitive of emotional attachment.
But Earl was an impressive wall climber, great tenacity combined with substantial technical skill. And he had numerous other skills as well.
I first met him on 12/5/84 in Oakland where he was doing the audio-visual stuff at the AAC meeting. Immediately he was interested in the T-bird. I wouldn't make the FA of my longest desert route with him for another two years.

Trad climber
Sh#t Hole, Brooklyn, NY
Mar 13, 2006 - 07:21pm PT
Earl told me he had a personal taboo about f*#king about with dead people, that he prefers to let them be. However, when he climbed that route on Baffin he came upon a long dead Japanese climber frozen to the wall who had expired on a previous expedition. The guy's face flesh was white as porcelain (the dead Japanese climber that is) and in its own bizarre way it demanded to be touched (at least by Earl). Earl reached over and touched the white check and it instantly turned to powder at his fingertips and blew off in the wind. Oooeeeooo!

Also mentioned were choice YSR events: the 'CheeseHead Rescue' about a climber that unfortunately fell into a Chimney that narrowed at the bottom ... head first. Where he had wedged in near the base of the chimney, the top of his head had came off disgorging his brains to the ground in a little pyramid shaped pile, where upon it froze, the rescuers remarking that it resembed a wedge of cheese. Something else about the 'Jesus' rescue (Yos Falls Area?) where a guy took a bad fall and on the carry out was struck on the forehead by a rock and it had embedded there. If memory serves, a member of this forum who shall remain anonymous said something like 'what's this?' and pulled the rock out of the head and there was a big hole under it ... the guy was still alive and mumbling something about Jesus. A second rock followed and again scored a second head strike. The odds were not in the guy's favor.
Gruesome stories, but life is weirder than fiction.

I also remember Earl telling of his suicidal El Cap hike … sounded like the nadar of his life.

When I met him he had a Monster SUV and it was filled with commercial video equipment ... no dirtbagging rig by any means. He said he was shooting commercial footage and intended to use the profits to buy an airplane and establish a Bush/Glacier Pilot Service in Alaska.


Mar 13, 2006 - 07:25pm PT
One day on my way .....

To the "Gripper" as usual, and there was Earl laying face down at the base of "Midterm" laughing and crying at the same time.

I asked him what's up. He said he just decked to the ground and landed on his ass. His tail bone was slightly poking through.


Ho man, and he handled that misfortune with style.

Mountain climber
San Diego
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 14, 2006 - 02:32am PT
I sure would like to hear more stories about how Earl lived and adventured. I know his friends and climbing partners have them . . . Thanks for what you all have shared so far.

From the world BASE Fatality list . . .

Earl Redfern, BASE 300, July 18, 2000
Age: 43
Airplane Crash (Object Strike)
Earl is an experienced and well known BASE jumper as well as a commercial pilot. Along with another BASE jumper they are scouting for new jumpable sites in the Moab area in a Grumman Traveler. They are both killed after the Traveler's wing clipped a canyon wall.

If you have never read it, here is the official NTSB report for the fateful flight on Jul 18, 2000 when Earl left this Earth:



Very, very sad. Earl wasn't the pilot in command. Another pilot whom was much younger and with far less experience was piloting. It sounds like the pilot had only recently received his license, whereas Earl was commercially rated and knew the canyons really well. Earl was acting as a passenger at the time.

East Coast US
Mar 14, 2006 - 12:03pm PT
Third party view:

A former client of mine [Philly law firm] used to take his family out for canyoneering trips in AZ/UT/NV and used Earl Redfern exclusively as their guide. My former client has been devastated over Earl's death and doesn't take his family canyoneering anymore. Apparently Earl did such a great job overseeing the safety and comfort of his family that he doesn't want to have anyone else guide the canyons for him.

Mar 6, 2007 - 02:06pm PT

Was on the salathe in 90 when my friend and i ran into Earl. Had no clue who this guy was since i am nobody to begin with. He was guiding this dentist up the route. I'm sure he had stories about us rookies up there... yellin at my friend "never put the jug line over an edge!"

Anyway, he had this facial twitch that stood out, said somethin about a gunshot wound, maybe he was joking. He was telling us crazy stories of Thor and all that, what other el cap routes were worthy and such. Never saw him again, but remembered our crazy meeting and experience.

summer of 2000 i think... was passin through moab and hangin with the prez(noonan). We were gonna go flyin with Earl but for some reason, i think his boss was around, we held off. Heard the sad news later and thought about the loss, tragic....

Trad climber
Cheyenne, WY
Mar 6, 2007 - 07:44pm PT
One cool summer morning in 1989, Earl and I were in a Cessna, just about to skydive onto the bench located on the north side of the Point-of-the-Mountain (a popular hang gliding and paragliding site south of Salt Lake City). The 1989 National Paragliding Championship meet was just beginning and we were both registered to compete. A local TV news camera crew was on hand to cover the opening ceremony and the initial competition pilot's meeting. Our (unannounced) plan was to exit, deploy, build a CRW canopy stack, and then land the two-stack formation right in front of the camera crew and small crowd of pilots and spectators. At the last minute, we decided to make the jump completely naked. The jump went exactly as planned and it was the first time Earl had built a CRW canopy formation on a skydive. It was NOT his first naked skydive, however. After setting that precedence, the rest of the paragliding meet turned into more of a party for Earl and I than a serious competition. Our two-stack canopy landing did not make the evening news broadcast for some reason. I never ran into Earl again after that, and heard the sad news a few years later.

Mar 7, 2007 - 06:42pm PT
To be fair to Clint, as far as I know it's never been determined, and I don't see anything more than an assumption in the NTSB report, who was actually flying the plane. This A/C has dual controls and either man could have been flying . . .

BASE 194

Trad climber
Oct 23, 2008 - 09:57pm PT
I spend two weeks in Yosemite climbing with Earl and his girlfriend. The second day Earl and I were messing around taking the air out of a Rangers tires when we got chased by a couple of them. Earl was faster than me and I got arrested and had to go in front of Magistrate "PITTS." For all of you old time Yosemite Climbers you know Pitts. He put Bacher away for stealing a toothbrush once (That is how the story goes.) Well, Earl visited me in the Yosemite Clink and told me what to say to get out of the charges. I had heard, and have heard many stories about Earl (Good and Bad.) But for those two weeks he treated me as if I was his best friend. RIP Earl....Dan
lars johansen

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Oct 26, 2008 - 10:26pm PT
I not only climbed extensively with Earl, but was business partners with him in a start up communications firm, COMMUNIX. This was about 1982-4, right after he left Kaiser as an advertising photographer.

We did have quite a few laughs together but our business was a bust.

I was always told that if you don't have anything nice to say about someone don't, so I won't.


Social climber
Dec 30, 2011 - 05:30pm PT
wild guy that earl, he know we were dirt broke and couldnt even afford to drive my vw bus out of the camp four lot, he heard we were going to do a winter ascent of el cap and gave us each a thor jacket, and this was at a time that our best stuff was our old wool sweaters. thanks earl
base of zenatta
base of zenatta
Credit: mctwisted

Social climber
chicago ill
Dec 30, 2011 - 07:24pm PT
Looks like you spent your jacket $ on the "Bull"
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