Letter from Earl Wiggins


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
This thread has been locked
Messages 1 - 31 of total 31 in this topic

Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 3, 2010 - 01:11pm PT
After talking to Piton Ron this morning re helping Layton, I rooted around in my bookshelf for my copy of Canyon Country Climbs. The late great Earl Wiggins mailed me a signed copy after we did Cliffhanger together. Inside the jacket was a letter from Earl. After rereading it a couple times, I thought maybe I'd share it in Earl's memory.

RIP Brother.


Hey there Perry Man,

How goes it? I'm back in the states finally.
Had a great time climbing and swimming in Sardinia.
Spent two weeks in Rome. It was a great way to wind down.

Now I'm settling in to Colorado Springs, don't know if I can do it, already got itchy feet. Just want to be on the move. But I'm here for a while anyway. If you get down this way you've got a place to stay.

Been great to be active again. Starting to feel good again. I've been trying to learn how to do big jumps on my motorcycle. Getting good at takeoffs but still floundering at landings. I look like a pizza and feel like road kill.

Had a great time working with you in Cortina Perry. Our morning up to Tre Cime will not soon be forgotten either.

Let me know if you hear of any work and I'll do the same.



Trad climber
Somewhere halfway over the rainbow
Apr 3, 2010 - 01:16pm PT
Thank you for sharing Perry. Earl is missed. He was one of the truly great.

Social climber
The Portal
Apr 3, 2010 - 01:20pm PT
Thanks for posting that Perry.
I worked with Earl on a couple of jobs here in Yosemite; he was a force really, taught me many things without saying a word.
Funny he popped in my mind the other day, could see him clearly in my minds eye.
It's nice to know he was enjoying himself; jumping on the bike, living large!


Topic Author's Reply - Apr 3, 2010 - 01:37pm PT
Hi Jo,

Anyone who knew Earl could attest to his intense personality.
Soloing the Scenic Criuise and Whimsical Dreams back when he did was right off the charts. Looking at the picture of him in Climb with his baggy sweater and coke bottle glasses, it was hard to see that kind of wildness in him.


Mountain climber
Jackson Hole Wyo.
Apr 3, 2010 - 06:27pm PT
Went up to the Run Don't Walk area with him once. We turned back but I quote him all the time.
"Any day in the mountains is a good day," he said.

between the flat part and the blue wobbly thing
Apr 3, 2010 - 09:00pm PT
I started climbing in Colorado Springs in '79 and Earl was the man. However, he set a terrible example for me. What I learned from Earl is that to climb hard you control your fear, and let the talent kick in. I'm still waiting for either of those things to happen to me.
I can't say I knew him real well but we climbed together a few times and hung out in the Springs a few times. He was down to earth, not arrogant, didn't spray (although he did come down hard once on a partner that was lie-backing a handcrack.) I wish he could have beaten his demons.

Apr 3, 2010 - 09:07pm PT
I'll never forget his words to me.

"Guess what sucker, you're unloading both cargo containers, 150,000 lbs of Hollywood rigging gear.

Aaaarrrrrgggggg ......

Trad climber
Somewhere halfway over the rainbow
Apr 3, 2010 - 09:10pm PT
Imagining Earl "trying to learn" to do big jumps on his motorcycle with the same intensity that he pursued climbing boggling my tiny mind.

Can anyone recount the details of Earl's lightning strikes?

Tucson, AZ
Apr 3, 2010 - 09:17pm PT
Hey Chief,

thanks for posting that.

Could you put a time frame on it for me?

Also, if you don't mind me asking - what's your last name? If you don't want to share that no worries. Just a little curious....

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 3, 2010 - 09:31pm PT
Nice share, Perry!

Earl and Katy spent some time poking around Tucson which is where I first met him. Another thread was started by the Deuce a while back.


Topic Author's Reply - Apr 4, 2010 - 12:35am PT
Can anyone recount the details of Earl's lightning strikes?

It happened on Torre Divise where we rigged Gia's big descender fall, the falling bridge and the "King's Leap". (Inspired by Schultz shenanigans) I think I had bailed already and Earl, Weis, Shultz, Neithercutt and a couple others were sweeping up and following us when the lightning really hammered in. It apparently knocked Earl over an edge and into a crack and he was hit at least three times. Weis or Brooke can probably give a better account.

Time frame? The date on his letter looks like August 11,1992 to me.

Earl did go on to become one of the most in demand riggers in the film industry for a while and we got to work together again a couple times. I know that Hollywood didn't help him find his compass and I was shocked as hell to hear he'd checked out on his own terms. Glad to have known him.

Perry Beckham

Squamish, BC

Trad climber
Charlottesville, VA
Jun 15, 2010 - 08:57pm PT
If I remember correctly, Earl got zapped on the Diamond in the '70's, too... unpleasant, but nobody was hurt in the end.

I met Earl in '73, watching him lead Country Club Crack as though it was 5.7 (well, OK, maybe 5.9)... John Sherwood was his partner. Then they did Jackson's Wall Direct (or whatever it's called now) as a warmdown.

Earl and I somehow became friends and occasional climbing partners (I was on the Colorado Springs/Estes Park axis, too), though I was nowhere near the climber he was. I knew his first (Chyrl) and second (Virginia) wives, and Katy C. as well (though I met her through Bob -- can't remember his last name -- her current S.O. at the time, who died in a fall in the North Chimney on Longs in maybe 1980?).

Anyway, he was always a great and humorous friend to me, and we socialized a fair bit in the mid-seventies (BTW, anybody who was in the Springs then... whatever happened to Spanky and Meg?.. and how's Muff doing?).

A very intense and emotional person, no doubt, but I was as surprised as anyone when he left us.... A personal irony for me was that he and Dawn were living in Lake Oswego, OR, where I also lived at the time, and I had no idea they were there.

In all, an incredibly natural climber, and a great person to me, with a troubled genetic makeup, I guess....


Trad climber
Somewhere halfway over the rainbow
Jun 16, 2010 - 11:22am PT
I had not known Earl was previously struck in the 70s. That adds an extra depth to the trauma he experienced. As a lightning strike survivor I can tell you it messes you up long term. It can be equivalent to severe PTSD. My experience was far less severe than Earl's but as a multiple strike survivor it is no surprise that Earl chose to take his own life. Lightning strikes fry your central nervous system in complex ways. I am sorry he is gone.

Jun 16, 2010 - 12:49pm PT
Awesome thread which would be made sublimely suburb with some great pictures of the man!

thanks for sharing!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 16, 2010 - 04:13pm PT

FA of Supercrack, with hexes
Luxury Liner trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVtdV9by04U

Short interview clip: http://www.amazingcaves.com/windowsmedia/earl_LG.wmv

Trad climber
Charlottesville, VA
Jun 16, 2010 - 05:40pm PT
The yellow turtleneck picture posted by Clint is exactly how he looked in the '70's! (Though he obviously became a little more, um, well-groomed as time went on, as all of us did to one degree or another).

I used to have a bunch of photos of him, and other people of interest to this forum, not to mention TR-type photos of routes all over the place, but lost them to my own personal emotional disasters over the years. The photos are the only things that I miss, really, of all the stuff that I lost or walked away from.

@Philo: That may well have contributed to his depression... I don't know. I do know (and I think this is pretty public knowledge, or I wouldn't say it here) that his father (an MD pulmonary specialist, I think) also took his own life, and that he and Earl had a very tense relationship. Our minds are such tangled webs of influences....

Trad climber
San Leandro, Ca
Jun 16, 2010 - 08:38pm PT
Never met The Man, but I've been to his monument- it's a splitter 4 inch crack in a beautifully smooth headwall on a proud desert buttress. To reach it you have to walk across the desert for awhile and ponder it, and when you get there you feel you're somewhere...real special.

Trad climber
Ridgway, CO
Jun 16, 2010 - 09:35pm PT
Poor Earl . . . this life isn't easy. What a shame.

His Black Canyon solos and FA's are quite humbling to this day.

Social climber
Jun 16, 2010 - 11:31pm PT
Never met him but he layed down some style that meant something to me. Sad that he had to go

Topic Author's Reply - Jun 17, 2010 - 12:14am PT
Thanks for posting the great pictures Clint.

Mountain climber
Jun 18, 2010 - 08:54pm PT
I'm going to type this in as Jimmie Dunn dictates this to me, becauce he doesn't know how to turn a computer on(yet!).
In 1975 when Earl was 17, he had just climbed the second ascent of the Goss/Logan on North Chasm View wall in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This was a three and a half day aid ascent. The first ascent,(Wanye Goss & Jimmy Logan) was also a three and a half day ascent. Soon after Earl approached me with the idea of free climbing the Kor/Dalke on North Chasm View Wall. For a skinny teenager with thick glasses, Earl had great vison. This climb became know as, "The Cruise" after we free climbed it in May of 1976, in about six hours(this was the second ascent of the climb).
Jimmie Dunn

Jun 18, 2010 - 09:03pm PT
"The Cruise" after we free climbed it in May of 1776,

I know that date is probably a typo ..... :-)

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Jun 18, 2010 - 09:07pm PT
Wow, that was a long time ago...

What did they use for pro, Indian bones and British musket parts?

Great thread, thanks everyone.

Mountain climber
Jun 18, 2010 - 09:28pm PT
I fixed the the typo. Climbed in 1976. Thanks.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 19, 2010 - 05:49am PT
Thanks for sharing Jimmy's back story of The Cruise!

Trad climber
Orland Park, IL
Jun 24, 2013 - 04:59pm PT
I just found these. I was thinking about Earl. He was a climbing legend in my book and also a great friend. Earl and I had a lot of adventures, climbing, roller blading and rafting. He and Katie were always up for an adventure.

I saw Earl in Chicago about two weeks before we lost him. Such a great loss. I may never understand but I will always feel the loss of such a good friend. Rest easy Earl.

Trad climber
Jun 24, 2013 - 06:06pm PT
Never met Earl, just knew him through the magazines but everyone seemed to respect him as a person and a climber.
At the risk of getting this thread off topic I wonder if climbers are more prone to depression/mental issues than the general public. Our brains do seem to work a bit different than the others.

the Midcontinent Rift
Apr 20, 2015 - 08:16pm PT

any insights as to locality, fillings, etc would be pretty cool to learn. (is that a shovel handle on right?)
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
Nov 19, 2017 - 06:34pm PT
I had not realized! RIP, Earl/'Bigster'
oh man theres a few things that i wish i could remember clearly. . .
Is Merril Bitter still crushing?
I was thrilled to hear from Dana Houser just a month ago...

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Nov 19, 2017 - 08:08pm PT
Merrill had his sixtieth BD a few years ago
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
Nov 19, 2017 - 10:01pm PT
Must have been '80-'81? I was part of the rabble in the desert with a bunch of other eastern kids new to Salt lake.
I had No Idea who any one was. Earl, Merril, Mugs, Meekan, the guys from Wave Products . . .
those days . . . I thought the soft stone was scary, but it turned out that The drive of that crew was too. `B7)

Messages 1 - 31 of total 31 in this topic
Return to Forum List
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo Videos

Recent Route Beta