Mayor of the Gunks Appreciation Thread

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Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 31, 2013 - 11:11am PT
Twenty five years ago Kevin Bein died while descending the Matterhorn, and climbing lost one of our most endearing characters. Kevin was a strong climber who made significant contributions patrticularly in the Gunks and the South Dakota Needles, but it was his all-embracing, outgoing personality that makes him such a memorable member of our tribe.I know that there are a number of folks here on the Taco who knew Kevin, and I feel that, despite it's faults, this "campfire" is the best place to preserve his memory and pass on his legacy to those who didn't know him. So I'm posting my own reminiscence of Kevin and hope that others will do the same.

In the early '60s I was home in NY on a vacation (I think it was Christmas, 1963).I'd started climbing at Devil's Lake while at the University of Wisconsin, but knew no one to climb with around NY. I learned that there was a group calling itself the Junior Alpine Club that was having a meeting at the American Alpine Club offices, then located on Manhattan, and decided to check it out.I arrived at the meeting to be greeted at the door by a teenager, short and a bit chubby,very welcoming, bubbling with enthusiasm and friendliness, talkative and full of stories and questions who immediately made me feel that I belonged. A quarter of a century later, the "chubbiness" had long since evolved into a formidable mass of muscle, but Kevin, now at the Gunks, was just as welcoming, enthusiastic, and talkative as he was that first time we met. And this attitude was not reserved for old friends. Whether on the streets of New Paltz or on the Carriage Road, Kevin would share the same approach with fellow climbers no matter if they were friends or strangers,veterans or novices, visitors or regulars, heroes or bumblies---he was outgoing, friendly, and encouraging, asking questions, giving advice, telling stories--always eager to share the joy and fullfilment that he found in climbing.

Kevin grew up in a family of very modest means in Manhattan. He was very bright and a talented musician, as a result of which he was chosen for the highly selective Bronx High School of Science.While there he began to climb and had his first introduction to the Gunks. Learning from the example of then top Gunks climber Jim McCarthy, Kevin began to workout regularly, becoming a specialist in competitive rope climbing, then a recognised gymnastic activity, and beginning his transformation into a formidably strong individual. After his high school graduation he received a scholarship to Harvard, where he became a very active member, and later president of the Harvard Mountaineering Club.It was during this period (1966)that Kevin made one of his most notable ascents when he made the first free ascent of the imposing roof of Birdie Party (5.10b) thinking then, and for a long time afterwards, that he'd climbed the nearby McCarthy testpiece MF (5.9).It wasn't until months afterward when Kevin was once again regaling a group of enthralled listeners about the difficult manuevers (heel hooks--then an unheard of technique)he'd used to climb the roof that one of the audience, one who'd actually climbed the then rarely done MF, told Kevin that such manuevers were not required on that climb (I think it was our own Jstan). Kevin quickly brought his questionner to show him what he'd done, and it was then that the error was discovered.

Kevin didn't have quite enough credits to graduate with his class, so remained at Harvard afterwards living in a Co-op House for extended students. He arrived back there from a summer trip out west to find "2 hippy chicks" living in his room. One soon left, but Barbara Devine remained and from then on they were inseperable.Though physiologically a complete contrast to Kevin, Barbara quickly developed into an equally good a climber (if not better)as Kevin, being the most successful female climber at the crag until the arrival of one Lynn Hill from California. Not long afterwards they moved to the New Paltz area to be near the Gunks, and there they remained, with the execption of a brief sojourn in South Dakota in the late '70s/early '80s, and where Barbara still resides today.While in New Paltz both usually worked in the food industry, but mostly focussed their lives around the climbing scene.

Perhaps because he grew into climbing at the crowded Gunks, Kevin didn't really consider climbing to be a solitary pursuit. Instead to him it was mostly a social activity to be shared as much as possible with others. So he was usually to be found climbing with a jolly group of friends, often sieging one of the many very hard routes put up by the formidible previous generation of Gunks climbers, or working on new projects of their own. This was the era of yo-yo tactics, so members of the group would take turns pushing the route higher, while the others relaxed and offered encouragement and advice. This advice often consisted of detailed suggestions on how to do the moves along with a specific vocabulary they devised to describe them. One of the group coined the term "beta" for this
activity, and Kevin was one of it's first master practitioners. While Kevin could be bold if the occasion demanded, he was most happy on well-protected, technical routes, and was perfectly happy to top-rope and use other tactics then often considered dubious by the "purists"--he would have loved sport-climbing!!!!But Kevin's sociability didn't limit him to a small circle, and he was always willing to share a rope, and even more frequently, advice and encouragement, with others. He surely would talk about the climbs that he had done, but was even more happy to hear what others had climbed, and to suggest other routes that they should try. His suggestions weren't limited to the difficulty of the routes, but also to ones to be climbed for their beauty, aesthetics, or just pure fun.

Kevin wasn't just a rock climber, but mountaineered as well climbing routes in regions such as the Tetons, Canada, and Europe. Once he arrived in Chamonix after three days of almost non-stop travel from the western US to find that the rest of us were off climbing. Instead of waiting in the campsite to recover from his travels until we returned he immediately soloed the standard route up Mt. Blanc. While this is not a technically difficult climb, it is still a serious one over glacial terrain to a high altitude, so was a formidable accomplishment under the circumstances. Later in that trip he and some other friends were stormed off an attempt on the Matterhorn. The last time I saw Kevin was in the streets of New Paltz early in the summer of 1988. After our usual greetings he told me that he and Barbara were leaving soon for Europe, and that this time he was going to get up the Matterhorn....

He didn't return from that climb, but his spirit remains strong for many of us. I hope that through all the posturing, name-calling and unfair criticism that we too often see here on the Taco and elsewhere in climbing, that we remember Kevin's example as a person for whom climbing was a wonderful, positive activity to be shared joyfully amongst like-minded individuals.



DanaB

climber
CT
Jul 31, 2013 - 11:18am PT
I climbed with Kevin a bit in the 'Gunks and the Needles. Time may give us rose-colored glasses when we are writing a remembrance, but for Kevin that's not necessary - he really was a great guy.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jul 31, 2013 - 11:27am PT
Really nice remembrance of a stellar guy! Thanks Alan, I miss Kevin.
Bob D'A

Trad climber
Taos, NM
Jul 31, 2013 - 11:28am PT
Credit: Bob D'A



First person I met in the Gunks...love and miss the man.
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 31, 2013 - 11:39am PT
Bob, I recall that you and I first met at Kevin and Barb's apartment in Gardner way back when---looked at slides of you guys climbing in the "Dacks. Great times. Alan
MH2

climber
Jul 31, 2013 - 11:47am PT
Hurray for Kevin! An exemplar of the energetically inclusive spirit of climbing back when not so many people were doing it.
Todd Eastman

climber
Bellingham, WA
Jul 31, 2013 - 11:56am PT
Kevin was one of the most welcoming people I have ever met. As my friends and I climbed through the standard sequence of routes aiming at steadily improving our skills, it would be Kevin, Barbra, and other Gunks locals dragging us over to hop on some route they were working on. With crystal clear non-stop directions we were able to climb well above what we had thought possible and had tons of fun.

Thanks for the reminder Al.



Bob D'A

Trad climber
Taos, NM
Jul 31, 2013 - 12:44pm PT
Al..I remember that and Kevin, Barbara and my trips to the Daks, they were wonderful times for sure. Kevin's breakfast consist of sweet rolls and lots of coffee.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jul 31, 2013 - 01:07pm PT
Bob....is Kevin on Open Cockpit in that picture?
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 31, 2013 - 01:27pm PT
Sure looks like Open Cockpit--one of his favorite routes.
Curt

climber
Gold Canyon, AZ
Jul 31, 2013 - 01:32pm PT
Yes, that's definitely Open Cockpit. I met Kevin and Barb when they were living in Custer and also climbed with them in Yosemite and the Gunks. The last time I saw Kevin was in the Gunks, just a few days before they left on their trip to Europe.

Curt
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Jul 31, 2013 - 01:37pm PT
A delightful young man, talented and enthusiastic.
Bob D'A

Trad climber
Taos, NM
Jul 31, 2013 - 01:37pm PT
I remember that day like it was yesterday...maybe 5-7 of us laying siege to Open Cockpit, beautiful late spring day, perfect weather, perfect friends.


Kevin, Elliot and me at the Uber Fall...I think maybe 1982.

Credit: Bob D'A
Curt

climber
Gold Canyon, AZ
Jul 31, 2013 - 01:54pm PT
And a young Ranger Todd right behind you.

Curt
jstan

climber
Jul 31, 2013 - 02:17pm PT
If McCarthy had realized what he had done when he persuaded Goldstone that Coexistence was just a big boulder problem, or if Kevin had gotten lost more often

the Triple Front Lever Gang could have wrapped up the Gunks in just a week.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jul 31, 2013 - 02:59pm PT

John Stannard (jstan), Kevin Bein, and an unidentified climber, below Nosedive in the Gunks.
from:
http://www.gunks.com/photopost/showphoto.php?photo=1262


Gunks crew in Eldorado Canyon 1977. Gary Garret, Kevin Bein, Dave Rosenfeld, Barbara Devine and Mike Sawicky.
(Rich Ross photo) from:
http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=454584&tn=300
Barry Bates

Boulder climber
Smith River CA
Jul 31, 2013 - 03:06pm PT
The first time I met Kevin was in the valley in 72 or 73. After talking for 5 minutes he made one feel like you'd know each other for 20 years and were best friends. Climbing with him was a joy, he could make the worst day on the crags seem fun because of his sense of humor and positive attitude and his parking lot move by move descriptions of a sequence were always entertaining. I'm not surprised that he came up with the term beta. I spent part of a summer in Eldorado climbing with him and Barb doing old classics and early ascents of some of the first 11's and beating ourselves up on jgills boulder problems at Horse Tooth. I will always look back on that as one of my best trips to Colorado.









guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Jul 31, 2013 - 03:09pm PT
Thank you for the good story.

Curt

climber
Gold Canyon, AZ
Jul 31, 2013 - 04:07pm PT
Just as a historical note, I'm pretty sure Kevin gave out "beta" before it was even called that. I believe Jack Mileski actually coined the term "beta."

Curt
Steven Amter

climber
Washington, DC
Jul 31, 2013 - 04:29pm PT
I first met Kevin in 1974. I was new to the sport, just learning how to climb and boulder. Someone had pointed out the "trash can" boulder problem at the Uberfalls to me - at the time impossibly hard and a dangerous landing to boot. Lots people grabbed the opening holds, but I had never seen anyone actually do it. One weekend, I saw a short, seemingly pudgy, man walk up to it and send it - my brain shut down, unable to correlate what I had just seen with my preconceived notions of how a great climber should look.

Not too long later, I actually met the guy and found to my surprise that despite being such a skilled climber, the guy was as friendly as could be, and would talk to anyone, even a newbie like me.

Over the following years of the '70s, I have fond memories - occasionally doing a climb together, climbing with him (and Barbara) at the end of the day on top ropes he had set up; getting route beta; hanging out and chatting, and sometimes sharing snacks and libations at the Uberfall; getting served by him at the various New Paltz restaurants he worked in.

Kevin somehow gave off a positive vibe, sort of like the friend's house where you always feel welcome and relaxed. But at the same time, he was a great motivator - always urging us to try something just a little bit harder, always providing helpful suggestions.

In retrospect, Kevin was so part of the Gunk's scene in the 1970s that it was easy to almost take him for granted. Like Joni Mitchell said, you don't know what you got till it's gone. I think that added to the shock of hearing that he was gone.

Gone, but certainly remembered.

Thanks for starting this thread Alan.
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