Dick Erb Appreciation Thread


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Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Nov 17, 2009 - 04:24pm PT
BiletChick, the aftermath of that accident is mentioned in Peter Boardman's The Shining Mountain - the chapter is "Descent to Tragedy". The book is about his and Joe Tasker's ascent of the west face of Changabang, a desperately hard route, in autumn 1976. They returned to base camp after 40 days, met some other people, and socialized. One was a woman named Ruth Erb, who reported the deaths of four of her teammates on Dunagiri a few days before. Boardman and Tasker went back up on Dunagiri, saw and photographed the accident scene and obtained evidence, and buried the bodies in a crevasse. A very difficult experience for them.

The dead were Graham Stephenson, Arkel Erb, John Baruch and Benjamin Casasola. They died as a result of long falls on hard snow and ice. Erb was survived by his wife Ruth - the book reports her as having a 22 year old son.

Huntington Beach, CA
Nov 17, 2009 - 06:22pm PT
Thanks Mighty.
Yes, I have read the book and it helped describe the situation, but it still doesn't answer the questions "how and why?". Two questions that are rarely answered in accidents like this. His death had quite an effect on me back then, he was only 19...I was 11. I don't think I'll ever really know what happened to him up there, but I have never stopped wondering about it. I've realized that sites like this, especially the TR's and forums, really help in understanding what he was doing out there. Maybe I'll connect with someone who knew him.
I am not a climber, I hike and backpack. Someday I hope to climb a little just for the experience. It might bring me a little closer to closure.
ps My aunt has the knapsak and journal described in the book. I have yet to ask her to see them...kind of scared I guess.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Nov 17, 2009 - 07:31pm PT
Stacy, you're probably as likely to find someone who knew your cousin, or the other men, here as anywhere else on the internet. This website generates a great deal of activity and has many active contributors - who may only be 5 - 10% of those who look at it. It's a pretty large and diverse group, and it's surprising the linkages that can be found here.

(Local and regional climbers' websites, and clubs, are another possible source.)

Do you know where your cousin and the others were from? The book said one was from Mexico, but what about the other three? That may help narrow down a search - if they were experienced enough to be going to the Himalaya in 1976, chances are they knew a fair number of people, at least in whatever areas they were based. (Climbers got around a bit less then.)

Another alternative is to find the other six (seven, including Ruth Erb) who were on the expedition, but who left early. They may have some information.

The families of Joe Tasker and Pete Boardman may also have photos, diaries or stories. Peter Boardman's wife was named Hilary, but I don't know more than that. Joe Tasker's partner was Maria Coffey, and she has written eloquently about losing him, and other things. She now lives on an island in the Gulf of Georgia, near Vancouver. Her website is at http://www.hiddenplaces.net/

If you're interested in climbing, you've come to the right place. Maybe someone here can help. There is good rock climbing near Huntington Beach, for example at Idylwild (Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks) and Joshua Tree, and at smaller local areas that I don't know much about. It's not hard to sign up for an introductory course, and such things are very safe. (You can also try a climbing gym, but outdoors is better.) That would be a taste of what it's about. Dunagiri is a whole different challenge, in that it's at significant altitude (6,000 m or more), fairly remote, subject to bad weather, and completely glaciated and snow covered. Rock climbing is a small but important part of the skills needed to climb such a mountain, and mountaineering is considerably riskier than a day on the sunny rock. Perhaps you can learn a bit about snow and ice climbing, and mountaineering, on the local mountains, but you may have to go to Wyoming, Colorado or Washington for it.

Good luck!
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Nov 17, 2009 - 07:32pm PT
Here is my writeup on the Matterhorn. I put it on the thread that Nate points out just above:

Dick Erb

June Lake, CA
Nov 18, 2009 - 12:33am PT
I am no relation to Arkel

Huntington Beach, CA
Nov 18, 2009 - 11:33am PT
Thank you Sir... :-)
adventurous one

Trad climber
Truckee Ca.
Nov 18, 2009 - 01:34pm PT

Curious to know what years you were patroling at Alpine Meadows? Some of those hardened old patrolers worked at Alpine for decades. I was a race coach and ski instructor there for about 10 ten years in the 80s and 90s. (Skied / coached every single day of the season back then) Saw some pretty amazing slides set off by patrol at Alpine back then. Probably long after you were there, but those old Alpine patrolers had some stories. The longstanding rivarly with the Squaw Valley patrolers, in particular, yielded some good tales.
Were you climbing around Tahoe back then? If you were climbing in Tahoe in the 60s / early 70s I would be interested in hearing about it and who you climbed with. Not many Tahoe climbers from that era. There have been some good climbers over the years who have workd at Alpine Meadows.

John Jackson
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 5, 2010 - 03:36pm PT
Disney Bump!
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Sep 5, 2010 - 10:25pm PT
I climbed the Matterhorn from c. 1984-1985 while finishing up as an undergrad at UCLA. While I had always heard great tales of the earlier climbers, I had no idea I was following in such big footsteps.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 14, 2011 - 11:25pm PT
Proud Ski Patrol Bump!
hanger on

Social climber
Groveland ca
Sep 28, 2011 - 05:17pm PT
Very late to this thread, but need to add some comments.

I am a long time friend of Dick's.

Dick was the one who introduced me to climbing, when we were both students at Fullerton College, must have been spring of 1962. He took me up a route at Tahquitz rock, a 5.1 route that I escapes me now, one of many that we were to do over the years. The last one we did together there was the Open Book if memory serves.

I worked in Yosemite Valley during the summers of 1961 till 1964, and Dick and I did several climbs in the valley. He introduced me to many of the climbers of the day, from TM Herbert to Chuck Pratt, Kor and many others. Dick was living at "the pad" in Berkeley, with Frank Sacherer, Eric Beck, Steve Thompson and Jeff Dozier. I would drive up form San Jose from time to time, always a fun distraction.

Perhaps one of the remembrances I have was how Dick would use opportunities to have some impromptu fun. We were on a geology field trip in the San Gabriel mountains outside of some suburb of Los Angeles, where the professor was standing at the edge of a road cut, looking out over the view, and talking about a relevant topic, such as the San Andreas fault or something like that. Dick saw a truck tire nearby, fully inflated and apparently abandoned, and (typical for him) decided it would be fun to roll it down the mountain in front of us. The tire took on a life of it's own, gaining remarkable speed, bouncing higher and higher, to the point it looked like it could clear a house in a single bounce. The bottom of the slope in front of us fed into a narrow concrete channel, typical for LA flood control, that was deep with critical walls fifteen feet or more high, and the tire just HAPPENED to hit the channel and the wall just right, so it started down the channel, going from right to left from our point of view bouncing so high it appeared above the houses along the channel, with the geology class cheering it on, as it made it's way down the neighborhood in Burbank, or where ever we were.

I have many such memories of being a friend of Dick, never boring.

Bill Haas
hanger on

Social climber
Groveland ca
Sep 29, 2011 - 12:03am PT
I must admit full disclosure; I didn't complete the OB, I dislocated my shoulder at the flake move, and had to get some assist from Dick to move past the flake.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 19, 2012 - 12:52pm PT
Bunmp for more Erb...

Social climber
Salt Lake City
Feb 19, 2012 - 05:07pm PT
I don't know about any connections to Clayton Erb but Dick is one of the most spiritual, non-christian, people I have known.
He is still ski patrolling at June Mt, although given the season that we are enduring this winter, maybe not much work.
Actually, I think, ski patrol is one of the most spiritual of occupations.

Ice climber
pacific palisades, california
Dec 3, 2012 - 02:15pm PT
hi. well - as it turns out, biletchick (stacey), you DID find someone who knew your
cousin, john baruch. we were very, very close friends. i just sent you an email -
don't know if you'll receive it - hope so. i did spend time with betty and with ruth erb.
i have much i can share with you - if you'd like. just let me know. take care.
all my best to you, himalayan-girl (karen).
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 25, 2015 - 09:03am PT
Bump for the Erb Superb...

May 25, 2015 - 09:06am PT
NW 192nd street Seattle (Shoreline) WA bump

Dick Erb, the Tarvers and me

Trad climber
N. Colorado
May 25, 2015 - 03:37pm PT
I started climbing at age 15 with three other friends from southwestern Wyoming - we didn't know any other climbers so we learned by reading Freedom of the Hills - perhaps not the safest way to start.

My mom tried to discourage me but I was hooked. So my parents decided it was a good idea to safely speed up my learning process and sent me to Rockcraft as a graduation present from high school.

Dick Erb was one of the instructors and I remember watching how easily he climbed one of the climbs that I struggled on. I think I have a picture of him sitting on the slabs at the Great Wall of China.

When I returned to Wyoming, I passed on the knowledge to my friends and we climbed the Exum direct on the Grand.

I saved money so I could return to Rockcraft the next summer, and I met Roger Breedlove that summer.

Sure was fun and inspirational meeting all the legends that I followed in the various climbing mags.


Boulder climber
May 25, 2015 - 10:27pm PT
Erb blew out of here a few years back.

Mountain climber
May 25, 2015 - 10:36pm PT
^ No, he last posted to the Taco in February, and had a lot of posts in 2014.

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