The death of Jim Madsen


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Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Jan 14, 2012 - 04:29pm PT
Jello mentions shlepping loads up to the West Face of Sentinel when Madson and Schmitz did a fast ascent. Maybe ten years later, around 1975, I was back up there with Schmitz, who'd I'd hounded into joining me for yet another speed ascent. Somewhere on the route Kim held me on tension (hip belay) so I could rack a nut or pin or something and he said, "Jesus, Largo. You weight as ton. It's like being up here with Madson all over again."

I had always heard the stories about Jim Madson, mainly from Jim Bridwell, who I climbed with extensively in the 70s, and I always wondered who Madson really was. Now I know. Much obliged, fellows.



Trad climber
Elk Creek, Idaho
Jan 15, 2012 - 04:06am PT
...appreciation for a worthwhile (and sobering) history thread.
Dave Davis

Social climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 18, 2012 - 03:19pm PT
I was a young aspiring climber,still in high school, when Madsen met his demise, but he was already a local legend. I never met him, but got to know many of his friends and former partners here in Washington. I've always loved the location and ambiance of Midnight Rock and think of it as a bit of a local monument to Jim Madsen. On my first trip up there in 1969 there was still a register on the summit which recorded many of the first free ascents by Madsen and his contemporaries. Unfortunately, somebody made off with this little piece of local climbing history a few years latter.I remember being at Midnight once with Ron Burgner, Thom Nephew, and Garrett Gardner when we found an old piton.Burgner says"Hey that's one of Madsen's old pins. That's the color his were painted!" Then he scrutinizes the flattened old angle with the broken eye and grins,"Yeah that's what Madsen used to do to his pins."Latter Ron led us up Black Widow which he had been on the FFA with Jim and which I always thought was the most difficult of the routes Madsen did there.
I never realized that you were in on the body retrieval, Dick. That must have been a pretty traumatic experience. This has been an interesting, albeit sad thread to follow.

dirt claud

Social climber
san diego,ca
Jan 18, 2012 - 05:18pm PT
Thanks for posting/bumping this historical and informative thread, much to think about here.
John Marts

Mountain climber
Edmonds, WA
Dec 11, 2012 - 12:08am PT
Jim and I were roommates at the University of Washington. He was in Honors Engineering. We met in my brother's (Brian Marts) U of W Intermediate and Advanced Climbing classes while in high school.
Much of the bouldering and climbing in Icicle Creek, Tumwater Canyon, Peshastin and Liberty Bell was done without route names, without any knowledge as to whether it had been done previously. Tom Hargis and Madsen hopped freights to Yosemite Valley and brought back and demonstrated "How to Jam." Tom Hargis spent several hours trying to work out a jamming ascent of our layback route of Damnation Crack, Castle Rock. My father, the Vice Provost at the U of W, and a former Rainier Guide before WWII, watched Madsen and I climbing "some routes" on Midnight Rock. My father after watching, commented, "It was interesting to hear you climb, Jim ....."

I guided in Estes Park, CO in the summers, and knew Steve Hickman. I spent 1968 in the Alps. I returned and in the Fall, Jim asked me to find him a job as a ProPatrolman skier. Madsen had received a waiver from the Vietnam Draft. He was off to do something in the Valley.
I received a call from Steve Hickman concerning Jim's tragic error. (Steve, I got to Canyon de Chelly in 2008, 40 years later! Hired a fabulous guide there who taught my wife and I how to use Datura and how to find Mormon Tea.) We were on the way to run the Grand Canyon on a private permit, and looking for Petrillo.

For those who expressed concern about Madsen's parents and siblings; I immediately after the phone call contacted his father, mother and sister by phone. Jim's father, a decorated WWII Tank Commander with I believe, Patton, felt that Jim should follow his lead and go to VietNam, as Jim was doing nothing productive with his life. His reaction was hard and stiff.
He thanked me for calling. His sister, who had an understanding of how successful Jim was at climbing, took it very hard. His mother emotionally thanked me for notifying them. I spread the word to others including Givler and Burgner. I was not notified of any ceremony.

20 years later, I ran into his father. He asked a few questions at the time. I believe he had been grieving as he aged. I again conveyed that he had died trying to rescue friends and was regarded as an icon in climbing circles.

Jim's father should have had the opportunity to read your Posts, and all of the interest you have shown about Jim's talent. The only problem that ever slowed him down in life was Differential Equations.

Thank you, Steve, for that call.


Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 11, 2012 - 12:31am PT
John, I pm'd you a while back but I'm thinking you didn't get it. That seems to occur fairly

frequently so you could try pm'ing me.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Dec 11, 2012 - 01:26am PT
Wow. I hadn't seen Steve's post before.

This thread has GOT to make it into the permanent Supertopo archive.

So damn good. Thanks again guys.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Dec 11, 2012 - 01:27am PT
We have all lost loved ones. It's an important part of life to keep on living when they leave. It's our turn sooner than we know....It's equally important not to forget the departed. We are doing well. It's not too much to think there's only heaven, never hell.--from another thread

The death of Jim Madsen.... is THE accident everyone hears about sooner or later. It's good to see it talked about. Thank you all.

Mountain climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 15, 2013 - 09:08pm PT
This was many years ago. I went to Ingraham High School in Seattle with Jim. A friend and I who had worked for the Rainier Guider Service took Jim on his first mountain trip, a simple spring slog up to Camp Muir on Rainier where we stated in the Guide hut with no planned summit attempt. It was a good start. He had never climbed before but knew it was something he wanted to do. I lost track of him while in the Navy in the late sixties but heard about his death while home on leave. Later I met and climbed in the San Diego are with one on his Yosemite partners, Jim Butler. We both had good memories of what a good fellow he was and I wished that I could have reconnected with again. What a loss. RIP, Jim.

Geoffrey Braden

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Feb 16, 2013 - 08:03pm PT
Steve ... Thank you for sharing your experience.


Sport climber
mammoth lakes ca
Feb 16, 2013 - 08:11pm PT
Gottfried....Have you heard from Jim Butler....? RJ

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
Feb 16, 2013 - 09:19pm PT
Geoffrey, thanks for your thoughts on Jim.

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Feb 16, 2013 - 09:40pm PT
Geoffrey.... thank you for posting.

ralph matthews

Boulder climber
Apr 11, 2013 - 05:55am PT
late to the party...

Most of what I recall about the accident was what came out in Mountaineering magazine, which I got secondhand from my neighbor Bob Boyd, who was going with Randall Henderson and that crowd into Baja after the war.. I remember the rangers wanted to put a cable down but Madsen didn't want to wait. The two climbers originally thought a deer had fallen off the cliff, as they didn't know any attempt at a rescue was being made. Also I thought it was near dark, but could be remembering that incorrectly. Was in the valley in the early 70s with Gary Kirk, when he taught rock climbing, and looking down at a beaner he had lent me, it was stamped "J.M."... America's leading Alpinist, and some funny stories about him climbing with folks who came to the valley and hired him to drag gear up the climb with them. Back in the days of filing the threads out of nuts to make chock nuts, in the British fashion... blimey. There were maybe a dozen people total climbing.. Royal Robbins, everyone who died on McKinley in '67, etc...
G in AK

Boulder climber
Jan 12, 2014 - 01:53am PT
When the post many entries above indicated Jim's knot at the end of his rope was too small, my distant recollection was that this was a kernmantle rope, fairly new to climbing at the time. They also stretch more than the older style hemp ropes and this might have been the reason the knot was smaller. I can't verify this, but others might be able to do.
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
Jan 12, 2014 - 01:34pm PT
They also stretch more than the older style hemp ropes and this might have been the reason the knot was smaller.

Maybe you mean Goldline. Bump for Madsen

Gross Vegas
Oct 8, 2015 - 06:22pm PT

Gross Vegas
Dec 12, 2015 - 10:22am PT
Bump for history
Messages 81 - 98 of total 98 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
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