Apparently Charlie Porter has died


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Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Mar 5, 2014 - 08:14pm PT
This is so sad, condolences to family and friends. I only climbed with him a handful of times, all free climbs no walls.

He was a pioneer and certainly did things his own thing. For example, on Henley Quits around late 1974, I was belaying him as he led the off-width, and he was banging in a bong.

Along came Lou/Lew Dawson and Rich Jack, they asked me why he was not using a tube chock, I just shrugged my shoulders, he looked down and made a comment.

To say he was a character would be a huge understatement.

RIP Charlie
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Mar 14, 2014 - 10:31am PT
At the time of my first trip to Yosemite about 1973, Charlie Porter was already a legend for his El Cap ascents.

One of the vogue phrases at that time was “It was casual, man.” This was used to indicate climbs, moves, or pitches you found to be unexpectedly easy. An exchange might go like this:

“How was the famous “Belly Crawl” pitch on the Prow?
“Totally casual, you can just hand traverse it”.

Charlie Porter seemed to be able to turn some of the grandest mountaineering adventures ever attempted into “casual” outings. 35 Rurps in a row? Casual. Danger of crevasses while soloing the Cassin on Denali? Casual, just pack a long length of tubing. First ascent, solo, of a remote Baffin Island big wall? Apparently so casual that it was not worth the effort to write about it in the magazines or the alpine journals. Charlie always made it look like his landmark first ascents were casual and when I first learned of his reputation that first summer in Yosemite, I hoped one day to attain his level of nonchalant, climbing mastery.

By the time I spent some extended periods of time in the Valley in the mid-seventies, Porter was moving on to ice climbing and mountaineering. If memory serves, I encountered Kevin Worral and Porter one day practicing ice techniques on some smears off the trail to Half Dome in about 1975.

That may have been the same winter I spent some weeks in the valley scoping out its ephemeral ice climbs. Camp 4 was a nasty place to pitch a tent, with a distinct lack of sunlight, and an abundance of damp and cold; the only reliable heat to be found was in the Lodge and the toilets. So when someone mentioned a party on New Year’s eve in an El Portal bar, I was happy to pile into the car with the other campers. Porter was there at the bar, complete with white cap, and I spoke with him, yelling over the noise at a perpetually grinning face. I wish I could tell more about that encounter, but my enduring memory of that night is of the wooden floor of the bar, broken glass, and little else.

Climbing, then and now, seems to attract those who march to their own drummers. But among the various lunatics, geniuses, and those in between whom I encountered during my time in the Valley, for pure commitment to a life of adventure Charlie Porter stands alone, just like the way he preferred to climb.

Gross Vegas
Mar 14, 2014 - 10:34am PT
Great tribute Rick!!

Sport climber
Mar 14, 2014 - 11:17am PT
Great tribute Rick!!

Timid TopRope

Social climber
the land of Pale Ale
Mar 14, 2014 - 11:21am PT
+2 for Rick 's tribute.

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Mar 14, 2014 - 04:50pm PT
Dang Rick, that was a great tribute...beautifully conveyed.

Coz, cool story.
(I can relate, in a way. I had gotten the wave of the day and was super stoked for some pats on the back from da boyz. One of the legends said. "Was that you? I didn't know you sucked so bad." Laughter and pats ensued)

This Porter thread is something special.

Trad climber
Mar 14, 2014 - 05:17pm PT
Climbing, then and now, seems to attract those who march to their own drummers.

So true Rick.

Trad climber
Mar 14, 2014 - 08:18pm PT
What amazes me most is all the fools who let Charlie and the Canuks bag all those gems on El Cap, Ray Charles could have stumble into the valley and spotted the Shield.

Was Charlie not an American?
And besides, you guys bagged the first ascent of the Terminator near Canmore.

Mar 14, 2014 - 09:52pm PT
In memory of Charlie Porter

Others contained no depth
of purpose
their surface a thin like
floating aimlessly in shallow

Then you happened.

Heather burns

Mountain climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Mar 16, 2014 - 12:35am PT
Today's NY Times
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Mar 16, 2014 - 01:00am PT
Thanks Deeg. Great piece from NYT! Really helped clear up some of the errors about Charlie's basics. Imagine, he got to visit Tristan da Cunha even.
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Mar 16, 2014 - 11:53am PT
Interesting to learn that Charlie's mother authored the wonderful children's book, Miss Rumphius.

I must have read that book to my kids a hundred times and it was a perennial favorite. It is about a woman who wanted to accomplish three things in her life: travel the world, live in a house by the sea, and do something to make the world more beautiful. The last she does by planting Lupens throughout the countryside in Maine.

Mar 16, 2014 - 12:04pm PT
When Charlie finished Asgard he mailed me a letter describing his ascent and epic descent and getting back to the Eskimo village.

The NYT article says he hiked .

The letter Charlie wrote me he told me how his feet got frozen and had to crawl a good portion of the way out of there back to civilization.

He told me how he is staying with local Eskimos because he can't walk and they are teaching him the fine art of sea kayaking.

The stuff he was learning from those Eskimos would be instrumental later in his adventures in the Drake passage and building the sea tomato for Ned Gillette.

When I saw Charlie after he came back from building the sea tomato for Gillette he was really pissed off at Gillette for fuking him over.

I'm not going to into that here.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Mar 27, 2014 - 01:37am PT

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
Mar 27, 2014 - 08:02am PT
There are several legendary climbers who have died in the last year, who in their lifetime, made significant advances in our sport. The accomplishments of Charlie, and my close friend John Ewbank, have appeared in numerous articles, on an international scale.

I regret that Charlie and John are not around to read the fine tributes directed towards them. Even thou Charlie and John were both very humble
individuals, I'm sure they would have appreciated the recognition.
Anne-Marie Rizzi

Apr 14, 2014 - 09:54pm PT
So, I just opened a Black Butte Porter, my current favorite beer.

And I started singing (to the melody of Hallelujah chorus), "Charlie Porter, Charlie Porter, Charlie Porter, Charlie Porter, Charlie Porter-uh. This was a song that Jim Erickson, Art Higbee, and David 'the kid" Brashears would sing whenever Charlie came into the Lodge bar. I thought it was hilarious.

And all these years later I still remember it. What a scene...


Trad climber
Bay Area
Apr 14, 2014 - 10:53pm PT
Very nice eulogy for Charlie by a sailing adventurer who crossed tacks with him several times in Patagonia and the Southern Ocean. In the Alpinist I got yesterday.

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Apr 14, 2014 - 11:46pm PT
Bump for Charlie Porter song! Way fun!

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Apr 15, 2014 - 01:04am PT
Missed this thread the first time around. Charlie had a strong influence on my climbing and why most of it has been free roped soloing. Pretty much pegged the whole self-contained-on-rock-free-of-external-dependencies thing. Had hoped to get down to meet him some day and more than a bit sad that's no longer possible. A life lived on his own terms for sure.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Apr 15, 2014 - 07:36am PT
Mr. Porter was one of my heros.
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