Billy Westbay Appreciation Thread.


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Trad climber
The land of Fruits & Nuts!
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 3, 2013 - 01:48am PT
I never met the man myself, likewise I never even heard of him until years after he had passed. But I have yet to talk to a climber from the 70's and 80's who hasn't brought up his name with admiration for his accomplishments.

I know he was a member of the first NIAD and a well respected and revered climbing ranger in Rocky Mountain NP who personally saved many climbers asses. But beyond that, I know very little about the man.

So tell me your stories. What are your memories of Billy Westbay?

Trad climber
The land of Fruits & Nuts!
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 3, 2013 - 09:18pm PT
What, no love for Westbay???

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo, CA
Dec 3, 2013 - 09:21pm PT
give him props for the first one day ascent and one of the most heroic pics of all time!!!

dont know much about him other then this...

Social climber
the Wastelands
Dec 3, 2013 - 09:26pm PT
Rock-climbing legend Westbay, a quiet hero, dies

Denver Post Mountain Bureau
Aug. 5, 2000 - Billy Westbay didn't die while rock climbing, simply because no climb could beat him.
Instead, it was cancer that last week claimed the life of the indomitable 47-year-old, one of the unsung giants of big-wall climbing during its heyday of the 1970s and a quietly heroic figure in scores of Colorado mountain rescues.

"His was not a public name, even among climbers. But he was one of the best all-around rock climbers in the world. There's no question about that, based on what he did," said John Long.
Long teamed with Westbay and Jim Bridwell for the first single-day climb of one of the most difficult routes on Yosemite National Park's El Capitan, a landmark ascent that still is considered remarkable.
Already a climbing legend when he signed on as the climbing ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park in the early 1980s, Westbay then forged an impressive record as a rescuer, culminating in a daring ice climb to save passengers of a hot-air balloon that crashed near Copper Mountain two years ago.

"Billy was on a different level than the other rescuers here," said Jim Detterline, a climbing ranger at the park who learned the trade under Westbay.
"He was truly inspirational."

And in 15 seasons on the Copper Mountain Ski Patrol, Westbay earned a reputation as confident and competent in medical rescue, avalanche-control work and technical skills such as lift evacuation.
"To say that he was extraordinary doesn't even really capture the essence of the spirit that he brought to the way in which he lived his life," said ski patrol director Chuck Tolton. "He was a consummate adventurer. He had a very keen mind and a natural sense of curiosity. He was a gifted athlete with extraordinary leadership skills."

Such praise is to be expected at a memorial service today atop Copper Mountain, although friends and family admit it would have been discounted by the unassuming Westbay, who died unexpectedly on July 29 after a 16-month battle with bladder cancer.

"He was not at all pretentious," said his younger brother, Jim. "You'd never know the kind of reputation he had. He'd go off and climb things that other climbers wouldn't even consider, not because they were difficult, but just because he enjoyed the view."
It was unquestionably world class in 1975, however, when the three members of "Team Machine" completed the first one-day climb of The Nose on El Capitan, 34 pitches of forearm-cramping, fingertip-blistering vertical granite that Long called the "Carnegie Hall" of climbing.
"El Capitan was the symbol of the impossible," Long said. "That climb shattered the idea of what somebody really could do."
Speed and efficiency were the keys, and, in addition to strength, endurance and desire, they were skills mastered by Westbay, who grew up in Colorado Springs and had started climbing as a teenager in the Garden of the Gods.
"He had the kind of rugged fitness that would allow him to, say, wake up in the morning, trudge up the west face of the Sentinel (another famous Yosemite rock wall), dust off the route in five hours and then hike back to the valley floor with enough sunlight left to get into trouble," Long wrote for Climbing magazine in December.
At Rocky Mountain National Park, Westbay was known for his composure when all hell was breaking loose, and once retrieved two stuck climbers on the Diamond of Long's Peak in the middle of a storm, by himself - a rescue that the Park Service didn't celebrate because of the extreme risk.
"Billy just went and soloed up the east face of Long's and essentially guided them down off the peak," Detterline said. "He was a legend, and deservedly so."
Services will be at 9 a.m. today at Ski Patrol Headquarters at Copper Mountain Resort. There will be cremation.
Copyright 2000 The Denver Post. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 3, 2013 - 09:47pm PT (his NIAD/PO article, other photos, etc.)

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Dec 3, 2013 - 09:50pm PT
I knew him well. Fresh faced youthful looking guy with longish dirty blond hair and an engaging gap toothed grin. Always friendly, always energized to lead life to the max.. Taken early, he still got a fuller measure than most.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Dec 3, 2013 - 09:53pm PT
Salami, there is a ton of comments about Billy on The Forum. J-Do says it well just above.

My favorite is Billy on The Pacific Ocean during the early days. Must be Bridwell's image.


Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Dec 3, 2013 - 10:02pm PT
What the Latios call El Gran Varon.

Missed but never forgotten.


Dec 3, 2013 - 10:26pm PT
Must be Bridwell's image.

It was taken with Billy's camera.

Bridwell said we all should take a sh#t contest and see who's is the biggest in the bag.

Then we threw the sh!t bags off from the continental Shelf.

When we bailed because of the huge storm approaching Billy's brother came up to the base to meet us.

When I reached the ground Billy's brother had stepped on one of the sh!t bags and splattered it all over the back of his pants .......

Sport climber
mammoth lakes ca
Dec 3, 2013 - 10:50pm PT
Werner doesn't know proving he's been in the United States too long and doesn't know sh#t...

Dec 3, 2013 - 10:50pm PT
Who won?

There has to remain some mystery in our world ......

Social climber
Lakewood, CO
Dec 3, 2013 - 10:52pm PT
Billy was one of my biggest heroes. Being a protégé of Daniel McClure it is a natural to have huge idol worship of Billy. He taught two Texans, Dave Head and I to ski back in the 70s, and was always the biggest smile on our Damn Texas Yahoo tours of Colorado.

I first met him when I was 14 in the Black... He feels like that favorite uncle who died too young and that you miss for the rest of your life.

Have to stop now because my tears are blurring my eyes...
rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
Dec 4, 2013 - 12:14am PT
Our paths crossed only once in 1974, but i never forgot his generosity of spirit or endless enthusiasm.

Mountain climber
Jackson Hole Wyo.
Jan 25, 2015 - 12:02pm PT
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Jan 25, 2015 - 01:04pm PT
And ironically later on, Billy torching an outhouse pit:

and a very early photo of Billy near the base of Henley Quits with Bridwell sitting the foreground:

Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Jan 25, 2015 - 01:13pm PT
Click on this to enlarge:

Mike Graham's post reads: Jim and Billy Westbay were real close. In Billy’s final days of cancer Jim spent most of his time comforting him in his hospital room. Jim felt so confined there he couldn’t fathom how Billy must of felt, the once-great outdoorsman that he was. Against medical advice Jim carried the frail remainder of his friend outside into the sun for one last time. They spent most of the day there soaking up the memories. Billy died a few days later.
wayne w

Trad climber
the nw
Jan 25, 2015 - 04:37pm PT
Among his many incredible accomplishments; the First Free Ascent of D1 on the Diamond with John Bachar.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jan 25, 2015 - 05:39pm PT
Yeah, what was wrong with those guys not having a live feed online?!

I first met Billy at Longs 33 years ago. A good guy.
I climbed with his brother, Rick, at IC last fall.

Trad climber
Greenfield, MA
Jan 25, 2015 - 06:04pm PT
He dragged me up the Petit Grepon when I was sixteen years old and he was working as a guide for Fantasy Ridge. He seemed like a god to me at the time. Thirty-six years later, I think my initial impression was correct.



right here, right now
Jan 26, 2015 - 10:43am PT
Billy Westbay & Cito Kirkpatrick, chillin’ at the Black Canyon rim, 1987:

(photo nicely renovated by Peter Haan)

Camera high line rigging for a Tony the Tiger commercial, A Basin ski area, 1996/7.
Billy upper left … Tarbuster lower left … Paul Sibley far right:

Back in the 90's when Billy & Angela both still reflected sunlight together … hacking some sack in Yosemite Lodge lot w/Cito:

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