Jan Ebeltof


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Social climber
Topic Author's Original Post - May 26, 2007 - 03:37pm PT
Jan Ebeltof was a friend I had.
He died of alcoholism a couple years ago-he couldn't fight the dragon and ended up being swallowed by it.
He was about 40 when I met him and I was about 18, with the maturity of a 12 year old. This was in 1977.
I learned to climb with an Austrian family; the Martes, who did the Salathe, guided by RR. They were a very proper family. I was in love with their daughter and was summarily sent packing, as they had bigger and better plans for her than I was ever going to offer.
So I hooked up with Jan, and a very different world started to open. Jan had been to the Valley and had dug camp 4 in the correct way: Many stories of dealing with drugs, climbing, characters and adventures.
Our first climbing trip was to Taylors Falls- the nursery by Minneapolis. The day started with a cup of his coffee that was 60% apricot brandy. I was drunk at 9:30 AM. I couldn't figure out if my figure eight was correct. But I said "Climbing " anyway--how many stories go like that?

The engine on his VW bus threw a rod on the way home and we abandoned it on the side of the road.
In between, he told me stories of climbs that immediately went to the top of my hit list: The Lost Arrow Spire-hike up and camp on the rim, with a party the night before- he told me the booze was flowing nicely that evening, when a Brit' took a coal out of the fire and tossed it- if you dropped the coal you had to take a swig- By the end of the night there were holes in everyone's tents and sleeping bags.
The Folly, The Good Book-he warned me about the off width at the top. And no kidding--what a lousy finish to a great route.
Story of getting laid by some new age woman- afterwards she asked if he smoked dope? He answered in the affirmative and she replied " I thought so, I noticed that my aura was down"
Endless stories, and suggestions of how to carry yourself in style. At 18 I ate it up.
He used to smoke a pipe- I can smell that tobacco still. One time I was at Devils Tower with Bart Cannon- we were going to do Walt Bailey and I smell that pipe from about 50 yards off, and start cursing about some goddamn odor coming from somewhere- and sure enough he and Scott Backes come down the trail after trying to do the Window, small world, great world.
Jan went and did the Shield sometime in the early 80's. He did a lot of Percodan on the bivvies if I remember correctly.
He was a Philosophy major at Berkeley or Stanford I think. Super smart but he wasn't cut out of the academic cloth.
He had real style.
I went on to school and he kept working at our local climbing shop. His drinking began to take its toll, and he drifted job to job until he moved back to Idaho to take care of his mom as she grew older.
I never saw him again
If you knew him share a story. I thought he was good people. In his own way he steered me in the right direction.

Mountain climber
May 26, 2007 - 11:52pm PT
Very nice. A mentor comes full circle when the student becomes the teacher. I hope you have the chance to pay it forward in honor of your friend. You write about him with such reverance and a gentleness, that it makes me wish I'd known him as well. Thanks.

Minneapolis, MN
May 27, 2007 - 12:46am PT
In 1978--or so--Jan sold me my first pair of climbing shoes: ful leather, Vibram-soled Shoenards (sp?). Built to last--and edge. He was soft-spoken, smoking that pipe, and wore round wire-rim glasses and enough hair to look like he belonged on a poster from the Filmore. I asked if maybe I shouldn't get EBs, like my friends. No. He thought the Chouinards would be better because he thought I might want "do some walls." Well, I fell off many a free climb because of those stiff buggers, but that was o.k. I eventually went and got some EBs, some Fires, some Sportivas, some 5.10s, etc.

But I kept the Shoenards in the closet--many closets--figuring he was right, I might some day climb a wall. Closest I got in the 70's was Devils Tower. Closest I got in the 80's was Astroman. Closest I got in the nineties was 80 feet off the dirt at Rifle. Then, though, came the new millenium! Last year, I climbed Moonlight Buttress--standing in my aiders in my Jan Ebeltoff Shoenards. How beautiful was that!

He was both good people and a prophet: he prepared me for my future thirty years out.

Flagstaff, AZ
May 27, 2007 - 12:52am PT
Do either of you have a photo you could share of Jan?

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
May 27, 2007 - 12:53am PT
That was truly one of the nicest stories I've ever read here, Bart. What a reminder of just how sweet the little details in our life can be!

I'm sorry for those of you who lost a friend. It's nice that you have stories to tell in his memorial thread that make it a mostly happy place to visit.

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 27, 2007 - 11:12am PT
Jan climbed with a group of older guys from minneapolis: Tom Anderson, Craig Martinson, Scott Backes, Pat Padden. If anyone is in contact with them they might have some photos. I rarely climbed with a camera and that was a mistake.

Trad climber
May 27, 2007 - 11:33am PT
Great story, thanks for keeping his memory alive and sharing it with us.

May 27, 2007 - 11:53am PT
In the early 80s I Hitchhiked to the Cities to vist Tommy Deuchtler. After 2 days on thr road and being dropped of on the West Bank the first person I seen was Jan. He took me to the 401 club for ice cold beer and then to Thrifty Dicks for whiskey. I haved shared the rope and cold beer with him and he is a great man.

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 27, 2007 - 05:49pm PT
Tommy D's great quote was "I get physically ill unless i do one hard climb a day"

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 7, 2007 - 01:35am PT
Brian McKinley was doing ice with Jan one time. He got to the top of pitch and Jan was anchored off of two hummingbirds. Brian mentioned how the belay might fail- and Jan said "But it didn't"
ahh the 70's
Tom Hanson

Trad climber
Castle Rock, CO
Apr 1, 2008 - 11:26am PT
Wow, I am saddened to hear about Jan's passing.
I remember Jan sitting behind the counter at Midwest Mountaineering, pipe in mouth, peering over his wired rim specs.
I had the opportunity to climb with him at Taylors Falls on a few occasions. He was so laid back and mellow and always a pleasure to be around.
Is Hobo-Dan actually Dan Grady?

Minneapolis, MN
Apr 1, 2008 - 12:03pm PT

Hobo is on the road, so I'm answering for him: no. Two different guys.

Trad climber
Denver, CO
Apr 1, 2008 - 12:15pm PT
My condolences to you and all of Jan's friends.
It's good you can continue the teaching.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 1, 2008 - 12:27pm PT
Sorry to hear about your friend. I can almost picture him from BITD, but I'm not sure.
Almost all of us have an ol' crusty or two that helped us start our story. What a great thing it is.

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 2, 2008 - 08:10pm PT
Hobo dan on the road. Family road trip. Visiting old college friends-Three teenage girls in Denver made for a different lifestyle then we are used to. We survived Carl's Bad Campground- and enjoyed the cave. one drip at a time all those formations!
Made it past all the skin bars in El Paso and now we are enjoying the view here in Tucson. Anyone who knows shaun callahan here in tuscon- tell him to answer his emails
There should be a much longer tribute to Ebeltof. I can still smell that tobacco.

Apr 27, 2008 - 11:15pm PT
Met Jan at Hickory "Heroin" Grove campground in Baraboo as Sandy & I were starting to hang with the remnants of the DLFA and climbing. It was the end of the 80's.

Three groups converged there, with ours being an enthusiastic bunch of new climbers. Also there, the Pres and x presidents of the DLFA and the Mpls old guys (who were younger than I am now). Jan was in the later with Al, Duane & Craig. I believe Jan or Tommy coined the affectionate moniker given to Al's son's friend, the Antiichrist. Between Hickory Grove (and owners Joanne and Bob Cooper), the hoard of Milwaukee muscle drunks regulars, Prunes Bechler, Tommy the Dutchman Duetchler, the Groths, Martinson, Pig Tits the Brush Hog Squealer and a host of other characters, memorable lines abounded.

You know the rules boys, there are no rules-Bob Cooper
I told them as#@&%es where to go, in plain English-Joanne Cooper
What Angus (Andy) need most is a swift kick in the ass-Jan
The best part about being an alcoholic is hangovers just arne't a problem-Dave G.
Jan smokes that sh#t smelling tobacco-Al
Al smokes that sh#t smelleng tobacco-Jan

Tommy and Jan had an amazing climbing vocabulary from reading all the classic climbing books. It was a great time to be a climber.


Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 11, 2008 - 10:52pm PT
More sad news. Craig Martinson has ALS and is now living in Phoenix. I only climbed with Craig once. For those who have no idea- Craig was a fabulous climber in the 1970's.
By rights he should have his own thread and I'm sure it will surface. My memory is of a very easy going fun guy to climb with.
I'll post this again.

Social climber
Jul 13, 2008 - 01:41pm PT
hey there hobo_dan... say... the best honor you can do a friend, after he passes on, is to share his life with others...

thank you for sharing these stories....

also--as the climber you just mentioned (edit= CRAIG), what i was going to say is:

i am very sorry to hear this awful news that he has ALS... two of my cousins, in ohio, both great gals, and young moms with kids and loving husbands and a full life to still share, HAD this disease... one died after lingering to it, after a few short years... her sister then had it too, but got it in the brain area first, and she died within the year, and never knew what hit her (whereas her sis had it in the muscles first, and she say herself waste aways until she could not talk or eat)...

somehow, it was in there dad's side of the family....

i will earnestly pray for your friend, as so far they say there is no cure, but there are some ways that have made life better for folks... all in the experimental stage...

sadly, no one lives long enough to study this awful attack on the body....

please have some great time with your friend while you can..
god bless...

Mar 14, 2009 - 01:30am PT
This is Ryan Martinson, the son of Craig Martinson..... I have memories of sitting in the viking bar listening to my father along with Tom Deutchler, Fred Becky, Jan Ebeltof, Dick Wildburger, amongst many others discussing their next great climbing adventure, or telling stories about climbing adventures of their past. Jan or Tom would always sit me up next to the bar and buy me a soda. I was around 7 or 8..... someone would always end up busting out a map to plot out new routes. I remember Jan always mumbling something under his breath and smoking on that pipe of his. I'll definitely miss him.

Social climber
chicago ill
Mar 14, 2009 - 02:44am PT
funny thing i also had a thought about jan abeltof today. In Mammoth Lakes Ca no less.
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