This is my first post here, so there's no reason to give me any cred, but you're going to hear that it's true. I spoke to Todd's wife - an old friend - just briefly tonight. I don't know about Jimmy Chin and I didn't get any details - it was a condolance call. But the family and friends know, and are devestated. TIme to start putting out some kind thoughts and maybe take a quiet moment of reflection.
Very sad news. We had disagreements, but he was a good guy. He e-mailed me a few weeks ago out of the blue (we hadn't talked in over a year)to say hi and to let me know I could stay in his place outside of the valley whenever I wanted.
I'm very sorry to hear this.
that's horrible. i'm so sorry to all of his family and friends. it's weird because as someone from a younger generation, i look up to those names and you don't really think of those climbers as mortal - just this weekend i was hanging out at the used bookstore, reading "modern rock climbing", and reflecting on how skinner was such a well rounded climber and how inspiring to me his accomplishments are.
my sincerest condolences to all of you who are family and friend to him, i'm so sorry for your loss.
I'm sitting here in shock. I met Todd a zillion years ago at the Cookie, he could not have been nicer or more psyched. I will never forget that moment, and I could not be more sad to hear of this tragic news. So sorry to all...
Werner, sorry to hear such sad tidings about Todd. I know it's hard on you to bring any of us home under such a circumstance, but I'm glad it's one of our own that does. I just want to thank you again for all that you and your comrades do. My condolences to Todd's family and friends...
[ Edit: It's just been a damn tough year all the way around. ]
Others will say it better, but Todd was one on the funniest, most psyched, and upbeat guys I've ever encountered in the sport. The energy man... it was all about the energy, and he had it. Such a sad loss. Sincerest condolences to all.
This is a tragedy. Heard it may have been equipment failure. Stay tuned for info on some sort of family fund for his kids.
Peace and prayers to Amy and the kids. I know Todd was at times divisive in the climbing world, but it's nice to see people acknowledging his positive influence and boundless energy.
Last night, in despair, I went to http://www.beyondthesummit.com/clientssay.html
and read the comments from all sorts of folks who had experienced one of Todd's motivational speeches. It reminded me of Todd's ability to speak to the core of what makes us tick.
And oh, the stories he had, always told with a glint in his eye. I have often quoted some funny Todd-ism to my non-climbing friends: "It's like my cowboy buddy Todd says, . . ."
I was quite the gumby climber when we met back in the late '80's, but Todd didn't care. We were in remote northern Spain, and were both happy to have someone to climb with and swap stories with.
The things I remember most is that Todd *is* (I still can't say "was") a multi-faceted character with a deep trust and love for humanity. He was an optimist, believing that anything could be done and anyone could do it. I'd be hard pressed to recall him saying a bad word about anyone, even his detractors, who were happy to bash his climbing style, his clothes, methods, etc.
My heart goes out to Amy and his kids, and his many, many friends.
Todd was the ultimate ambassador for the sport, infecting thousands of people with his psyched up friendly energy. He came out to help me with the grand opening of CityRock, I know he made personal contact and a great impression with each of the over 600 people in the room. I stayed at his rented house in El Paso a couple of times, always sharing space with other interesting guests. When I stayed at the house he built out at Hueco, it was classic Todd, giant living room gathering space, and all these small dorm rooms so every guest was comfortable.
As one of the earliest adopters of sport climbing tactics and the sponsorship scene, many took potshots at him, but I never heard him lose his own positivity in the face of others negativity. Then he took his sport climbing fitness onward to climb remote walls that most climbers only see in their dreams.
I can't believe we have to write the word "was"...
Very sad. Todd was always super inspirational to those around him.
In 1993 I was traveling around Colorado and Wyoming with a friend of mine who happened to also know Todd. When we hit Sinks and Wild Iris he invited him (and me) to stay with him. Although Todd and his wife Amy didn't know me, they welcomed me into their home and allowed me to shower, cook, hang-out, use their woodie and campout in front of their house for over two weeks. While my climbing ability was way less than Todd's level, he was always very encouraging and supportive both on the crags and in the woodie.
The only bummer part was that I made a quick trip home and when I got back to Lander, my friend had disappeared as he had been recruited by Todd to help him on his Direct NW Face of Half Dome project after Paul Piana and others dropped out.
Wow, I was hoping it was a bad hoax. Very sad to hear it's true, never met Todd but I have a vivid image of him in my head wearing brightly colored lycra and a bandana. He was one of the most prolific climbers of the early 90s when I started climbing.
I think you can almost feel his energy coming through everyones posts - energy like that doesn't just go away.
Condolences to all - and I know it's been said, but Werner, thanks for what you do.
Headed out to Red Rocks today but wanted to make sure I posted before dropping out of touch.
Met Todd with Galen and crew at the Base of his Free Half Dome project, and several times afterwards. Russ said it well, He had a ton of energy, friendliness and goodwill. Good qualities to be around. Funny too!
Last corresponded with him was during that whole "Leaning Tower Bolt Chopping" controversy where I thought he had a pretty wise attitude about it. I'm honored that he bought a generous amount of my photography for his cabin outside Yosemite.
Condolences to those who will miss him. That's so sad.
As for Todd missing out on old age and cutting right to the next great adventure. I'll reserve judgement and wish him Godspeed.
I'll never forget sharing part of an afternoon with Todd at Veadawoo in the late 80's. He and Amy were out for the first time after his near fatal accident at the top of the Salathe, and were bolting what would become a 13b ("Silver Salute"). He was actually soliciting my opinion on where I thought the bolts ought to go. How many climbers of his calibre would do that? Simply one of the most simultaneously talented and positive climbers I have ever met. I just can't believe he is gone. My heartfelt appreciation to Werner for being there to carry out such a difficult task. What a huge loss to the climbing community. And my deepest condolences to his family and close friends.
I'm so sad to hear this. I met Todd and Paul at Sinks not long after they freed the Sally Rae. My partner was leading and he was dissing on Skammer and Peon, saying they had cheated and lied. I was playing devil's advocate, saying I was giving them the benefit of the doubt. So Todd and Paul heard this and started quizzing me on why I'd give the benefit of the doubt. Being the good belayer I am, I kept eyes on my leader and didn't know who I was talking to till my buddy went off belay. It was a good laugh and Todd really got a kick out of it. He invited us to his house for dinner, we camped there and did a woodie session the next day. They gave a copy of their Sally Rae topo. They were very good, polite and highly motivated people and they thoroughly enjoyed talking about everything, not just climbing. Thanks for your mojo, master.
Edit: Sitting here thinking - I think it was the AAC meeting where Todd and Paul presented their Salathe slide show. Anyway, they took the stage dressed as cowboys with six guns blazing yelling: (imagine this in cowboy drawl) "Skinner and Piana free climb the Salathe!" Now some of us nearly busted a gut but there were people in the audience that were not amused by this display. What a hoot. There were Vally regulars that absolutely detested them for the Salathe. I wonder how many still believe they lied? Hey Todd, I still believe.
Oh, that sucks. Over the years I've run into Todd all over the place, and his boundless enthusiasm was always a kick in the pants. I remember years ago in the Gunks (my one day ever in the Gunks) we were laughing and joking about running into each other out there and this older fellow came walking down the trail. When Todd stopped to ask the guy how it went, he broke into a huge smile and described how psyched he was to have led his first 5.6. Todd's pleasure at the man's success and stoke were so obvious, waving his hands in the air and talking about other moderates to put on the tick list. Far from being a standoffish "magazine climber," he really empathized with the feelings climbing brings and understood that pushing your own personal limits was the same thing no matter what grade you were climbing.
At the 1986 spring Beanfest near Tucson I had the pleasure of being the first Beanmaster to ever successfully bean Todd. At past Beanfests he'd always managed to disappear when the evening devolved to that point where the drunken mob lurched about, smearing a dab of refried beans on everyone's forehead with a thunderous "hear, hear" and much swilling of tequila (think of Ash Wednesday in a more genial and depraved world) Perhaps Todd was ritual impaired, or group actions made him as nervous as individuals made him excitable? Anyhow, I sidled up to Todd, bean pot behind my back, while an assistant approached from the other side. Todd, who had been deep in the telling of some tale, got a wild look when I calmly intoned, "Todd, the time has come." His eyes darted from side to side, and I'd swear he licked his lips, but his shoulders sagged slightly as he realized he'd been well and truly snared. I thought he submitted to the beanediction rather gracefully, and we moved on to deal with the rest of the raucous horde.
Hear, Hear! It makes me very sad that I'll never see his goofy grin again.
Todd was great. I remember chatting with him about a new climbing area he'd been working on. Full disclosure and total pysch. Used to see his Ryobi drill under the crags, as he was still punchin' routes in. Late 80's at Wild Iris.
Ran into him again in Hueco Tanks a few years later. Always upbeat, always a smile and some time for you. Man, be nice to tap into that energy...
He's in that DVD of older TV climbing stuff someone compliled earlier this year (the one with Wolfgang and Kurt in the Valley). Shot of him in Camp Four, where the filmers are asking folks where they are from. "Wyoming", big smile on his face. And hair on top. Looks like a kid.
I'll never forget our first meeting. I was in the valley in the late '70's with my GF for a week of cragging after school got out. On the second or third day an orange VW bus pulled up and a couple of youngsters got out (Allright, we were pretty young, too.) and said howdy. Of course, it was Paul and Todd, and it was their first time to the Valley. We ended up sharing a site in C4 for the week, fixing meals together, drinking bottles of wine and occaisionally even climbing. On the last day we decided to cook breakfast for everyone who shared our site. I had a big can of coffee and one of those 20lb bags of oranges that you could buy for $2 on the way into the Valley. Todd offered up some of his family's 186 year-old sourdough pancake mix and my GF hopped on the shuttle to grab some syrup from the store.
I've had a lot of great climbing adventures in the Valley but this pancake breakfast was the most memorable adventure of all. As people kept drifting into the parking lot on the way to their chosen climb, Todd and Paul kept offering them pancakes. Before we knew it we had 6 Svea stoves sputtering away on the old parking barrier; each one capable of making a single pancake in the lid of a Sigg pot. And, of course, the line of climbers waiting for breakfast grew. Each person in line got a burned pancake, a slice of orange, a full cup of coffee and a big HOWDY from Todd and Paul.
I think we fed the whole damn camp that day because we had to make 3 or 4 resupply trips to the market and were still serving "Pinedale Pancakes" until early afternoon.
I'll never forget that morning because it was the first time I had randomly met some climber, felt that instant shared heritage and bond and formed a lifetime friendship. I didn't know it then but that morning was my welcome into the wonderfuly tight community of climbers that I've come to depend on. Todd and Pauls gracious hospitality towards the line of climbers they had never met, their welcoming of any and all into our campfire circle was a lesson that I've never forgotten.
I miss you Todd. Peace be with you. See you around.
PS: Can't help but mention that 2 months after our pancake breakfast, my GF ran off with Todd. I was pissed at the time but in retrospect, it was probably the best thing that had happened to me;-). Once again, thanks, Todd.
Such a drag. I drove with Todd from Boulder to Jackson Hole ages ago in his old van. We stopped off at his folk's ranch near Pinedale and hung out for a day. Then finished the drive and top-roped at Black Tail Butte. Hardly stopped laughing the whole trip.
The slide show he an Paul gave at Neptune's right after Salathe ranks as one of the best ever. Gary had sponsored them with $100 each so they could stay in the Valley to finish the climb. They were super greatful and made it their first show, still jazzed and feeding off each other's energy. Of course, Todd gave lots of other great shows...Trango, Cowboys on Everest, Hueco mania. Always must-see's since you knew you were going to have a great time.
Always felt a special connection to Todd Skinner....being a fellow "Todd." "Hi, Todd......Hello, Todd."....was our usual greeting. I never climbed with Todd, but from my few meetings with him, developed a cool friendship. I drove all the way from Joshua Tree to Orange County on a work night to see one of his slide shows, and got the distinction as ,"The person who drove the greatest distance to see the slide show." I first met Todd when he showed up at my house on the Navajo Indian Reservation around 1981. He was driving a very old V W van, and had a full size T P strapped to the top. He introduced himself as Todd, and he and a friend had come out to climb Spider Rock and The Sun Devil Chimney at the Fishers. He went to watch me play basketball on our local Lukachukai farm team ;...I remember looking out in the gym stands....Skinner and his friend Tom Cosgriff the only 2 white folk in a sea of Navajos....sitting their grinning like the Cheshire cat. I dropped them off while they climbed Syider Rock, and the next night sat for many hours at the top of their fixed ropes for their return....with some food and drinks and a ride home.....they somehow got chased around in the canyon, and some Indians were throwing rocks at them, so they had to find a way to hike out of the canyon;..just another wild-ass adventure for Todd. He also stayed at my house in Joshua Tree while working on La Machine.... he was so disciplined... if he had a good day working on the climb;... he could have beer/and or ice cream... If he diddn't have a good day on his "project,"... no beer/and or ice cream. I again saw him in Europe while he was competing on the world cup. He sucked as a competitive sport climber, but was having a great time doing new routes and exploring the crags of Europe. Last time I saw him, I saw him and his family at the Landers International Climber Gathering. Sad that the climbing community loses a true hero and champion, but even more sadder that his kids and wife lose Daddy. As a father myself, I am overcome with sadness, and feel blessed to have been friends with such a positive messenger and planter of the good seeds of life. Rest in peace, fellow Todd. You will be missed by the many whose lives you have touched.
Steve Bechtel here. I am typing this note at Todd's desk. Todd's wife, Amy, was up all night and she told me she came to the forum a couple of times...She was so comforted by everyone's good thoughts. It's a mess here and as all of you know, we are at a huge loss. His father has especiallly been hit hard - Todd's mom died just a few weeks ago.
Whether you agreed with Todd or not, he was a good man. He was kind, driven, and always willing to help out. For all the grief I've heard him get, I never heard him slander anyone. He will be desperately missed by Amy, and his 3 children, Hannah, Jake, and Sarah. They need your good energy now.
Jim Hewitt was with Todd when he fell. I can't imagine what he's going through...some energy his way, too.
i met todd skinner in one of my 1st seasons climbing in the valley, at the base of el cap. i think he was walking down from working on the dihedral wall. i had no idea who he was, just said his name was todd. he stopped and BS'd w/ my partner and i for 10 minutes. by the time he left, he was practically recruiting me to belay for him.
i saw him 6 months later in a gym in marin and he came over to say hello, remembered our chat by el cap. what a nice guy (by then i knew who he was).
Todd was like the Mr. Rodgers of climbing. He liked you just the
way you were. It didn't matter whether you were world-class or
were just getting your feet off the ground.
There was nobody who was so stoked, about his stuff, your stuff,
everything. He was glad everyone was having a good time.
Thanks for the positive energy, Todd.
Steve – thanks for such precious insight. I wish the climbing community across this great land send what ever they can for Todd’s wife and beautiful children, my prayers are with them during this trying time. Todd – thanks so much for your story along with Malcolm’s beautiful recount these memories will be the guiding force in the days to come. Steve - if possible, compile them for his children to read, as they grow older. After the pain such joy will be their’s as they reflect on what greatness “is” their daddy.
It must have been late ‘80’s, and Julie Lazar and I were climbing in the California Needles (this was a week before a shoot for the first Moving Over Stone video so those with a clearer memory than I will know the exact date.) Anyway we were camping out in the notch, and were back at the car for supplies one afternoon when in rolls this yellow pickup. Out gets this guy who promptly sets up this hangboard rig on posts which anchor to the front bumper and commences to train. After a while he comes over to us, introduces himself simply as Todd, and asks if we are going back out to the crags this afternoon. I tell him we are hiking out in a few minutes but will be slow, with packs full of water. He says he’ll help us carry and would I like to take a stab at Pyromania (5.13) with him. I said I would be happy to belay and off we went.
The route was well set up with fixed gear, some of which was mine, from various actions earlier during the week. Todd shoed up and climbed with great poise, falling at the very last move on his first attempt. I was most impressed. When he topped out he set a top rope and we played ‘till dark. Nice guy and good climber.
I passed Todd in the parking lot at Devils Tower this last July. Our eyes met and we had one of those “I know that guy” moments, but he was surrounded by people and I didn’t stop to say hi. I really regret that decision upon hearing this sad news.
I wish express my heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
Very sad news.
My sympathy and condolence to the Skinner family.
My best wishes to them and my sincere hope that thier grief will be swift.
This is also a great loss for the climbing community. We could all learn something about our chosen sport by looking at what Todd Skinner accomplished.
The climbing community has lost a totally unique and irreplacable member. Todd's deeds, words and spirit will no doubt continue to inspire us for decades to come. Though I didn't know Todd extremely well personally, this news has hit me hard. My deepest sympathy and condolences go out to his close friends and family.
F@#$ing Hell, I was really hoping this was a troll. The Tower is so steep I can't picture what Todd ever hit that would or could have killed him. Warner, can you kindly tell us what the hell happened?
Just last month Todd e-mailed me. He always seemed invincible--so much stoke and energy and such a positive attitude. And the guy had been everywhere, from Mali to Venezuela, and always had a great and epic tale to tell. He inspired many people.
Condolences to all of those he left behind. There's not likely to be another like Todd anytime soon.
My God, this is so shocking and sad. Our hearts are heavy with this loss.
I only met Todd once, but what an impact he had on me. Although we all realized what an extrordinary climbing talent he was, he was always a good target for climbing slander. But when I met him, he was so entheusiastic, friendly and genuine, I couldn't help but become a real fan. I no longer had any doubts. He was just plain great.
What a lucky man he was - to be able to spin his love of climbing into a sustainable living. And he was so much more than just a climber: husband, father, son, friend, inspiration, etc., etc., etc.
Todd, we will all miss your good energy, excitement and child-like sparkle in your eyes. Thank you for who you were.
Wow! I'm so bummed.
I only met him once and he was super nice! He didn't just talk to me, he talked to my wife and was truly interested in the climbs she was doing.
I didn't know him that much at all but I'm really saddened that he's gone. I'm sad for his wife and kids also.
I met Todd once in Hueco back in the 80s. As everyone on the forum has remembered, he was an incredibly supportive person- he spotted, gave beta on problems, and was all round enthusiastic. Climbing was my life and meeting someone like him, who then took time to talk/demonstrate/hang out- that afternoon made a big impression on me. His climbing and achievements were an inspiration, his personality even more so. He lived a full, intense life and he touched a lot of us, he leaves a legacy that is deep... His family and friends are grieving, his kids will miss him always, perhaps they can take some comfort in knowing what a fine person and inspiration he was to all of us. Thanks Todd and Farewell.
Wow!! Sorry to hear this, I wish that Todds' Father, wife and kids and his friend Jim as well as all who knew him personally will find peace and comfort in each other. This is a sad moment, I did'nt know Todd, never met him, but from what I've read I think he would want you to celebrate his life and know that he loves you.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Todd, but after reading what you all have said about him, he must have been a great guy to be around. Every time I hear stories like this it brings a tear to my eye. As a fellow climber I'd like to say, "May God bless you and your family Todd...rest in peace brother".
Oh man, I was so hoping this was a hoax...and that this thread would simply wither away the way it should have. But then I logged in this morning and saw it still at the top of the front page. Boy, I thought, even a bd joke about Todd's passing brings out the worst scrounge of ST...
I met Todd in Josh in the early 80's. We climbed together for a couple of weeks, on and off during the days when he didn't have clients. Between Sherman and Skinner, I was in stitches until my stomach could hold the beer no more. Mofat was in the campground just then, it was during his legendary tour of the US when he put all us US saps to shame. At that time, Todd was just a psyched cowboy from Wyoming, eager as ever to get out and crank off the rads. Although strong, he still had a long way to go before he would become one of the sign posts to our sport.
Then as it often happens when you partake in this pastime, I bumped into Todd here and there over the years. Once in Pakistan when he was en route to Cowboy Direct, his dream route on Nameless Tower. Then again at the base of El Cap. I stayed at his place in Hueco a few nights, my jaw to the floor as I watched him and a few other luminaries pull outrageous moves on his home-made woody. They'd screwed pieces of wood together to make holds that looked like they were out of a Dr. Seuss book.
Pink leopard-skin lycra aside, I can't think of anyone else in our sport who pushed the envelope as much as Todd--there's simply nobody in sight as controversial as Mr. Skinner. For this I thank him. Too often we snore too loudly. To be shaken into a viewpoint as a calculated action, we mustn't underestimate it's value.
While Todd was a pretty damn good climber, he was an even better story teller. I still remember a story from when I first met him, about a night out in the snow when all their team had was one ensolight pad. That night, it was so cold their single pad cracked and fell to pieces. As he told the story, the pain on Todd's face as he mimed their pad failing made us all feel the cold of the night snake down our backs.
I also remember sage advice from the tour that Skinner and Piana gave after their free ascent of the Salathe. There, Todd described what he learned on the wall:
"Sitting on those ledges for hours at a time, we finally figured out the three-pronged meaning of our sport. And it is this: To effortlessly crank your hardest projects, to have you fail miserably on ours, and to become the unabashed object of sexual desire to your girlfriends."
Following this with his wry smile, I knew Todd was only partly joking.
Todd, RIP buddy, I hope the flight home was a good one.
This is a huge loss...........I was hoping that this was a troll and not true. I feel tetrrible for Amy, their kids, Paul Piana.
Todd and I had a great friendship that went back a long time. One of my fondest memories was when he stayed with me in Boulder after he and Paul Piana climbed the Salathe free. Paul and I both worked at Neptune's and they were putting their show together to give at the store. My wife Pam and I had a pretty good selection of traditional and modern Mexican music and Paul and Todd would climb during the day and then play songs at night putting together the sound track for their first show. We always had a good time with those guys laughing and dancing to the songs they would choose, drinking beer and telling lots of stories. Their tag-team slide show of that climb still ranks right up there with the greatest (funniest) show I've ever seen. I could tell many more tales. On one of my visits to Wild Iris Todd handed me the first Gri-gri I'd ever seen and gently commanded me to belay him. When I asked him how it worked, he just smiled down at me and with his cowboy grin said, "That's OK, you'll figure it out just fine....." He was right. He'll be greatly missed. I can't think of another climber I've known who could be more encouraging, motivated and just damn friendly even towards those who didn't appreciate him.
My condolences to Amy, their kids and to his many friends. Todd was a good friend and a gentleman.
This is a huge loss...........I was hoping that this was a troll and not true. I feel tetrrible for Amy, their kids, Paul Piana.
Todd and I had a great friendship that went back a long time. One of my fondest memories was when he stayed with me in Boulder after he and Paul Piana climbed the Salathe free. Paul and I both worked at Neptune's and they were putting their show together to give at the store. My wife Pam and I had a pretty good selection of traditional and modern Mexican music and Paul and Todd would climb during the day and then play songs at night putting together the sound track for their first show. We always had a good time with those guys laughing and dancing to the songs they would choose, drinking beer and telling lots of stories. Their tag-team slide show of that climb still ranks right up there with the greatest (funniest) show I've ever seen. I could tell many more tales. On one of my visits to Wild Iris Todd handed me the first Gri-gri I'd ever seen and gently commanded me to belay him. When I asked him how it worked, he just smiled down at me and with his cowboy grin said, "That's OK, you'll figure it out just fine....." He was right. He'll be greatly missed. I can't think of another climber I've known who could be more encouraging, motivated and just damn friendly even towards those who didn't appreciate him.
My condolences to Amy, their kids and to his many friends. Todd was a good friend and a gentleman.
My heartfelt condolences to family & friends, & most importantly his kids; I can imagine he must have been a wonderful father.
Back in the ’78-’80 time zone, when various tribes of our age group all convened in the Valley, I recall seeing a circle of Wyoming/Colorado contingents standing in a wide circle in the Lodge Lot; Skinner was one of them, in blue knickered up sweatpants and the most beaming enthusiasm imaginable. That was my first impression of Todd: an image of community & boundless energy.
Over the decades I’d run into him at his various high spots: Salathe Wall, Hueco, Vedauwoo, and Todd, though I am much like most of us, without a big name and no particular close friend of his per se, Todd would always greet with warmth and call me by name. Todd was a very personable character, a bright star, not an easy one to let go of to say the least and a person to be sorely missed.
the stories in this thread are a joy to read. i'm inspired even
more now, to read that he kept up his stoke and positivity always, even in the controversies; that shows he was made of solid gold. the poem "nothing gold can stay" comes to mind. hearing the stories of Todd Skinner, it sounds like he was too bright, too funny, too good for this world.
i know i said this but my heart goes out to you Mrs. Skinner, and to Mr. Skinner Sr. and all of your family and his friends, those days after you first find out are so dark and so hard; i'm sorry that he died, i'm so sorry for your loss.
Todd Skinner. The name to me conjures images of a wild energetic hilarious and talented man who was an icon from my era of climbing. Todd was everywhere doing it all. I met him in Smith Rocks, Hueco, American Fork, at the old sport climbing competitions, Yosemite, Lander, France, you name it. Whether it was sport, trad, competitions, first ascents, bouldering, or anything else, Todd excelled at every aspect of climbing. I am so sorry Amy and family for your loss, and I hope it is some condolence that even though he was taken way too soon, he died doing what he did best and what he loved. I know that is how any of us would want to go. I will always remember Todd with a big grin, and my heart goes out to his family and close friends.
Sincerely, mike beck
I got an email this morning from John Ackerly, and this was some of my reply, with some editing and addenda:
God I hate emails whose subject lines are a friend's name. :(
I first met him when he was the caretaker at the quonset hut at hueco before it was reoccupied, on my first trip with Chuck Wheeler in 1986 and told some hilarious stories at night - I was Just thinking of his describing his attempt to pronounce "Ou est Buoux?" where is Buoux? in french "Ou eh Beuuuuuuuuuu? To which the Frenchman replied, "Are you looking for Bukes?" (Which is surprisingly how it is pronounced...) Later, constant ethics debates over Scrabble at an apartment he and John Sherman rented - the hold that broke off the last great Mushroom boulder problem - glue it back? (Sherman launched it into the distance to try to prevent this...) And the mutual affection between Todd and the family that ran the quonset hut in later years, Pete and Queta Zavala, some great Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners there. Stayed at his A-frame house the last time I was there with Sam Tingey about 5 years ago, same scene, lots of hilarious stories, training, and motivation.
I had my first Tibet table at an AAC meeting in Las Vegas in 87, he was going to Everest, with his dad's Wyoming expedition to free-climb the 2nd step, and I said he should be aware of and help the Tibetans, because it was a situation like the American Indians (referring to cultural/literal genocide...) and he said, "But Bob, I'm a Cowboy!" with such a big grin I could only give a weak combination amused and horrified stare. It was the Cowboys on Everest expedition, and Todd ended up not going and did the Salathe instead, or else it was the accident at the end when the summit belay anchor boulder rolled and they were saved after a long fall and broken bones by one afterthought backup piece. (A previous post reminds me I was also lucky enough to be in Boulder to see that first show at Neptune's, where they credited Gary for his `sponsorship'. To get enough Poptarts and krazy glue for their flappers to finish.) From an email from a friend I was looking back at last night before I heard the news: "Also got lots of micro-info on the various Salathe free ascents. Jim (Herson) is a fan of Todd/Paul and points out various flaws in the Huber and
Well, then there was the connection with Galen, the Lotus Flower trip, with stuffed Grizzly Bear shenanigans photos making it into Galen's slide shows, and they always were grateful Galen was there for the off-width. Some free Grade VI in the Winds with Todd, Paul, Tim Toula, Galen - Mt. Hooker? And I think Galen did photos on Direct NW Face of Half Dome. Todd had become a highly regarded fun motivational speaker. I saw him and Paul and Amy and Heidi up at Wild Iris a few times in the last decade up in Lander, always warm, funny and hospitable. I'm sure some other episodes will come to mind as well. (I think the last time I may have seen them was waving/honking as we were both driving up I-80 toward Evanston a couple of years ago.) I first heard of him from a mutual friend Mark Sonnenfeld when Todd living in a teepee near Devil's Tower and they and Steve Hong and Beth Wald were putting in some classic routes there, and Todd was also getting to the Needles in S.D. Oh, and even before the Salathe, he shared some notoriety in the Valley with Alan Watts for working and doing the Stigma!
Well, what has already been posted says it all - Todd was a great human being who not only inspired a lot of us with his visionary ahead of his time ascents, but also actively helped many of us in our own efforts with his kindness, wisdom, hospitality, and humor. It is fortunate and inevitable that his spirit lives on.
Todd was not only the most psyched but also one of the the most generous climbers I've known. When we were in the Needles of South Dakota many years ago he and Paul Piana showed us around, got us onto routes we'd really enjoy, and generally played the host. Hayden was 2 years old at the time, not yet climbing but very much digging the whole camping scene, scrambling around in the dirt, and bouldering on little slabs.
One afternoon, Todd and Paul came by and led the three of us on a magical mystery tour through the spires, ending up at one of their favorite secret spots, the Orc Cave. They'd come by earlier to set the whole thing up, so when we crawled inside the cave was festooned with bones and spider webs and arrowheads, and lit by candles. Hayden wasn't quite sure what to think of it, but Todd and Paul's enthusiasm and infectious energy won him over and he was soon fully into their fantastic stories about orcs and goblins and battles. How many of us would have done so much just to delight a friend's child?
Heartfelt sympathy to Amy, his kids, and his many friends around the world.
Todd was not only the most psyched but also one of the the most generous climbers I've known. When we were in the Needles of South Dakota many years ago he and Paul Piana showed us around, got us onto routes we'd really enjoy, and generally played the host. Hayden was 2 years old at the time, not yet climbing but very much digging the whole camping scene, scrambling around in the dirt, and bouldering on little slabs.
One afternoon, Todd and Paul came by and led the three of us on a magical mystery tour through the spires, ending up at one of their favorite secret spots, the Orc Cave. They'd come by earlier to set the whole thing up, so when we crawled inside the cave was festooned with bones and spider webs and arrowheads, and lit by candles. Hayden wasn't quite sure what to think of it, but Todd and Paul's enthusiasm and infectious energy won him over and he was soon fully into their fantastic stories about orcs and goblins and battles. How many of us would have done so much just to delight a friend's child?
Heartfelt sympathy to Amy, his kids, and his many friends around the world.
I am very sad to hear this. My condolences to Amy, the kids and other family. Todd was such a bright light for climbing and so contagious about it. I met him back in CityRock days and at his place in Hueco Tanks and always found him kind and inspired. Yes, this has been a hard year.
My deepest condolences to Todd's family and friends.
While I didn't know Todd, his passion and energy wound their way into my heart through the many stories and anecdotes about him that have become part of climbing lore. One story in particular inspired and tickled me to no end. I believe it was posted here by Clint Cummins a short time ago. His answer to the "grease" will always put a smile on my face. http://www.climbingwashington.com/features/walkinthepark.htm
Damn, what a huge bummer. Events like these are always so sad and thought provoking.
Condolences to his family and close friends.
The few times I met Todd, he was always smiling, upbeat and totally psyched about his current project or previous adventure. He will be missed by so many climbers and non-climbers alike for his joyful spirit and positive energy.
Rest in peace Todd. Hope to see you at the next rodeo.
Before I read the magazines and became aware of the legions of big name climbers that could be idolized or ridiculed, I only had a couple of How-To manuals and a gorgeous coffee table book on Todd and Paul Piana's big wall exploits. Before I decided it wasn't cool to have heros and before I was told that declaring Todd Skinner as one in Yosemite was not exactly in vogue, he was undeniably the second person that I came to regard as a climbing superstar (the first being Lynn Hill who I learned about in John Long's how-to).
He was the first "famous" climber that I ever met, and the best way that I can describe the experience is to say that when we parted ways, he left me feeling good about who I was and happy to have met him.
As we pass the Dihedral Wall on the way in, the party on it a couple of pitches up asks us if we mind hunting around for the Aliens that they dropped. Wanting the good karma, we happily oblige...
On the way out we see that the party that had dropped the Aliens is just coming off as well. We stop to chat, telling them they owed us a beer per Alien and walk out with them. Nice guys from Wyoming. After talking to them for a while, the name on their haulbag jumps out at me: “Skinner” and my little pea-brain realizes that these guys are working on freeing this awesome line next to the one that we are hoping to jug, stick-clip, and aid up every last inch. I keep my cool and avoid telling them that I got a book detailing their free wall ascents for my birthday last month and have been reading about their exploits almost every night while getting psyched for my wall. I tell them that if all goes well Lurking Fear will be my first, and they genuinely act as though my plans are just as cool as theirs are. I wish them the best.
This is a very sad day for those of us who knew Todd and those of us who didn't. It's hard to lose a friend and also hard to lose a personal hero and someone you look up to. Todd's energy was insane and insanely good. This has been quite a sobering year for all of us.
Condolences to Amy, Jake, Hannah and Sarah and all of Todd's many friends.
Things are surreal in Lander today. We have planned a memorial gathering for Todd on Saturday, the 28th of October. The time is 3pm or thereabouts, potluck, etc. It will be held at the Sinks Canyon Center outside of Lander. email me at email@example.com or give a call at 307-349-1246 if you need any info.
Thanks so much. Amy wants to make sure it's known that all climbers are welcome...just as it always was.
Keep the messages coming...every one of them is helping his family.
This news just blows me away. Todd was a true one-of-a-kind, and a huge inspiration to me. I've never met a more positive, passionate, and genuinely kind person. In a sport filled with spray, Todd never had anything bad to say--it just wouldn't be productive. Todd was a true "possibility thinker"...and a peak performer as an athlete, speaker, and no doubt as a husband and father.
I have fond memories of first meeting Todd at Smith Rock in Fall of 1990 (I believe)...and I was fortunate to spend an evening chewing the fat with Todd and Wolfgang Gullich (not that either had any bodyfat!). Sadly both are gone...but their spirit lives on in me and certainly all others who knew them. Todd was a truly great spirit. RIP my friend.
As a father of two young sons I can't even imagine the impact on Amy and the kids. Our prayers go out to them. Thanks to Steve for posting the info on the Memorial Fund for the kids and family. I know many of us want to contribute and provide whatever support is possible.
Deepest sympathy to Amy, the kids, and all Todd's family and friends.
Terrible news. I never met Todd, but it is obvious that he was a special person.
"A struggle on the cliff face
Tiny figures viewed far below
When you have not yet been up there
Many a regret
But once there and homeward bound
How commonplace it all looks
Cliff face gleams in the moonlight
Mountains are once more mountains"
I can't even begin to conceive of the loss that his wife, his father and his children will feel in Todd's absence. My deepest condolences to all who knew Todd personally.
I can vividly recall the excitement and wanderlust the accounts of Todd's adventures inspired in me as a young climber. I can say unequivocably that, while I never knew him or crossed paths with him in the physical world, his passion for adventure had a tremendous influence on my life as it did for so many in our discipline.
While losing such a bright star as Todd Skinner leaves a vacuum in the climbing world, I can only imagine the loss for those who knew Todd and loved him well. As inspirational as he was as a climber, I can only guess what he was as a son, husband, father and friend. Know that we grieve with you.
I have to say it is rare that climbing takes one of its own. And when it does for a moment we feel more alone and weaker than ever. There is true horror in this too and we briefly fear for each other, those of us who are left, as if we were all kept in a stock pen by a mythic monster that randomly devours one of us daily.
There is nothing elegant in this for those of us who survive. In a climber’s death is also contained our own possible death, sometime later, when? What we do have remaining is Todd’s legacy, his family, his friends, his detractors, the rock he touched all over the world. All that which we had a week ago, you know, when he was still at it. He has given us this and he becomes truly one of heros.
So very sad to read this. I remember Todd's contagious enthusiasm from Hueco Tanks back in the 80's. He truly was an exceptionally motivated and energetic person. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family. Having kids the same age as his, I can only hope that they grow up to realize how much positive energy their father gave to the world.
While I only met Todd once, it happened to be the night that he was bouldering at
the tiny gym (Class 5) in Marin. I thought he was a cool guy from the videos, but he
was even cooler in person. He was really psyched for everyone doing their problems,
and was anxious to spot and encourage. What a cool and humble dude.
Jim Hewett had been obsessively talking about freeing big walls for months, so
he wasted no time connecting with Todd, and soon after they started working
on freeing Wet Denim Daydream. Jim Hewett is easily the most positive and psyched
person I have ever climbed with, and he told me how Todd was way more motivating
and psyched to climb than him! I hadn't seen Jim in several months, and ran into him
at the recent Dosage screening in Berkeley. He was really psyched to get on the wall with Todd.
I can't imagine what Jim is going through, since he was there when it happened.
My heart goes out to Todd's family, and everyone who has been lucky enough to
meet him - and have Todd's incredible drive and positive attitude rub off on them.
I remember meeting and climbing with Todd in the early 90s when he and I were invited to speak at the Mountain Summit being held at Sundance here in Utah. It was an amazing collection of climbers in attendance. Todd asked me if I wanted to go climbing during one of the breaks - I was in awe as I could barely climb the grades he liked to warm up on. So off we went to American Fork where sure enough he ran up a warm up climb that I barely made my way up but he gave me all kinds of encouragement as I climbed. Then it was off to Hell Cave where Todd wanted to try one of the new test pieces and had me belay. A crowd gathered cause I do not think the line had done been yet. I was nervous as hell cause Todd was giving me tips on how to belay him so that the rope did not interfer with his climbing. I was really afraid that my belaying was going to cause him to fall. Todd did fall but not because of my belaying. Instead of driving back to Salt Lake that night Todd let me crash in the room he had at Sundance, we chatted into the evening with him sharing his training techniques and talking about climbing and what it meant.
Todd had a great smile and was always friendly whenever I would run into him in the ensuing years.
Todd Skinner. Arguably, no one defines American Climbing Hero more than this man. Unlike most of us he lived "the dream" and took the game to a level that left us all in shock at the stubborness and persistence of this man. Todd had the amazing grace of hanging on and fighting to achieve whatever he had in his mind.
I never met him. However, it was a picture of him on a limestone first ascent in Wyoming that got me started climbing. I will never forget that moment, reading the mag, and saying to myself "This looks amazing, I going to try this". I have been climbing for 13 years. May we all fight as hard as Todd did for what we believe we can do.
Todd Skinner on The Gunfighter, Hueco Tanks, cover of Climbing #92
Todd was truly ahead of his time. He climbed 5.13 when people thought 5.12 was the limit, and his motivation and abilities made it possible to realize the dream of free climbing El Cap, years after explorations by Hudon, Jones and Jardine (and years before others could understand it).
Very sad for Amy and the kids, his father, and Jim as well. I hope in time the sadness will fade, even though it's grim right now. He still had so many good years to live - it's not right to go early like that. So be careful out there and stay alert when the ground is far below.
Living in Italy I've never met Todd, of course, but I've always found the many anecdotes surrounding his climbs both funny and inspirational. I've always thought him a great climber and a great character, and I must say that it was good to see someone who sounded like a down-to-earth guy climbing all these super-lines and making all those exploits. Which makes his death even more sad and injust.
My thoughts (and those of the Italian climbing community) to his family and friends
My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.
Looking on my cube wall as I write this I have a photo taken from Climbing mag this year of a picture of Todd climbing on the Leaning Tower. I hung this photo because I thought that it was a really great shot of a guy pulling some CRAZY moves. The sport of climbing will miss him.
This is Todd and Amy's niece, Becca. I too am a climber and I absolutely loved climbing with my uncle. He was a guy to look up to and he was a role model and always happy. He took me climbing for the first time this summer to a place that I had never been before. Not sure what the name was but he taught me how to use a gri-gri i think its called. We are all in denial and disbelief because to me, Todd was invincible. You all rock for posting these things about him. It is sort of like a therapy. To a question asked a few posts ago, yes the 28th was his birthday. Thank you SO much guys for posting these stories. We all love hearing them.
RIP Uncle Todd.
Todd Skinner was the first name I knew in climbing. When I was a kid and climbing was just a cool curiosity to me, a friend I was visiting showed me one of the early Masters of Stone videos. I don't remember exactly what he did that was so amazing, but even seeing it only once, and not even touching real rock again for almost ten years, his name in particular stuck with me. I never did meet him, but he was the earliest and biggest inspiration in a pursuit that has added so much to my life.
'Than Almitra spoke, saying, "We would ask now of Death."
And he said:
You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the sheered not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink form the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.'
Heartfelt condolences to the Skinner family, friends and the climbing community.
--Met Todd way back in '87, gracious, always stoked, and genuinely interested in what others were doing, an excellent example of decency and humility in light of many accomplishments. Very sad, Todd will be missed.
So sad. Hard to believe.
My thoughts go out to Todd's family and friends. Seems like I've had to make these kinds of posts too many times this year. I hope this is the last for a while.Please, everyone be safe.
I first met Todd in the later 80's at the trade show in Las Vegas. Despite having just met me, he gave me several pairs of shoes to go try out. Shortly thereafter, I ran into him again in Eldorado Canyon. We were both working on Desdischado at the time and I was having very limited success. He took the time to talk me through some of the moves and gave me the trick beta for others. His energy and dedication got me further up the route than I had ever been before.
He will be sadly missed by the climbing community. My condolences to Amy and the rest of the family.
The grin, the twinkle in the eye. The love for an adventure, no matter what its form or how small. Every day, every act was an adventure in living. The love of life and deep committment to friendships. The passion for his chosen path in life.
I'm so sorry for his family and his friends. And I'm sorry for all of you who never got to cross paths with Todd. He wasn't the most talented climber ever, but he was certainly one of the most determined. But he wasn't really about climbing. He was about the possibilities of life. I always thought that if I was ever in a bind with someone, I hoped it would be Todd. Always an optomist, never one to quit.
Every time I saw him after we hadn't seen each other for a while, it was always the same request: "Well, tell us a story!" I have dozens of them involving Todd, and I will cherish them forever.
This is incredibly sad news. I've known Todd and Amy for a quite a few years and use to stay at their house in Lander, though I haven't seen Amy for awhile. Every post here speaks to Todd's energy, enthusiasm and kindness - all true, in spades. Also, as was pointed out in multiple posts, it didn't matter whether you were a 5.2 or a 5.14 climber, Todd encouraged and motivated everyone. Having personally spent quite a bit of time around Todd I understood his sincerity and enthusiasm, and I found myself occasionally defending him against some of his critics, most of whom had never met him.
My condolences and prayers to Amy, the kids, and the rest of the family.
Not to be a total bummer, but I haven't seen anything on SuperTopo regarding Eric Brand - he died of a heart attack a few weeks back.
It just breaks my heart to hear this tragic news. Deepest sympathies from Jana and I to our friend Amy, to the kids, to the Skinner and Whistler families and all who knew and loved Todd........you will be sorely missed my friend.
Todd visited Kansas City for a slide show decades ago with a giant cowboy side-kick. He asked for a place to workout and at that time my house had the only decent climbing gym. He came over to get a pump and when he was done he asked if he could crash instead of going to their hotel. I was honored to be able to open my home to him. He was so friendly and easy to talk to. The one thing I remembered was that I noticed he had very small feet! He said I could crash at his place if I got to the area. Unfortunately, I never did.
We heard the news about Todd a few hours ago and our hearts go out to you, Amy and Hannah, Jake and Sarah, and to Jim. Amy, we are deeply saddened for you and your family. Not knowing the best way to respond, we've decided to post a message here since Steve says you are checking it. We will be there on Saturday to mourn with you and show our support. We are so so sorry. Words cannot describe.
I've only climbed with Todd a half dozen times, in the
80s, but I've shared many campfires with Todd at Yosemite, and JT. He always had a smile, and a positive attitude.
Plus, he always had a treasure trove of stories to tell,
of his adventures climbing around the world.
My heartfelt symphathies go out to Todds,Wife and Family.
He will be sorely missed by the climbing community.
I first met Todd in the late 80's after going to one of his salathe slide shows in Denver. My wife was at the slide show with me and knew Todd from growing up near him in Wyoming, so he invited the two of us out for dinner and drinks afterwards. I can honestly say that it was the single most inspirational night of my life. The opportunity to have dinner with Todd and Paul and have all that positive energy focused on me was truly an enriching experience. My wife and I ran into Todd three or four more times over the years and he always remembered us and had a story to tell or beta to give. I watched Todd effortlessly solo a 50 foot 5.12c pitch then come over and be super psyched that my wife had just climbed a 5.10 on top rope! His enthusiasm and positive energy encouraged me to work harder and have more fun with everything in my life, not just climbing, but relationships and work and just living. He was an incredible person and one of my true heros.
I am very sad for his family and close friends, my heart felt sympathy is with you.
I had also met Todd at a "Free climbing the Salathe" slide show, at the real Ken's mountaineering on Edison in Sparks. My freind who had talked me into going to the show asked Todd ( he knew Todd better then I through other Bro's) if he could use his gear for working on the grand Illlusion, ( this was a different time folks 80's, tights route wars, funky hair..) and Mr. Skinner without hesitation said no problem. It still blows me away today.... I've been 85% up the Salathe and to free climb some of those pitches, Mr. Skinner was obviously a visionary. My sincerest condolences to his wife Amy and family.
This Forum has not been the easiest on Todd in the past for his visions of free climbing the absurd, but the writing of history will hopefully show Mr. Todd Skinner in his true Light....Our climbing community will be worse for his lose.
Jack's wife, Pam, here. Just want to say to Amy and the kids how terribly sorry I am for your loss. Todd was an exceptional person, obviously evidenced by the sincerity of these posts. He was such a blast to have at the house while he and Paul were putting their Salathe slideshow together! :-) Amazing energy, and he and Amy were always so kind to put us up (up with us?) when we came through Lander on occasion. Anyway, my heart goes out to all of Todd's family and close friends. Que descanses en paz.
This is terrible news. I can't imagine what his family and closest friends must be going through. My thoughts and condolences to you all.
I first met Todd after his and Paul's Salathe slideshow in Santa Cruz. Afterwards I came up and said, Hey, let me buy you guys a beer! A gang of us hit the brewery and Todd never let me even take my wallet out, buying pitchers for eveybody.
Meeting him then and later at Hueco a couple times I was so warmed by his total lack of celebrity ego and unbounded friendliness. Many thanks Todd for focusing on what really matters in climbing: people not numbers, and for spreading so much good, positive feeling.
I hope for you that there is good cragging on the other side.
I am overwhelmed by the news of Todd's death- the world without that great big smile is almost unthinkable. I've known Todd for decades, during which time I've been amazed by his resilience, good humor, and upbeat attitude about life.
A high point was staying at the "big white tepee" at Devil's Tower, Todd presiding over an excellent, if impoverished, crew which included Bill Hatcher, Beth Wald, rob raker, jonny woodward, eppie, darryl hensel, and many more...what really grabbed me was Todd's generous heart. He had snagged the tepee site by trading his ranch-hand skills for a place to pitch the tent- almost at the base of the Tower. This proximity attracted all of Todd's friends for weeks of climbing and tall-tale telling around the fire at night. What I've never forgotten, in all the years that followed, was Todd literally supporting all of us- with an endless supply of beans and rice to feed the many near-indigents who ended up at the tepee that year. And of course Todd himself had no more than the rest of us did, but he stretched his own thin resources to take care of all. His generosity was legendary and won him the devotion of everyone who knew him. Amy, I don't know what to say! There are so many of us who adored Todd and will honor his memory.
Met Todd back in the early 80's at a josh camp fire. He was firing off all the classic rad's and leaving toy super figures at the crux's. I'll never forget how super nice and happy he was. RIP Let his family know that he touched people.
Not much I can add that hasn't been said in spades in previous posts.
On my first visits to Wyoming, Todd openly showed me his (then) secret crags and offered encouragement and beta as I tried to repeat his routes.
Later in life when I was going through a hard time, I get a random call from Todd offering support and telling me to "keep my chin up and keep on keepin' on." His call came at the perfect time and was typical Todd. I can only imagine how many folks he impacted in a similar way over the years. This as much as his climbs will be what he is remembered for.
Todd was an exceptional climber and an even better person. He will be sorely missed in our little community and even more so in the lives of his friends of family.
Wow.. this is very sad and unimaginable news. My thoughts and prayers to Amy and the kids. I feel for you in your loss.....Todd leaves a large void in the world, the community and very much in your lives......He always had a smile, words of encouragement, a hillarious story....he had a way of wholeheartedly believing in the possability of what you could accomplish. He often believed in me alot more than I believed in myself and got me to stretch my limits and try, no, succeed on thing I thought were impossible. He was a really good friend for many years and I have and will missed him. He called the other week after not talking for a bunch of years: "Hey!! Come on out for a visit!!! You have to put up more routes on 'Carson City Wall'!!! I have a new place nearby for you to stay!!! Bring the family!!! Bring your drill!!! When can you be here!!!" I tried to explain that I hadn't done much climbing for 3 years but that wasn't even to be considered. By the time we said good-by I was ready to dust off the drill, gas up the truck and head to Wyoming....He just had that effect on you.
His was a very bright star that went out. Todd, RIP....
Todd was one of those guys who could inspire even if you never met him, as I hadn’t. Todd was up on a pedestal for me, and that had little to do with his climbing. He had the courage to take on the impossible, to openly risk failure, and overcome it through shear belief, tenacity, and hard work. He had the courage to forge his own path and ignore the petty spears thrown by those who can’t stand someone who ignores their narrowly defined rules. He faced ridicule, slander, and harassment for DECADES and still, I’ve never known someone who spent time with him who didn’t say he was one of the world’s nicest guys. As these testimonials (and many friends who met and climbed with him) repeat time and again, he was an immensely positive force.
In times of loss I often recall a sympathy letter Willi Unsoeld received following the death of his daughter Nanda Devi stating, “remember, death is not too high a price to pay for a life fully lived.” If anyone lived life fully it was Todd. My deepest sympathy goes out to his family and close friends.
I only spent 10 minutes with him 15 years ago. Even if he wasn't well known I would have always remembered that man and his light. He seemed to be one of the best human beings. For me, who didn't know him, it's sad, because the world needs him.For his family and friends the pain must be unbearable,but I think he'll always still be with you.He will be,you'll see.
As a bloke who only discovered 'climbing" in 2001 and at an age
where it would be more sensible playing 9 rounds of golf and
reading the Manchester Guardian in and Old Folks Home cafteria -
I had never met Todd Skinner. But I did encounter his spirit and passion and I enjoyed his humour - all in good evidence in Paul Piana's "Big Walls - Breakthroughs on the Free-Climbing Frontier" book - expecially the chapter: The Great Canadian Knife , VI, 5.13b". There are many talented climbers out there but Todd Skinner had a bigger talent - the ability to share his zest for living and human qualities with those he met along his path and to infuse others with the possibilities resulting from engaging life full on. This is a rare talent and in the end more important than his impressive climbing capabilities. I am sad that I never had the opportunity to
have that great smile directed my way or to receive some inspiration or to hear one of his wild-eyed humourous tales and even some advice on my own climbing challenges. I know that
his physical power was capped with kindness shown to
others. I am sad for those who were close to him and who are now hurting with the loss.
It was Todd who stated" Whenever I'm facing long odds in a hostile land, I like to have a Canadian on my team. Lots of people aren't afraid to die, but Canadians, in particular,
aren't afraid to live." Todd was not a Canadian but we claim him anyways - he had the right stuff. We will remember him, we will honor him and we will miss him. He taught us all, not just about living and climbing, but living and climbing well.
I have just reviewed some stunning photos of a new Bugaboos- like climbing area in the southern Yukon - some 1000 foot granite spires and faces - Todd would have been really wired with the possibilities. We will see about someone putting up a charter first ascent in there and honoring his time with us.
Heartfelt condolences to his family - they will be able to draw
some strength from the support of the climbing community - he was one of us and we stand together - thick and thin.
What I especially appreciated about Todd during the short time we were acquainted was that he wasn't afraid to hold a point of view that wasn't popular or pc. He came to the defense of Anatoli Boukreev (may he also RIP) when people were critical of his actions that fateful May on Everest. Todd introduced him to people at the tradeshow that summer to show his support and make sure people knew the facts and the person. Blessings to his family and friends.
I know Todd as Hannah, Sarah, and Jakes' dad and Amy’s husband. People would say to me, “You know Todd Skinner?!” I’d reply, “Yea, he’s a Dad.” You know the guy that takes Jake up to the cabin for a boys' night out. The guy who brings a flower to Hannah after the ballet recital. The guy who feeds all kids junk food for dinner and plays wild games. The guy, through those damn pep talks, who gets us to work so absurdly hard to try and start a new pubic school here in Lander.
I have spent my fair share of nights under the stars and in the pouring rain for the need of what the wilderness has to give…so I know what it feels like to want to be some place so badly, work hard to get there, and focus on the goal. What I don’t understand is why did it have to be like this? Did it have to be either or? Is that what rad climbing is all about? Eventually, it catches up with you?
Last Friday Steve Bechtel showed me a bunch of pictures of Todd and him hunkered under a rock overhang waiting out a summer snowstorm in the Winds. Todd had that clown-like grin with the upturned end—Jake has that same grin. And, life was simple.
Now what? Be there for Amy. Share in the responsibility of raising their children. Take Jake to the cabin for a boy’s night out. And, remember the flower….
Was stretching out in the sun by myself right in front of the Warm Up boulder, Hueco Tanks. This was in the early 80's. Wasn't very many people to climb with back then, just a small handful of locals.
I heard a van , the unmistakable sound a VW makes, puttering into the park, paid the fee and rolled in. It turned right to start heading to the frontside. As it approached I saw this messy blond hair blowing around and a look on this guys face, the gleam in his eye like a little kid on Christmas morning.
When he eyeballed me he took a hard left and parked it on the North side. A few moments later up walked Todd. That was the first time Todd ever set foot on Hueco ground. ( He loaned me a pair of socks because my feet were cold )
I developed a good friendship with Todd, put up FA's, swilled brew, had him over at the house many a time for dinner, he even named the Gunfighter after one of my relatives, those were the days.
As time went on I became a climbing Park Ranger at Hueco. That was basically when Sport Climbing was introduced to Hueco Tanks and it was on!!!.
Those days were historical days at Hueco Tanks. The different ethics and styles, the clashes, the bolt wars and park closures, and on and on. It was hectic, stressful , and turned into a cat and mouse game. Sometimes neither group knowing which was which.
I've locked paws with Todd after hairball climbs with a cheer at hand to having him 1/2 inch away from me, yelling at the top of his lungs in my face, spit and all!!! I wouldn't trade those times for the world.
I think of what a big part of Hueco Todd was. He kept me busy, and I kept him busy. I thought many a time, man, this guy is determined and consistent.
I had the opportunity to work with him in 97 doing a corporate teambuilding event for Pete's Wicked Ale. Time seemed to have erased all of our differences and we pulled that event off flawlessly. It was great working with Todd.
When I heard this bad news about Todd I felt sunk for a moment. All of that energy and drive, the ambition, the fear, the feeling of conquer all stripped away from me for a moment. I felt like I lost my moment in time, I felt like Hueco lost something. It did...I guess I shouldn't be selfish, after all, I got to live it with him for those moments.
I will miss Todd, his flare, energy, his trademark smile, the spice he added to climbing. I'll never forget it. He is a legend indeed.
My deepest to all of his friends and family.
Todd skinner you are a legend, so many have written to say that you gave them inspiration, courage, friendship, and support. you gave those things to me and I was a nobody from another land. all I can say is that you are indestructable,because you do live on in my heart and mind as one of the greats,one who gave openly and unconditionaly,not just to the world standards of a sport that is to my mind one of the most demanding physicaly, emotionaly and spiritualy in the world today ,but you gave from the heart to the everyday joe that would cross your path in the journey we call life.for this I thank you from the bottom of my heart, to those that are missing you now ,I grieve with you and know from my own losses, that road gets less dificult to walk with time.all my love, support, and kind thoughts are with you at this time of heavy hearts, also bieng a mountain rescue guide myself I would like to express my sincere best wishes on a tough job well done, to those who would have no doubt been friends and brothers in arms to todd. from the other side of the world muki
Todd called me a couple of months ago after freeing Wet Denim Daydream and naming the variation Dry Lycra Nightmare. He just wanted to chat because I was on the FA with the late Daryl Hatten, oh so many decades ago.
Todd didn't know me from Adam, since I'm no longer even on the dull side of the cutting edge. But he was excited to find out what I felt about him adding a free climbing protection bolt that would reduce the difficulty of the aid.
There was a controversy about the bolt. He went to the source. Nobody else did. Genuine.
So very sad for his many friends, and most especially for his family. I didn't know him, though I of course knew of him, and I'm very touched by the stories told in this thread. Obviously an amazing person.
If 167 people have already written in to tell their stories about him, imagine how many other people he touched in his life? It sounds like he's the kind of person we all strive to be. How much more can we want from life then to touch people in such a positive way?
I wish there were magic words or a formula to eliminate the pain, but I know there is not. Take comfort in knowing that Todd's energy and enthusiasm are a positive and everlasting force in many people's lives including many that didn't have the fortune to know him, myself included.
I recently was blindsided by misery at the unexpected loss of a loved one. To help me cope, a loving friend gave me a valuable reference, "I Wasn't Ready To Say Goodbye" by Brook Noel & Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D. This book has helped me on my path to healing. Perhaps you too will find some wisdom and comfort in its pages at this trying time.
I encourage you to take care of yourself. Find comfort in the embrace and generosity of those whom you all find dear.
May you always carry Todd's spirit with you as you continue life's journey.
I still can't believe it, doesn't seem real yet. My parents moved to Lander my senior year in high school a little while after I began climbing. Todd was already my hero after the National Geographic article about the Trango tower, then I met him. I met him on a SAR in the Winds and worked along side him for several hours before I realized "Todd" was Todd Skinner! Even with the seriousness of SAR Todd was driven, enthusiastic and motivating. He has this incredible energy about him all the time, when I would see him around town or at the crags it just seemed to radiate from him and was infectious as hell. You couldn't help but laugh and smile in his presence. My favorite memory of Todd was at a end of season party for his employees (my wife worked for Wild Iris). Sitting on the back porch with his twins crawling all over him while he went on and on with his usual enthusiam about the climbing I would soon discover around Austin. It seemed at the time that there wasn't a crag in the entire world that Todd hadn't been to and I would be surprised if there was. Todd left his mark on the people he met and the places he climbed like no one ever will. My condolences go out to Amy, his kids and his many partners who shared his passion for out of the way places.
I first met Todd when I lived in Lander during the fall of 1999. He was already legendary to me.
I got to see him again on pitch 4 of the West Face of Leaning Tower in September of 2002. He had fixed lines for his project to free Wet Denim, and I was solo-aiding the West Face. He paused to chat and catch up with me, complement my efficiency (I had admitted to him that it was my first solo-aid climb), and wish me luck.
That's how I'm going to remember Todd. Hanging on a rope, looking over my shoulder.
It has been a challenging year for many of us that climbed at Devils Tower in the mid-1980s. We lost Jim Schlinkman to an auto accident in Nevada earlier this year. And now Todd.
I did not know Todd well but I knew him well enough to know he lived his life with all of the inner strength and unbridled spirit one would expect of someone growing up in the Wyoming wind. True, he was not the strongest or the most talented of climbers yet few could match his enthusiasm, his drive, and his deep love affair with climbing. Moreover, Todd was peerless in his willingness to share his love of climbing with anyone willing venture off of the common ground regardless of their climbing ability and intent.
What I most appreciated about Todd was his unusual ability to make people laugh and not take themselves too seriously yet simultaneously convince themselves that they are deserving of the highest level of self-respect. Todd knew that self-respect is earned and that for many climbers it was earned through a project. Everyone should have a project that helps them transcend the limits they have set for themselves. And that was Todd’s magic, to believe that we can live to be greater than we are. I thank him for those lessons and will seek to keep them alive in his memory.
On a final reflection, it is an awkward but somehow satisfying thought that Jim and Todds’ spirits will surely meet again causing who knows what havoc in the realm beyond! All we can do is rejoice in knowing they are alive in the Wyoming wind and that their spirits are too strong to be contained by anything less.
My deepest sympathies to Todd’s family and friends.
Wow, I just heard the news. Very shocking and sad...I still have a tattered poster of Todd and Paul freeing the Salathe wall titled "Free at Last". It has found a place on the wall of every place I have ever lived. He has always been an inspiration to me. Deep, sincere condolences to his family...
"Here I Stand In The Middle of the Land" The opening line from some old Hoodoo Gurus song. I can't remember if this opened the Salathe slideshow, or if it was running when they headed to Canon Tahoe/El Gran Trono Blanco. This song still gets me fired up when I head out into the backcountry, and of course I think of that slideshow with those two yucksters at the A16 in San Diego. If memory serves me, they were off soloing routes in Josh the next day as I looked on in astonishment from across the intersection.
I seem to remember a reference to flying stale tortillas and maybe even some carrots, too. Nothing like a little mischief.
Peace to all affected by the loss. May you find solace and may Todd rest in peace.
Todd was lurking by the Camp 4 kiosk wearing his trademark bandana when I met him. The encounter was brief but Todd stamped a permanent impression on me. He was pysched. Condolensces to his family and friends.
Todd Skinner was omnipresent when climbing had its greatest hold on my life in the mid-80s. A hero with more dimensions that most of the grade-chasers that the magazines sought to promote. As I have become older, climbing for me has become inextricably entwined with travel, and I have been noticing that for almost anywhere I have chosen to research, Todd's name has appeared. Recently it was the Hand of Fatima ... what took a cowboy to Mali! A life well lived, sad that it was shortened.
Very...very sorry for the family. Todd is now climbing in heaven with no rope because you don't need one there. If you fall...you simply fall into the cupped hands of Jesus Christ. He is our belayer both here and in heaven. He's climbing with his friends who went there before him.
God Bless you my friend...and please Lord...comfort his family and children through this difficult time.
I grew up with Todd. He was a few years older and always figured very large in our group. Those were great great days. A few summers ago I tracked him down at Wild Iris. He gave my 11 year old (who is a fanatic sport climber) the time of his young climbing life. Todd was equally attentive and supportive of my 7 year old. But the real event was the storytelling around the campfire in Todd's tipi.
we will be raising many glasses and dedicating many climbs in the years to come to Todd Skinner the Great!
I met Todd in the mid eighties in Hueco. He was so cool showing us all sorts of problems, spotting us and being so psyched! When I figured out who he was I couldn't believe he had been so helpful and supportive to a couple of gumbies who could barely climb 5.10. It is a story I have told many times. One of those moments in life that although short produce a big impact. What an amazing guy. It is truely a huge loss.
I climbed with Todd alot in the mid '80's...Grand Illusion, many routes at Smith, The Phantom in the Valley and we nearly freed the Selathe- he went back with Paul and did it a year later. He was such a great person to hang out with and to climb with. He taught me so much about climbing and life in general.
Even though I'd not seen him for years, he was never far from my thoughts. He was ahead of the times there is no doubt in my mind. A true visionary.
Like many I met Todd and Amy at Hueco Tanks in the late 80's. I remember following both through the catacombs of Hueco to their hidden projects, sessions in the Round Room and beers at Pete's. Todd's enthusiasm, stories and genuine interest in my projects even though he was in the midst of shooting the first Masters of Stone. Our paths crossed through the years until they intersected more permanently in Lander where the Skinners, and my wife and I, raise our kids.
Somehow during the intervening years Todd's energy and enthusiasm for climbing, and life, never waned. Whether I bumped into him at the playground with our kids, or the grocery store, he always had a tale to tell, an ear for a friend and that palpable spark that only he had. During the years I knew Todd he always encouraged me, paused at the base of the cliff if he saw me on a route, watched when I hit the crux, cheered my success or motivated me to put the shoes back on and try again. While I never threw the Houlihan or freed El Cap he had an uncanny ability to make me feel like I belonged. I'll miss Todd.
I just received the news last night from Al Bartlett of this tragedy...I knew Todd fairly well from his visits to the Monument back in the 80's and found him to be a very nice person, he will be sorely missed. God Bless!
Here's a great quote from a book Todd had been reading, about which he told Steve Petro...actually the very last time Steve ever spoke with him, at the end of July:
"When it comes time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with
fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more
time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death
song, and die like a hero going home." Tecumseh ( Shawnee)
I met TS on a couple of his tours, and appreciated his boundless enthusiasm. As was written "Here I Stand in the Middle of the Land" is a TS signature. I bought that Hoodoo Gurus album Blow Your Cool shortly after he blew through Monterey. It's been a battle cry for me ever since, and I always think of the man when it plays.
Jim H., I met you at the Tower when you were working the route; you might recall handing me back the locker I backed up your rap anchor with after we all bailed and were in the trees. Thanks for that. Stay strong, man, and keep the vision. I appreciate your level demeanor in the heat of criticism here on the forum. My thoughts are with you as well as others (all of us) who have lost in this very sad event.
I feel so lucky to have known Todd and disbelief that he is gone. I suspect that like me, everyone who met him must feel compelled to share stories about those brief or extended moments to draw him back to us.
Todd was the most inspiring climber--probably person--I ever met. Big smile. Bigger energy. Cowboy poet. (His brilliant route names--and Paul's--are a gift.) He led me to climb harder, get stronger, stay on the road, tell better stories, love the West more, and let go of the bullshit and embrace the dream. And I barely followed where he led. I don't know about you all, but when I chose not to partake in one of his schemes, say traveling to Mexico in 1986, bolting by moonlight to avoid detection, or traveling hither and thon, I soon felt--and will always feel--poorer for having said no.
I cannot imagine how losing Todd must feel for those who were closest to him. My heart goes out to you.
I was introduced to Todd by a friend in the early 90's, climbed with him in Lander, and was fortunate enough to stay with Todd and Amy several times in their Hueco home.
Todd and Amy were incredibly welcoming and generous. Staying and climbing with them I learned something new about enthusiasm, about camraderie, about friendship. The positive community they created was incredible - I felt inspired to try and be a better person.
Journey on, Todd. My thoughts are especially with you Amy.
I'm supposed to be working, but I keep coming back to this forum again and again, amazed at the outpouring of love and support for Todd and his family. I don't know why I should be surprised, because like so many of the people who have written in, I too was encouraged by Todd as I struggled up easy climbs that were hard for me; I too watched him reach out to my young daughter and make her laugh; I too heard his funny stories and saw him light up an audience; I too was the recepient of his incredible hospitality and generosity; and I too saw him with his children. He was a motivator. He was kind and giving. He made people laugh.
I've also been over to Todd and Amy's house and seen the sadness his death has left behind. Todd was an incredible light in so many people's lives and for many of us, that is enough. But it is hard to think of Hannah, Sarah and Jake growing up without him around. It's hard to think of Amy raising those kids by herself.
A friend of my father's once said,"Life is short, and we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who walk the way with us. So be swift to love and make haste to be kind, and peace will be always with you."
I send those words out to all of us. It's how Todd lived, and how we too should move forward. It's how we can help Amy.
First let me just say how truely sad I am to hear the new of his passing. While I was not fortunate enough to know him personally, I, like the entire adventure world, knew well of his accomplishements, as well as his incredibly positive personality.
My deepest sympathy and love to his children, wife and to all those who shared experiences with him during this life time.
RIP Todd, and all the love and support in the world to your family forever.
I'm sure in time we will have a more complete answer to the circumstance of this tragedy, but for now we should just focus on his family, his life and his many great acomplishements....
Todd had a rare quality that made everyone around him better. His whole being smiled when he told a story and when he politely listened to one of yours. His feats are legendary and, fortunately, so are the wonderful qualities that so many of you have expressed in your postings. While deeply saddened by his death and his family’s great loss, I can think of few individuals who have lived their lives as fully as Todd appeared to live his. His memory will continue to inspire us for many years to come. But today is a sad day. My deepest condolences to Amy, their children, families, and friends.
It is with a sense of terrible loss that I'm sure is felt not only by Todd's family and close friends, but also, throughout this state's tight-knit climbing community (not to mention the climbing community at large) that I write these words. Todd was a legend I'd known of for years, one of those larger-than-life famous climbers, who became an acquaintance of mine when I lived in Lander a few winters back. I don't even believe we'd ever met in person when he responded to a desperate email I sent to him following the announcement of the impending closure of the co-op climbing gym. He graciously offered me free usage of his private gym whenever I wanted to go there. Upon meeting Todd at the co-op gym when it was subsequently saved from closure, his infectious enthusiasm combined with an utter lack of any attempt on his part to pound his chest about his accomplishments or who he was impressed me tremendously. He just joined in our training session, bouldered for a while with us, and then chatted with me about climbing the way anyone else would, with no spray involved. Todd was and will continue to be an inspiration to me, for his courage to just do what he thought was right and to unapologetically be himself, for his Wyoming spirit, for his genuine generosity in allowing me to use his gym sight unseen, and of course, for his incredible accomplishments on the rock.
Though I'm not a climber, I admired Todd and was fascinated to hear and read about his first ascents.
When I moved back to Lander in 1995 I was writing for the Lander Journal. I had heard about Todd Skinner from my dad and others. I couldn't wait to meet the world's most famous free climber who happened to live in my hometown of Lander. He had rock star fame in our small town, especially to those of us unfamiliar with the sport of climbing.
I met him for the first time to interview him for a feature story. The 2-hour interview impacted me for several days following...and that first meeting with Todd taught me important lessons. He was so inspiring; I had never talked to anyone with so much natural energy and motivating ability. When my husband and I would run into him on Fairfield Hill, or on other hikes near the crags, we'd talk for 5-10 minutes with Todd, and afterward we joked that we felt we owed him something... He had a gift to inspire and motivate...like no one else I've ever met in my life.
The last time I talked to Todd was a few weeks ago at our sons' last soccer game. We were talking about his speaking schedule and I reminded him how disappointed I was that Wyoming Tourism didn't accept our offer to have Todd as the keynote speaker at a tourism show a couple years ago. Todd, who travels the world presenting to and inspiring workforces of large corporations, made the comment, "I'm exporting myself. I want to do more of these things in my state here." I wanted everyone in our home state to get the opportunity to see the world-class presentation by one of Wyoming's own and to be inspired by Todd like I was. He was scheduled to be the keynote presenter at the Nov. 17 Wyoming Heritage Conference, and I have been telling everyone I know throughout the state to attend for the purpose of seeing and benefitting from the Todd Skinner Presentation.
Todd, thanks for the inspiration you brought me. It was significant.
We are heartbroken for Amy and the kids. There is no one sweeter than Amy, and their children are beautiful products of Amy and Todd.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Amy, and Hannah, Jake and Sarah – and to Todd's family and friends.
Todd, you will be missed!
I've now spent over 24 hours trying to sort this all out. Memories of Todd just keep flowing through my brain...
One thing that is very clear from the responses here is that hundreds, if not thousands, of people got a piece of Todd, he was so giving of himself. Most of the time I spent with him was prior to Amy, but my wife and I did visit both of them at Hueco several times. It is clear that all of us owe Amy a huge debt of gratitude for sharing Todd with us. I know this must have been difficult for her to do at times, but she did so graciously. Thank you, Amy.
It might be for the greater good that the topic of this thread be left to just to commemorate Todd's life and to help share the stories of those who are grieving from his loss. Undoubtedly, we're all wondering how this happened and what could have gone wrong, but this thread -- as it is -- has become kind of a sacred spot in the ether for friends and family to come and try to cope. Maybe we can best honor that quest by taking up the discussion of the accident, itself, in another thread at another time.
My condolences to Todd's friends and family. I wish I could have known him.
Wow really sads news.
I had the honor of meeting Todd when he spoke for a national sales meeting in Vegas back in 1997 for an old employer. I was the only person who was personally interested in climbing but Todd's amazing storytelling had a whole bunch of beer salesmen hanging on the side of Trando Tower right there with him. It was definitely the very best motivational speech I have ever heard.
After that we went to a climbing gym and Todd cheered each and everyone on to try to get to the top.
As the only climber I felt like I was meeting a legend but when he and I spoke one on one he made me feel as much of a climber as he was.
From so many posts it is clear that Todd may have been climbings greatest ambassador and cheerleader.
He even drew a map to the house in Hueco for me on the back of a signed Trango poster so I could "visit any time". I felt as welcome as if I too were a climbing legend.
Since then I have become a stonger and more experienced climber. I can't help but think that Todd's gift of enthusiasm helped me get to where I am now. Thanks man!
I feel lucky to have met him at all.
My sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Rest in peace and say hi to all our climbing brothers and sisters who have gone ahead of us to the "happy climbing land".
Todd was a truely genuine and enthusiastic person, it didn't matter what your climbing abliltiy was. I met Todd and Paul when I moved to Lander in 2003, at the Gravity Club. I distinctly remember Todd's teasing and joking personality, and thinking what a cool climbing community Lander had.....hell, if everyone was as supportive and friendly as these guys, Lander is going to be a fun place to be. I had no idea that it was Todd and Paul I had interacted with at the time. What a welcome committee.
Total noob here,
Was at the base of Central Pillar on Monday, thinking, "can I do that?"
Didn't know what was happening at the same time...
Now, I know I will, and will think of him when I do.
Heartfelt condolences to Todd's family and friends, very sad.
It is snowing in Lander right now.
These are such nice thoughts. There are so many wonderful people out there. Tonight, the Skinner home is filled with voices of friends and the sounds of children playing. The words of the climbers and others on this forum are being read aloud at the dinner table.
I know people are anxious to know the details of what happened to Todd, and they will be forthcoming when the rangers complete their investigation. The important thing now, though, is to realize what great kindness there is in this sometimes too cruel world. To understand that our love of the sport and the people in it can transcend even death, and bring those of us left behind a little closer together.
We are hoping to see so many of you in Lander this Saturday for Todd's birthday party. Let's hope he's doing well on the next big adventure.
My connection to Todd was through Amy, who I've been friends with for many years. Though I was only with Todd on a handful of occasions, he left an indelible imprint on me - as he has, obviously, on the lives of many others. I remember seeing one of his and Paul's memorable slidehows in Portland in the early 90's. Todd shifted seamlessly from rock climbing travelog to climbing as a metaphor for life. His quote that I recall was "do what you fear to do, and the fear will die" (with credit given to Emerson) before admitting to the crowd of 200+ his fear of singing in public. Of course, this admission was soon followed by a loud, over-the-top version of a cowboy ballad, sung in Todd's enthusiastic, though not angelic voice. I can't tell you the number of times in my life I've been stopped in my tracks with fear, and have pushed on recollecting Todd's irrepressible spirit.
Todd was a true original who will be missed by so many people. My sincere condolences to Amy, Hannah, Sarah and Jake; Lucy and Garold Whisler; the Skinner Family; and the many friends in Todd's universe.
I saw Todd on and off in Boulder in the 80s though I never came close to climbing at his level. He was a super-positive guy and it was infectious. Some critics argued he was publicity-seeking, but I think his exploits were worth sharing. As a dad of two small kids who still sometimes climbs, I feel so sad for those he leaves behind.
Amy, Hannah, Jake, and Sarah, I want to thank you, for letting Todd go climbing with me. I know that the time Todd and I spent climbing was time that he was away from his family. Hopefully, the time he was away from home helped to make your time together with him all the more memorable. This is a very sad event and we all share in your loss, but I know you will all continue to grow and prosper.
Todd, thank you, for your endless optimism, enthusiasm, encouragement, and generosity. May your accomplishments and vision continue to be an inspiration to future generations. I will remember you, not so much for what has already been done, but for what still needs to be done, because we have only begun to scratch the surface. There are so many new routes left to be done, places to explore, new lessons to be learned and shared. Every day we have here is precious, we must take every opportunity to accomplish our goals, we can not let another season go by, waiting.
Obviously, Todd’s departure is a huge loss that no one had planned on, and it will take some time to absorb this, reflect on our own lives, and make adjustments.
I haven't seen Todd for 10 years or so, as I don't climb much anymore. So I pulled out my old yearbooks (Todd was a few years ahead of me in school) and there he is a skinny teenager in his senior year - stylish bell bottoms, full head of hair and that trademark goofy grin, smiling out at the world, so many adventures ahead of him.
My Dad and I were just telling tales about our various memories of the Skinner clan, and dad said that Todd's parents are flat out the best people he has ever known. As you all know, Todd was carrying on that tradition in his own amazing way.
Our hearts go out to Todd's father especially, and all the rest of his family and friends too. Peace to all.
Again this is Becca, Todd and Amy's niece. Aunt Amy I cannot wait to see you and the kids, the drive will be so long tommarow. Mr. Betchel, *sorry if I misspelled it*, thank you so much for all that you are doing for our family. It means so much to us and I hope you know that.
This time, I am coming to the forum because I feel like this is such a community that I can come to release my fears or concerns. One thing that I am having a great deal of dealing with from this all is whether or not I think that I want to climb anymore. My Uncle Todd and I were talking about climbing Devil's Tower together last fall and it had been a dream of mine since I visited Yosemite to follow in his footsteps and climb El Cap doing the Salathe route. Most of the climbing I did was pretty hard stuff for me just because I am young and in-experienced but Todd was always there to support me and make me do it even though I didnt want to. Now that my uncle isnt here, im not sure whether or not I have the passion to do it anymore. I loved doing it but it was mostly because I looked up to him so much. He was my hero and most definatly a father-figure like someone else said on the forum. I LOVE the stories you guys tell. It makes me feel like he shared so many good times with people that we are all connected somehow. I wish those of you who couldn't see how cool he was, could've met him. I'm positive you would have loved him. I especially love what someone wrote about he was the type of dad to let his kids eat junk for breakfast. That makes me laugh everytime I see that. He was totally like that. You just couldnt help but laugh when you were around him. Thanks guys for all the stories and laughs. It makes the family and friends of him feel so much better. Please come to his birthday party on Saturday- it would mean so much. You all rock.
It was June 1985. I had just turned 30. My boyfriend, Hans (now my husband of 18 years), our golden retriever, Tascha, and I were in the incubation stage of our year off from being working stiffs and we had just made our first climbing purchases: top roping tools and a single 150 meter rope and books, so we could teach ourselves to climb when we stopped in Index, Washington and saw a site that blew our minds - there was Todd at least 200 ft above ground, free soloing what looked like a freakishly steep featureless face - we were so naive; M&Ms without the helmets but still; I thought I was looking at a demented God, and a beautiful one at that with his golden hair falling all over his face and his pink tank top and baggy short pants rolled up at the cuffs, just dancing like Baryshnikov up that impossible looking line. I literally held my breath till he sailed over to a fixed rope and rappelled down.
His barely white beat up ol VW bus was parked next to our '82 Toyota shortbed with a cabover camper on top and I was frying up bacon for BLT sandwiches when he ambled through the parking lot unfazed and grinnning at us through the camper door with his signature "Ain't life grand?" smile. If I was entranced seeing him free solo, I was totally captivated by his charm and impish smile and his friendliness. The first thing I ever said to Todd Skinner was, "Would you like a BLT?" When he finished licking the mayonnaise off his taped fingers, he woke his then partner, Beth Wald, from a nap and she belayed him on "City Park," Todd's then pet project and of course the hardest climb that had not yet gone free, which of course made it all the more alluring to Todd, who would not be deterred, even by greasy holds that had been made so by jealous local climbers who were not happy about this Wyoming "Cowboy," hornin' in on "their so-called territory." Todd wasn't even fazed by it.
From that point on, Todd took us under his protective wing; he so admired that we had cut loose from society's noose for an entire year that he made a point of always letting us know where he'd be hangin' his resoles next so we could meet up with him, which we did faithfully for the rest of that year, all the way through the Spring of '86. And it was, without a doubt, a history-making year because Todd Rocked the Climbing Community with a shake-up make-over unlike any it had known before. ALong with a small but faithfully devoted crew, headed up by Paul Piana and Beth Wald, and Bill Hatcher, against some fierce and sometimes brutally dangerous controversy, Todd turned the trad tide upside down and created a new wave form he called, "Sport Climbing;" by raising the difficulty level of climbing from the top down, and protecting a seemingly impossible line in advance of climbing it, he made the impossible possible, and safer to boot. And even though Hans and never did embrace Sport climbing over trad, we loved and admired Todd for his gumption, his passion, his grace, his incomparable wit and his unparalleled kindness.
Every morning I wake up and the first thing I see is Todd freeing the Salathe and Paul belaying him inside a tent on a ledge below. On his outstretched red-clad right arm he wrote on this framed poster, "Hans & Lezlie- Climb Wildly."
We were in Yosemite this past weekend and I actually thought I saw Todd climbing above the Nose on El Cap, as I was viewing climbers from a telescope in the meadow 1500' below - we didn't actually know Todd was there; had we known, we would have surely scouted around till we found him; just to say "Howdy" and see him smile again. I am devastated that this beloved and loving man is gone, though his star will glint like the light in his baby blues on and on and on. Todd Skinner will be loved and cherished and remembered for all time - of this I have no doubt- for he is legendary and there will never be another Todd- the Best of the Best. My heart is full, and aching Amy, for you, for Todd, for your children, your family & friends, and for all of us who are Blessed to have been graced by Todd's Great Big Beingness. His spirit is Vast and will influence and inspire us to be passionate and true to our own paths.
May you be bouyed by the wings of his protective love where ever he flies tonight and ever more
I'm so sorry for your loss. You'll know when it's time to climb again. Don't push it and don't worry if it doesn't come. If and when it does come it will feel like just the right thing to do. Don't force it. It will either come or it won't. I spent a lot of time with Todd over the years and one of his unique qualities was that it ALWAYS felt like the right time to climb with him. He was amazing. I miss him, too.
Hi all, glad you stopped by to read up on old Todd Skinner, the riding-est, roping-est cowboy who ever donned a pair of climbing shoes.
To Becca (Todd & Amy's niece): I think you will want to climb again sometime, maybe sooner than you think. Right now I can imagine you've got a hole in your heart where your Uncle Todd was, and that will be there for a while. I guess ole Todd would say to follow your heart, and I couldn't say much more than that.
Back in '89 I guess it was, the year after Todd and Paul Piana's rise to rock star status after freeing the Salathe, I got to spend a month or so living in the teepee with them in the Black Hills at Rushmore. Jacob Valdez rounded out the crew, and a tough-as-nails, sweet-as-pie smokejumper named Amy Whisler stopped by too. It was late fall, and she'd just finished a work season as I recall. Bill Hatcher showed up for a while (and bore witness to my harassment at the hands of the local constabulary - thanks again, Bill!). Sams Lightner stopped by too for a spell. Quite a crew.
Of course Todd made sure to school me on the lore and legends of the Black Hills and took me out and spooked me on some of the Needles' classics. But mostly our days were spent on new Rushmore projects, and sitting around the teepee cooking meals, telling tales and, for me anyway, feeling very far away from the rest of the world. It was there that I, for once, taught Todd something: the fabled Australian Stick Dance. (Ask me if you want to know about it, but be forewarned: several of us nearly ended up in the fire that night, and no alcohol was involved).
That boy was the real deal, as shown by the comments found here. It makes me want to be a better person, a better father, and to always feel that way. Thanks Todd, and thanks to his family for sharing him with us.
Becca Skinner,if it Rocks your world then Climb On!!!!
I was 30 years old the first time I roped up and the first time I set eyes on your amazing uncle Todd, the bravest and most outrageously wild climber I have ever had the privilege to know, climb, camp and party with. Climbing isn't limited to the actual effort of moving up or across a rock face. It is the most powerful and all encompassing activity I have ever had the pleasure to lose my inhibitions to. I am never moreso fully alive and self-aware than when I am climbing and I'm 51 years old and still mad for the rock after 21 years! And Your uncle Todd is probably the main reason I love climbing as much as I do. His love for climbing was like a flu bug that when it bit anyone remotely interested in climbing within his range, we couldn't help but want to get next to a wall after seeing him create his magic on it. Of this I am sure: He wouldn't want you to continue climbing for him or out of respect or your love for him; it has to be your own passion; I believe Todd climbed because it was a big part of what made him who he was; like a limb or an organ. He sought and found fulfillment in this pursuit. I'm sure it helped him to discover and achieve excellence and success in other areas of his life.
Don't let your fear overwhelm your love and passion for doing anything that rocks your Being, Becca. Your Uncle Todd will carry his love for you always no matter what you choose to do.
I have two sons; my younger one, who is 12, and is named Grant, after Yosemite Granite, is a natural born climber and I will support and encourage him to climb as much as he wants as safely as he possibly can. I do not want him to be harmed by anything in life, but I have to honor his desires, especially the ones that enhance his Beingness.
BTW, Is your Mom, Holly? If so, I still have the original chalk bag that she made and Todd sold to me for $10.00 back in 1985, to help support his climbing "habit," when he was still without corporate sponsors! It has a lightning bolt on it! Todd spoke of his family lovingly, and often, and whether he embellished the truth or not, he'd crack us up, and we knew he had an adventurous childhood.
I wish you and your family, Becca, the strength and hope and faith to bear this horrific loss.
I only saw Todd very briefly, but I remember his wonderful enjoyment of life, of climbing, and the fun he got from sharing all this with others. He was giving a short climbing seminar at an indoor gym -- and just had a grand time telling stories, jokes, and giving us weekend-type climbers pointers on technique. He really enjoyed encouraging us. He was enthusiastic and energetic and natural.....
Todd sort of sparkled. Hard to picture him without a smile, so he is forever
wearing one in my mind. I worked in the industry, and it is important to note,
as you have, he was such a great guy. Though, not only to serious peers.
Today, I had to tell one of his friends who didn't know and have never seen
my friend so, so sad. I knew him a bit, his Uncle Courtney better. Knowing the
stock the boy was from, let you know that he was the real deal ... bunch of
cowboy outdoorsmen. Todd was as warm and welcoming to people who weren't
serious climbers as well. He caused you to have the sense, if he was talking to
you, that you were the most important thing he had to do that moment. I have
learned a lasting lesson from that. When I told my son and daughter, now grown, what had happened, they just yelled ... no! There is a memorial for him, Saturday at
3:30 at Sinks Canyon in Lander. I am so sorry for Amy and their children, for his
family in Pinedale ... his dear uncles ... his dad. One can only hope to leave
such a void. Rest well, good man.
It's odd that the loss of a guy I never met is so devastating but then it's odd that a guy I never met had such a profound impact on my life.
It was my first year of climbing and we had just crawled off Half Dome, thrashed to the core. The Valley floor was a buzz about Paul and Todd freeing the Headwall. Hadn't a clue who Paul or Todd or the Headwall were but the excitement was intoxicating. Discovering what they had climbed, where they had climbed, and how they had climbed it against the backdrop of just getting my tushie trashed on HD was life altering.
Clipping the anchors on Paul and Todd's route years later lived up to every bit of the buzz and was in fact my 2nd most memorable climbing moment. The 1st came a year later when Todd Skinner called me up to offer me a beer!! Rarely do my sport idols -- or for that matter my so called 'friends' -- offer me a beer. Ultimately, however, he graciously relented and allowed me to owe him a beer for all he had done for me personally and climbing in general.
Of course having never met Todd it took almost a full minute to dive head first into Salathe smack. Todd had a good laugh at all the pettiness their breakthrough climb brought out. In that short phone call Todd went from my climbing hero to just plain hero. Thanks Todd!
It’s been incredible reading all of the stories and memories of Todd the last couple days. I can’t help but think of the time I went climbing with Todd, Paul and my (soon to be) husband, Jeff. We were climbing at a newly developed area near Wild Iris. Jeff had just on-sighted a route that Paul had put in, and was cleaning the gear off it. The route was steep with a huge over hang at the top. As Jeff was coming down cleaning the gear off, he reached the point where the over hang connected into the vertical wall. Forgetting that he had a quick draw clip from his harness to my end of the rope…he let go of the wall. As he swung out from the wall…he lifted me off the ground. Before I knew what had happened, I was stuck in a large tree!! Of course the entire time screaming! Here they come! Todd and Paul to my rescue! They got me out of the tree and stood by while I lowered Jeff to the ground…seeing as I was still shook up from the ride! I still have the scars on my leg! I don’t know what we would have done if Todd and Paul weren’t there.
Thank you very much for the reply to my post. No, Holly is my aunt- I can seriously see her making a chalk bag though. It seems so Holly. I hope you will stop and join us at Sinks Canyon for my Uncle's birthday party. Details can be found by emailing me or on this website in the posts. Im sure everyone would be stoked to see you. Thanks for the advice, I have mixed feelings about going back to climbing as it was climbing that ended my Uncle Todd's life. I am still in denial, I think all of us are but what really helps is that I keep reading these posts. I cant stop!! I really like hearing stories about him. I really do. I'm sure that he wouldn't want me to stop climbing but then again, I dont know if I want to go without him. (if that makes any sense whatsoever)We did this AMAZING crack climb this summer about two hours south of Lander. We went with these two guys who I had never met before and we climbed from 10 in the morning to almost 530. It was the BEST!
I remember last year at the Climber's festival, my younger sister and I went with Todd. We were amazed that everyone knew him and we walked around saying "yeah, Todd's our uncle. Why...you want to meet him?" We were SO proud to have him related to us amature climbers. Even when we went climbing with Hannah, Jake and Sarah, he let them climb up a little bit and then just bounce on the rope, they thought it was the best thing ever. I love to talk about him now and I love hearing stories. Thanks so much for the posts, I am saving each and every one to the computer and printing them out.
I spent this past summer in Lander, my first. Being part of that incredible community was both humbling and inspiring. The community will not be the same without him. My heart truely goes out to his family all the great friends that he leaves behind. What an inspiration he is to anyone that has a passion for something in this world!
Blessings to the Skinner family and the Lander community.
I met Todd back in 1987 while climbing in Buoux France. It had been raining hard for three days and it was very muddy and still raining. Nevertheless, there was Todd with his irrepressible, amazing spirit, getting the whole camp excited about climbing dry overhanging rock. A new photographer has shown up on the scene to take pictures, Beth Wald. It made an impression on me that I have never forgotten. Over the years, each time I ran into Todd, there was his simply amazing – do anything for you – spirit. Here was a man who was not afraid to do what he loved to do. And me, I kept the dumb job. I have met so many people and still I have not found anyone that matches the amazing energy Todd had. I envy all those that had the incredible privilege to enjoy a lot of his company. Amy, my sincerest condolences to you and the entire family.
May his spirit live on in all of us as a reminder for us TO LIVE.
Not really sure what to say here...just found out about this today and I'm shocked and so, so sorry. I only met Todd once, but pretty much grew up with Amy and the Whisler family in Mt. Charleston, Nevada.
This is my second draft of this note to you, as the first try didn't post for some mysterious reason, but I will try again. Thanks first and foremost for responding to my earlier note to you personally. I can tell what a special and wonderful person you are in your own right because of your heartfelt and eloquent expressions here on this site. I, too am comforted by the communing that is being shared here for a man whose brilliant light was snuffed far too soon. I don't have to tell you that when Todd was with you he was looking into YOU and never through you. Wherever Todd went he was always surrounded by people and he was truly the Greatest "Rock" star I've ever known, although he never let his achievements or his fame taint him or tempt him from being true to his home spun values and ideals, though that didn't mean he was always law abiding at least as far as some so-called "officials" were concerned. Todd set his own rules for living and what was right for him was also right, period! It was Todd that led a midnite brigade into the "Round Room" in Hueco Tanks State Park so that about 2 dozen of us could celebrate my husband's birthday in Feb '86 in fine style with cases of beer, snacks, and a boom box, and when the Rangers got whiff of it and came haulin' after us, it was Todd that stood tall in the face of these pissed off officials who tried to round us all up and bust us for tresspassing. While the rest of us crawled on our chickenshi- bellies trying to hide underneath the desert underbrush, Todd sweet talked the Rangers out of busting us all by forking over all our unopened beer and apologizing sincerely for causing such a ruckus and disturbing them so late at night- Todd literally saved our sorry butts from being busted that night. And though none of us offered him a "Belay" he was just relieved and happy to have "free soloed" that somewhat heinous route with the Rangers right on his tail!
Todd always had the most interesting and offbeat music to train to in the Quonset Hut while we climbed around the indoor gym he and his buddies built themselves; my favorite was a 16 minute instrumental by "New Order," that I think was called "Elysia."
And he always had music accompany him on his projects such as "The Gunfighter." He also was scouting around for brave souls to belay him and catch his "whippers." Todd embraced falling as much as he embraced climbing and encouraged me to overcome my fear of falling off a route, by actually practicing controlled falls; falling with intention to fall!!! Todd himself could be heard through the desert floor whooping and hollering like a rodeo wrangler being bucked off a bull when he casually took a 40 ft. or more whipper off a steep wall. He must have been a flying trapeze star in his last life.
I always knew that as much time as Todd spent away from his family, was as much as he spent time reliving his childhood spinning tales about his family that kept us all in stitches and made us feel that we knew all the Skinners so well. I am so glad that he found his soul mate in Amy and together they created a beautiful legacy in all three of their children. His love will live on through them and the love that was shared between him and those of us who connected with him in any way that was positive, is his living legacy. As we always have, we will speak of him often and He will be remembered, cherished, and missed always.
Becca, know that you have the support of a vast world community of people who truly grieve with you and your family and are wanting to help ease your pain - I so wish I had the means to travel from L.A. to Landers to be with you all as you celebrate your Uncle's meteoric and masterful life this weekend, but I promise you I will be there in Spirit. Wherever Todd is he knows he is deeply loved and appreciated - I truly believe that, Becca and I hope that you and your family and friends will find the solace and comfort that brings you the peace that passes all understanding, because there's just no way to make any sense out of this tragic loss.
Dich zu verlieren war sehr schwer.
Dich zu vermissen noch viel mehr.
Aber die Erde hat kein Herz,
fühlt kein Mitleid, keinen Schmerz,
sie ist gerade wie das Meer.
Was sie einmal hat, gibt sie nicht mehr her.
Du wirst in meinem Herzen leben.
Du warst einer in unserem Leben.
Todd Skinner was my very first climbing "idol/hero" whatever you want to call it... My brother and I met Todd, Amy and a few-week-old Hannah the very first climbing trip we ever took, back in 1998. It was a freezing cold July day at the Wild Iris, and I still remember it to this day as if it was yesterday. Todd's climbing vision and legacy influenced me more than anyone's.
My most sincerest condolences go out to Amy and the kids, and Todd's siblings and father. I can only imagine the sadness they must feel, and the huge void left by Todd's passing.
"To Steve and Matt,
The wild dreams have the most magic."
Todd Skinner, Amy Whisler
-Todd's dedication he wrote to us in the bookflap of Big Walls.
Although I haven't seen Todd or Amy in years, I have great memories of climbing in Lander in the mid-nineties. He promoted inclusiveness in a time where people being very exclusive and elusive with climbing spots, training and methods. He made every indivdual feel like a part of the team, no matter their particular climbing ability. Todd is one of those inspirational figures that ups the enegery level no matter who is climbing what. His charisma and verve is a tragic loss to the worldwide climbing community and the countless climbers he has inspired.
The crazy adventures? (Getting shot at while climbing in Mexico jumps to mind.) The inspirational and improbable climbing? (The suggested rack of 14 No. 2 RPs for Hollow Men at Devils Tower was a mind-blower.) The wild and fantastic photos? (BIll Hatcher's shots of Todd and Paul on the Salathe Wall changed climbing forever.) The goofy grin? (A photo of Todd gleefully watching John Bachar hang-dogging at Smith Rock is forever etched on my brain.) The long, colorful route names? (Rode Hard and Put up Wet entered my vocabulary through the Wild Iris guidebook.)
Todd's life and tales are deeply woven into the story of climbing in the ’80s and ’90s. I imagined him like Beckey, still making us shake our heads in amusement and amazement well into his dotage. What a loss....
My first "Todd encounter" was at Vedauwoo in the 1981 or 82. Big grin, friendly as can be and always wanting you to do your best. Our paths crossed several times in the following years and I always had the upmost respect for Todd...not only for his tremendous climbing ability but...his kindness and caring as a human being.
Todd's generosity stays with me -- especially when he let a team of 10 Israeli climbers and film crew stay at his place last fall before the team's attempt to help one one of their own with ALS get up the Nose.
The following has always given me comfort in times like this. I hope it does for Todd's family and wide circle of friends as well.
I have some photos from our year long No. American tour alongside Todd from the Summer of '85 through Spring of'86 and then again at Joshua Tree in 1991 when my first born son was 11 mos young, that I'd be happy to share with you and your family, if you'd like. This is my e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
A friend of Todd's family asked to pass this on:
Yes, the memorial service is totally open to the public. In fact, please spread the word. The service is at 3 p.m. on Saturday, which would have been Todd's 48 birthday. There will be a potluck meal, so if possible bring a dish. Also, the event is outside, so bring warm cloths and photographs/cards/memories for a memorial book for Todd's family. The location is the Sinks Canyon field station for Central Wyoming College, Sinks Canyon Road (about five or so miles south of town on the left as you head toward Sinks Canyon.)
Here's a memory from Sam Lightner, during the early days at Hueco.
"You son of a...."
Said by Ranger Bob after he accused Todd of having a drill. He made Todd empty his pack and Todd refused on the last item. He yelled, Todd relented, and then pulled out a waffle iron.
To lose you was very hard.
Missing you even much more.
But the earth has no heart,
and feels no sympathy, no pain,
it's exactly like the ocean.
What it once had, it doesn't give back anymore.
You will live in my heart.
You were one in our lives.
Only the one who is forgotten is dead.
You shall live.
Sincerest condolences to his partner,his family and friends.....
Always a sad loss when its one of us.
I only met the guy very briefly years ago but everything people have wrtten here certainly came flooding though at that meeting. A super guy in my book.
My heart goes out to all his family, especially his wife and children.
With a resume like Todd's, he must have "hung it out" on a number of occasions, but for some reason I never expected to hear news like this about him. Sending prayers to all those who were close to him. (And I will replace my close-to-twenty-year-old Bod harness before I climb again.)
Todd and Paul's slide show at the AAC meeting in Atlanta was the funniest show I ever saw. I laughed until I cried.
When Mike and I and our two boys, then 4 and 1, went to Hueco Tanks, Todd was on something at the 45-degree Wall and said to our older boy, "Hey, Teddy, come here." He showed him a small white hand print on the rock, and asked him to put his hand on it. Teddy did, and Todd said, "Perfect fit!" There were Native American paintings on the rock nearby, and Todd told Teddy how hundreds of years ago, an adult must have been painting them, and a little kid was sitting at the bottom, and splashed his hands in the paint, and slapped at the wall. Teddy, 13 now, still remembers it.
We were an awkward group, with such small kids--the littler one always wiping out--but Todd and Amy invited us over to the ranch for dinner as if the most natural thing in the world. Dinner was antelope.
I first met him in the Gunks in maybe 1987, and just remember him laughing about putting in all the little gear sideways.
A few years ago he stayed with my brother in Vietnam, and my mother, stepfather and older sister happened to visit there at the same time. Todd absolutely cracked them all up, and they came back amused by and fond of him. They don't know much about climbing, but he just reached out and related to them in human ways. He cared about people, no matter who, was just unbelieveable at connecting with them.
This from my old college roommate, Catherine Harris, who climbed for a time in the early 80s, seems heartbreakingly typical:
"I'm sad, sorry, surprised to hear about it. He was a genuinely nice guy and really funny. I hadn't seen him in several years, but he seemed to always remember me...".
Sadly, it IS true. I was there on the same day and have confirmed it with Hans, who was interviewed about the accident for the wire services. Preliminary report is that his harness MAY HAVE broken - but that is not is NOT confirmed. He was on the rappel descent, and fell about 500 feet.
The great thing is that a story about Todd brings a smile or a laugh.
I did a T shirt design for him for one of his slide show tours. The first
time I met him, I saw his head turn when someone called his name at
Sunnyside. I said, "excuse me, you and I have a mustual friend". His
face brightened and when I told him Russel E. Todd said he would stop
what ever he was doing to climb with him again. Then, he gave me
one of his Russian Climbing Team tank shirts which my parents would
make me cover with a jacket when I wore the giant yellow hammer and
sicle on the bright red tank at their house. Amy, you must
know how important and far reaching his influence has been, from
hand to hand, heart to heart. Russel will be there Saturday to pay his
respects to your family. When anyone lives a life so well that it causes
you to take account of how well you are fufilling your own, that's a
well lived life.
Like many people, I was weaned on the videos of Todd and others in the Masters of Stone series, Climb International, etc. I have played all those videos in the background so many times that I have all of them memorized pretty much word-for-word and move-for-move. He WAS certainly a huge inspiration. The training camp he and Paul ran at Hueco was reminiscent of the Long/Bachar regimens that honed them into what they became and took everyone to the next level.
Alot has been said about how Todd "sprayed" his own accomplishmnets but that was always tempered with respect for the Euros and the next generation...and he was never above depricating his own expolits as he talked of those he felt were superior in skill to him. Of course, the fact that he was still setting new standards for free-climbing at age 47 is an inspiring testament to himself and to the longevity of the climbing lifestyle.
I can attest to his openess to others, as the first time I met him he invited me on his Trango Tower expedition, saying he had all but $1,000 of it covered for me if I wanted to go and be a haul bag flunkie. I wish now that I had been able to swing it. Surely that would have been an unforgettable trip.
We will miss him. My prayers for Amy and the rest of his family.
It’s great to see so many people come out of the woodwork to post up about Todd here at the Taco Stand. It really shows a lot about his character and what kind of person he was. I first met Todd at one of his Salathe slide shows in the late 80’s and later at the City of Rocks. He always had the biggest smile on his face and was just as happy to talk with a newbie kid as he was with talking to his friends who actually climbed at his level. You couldn’t help being the recipient of his tremendous energy – you just couldn’t escape it.
Last January Todd and I discussed (via email) the issues of adding bolts to aid lines – specifically Wet Denim Daydream on Leaning Tower. I was opposed to the addition of new bolts in order for the route to go free but Todd explained how he had spoken with Angus (one of the FAists) and I thought that was great. What struck me about the conversations was that there was never a feeling of an ethical clash, even though we had very different ideas about the progression of aid lines becoming free lines. It felt like we were working together, not against each other. He always had a great attitude about the whole deal and I hoped that we would have a chance to discuss the issues again in person. I suggested that we get as many climbers together as we could, to sit down with a bunch of beer, and have a party to see if we could work things out so that everyone was happy.
The following two quotes are excerpts from the emails that Todd sent me. I hope it is OK that I share them here.
“Climbing is an amazing sport/cult/drug/life and we must all be eternally vigilant against the factors that dilute or pollute it. That's why I won't read any of the magazines and won't even ask for a pro-deal on equipment. I could be seen as a hypocrite, since the road to this philosophical state involved all of the things I now reject- maybe like hang-dogging in order to free a climb? Let's have a party/roundtable early this spring and see if we can find common ground…”
I just wish that he was still here so that we could have that party. It would have been a lot of fun, I’m sure.
Concerning the death of my uncle Ned, Todd wrote:
“…sometimes these adventures that enhance our lives can also bring them to an end.”
Unfortunately, this is so true. I don’t know what else to say.
My very best wishes to his wife, his children, the rest of his family, and those who were/are close to him. Take care, all of you.
I've met Todd in 2004. He was invited by my company for a speech and a slideshow. I'm not a climber, and the stories he was telling were so fantastic... I couldn't imagine that man is capable of doing what he has done, overcaming what he has overcame, and achieving what he has achieved. I literally went online and research everything he was talking about. Half to see if it was true and half to learn more about fascinating world of free climbing.
I can 110% attest to his great personality. I was hanging out with him for may be 3 hours total, and after that it felt like he was a good friend of mine and I knew him all my life. He could talk about anything and not only talk but listen. When he was listening you knew he wan't just being polite. He was genuinly curious about things and he was really interested in what eveyone has to say.
He didn't just came, gave a speech and went away unnoticed. No. He made everybody a believer and a personal friend. Amazing guy. So when the sad news came, somebody in my company send a message, and everybody is sad here too now.
I have some pictures from that sunny summer day that I want to share. You can literally see Todd's energy, stories and good spirit flowing
I had always meant to send this 1981 photo of you on Petit Grepon in Estes Park Colorado. I like this photo because it shows your contagious smile and that glow that surrounds you. And what a great day that was. I clearly remember whining at you to put in more protection as you hauled me to the summit.
By the way it was so nice to get that email from you 2 months ago. When I read your email it was as if you were standing next to me. Did I ever say thank you for befriending me at the University of Wyoming in 1980 and for teaching me how to climb? And later, when you were pushing 5.12, you had no qualms about inviting a 5.9 climber like myself to Joshua Tree for spring break. But that was you, always willing to give a piece of yourself and share a great experience. I remember sitting around the campfire, drinking the cheapest beer on the planet, and you telling epic tales about winter snow caves on Gannett Peak or Mawson eating sled dog livers in the Antarctic. Little did we know that years later people would be telling epic tales about you. Remember how we would sneak up behind unsuspecting slow moving Winnebagos, climb up the ladders on the back to sit on the top, in order to be ferried to the next climb? Of course we were laughing hysterically all the way. You called it “riding the wild bagos”. When we graduated in 1982 you told me that instead of getting a real job that you and Paul would climb for a while. And climb you did! You were always my hero.
Amy thank you for your warm letter that you posted on this forum. My
condolences go to you, your children, family, and friends as well as
to Bob, Orion, Holly and Paul Piana. I see that another friend and climber from those days, Greg Waterman, aka H2Oman, posted earlier on this forum. Hi Gregg, you are so correct when you say that Todd touched the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people. I always smile when I think of Todd however I am filled with such sadness at this very moment. Thank you to the forum for providing this space.
My heart is heavy with the news of Todd's passing. I first met him at the base of the Cookie in 86' and have crossed paths many times since. I had only been climbing a couple years at the time and here was this guy working on one of the hardest routes in the country and still, he seemed to be more interested in what I was climbing. Todd always made you feel like the most special person in the world. I used to always say that he was my favorite climber, then I would always correct myself and say he was one of my favorite people period! I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to know Todd. His passion for life was contagious and it was hard not to be excited when around him. His humor and story telling were legendary. I was lucky enough to stay with him and Amy at South Pass one time and travel up one side of the Winds and back down the other with him. I learned more about the West in those few days than a lifetime. "Yeah, Brian, Wyoming's nothing but wind and rattlesnakes" he'd say with a smile on his face.
RIP my brother. You made the world a better place for sure.
I had just started climbing with a university climbing class when Todd came through our little podunk town and gave a slide show. He then spent a little time climbing at our local crag. It was pretty amazing for a total newbie to be hanging out at the crag and getting encouragement from such a hero. That early experience really helped make climbing all that more magical to me.
Later I would see Todd at crags all over the US and he'd always have that great smile and positive attitude. One winter in Hueco I was leaving to New Mexico to do some climbing and lacked a proper jacket for the cold, so I hit up Todd to see if he had an old coat he could sell me. He responded "no, but take this and just send it back whenever you done with it", and hands me a nice North Face down jacket. A few months later I did finally mail it back to him :-) That's how I remember Todd, always friendly and always happy to help out a fellow climber. Or fellow human for that matter.
My two year old son is named Lander Bertrand. Though we didn't really have Lander, Wyoming in mind when we named him, when he is old enough to ask about his name, I'll tell him about Lander Wyoming and Todd (and of course about Bertrand the crazy Frenchman who taught me to climb who passed away in a car accident years ago).
Wow, reading all these posts make me wish I had the chance to meet this man. I don't think I'm alone in this thought. It sounds like his spirit was contagious and will continue to live on through others that he touched.
No matter what your beliefs, about Todd or the greatest of life's unanswerable questions, the world has lost another beacon of hope.
Todd Skinner has been known to be controversial. Nothing held a candle to his enthusiasm, however. As it has been stated somewhere way above; there are many great climbers, now more than ever, but imagine climbing today without someone like Todd to have asked the question long ago, "what is possible?" (paraphrasing)
Seriously, his "stoke" and his "psych" were more legendary than his climbing abilities, and as we are all very much aware, were incredible. He truly was a Master of Stone and yes, he did seem invincible. We all gotta go sometime, and it's rare that we get to pick how and when. The day the news broke, I had friends call to let me know, friends that actually met or knew Todd personally. I did not "know" him, as I never had the pleasure of meeting him. But still I did feel like I knew enough about him, that I'd naturally gravitate towards him. This man had such an infectious, positive attitude, that it actually preceded him. The world could sure use a few more Todd Skinners, especially nowadays.
Look at how many people have been touched by Todd in some way, and this is on one forum. For his Lander community, family and children... I am so very sorry for your loss, and of course, no words can bring him back. But I do want you to know, you are not alone. You spent time with a giant among you. The best we can hope to do is try to imitate his beaming enthusiasm and remember the great things he's taught us by his examples. If Todd only knew how deeply and widely he touched so many lives, he'd be moved to tears I'm sure.
I'll say unabashedly, that if we all just gave a bit of effort to emulate this fallen comrades positive attitude, it could be the best way to properly honor him. It will certainly make the world a better place. These are surely mighty big shoes to fill.
Todd was an inspiration to me while I was growing up and learning about climbing. Sorry to hear about this accident.
Many people have raised concenrs/complaints about his bolting jobs in the past (myself included), but all that seems silly and insignificant now. It sounds like he was a great person and had a great life.
I have posted photos of Todd at Index, Wash. , Hueco Tanks and J.Tree in a 2 part e-mail that I sent to your e-mail address a short while ago. I would post them here, but I don't know how it works. Please share with Amy and family if you feel it's appropriate.
The climbing community has lost the greatest inspiration of his generation... and Wyoming has lost a great Cowboy...
I met Todd only once. He presented a slide show back in '95 or so for our local climbing club. I remember him saying that this was the first time any of his presentations had been made on a CEILING (Jr. High Planetarium). He was stoked...
I remember the trunk full prototype Reebok climbing shoes...
I remember hanging out afterwards at Carl Coy's place... talking about his upcoming trip to Nameless Tower... the unique hanging stove Carl had "invented" and Todd's desire to use it on his upcoming trip...
I remember how I was in complete AWE of this man even before we met...
I remember his smile... his energy...
I remember how completely HUMBLE he was...
But the thing I will NEVER forget... was the way he looked at his wife.
Amy... the thoughts and prayers of ALL are with you and your children...
My heart is heavy from this news. I too met Todd. He was the guest speaker at a work event held in Vegas back in 2000. He presented his Cowboy Direct slide show. That was by far the most awesome climbing story I ever heard first hand. He and I were the only climbers in the room of about 1500 people. Afterwards I introduced myself and he was genuinely excited to meet a fellow climber. We quite naturally talked about climbing for hours and drank a few beers too. It was a fun evening. Man, I’m really bummed about his passing.
It's been amamzing to think of how many lives Todd has touched in his time here and comforting to know how much support there is for those he left behind. As with many of you, my contact with Todd was short, but something to remember. I'm not a climber, but a lover of all things outdoors.
I've been a distant friend of Amy since her days at junior college in Susanville and it was only about three years ago that our family met her husband, Todd, on a visit to Lander. Of course, as seems to be the norm, we were welcomed with open arms. Our visit was short, but we felt from the moment we met Todd that he was a genuine friend to everyone he meets. We always thought there would be more time to get to know Todd and never expected what happened.
To Amy, who lost her husband, soulmate and father of their kids, To Hannah, Sara, and Jake who lost a wonderful dad, and to the Skinner and Whisler families who lost a son, brother and uncle, our family's hearts and prayers are with you.
To all his friends, and people he inspired, we lost a hero, mentor and source of inspiration, but a piece of Todd will still be climbing in each and everyone of us.
The Stevenson Family - Randy,Judi,Kori and Mitchell
Heard the news yesterday, and very saddened.
My thoughts go out to Amy and the kids, and all the others that Todd's life touched. I hope that all the tributes and kind comments that have been posted here and elsewhere are some comfort.
I had the great fortune and priviledge to climb with Todd in the mid 90's, in Wyoming and mostly at Hueco. As a visiting Brit I was always made to feel very welcome, and often humbled by the tremendous hospitality I received.
Fantastic times, some of the best in my life. Todd was my biggest influence on climbing, and gave me my future direction. Always a kind word, always enthusiastic, never one to give up. My abiding memory of those times was the way that he would come up with several solutions to an unclimbed problem. Most of them were impractical, or downright wrong, and probably wasted a lot of time; but now I can think of no better way to waste that time than staring at a bit of rock, in the desert with some chalk on it, with Todd and co.
You were a good guy, Todd.
Thanks for the memories
Sometimes you do think people are invincible... alas, it isn't so...not even in Skinner's case.... I remember back in the day...the early 80's when Skinner and Piana were posing as college students in Laramie, slinging hash at the Overland, and running off to Vedauwoo at every free moment...Bob Cowan too... dragging me along obviously to be their belays... I learned a lot, they were all over it, and this was even before the days that these guys became incredibly sick climbers...
To Todd, (and Paul and Cowan)...here's to memories of Rheinlanders, Chimis, and all that you are...and will be... My heart goes out to Amy, the kids, Paul P., and Steve B.... We all feel your loss, and send you the love.
Thanks to Callie, I'm giving this posting of photos a try. Here is how I described this precious one to Becca in an e-mail:
"... This photo is with my then 11 month old son, Russell. It is classic Todd: the humanitarian - see how Todd gets down to my little guy's level - note the looks of mutual admiration they exchange with one another, and how Todd grabs hold of Russell's hand with both his hands - Oh, God, Todd not being here to love and be loved by his family and friends is just unfathomable and incomprehensible, but Ohhhh, how Blessed we all were to have him here!
Warmest Wishes and Prayers to the Skinner Family & Compadres.
The first uncaptioned set of photos above of Todd in his usual colorful tank top and baggies was taken at J.Tree (don't know the route) on April 8, 1991. My son, Russ, is 16 now. My younger boy, Grant, was named for our beloved Yosemite Granite - he's 12 and climbs barefoot.
This next set of B&W photos were taken in June of 1985 on site at "City Park," in Wash. It was the day we met Todd and the first time we'd ever seen anyone free soloing. We were "Newbies" who'd toproped one time; I held my breath watching Todd glide up the face thinking he's either demented or a god - turns out he was a hatless cowboy wrangling a rock and my heart and he didn't even need a lasso -
Hueco "Tanks for the Memories", Todd. In this set, we've got the boys sittin' around the quonset hut stove that Todd installed,while outside it's Winter Wonderland time at Hueco, Feb.' 86/ "Chillin' in our camper w/ Todd, Beth, a French climber possibly named Norbert, in blue, & my boyfriend/future husband, Hans, in red, and Bill Hatcher (at The Gunks- Oct. '85))- finally back at the Tanks- Midnite Marauders in the "Round Room" before the Ranger Bob raid -Feb.'86
Farewell to you and the short season we knew with you. Summer has gone and fresh snow blankets the high country. Winter winds whisper sorrow as we remember the joy of spring and your joyous tenure among us. Must we accept your departing as we accept the seasons that pass over our beloved hills?.......As we embrace the past with gratitude and remembrance, we are compelled to thank you...... Is the veil too heavy or the distance too far, that our song of gratitude be not heard in your patient ears?
Thank you for the magic and the belief in face of doubt.....What would you have us remember, as we remember you?.....the squint of enthusiasm in your eyes?.....limbs of iron suspended on doubtful holds?......friendly looks and words of encouragement in the wind and harsh sun?.....windblown hair?
We thank you most that you found us worthy to be your friend. The laughter....the sharing....the words of praise upon your lips.
We might have come to you with flattering voices, bowing to you status among the tribe. But you laughed at status and mocked elite circumstance. Was it knowing how pride fouls the mind?.....were you too disciplined to walk backward into self absorption?.....or just too free in spririt to encumber your soul with heady burdens that destroy the inner child?.....not deeming friends, your puppets....but companion children, walking hand in hand.....a host....a guest....an advisor....but never a master.
A few shown themselves as enemy....the territorial saw you as intruder....the proud saw you as competition....the jealous attempted imprisoning your wings in a bird cage of false ethics.....Yet no enemy walks laughing at your funeral. Did you purity and passion exalt their discord?....Did the pain of death break the nutshell of their understanding?.....or did Heaven reveal the hills as temples.....not battlefields?
Slow to anger..... quick to forgive, you honored your enemy as future friend, and revealed the greater measure of your soul.
We will hear your laugh in the wind.... and remember your song through the window of memory. May your spirit never be trapped or imprisoned..... and may the sorrows of this world not weigh upon your soul.
Here's my suggestions on commemorating Todd, especially this Saturday his birthday:
wake up way before dawn and make industrial strength coffee
piss off your partner by making him get up with you but not leaving until 2 hours later
watch the movie "Life Aquatic" which Todd loved, and wear a red ski cap like the people in the movie. or watch Big Fish, a movie about death and stories, a movie Todd watched repeatedly
once in a rare while, (like Todd's birthday) bust out with some El Patron tequila and savor every sip while telling stories of Copper Canyon, or your own stories
tell stories of your children and family, show pictures of them, be so proud of them
tell more stories, make stories, and ask other people their stories - and listen with the passion that was Todd
I met Todd, Beth, Bill, Scott, Lynn et al ten years ago in Halong Bay, and had the privilege to spend time at the Yosemite cabin this time last year. I even got to go partly up the climb Todd & Jim were on. It has a beautiful view. I'll be wearing my red ski cap this Saturday and sharing the stories. goddamn.
I am not a climber...in fact, I can't stand heights what so ever!
However, Todd Skinner was my hero! And my cousin...
Reading everyone's messages validates why I admired him so much and the thoughts have been a tremendous comfort to me and our family the last few days.
One of the articles about his accident quoted it was like "Superman" died! It truly was for me.
From a very early age, Todd was a larger than life hero in my life. I did not spend a tremendous amount of time with him growing up, but the moments I had with him touched my life forever!
I have used Todd and his life many times as tangible proof of what can be accomplished when you pursue your passion in life. He did not care about money and fame, but about being the best climber he could be...simple, but true, and I belive he achieved what he set out to do.
I wanted to share a story with you all, a tall tale, that I tell often whenever outlandish and crazy stories get told....
When I was about 10 or so, Todd was a student at the University of Wyoming. I lived in Laramie, as my dad (Todd's uncle) was a professor and ski coach at the University. Todd was staying with us over a holiday (I believe it was Thanksgiving). He lived in one of the dorms at UW and those happened to be the tallest buildings in Laramie, rising (6,8,10, you pick!) floors off the prarie. (As I remember now, Todd had been arrested or fined for by the campus police for camping on the roof of the same building in a tent!)
The dorms were locked and he needed something from his room, so he told me to come with him. My parents let me go. Todd parked in the lot near his dorm, which was empty, given not many students were in town. The doors were locked!
He tried both sides of the building but to no avail, he could not get in.
He told me, as a 10 year old, to wait there...he would be right back!
He then proceeded, right before my eyes, to climb up the side of the dorms. It was if he had done this before!
Up...up...up...up...he went, 6 floors to his dorm room. No rope...no nothing. He opened the window, which he knew he had left open (now, I assume he did this more than once!), and slipped in side.
3 minutes later, he opened the door and we went up stairs. We got what he needed and headed back to my house for the holiday.
As a suffering acrophobic, the entire episode caused me to quake in my jeans, but it made him a larger than life figure in my life! It is a story not many believe, but except for an occaisonal stretch on the size of the building...it is true!
I loved having Todd as a cousin and a member of my family. He never missed a major family function and I still remember him vividly coming to my wedding! He just lit up a room and his smile and stories left impressions to all who listened.
At the end of September, I went home for my cousin Ian's wedding. It was a beautiful family event and it was there, I had my last interaction with Todd. I am so glad I went. He truly saved the best for last....
Todd had just lost his mother. After several long years of suffering, she had passed away and I had the chance to offer my condolences around a blazing campfire. His son Jakey and my son Quentin Francis ran for hours chasing each other and many of the girls in attendance. We spoke of his work, my work, and of course his up coming trip to Yosemite. He was so excited to be off on another adventure and the pitch in his voice changed as he spoke passionatly about what he would be doing.
My mother has been battling cancer this year and we had a chance to offer words of encouragement to each other in the face of aging parents and difficult circumstances. As he talked, I saw a side to Todd I had never seen before and he cemented his heroism in my eyes even further that night. I got to see how much Superman loved his mom and how her passing had made him feel. He also shared with me the concern he had for his dad. Those very human and very tender moments made me admire him even more!
In seeing his interactions with his kids and family, it was clear to me that he had become a legend as a husband and father, just as he had as a climber. His passion for excellence was unparalleled in everything he did and it carried over into the home.
Todd touch so many peoples lives over the years. My husband, my 8 yr old son and myself met him while he was in Oklahoma doing a talk at Backwoods. He gave a talk and showed his slides of some of his trips. My husband had met him in the Wichita Mtns the day before. Todd befriended Mark (my husband) and they climbed together. Our son couldn't make the trip to the Wichitas that day, probably due to a soccer game.
While at Backwoods he announced he would be at Chandler Park in Tulsa the following day and invited anyone that would like to climb to attend. We drove up the next day and my son got to climb with him. I will see if I can't locate the picture we took. Todd also signed my son's climbing shoes that weekend. Our son is now 25 and living in Sunnyvale CA. He called us to let us know about Todd. He said he couldn't believe Todd was gone. We all will always have very happy memories of him.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. Like Will Rogers, I think Todd never met a stranger or a person he didn't like.
All week I've been coming to this forum to read about Todd, while working on creating the program for his memorial, trying to find just the right quotes, just the right pictures to memorialize the man. It can't be done. I'm staring right now at his silly mug on the cover, that goofy grin under his cowboy hat on his wedding day, ready to go to print tomorrow - 600 copies - we're expecting a crowd! How can one person touch so many?
I' m not a climber and it didn't really matter to me that Todd was a famous one. He's a member of my community, a parent to my kids' friends, and husband to a woman I admire. He always wanted to hear about what I was doing and listened with rapt attention as if it was the most important thing in the world. Almost every conversation we had waxed philisophical, there was always a vision to grasp. It's like Todd was already living in the big picture and gently helping the rest of us see it. I'm sorry we won't be roasting anymore marshmallows around the campfire in the teepee with the children, and listening to your stories, and laughing, and philosophizing....but I'm glad I had the chance to experience your soul.
I wanted to let this community know that a sweatlodge ceremony will be held tomorrow in Todd's honor, to aide in his spirit's passing (Friday, Oct. 27) from
12 -2pm MT. If you can take a moment of silence during that time, you will strengthen the medicine too. We blow a whistle in the lodge to help his soul find it's way to the other side. It snowed in Lander yesterday. In Shoshone tradition this is a good sign. The snow covers his footprints, so that no one else can follow. Climb on.
We arrived in Lander tonight after a long drive that took us past Devil’s Lake, Taylor’s Falls, the Black Hills, Devil’s Tower, Crazy Woman Crag in the Bighorns, and Tensleep Canyon; all places where Todd at one time or another had pitched his teepee (either in reality, or just metaphorically). It was a beautiful drive, and in my mind I pictured through time all of those teepees, pitched in those magical spots, and it seemed as if I could drive up to them and they would still be there, just as it seemed I would drive into Lander tonight and Todd would still be here.
I first met Todd in a teepee. He just walked right in, and pissed on our fire. It was the right thing to do, actually: We were all ten years old, and the fire in our teepee was too big. At least he said it was. Todd had a way of getting you to thank him even as he was doing the most outrageous things. Somehow he convinced us that he had saved our lives, even if we had to sleep with the smell of burnt urine, and he didn’t.
Inauspiciously, so began one of the longest running and deepest friendships of my life. As many have mentioned, the postings here are very moving. All of the memories both add to my own, and keep me from dwelling on mine. I’m hungry for more memories of Todd, and yet I can’t pick only one of my own to share. Just one seems too limiting, and all of them together are just too overwhelming. Spilling out, they would fill this forum, and that’s not the purpose, here. I’ll try to be brief.
My favorite memories of Todd are quotes. The one that seems most appropriate tonight is this one: “Climbing isn’t worth dying for, but it’s worth RISKING dying for.” It’s just like Todd to split hairs so finely. Todd once told me that as an old man he would like to be the Fred Beckey of his generation, having left pitons rusting on all the finest plum lines in the world for future “first ascensionists” to find. “’First ascent, eh?’ I’ll ask from my rocking chair,’Did you find my pitons?’ and then I’ll cackle!” he said.
Another quote comes from when he had just graduated from college, and was mulling over job offers and next steps: “I have a vision where climbers live like surfers do, always going from wave to wave the world over.” Over the years, he perfected life on the "Permanent Away Team,” and in doing so he became arguably America's first professional climber. I’ve heard people since say how “lucky” he was to live his life, and I think back to that conversation and think how “visionary” he was, instead.
Todd said: "There's nothing worse than living with regret. If you ever feel like punching somebody, you should just do it. It's better than living with the regret of not doing it when you had the chance. Chances are you're right for wanting to punch them. If you're wrong, you can always apologize. And, some people just need to be punched."
Quotes, like memories, are just too numerous. Once they start spilling out, it’s hard to stop them. So, just one more, and it’s not even his but a story he told, instead: On Nameless Tower when their young camp-jack drowned while fetching water, they were going to abandon their climb and go home. The boy’s father came to them, and said,”No, you must stay, as this has nothing to do with you: The boy was simply out of rice.” In other words, it was just his time to go. A comment on Todd’s accident: While we really don't know what happened and the investigation is continuing, it seems as if this is really a freak thing, equivalent to a being hit by a comet. It might come down to it that Todd just ran out of rice this past Monday, and that's it. Whatever happened, he would want us to go on with our own expeditions, just as he did in Pakistan.
Tonight, as I wheeled my daughter around in the one kiddy cart at the Safeway here in Lander – the grocery store a couple of blocks from Todd’s house – it came to me that Todd’s hands had to have rested on the same handle where mine were then, during the many times when he would’ve pushed Hannah, Sarah, and Jake around the store. As we got to the aisle with all the dry-goods, I looked at the mounds of rice. Through the cart’s handle, I wanted to reach back to Todd’s hands in time and give him all that rice, every grain of it, and more. If I could do it, I would gladly give him half of what I have left in my own store just so that we could share a few more days together, and I believe every one of his friends and family would do the same. He was just that special. Sadly, that’s not the way it works, but sharing our stories here is like multiplying Todd’s life in our own. It’s like spreading Todd’s precious rice among us. Keep sharing…
Godspeed, my friend…I love you, and will miss you every day of my life.
I'm not part of the climbing world but I knew Todd in high school. His family moved up to Jackson from Pinedale for one or two winters when his dad became the coach of our ski team. Orion, Todd, and Holly were all good skiers and everyone in their family was really nice. I remember the perpetually happy and goofy nature of Todd and his gangly way of skiing hell bent for leather down the course and laughing about the beaters he took. The news of his death made me inexplicably sad -- I haven't seen him for more than 20 years -- last time was in Laramie when he was in college there. But reading these posts has been an inspiration to me -- makes me feel like I haven't done much with my life and at the same time like I still could if I got after it right now. In any case it's clear that although fame might've changed Todd's circumstances it didn't change him -- at all. Good bye Todd.
Another of my early mentors/friends has died in a climbing accident. I was fortunate to have shared a rope with Todd Skinner at Devil's Tower, Shoshone Canyon (Cody, WY) and the Lander area. He had a tremendous influence on my passion for climbing for a very long time. The climbing community is at a great loss with his death. His wife and children will suffer the loss at a level that is not comprehendable to me... This is why I have not participated at the extreme level of this dangerous activity for many years. I last ran into him in Killer Cave (Lander area) several years ago. I will never forget his enthusiasm and smiling face.~ Todd Cozzens
A number of people who are coming to the memorial from far away are staying in Lander at the Best Western Hotel. The Sun Room in the Summit Restaurant adjacent to the hotel has been reserved this evening, October 27th, from 7pm onward (to whenever) for those who would like to have a place to gather. Some starters are provided, and then we'll order from the bar, coffee bar, or restaurant. Bring old photos and slides, and share memories of Todd. Come one, come all...
Todd was a great guy. He personally showed me and Joe Brooks around the Wild Iris many years ago. He will be missed. I will visit the Valley this weekend, and my thoughts will be with him and his family. My deepest regards go to Todd's family. He was a great man.
This news comes as a shock. You always hate losing someone that approaches life the way he did. I know you guys were good friends and shared great memories and bonding (a rare event in life). I am very sad for his family and young kids mainly because they will miss the opportunity to be nurtured by such a great person. But I am sure that the people around Todd share his spirit and it will carry through in the future.
This is a little odd, but I remember one thing that I think I told you about Todd. We were in the gym in Wyoming working out with a bunch of muscle pumpers and Todd walks in with his home made "crack vise". He set it up on the pull-up rack, sets about a two inch crack, jams his hand into it, and started doing one arm pull-ups. Well I know I got the hell out of his way and watched the show. It was amazing and in his early days. Anyway, my best to you and I hope all is welldown south. Keep the spirit and let's cheat the earth out of another day.
Your friend for life
My thoughts, sadness, and memories go out to the family. I was lucky to meet Todd, Holly and Orion during my years as a cowboy.
I forget who said "The worlds best climber is the one having the most fun" , I think we agree that it was definitely Todd. No matter who you are we all remember that smile. I met Todd and Amy the summer of '87 underneath Penis Dimension at Veedauwoo, it feels like yesterday. He proceeded to sell me 3 of those red Soviet Sport tank tops. I have a lot of early climbing memories associated with that shirt, and those memories are flooding back reading these posts. Amy, I haven't seen you in almost 15 years, but I wanted you to know that you're in my thoughts, and please let your kids know everday how amazing their dad is, and how many lives Todd touched in such a positive way. The Dr.
Great pics, folks. If I wasn't such a tech loser I'd scan some slides from back in the day and post.
I've been flooded with memories for the last three days, trying to capture the full essence of Todd. One that might have been a portent of things to come for Todd was the following phone call:
"Hey, It's Todd Skinner!" (Hold receiver a bit farther from ear. The "receiver" was this big sort of banana shaped black thing attached to a box by a curly wire. Sorry to bother some of you eith this detail.)
"What have you been up to, Todd?"
"I've just finished a new route at Hueco. It's one of the three hardest climbs in the country!"
"Wait a minute now, are you sure about that?"
"Well, um ..." (That kind of funny breathing he did when you got his goat. I could see him grinning at the other end, even through the phone line.)
"Have you done every other route in the country to be sure? You know there could be some backwater place where everything is grossly underrated."
"You're right! By God, I guess I better get on the road and go find out!"
I'm sorry I never met him. Sounds like a part of him lives on though, in all the lives he's touched. Makes me get a little smile and a tear - and think, too, of the good people climbing has taken away from me. And the good people it's given to me.
Thanks to all of you for the quotes and stories and pictures. I'm Amy's brother Garold, Todd's brother-in-law. Everything you have posted has helped me and the rest of the family more than any of you will ever know.
I have three heros in my life. One was my one of my closest friends for the last sixteen years, Cantor Stephen Dubov. He died unexpectedly two months ago at the age of 55. Todd is another, and tomorrow we will celebrate his birthday and life. My Dad is still here.
I have had wonderful discussions and great disagreements with all three of this men. All of them are completely different - Stephen is a Cantor in Judaism, Dad is a musician and counselor, and Todd is - well, I never quite figured that out all the way, but climbing was high up on the list, don't you think?:) What they have in common, and what made them my heros, is their unabashed love of life and their ability to make me want to grab and bite off and chew and enjoy thoroughly every single moment and event of living and make it mine, and then share it with everyone around me. It boils down to this: These three men were and are more completely alive than anyone I've ever encountered, and this was what makes them heros in my eyes.
I will miss Todd, and my heart breaks for my sister. But she's the second strongest woman I've ever known, the first being our mother Lucie. We are all here for each other, and each of you, whomever you are, give us strength.
Thank you, and we'll see you tomorrow at Sinks Canyon. If you see a rock or pine cone coming down fast - move your ass! Todd'll be having fun with us one way or the other:)
I encountered Todd Skinner in July of 2000. My father, brother, and I went to Alberta Canada to join a National Geographic heli-hiking tour. Todd was our special guest and speaker.
When I initially met Todd I knew, by the sparkle in his eye, he had seen something special and been where few had.
I, of course, was just a hiker and had only done climbs on rock walls and watched videos of the extreme stuff. On this trip I traversed a glacier and did a bit of mountaineering. Todd was free climbing and pushing the envelope.
I barely remember the stories he told, but I will always remember this advice. Never, never, leave yourself with spaghetti and peanut butter. He apparently ate peanut butter and spaghetti for almost a month while on a difficult climb.
I will always remember Todd even.though our paths crossed just once.
It's clear from all the posts and the heavy hearts that Todd was a remarkable person whose spirit we should all try to capture.
Todd was a super guy, married to my dear cousin Garold's daughter, Amy. I met him when he and Amy had begun to be together and always was impressed with his wonderful personality and genuineness. Because he became part of a family who is incredibly dear to me, he became just as dear and important. My heart hurts for his loss to Amy and the children, for Garold and Lucie who love him as another son, and for Todd's siblings and father. Walk in Beauty, Todd.
Like many people posting here, and certainly thousands other who remain anonymous, I was first acquainted with Todd through magazine articles, but he made an impression on me through his videos. He was truly a "larger-than-life" character, and he jumped through the TV screen right into my living room. I will never forget my twin brother Mark, returning from scout camp where he had just seen the first "Master's of Stone" movie in the early 90s. He told me wild tales of a crazy guy doing pullups with one finger!! We were barely even climbers ourselves, but that image stuck with me. Last winter I showed that movie to some young climbers in a climbing club I'm involved and I still thinks it's the best climbing film ever made. It's timeless. Anyway....
Through the years, I've developed as a climber, and even had the good fortune to repeat some of Todd's routes (though certainly not his hardest!) Nevertheless, that never reduced my awe at Todd's accomplishments as a climber. I was never one to have "heroes" growing up, but if I did, Todd was certainly it.
This past summer I had the immense honor of being invited to Lander to present a slideshow for the International Climbing Festival. I thought the slideshow was pretty much a disaster with technical problems, and me being pretty nervous. Had I known Todd was in attendance, I probably would have been too nervous to even speak. The next day I got to meet Todd before the "film festival" and he had only supportive things to say. I was giddy as a school-girl to meet my hero. I was floored by his enthusiasm after 30+ years in this sport. He gushed about future possibilities and his latest climbing project and went on-and-on describing the details of every pitch of JBMHR. We went into the movie theater after that and when we came out, Todd had a map drawn to his cabin outside of Yosemite. I had only met the guy for five minutes, and he was already giving me directions to his place! His generosity was amazing. I called my brother immediately to tell him about it.
What I learned that night was that Todd was not just a great climber, but a great person.
I stayed at Todd's cabin this past summer, and I've been meaning to call to thank him for his hospitality...I really wish I hadn't procrastinated. I'm sure it wouldn't have mattered that much to Todd, but I was looking forward to another conversation with one of my heroes, which won't happen now. Having hardly known Todd, it's hard to explain rationally why I feel so touched by this tragedy, but I do. In reading all of these messages, I think that is what made Todd so special.
He was truly a visionary climber, and a pioneer in the truest sense. Where most of his peers from the 70s and 80s have slowed down a lot, Todd was still going strong, still exploring, still pushing. I can't imagine him doing anything else. More than anything I think Todd proved the power of positive thinking, perserverance and belief in yourself.
As I learned during a few short days in July, Lander is an amazing community. Todd's absence will be large and irreplacable, but the impression he has made is much larger.
Cheers to a life well-lived!
My sincerest condolences to Amy, Hannah, Jake and Sarah; to the entire Lander community and to all who have been touched by Todd.
I'm so sorry to hear about Todd. I met him at Devil's tower in 1981. He was climbing with Robin (Royal) and were looking at Crocodile Rock. I didn't see him again for about 5 years until he came to Laramie on a slide show trip. I walked up to him and he said my name as I approached. Over and over I read about how kind he was to everyone, it cannot be said enough, he completely valued people.
In reading through some of the posts here, I envy many of you who have had the opportunity to meet, talk to, that got to know the man. I only have memories from some of them old videos he was in, and your stories here on ST.
I want to thank the community for entering into the record, if only for a short while, the memories that made this man so special.
With that said, I'd like to offer up a challenge:
Attempt, in your everyday life, to be as great as you possibly can in all endeavors. Be as genuine as can be. While at the same time recognizing and acknowledging those traits in those around you.
If we all strive to this end... We too may be blessed with as recognized and noticed a life as that of Todd Skinner.
I mean... Wouldn't we all like to be remembered with such reverence as this?
After meeting Todd at Smith Rocks in the mid'80s, I ended up climbing with him and Paul Piana, and the Lander crew, during the early '90s. Hey it was pretty close to Calgary and the limestone is stellar, and the locations are very similar to the Rockies. Todd's smile and animation were infectious as was his passion for life and climbing. He could talk your ear off, but it was always so darn enticing you were hooked.
Todd provided a way for many climbers in North America to become "professionals" He never accepted almost-good enough, he was a perfectionist with climbing. His routes flowed - they were THE lines at the crag - they were and are the routes you want to climb. He and his long-time climbing partner Paul Piana took the sport aspect to the big walls and freed them. They pushed the sport of climbing and showed climbers that boundaries are simply complacency - to push them is what climbing is about - freedom to dream, pursue and actuate – let them stand, you might as well sit in your armchair! Todd was very adept at dealing with the competitiveness in other climbers, it made him send and seek the next route, thought he was not a comp-climber. He was the sport climber to “knock-off” back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Then when life changed, he set the level for the free ascents of big walls.
Todd's motivational speaking is truly one of the biggest assets to the climbing community. He was able to speak to an audience whom would likely never experience or be in contact with climbing. He was able to show the general public that climbing is not just about heights, adrenaline junkies, lycra, large-scale expeditions, smoking weed, individual goals, or about who is better - but about drive, passion, commitment and a lifestyle that can keep you healthy and fit - basically it is for anyone, not just a select few.
It impressed me that Todd was able to keep climbing and pushing himself with his schedule - he truly had passion for climbing. He has my respect and not simply a climber, but a solid role model for life, with his love for Amy and his children and the whole extended Skinner family – they are a solid bunch of people and I’m sure will band together to get through this harsh time in their life. Amy and her children have a huge hurdle, but have a great family to help them through this and friends who have dealt with a lot in their life already who will be there for them.
Todd will be missed by the climbing community. Our love to the Skinner clan – they’ll need it.
I think I can add a little to the peanut butter and pasta story that Nathan Durbin alluded to in his post.
For a couple of seasons I was the cook for Todd and Amy at their place down at Hueco Tanks. Each night there would be between 8 and 25 folks there for dinner, so each season they’d hire someone to cook dinner for the friends and family that would show up to hang out, get strong on crimpers and walk around in the desert with mattresses on their backs.
The selection process for cooks was pretty severe, as you had to bribe Amy with a bit of chocolate and then give a pretty thorough accounting of your skills as a cook. I claimed that I hadn’t starved to death on my own cooking while in college and was hired on the spot. They soon found out just how near to death I came in college.
The Hueco season before the big trip to Pakistan I came across a cookbook (it may have been Claudia Pearson’s NOLS cookbook) with a recipe in it for “Peanut Butter Pasta”. I was intrigued, but scared to test it on 20 virtual strangers so I made it for my lunch. I liked it, made it for dinner, and everyone else seemed to like it, too.
They liked it so much that it made it onto the expedition menu that summer when Todd, Steve and Jeff Bechtel, Mike Lilygren, Bobby Model, Bill Hatcher and Donna Raupp headed for the Himalaya. I wasn’t on that trip, but as near as I can tell, Todd managed to do what he always did with things… “distill it down to it’s essence”, which is never a good thing with a recipe. As near as I can tell, it sounded like eventually Todd was just putting pasta and peanut butter together and calling it dinner. Well, Bobby Model got sick, had Peanut Butter Pasta for dinner and REALLY got sick. So sick that he still hasn’t forgiven me for “inventing” the recipe. Only Todd could convince someone they were sick because of a recipe and not the 20+ days above 18,000 feet.
Or maybe he’s angry because of what we did the next season that I was cooking at Hueco tanks. On the first night we had Peanut Butter Pasta we took a few cups of dinner, sealed them in Ziploc bags and Fed-Exed them off to Bobby Model…the slowest way possible.
Todd thought that was funny as hell, even though we charged it to his Fed-Ex account.
Over the seasons that I cooked for folks down at Hueco I learned to cook extra EVERY NIGHT. That’s how often he brought stray climbers home from the crags.
I eventually settled down in Lander, got married and got a “real” job. None of it would have turned out the way it did if not for Todd and Amy. When Kate and I got married, they let us use their place out on South Pass. We dug the place up, got Todd ordained on the internet so he could marry us, built a huge fire after the ceremony and had folks sleeping off the evening’s excesses in their teepee and in their cabin. And THEY thanked US for the good energy. Man…
Peanut Butter Pasta Recipe (as near as I can remember)
Finely diced onion and garlic
Equal parts peanut butter, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, water and soy sauce
Sauté onion in a little olive oil, add the rest of the ingredients, turn the heat down to low and stir until mixed. Serve over pasta. A few vegetables wouldn’t hurt the mix. Don’t skimp on the sauce, coward.
I can’t wait to get flamed for posting a recipe on a memorial forum. Todd would have loved that.
I remember this guy in a white cowboy hat ranting in josh about 25 years ago, he was telling me that the future of american climing was in Texas ! Though not very convinced, I DID listen and course he was correct.Shortly after this (@ Devil's Tower I think) the next place was South Africa ! At the time these were the wildest suggestions I had heard about climbing.
A great person and an inspiration,
Todd belayed me on my first 5.12 lead. It was back in the mid 80s at Shelf Road. I was 10 years older than him and he was patient and fun at all times. While I rested he soled 'Take the Skinheads Bowling".
My favorite Skinner moment was his talk after his Korean climbing trip in the ? late 80s. His partner spoke little English and after every pitch he asked Todd "How Hard? This went on as the pithches grew in difficulty. He refused to surrender the lead. Finally he asked Todd "HOW Hard?. Todd said "5.12" after a series of lesser numeric replies. The Korean climber finally smiled and handed Todd the sharp end ."Now you may lead".
Mimicing Todd's Korean version of "How Hard?" is still an ammusment to me years later. Todd and Paul were a great team, climbers, entertainers and good folks. Sorry to loose you Todd.
I met Todd only once: early 90's at Josh. I immediatley reconized him from videos, and was excited to finally the guy in person. I was so interested in what he was doing, but he just wanted to talk about what I was doing instead!
And all I was doing was working on some 12a that Todd could probably solo.
It was so funny: he was trying to give me the beta, but hadn't done the route in so long that he was getting confused. But he was so excited for me.
It was like I was HIS hero rather than other way around, and he didn't even know who I was.
The psych he left me with lasted more than just that trip...
thanks to all who have posted their personal accounts of skinner - he's seemed to have a profound impact on the lives of so many in our community.
personally, my time spent with skinner was brief, limited to a slideshow discussion regarding his NG sponsored assault on trango in the mid-90's. during the show in east lansing, michigan, he captivated and held hostage every mid-western climber in attendance, and we marveled at his tenacity for staying on the wall for 2 months. good hell, the stories about winds strong enough to lift a 2-man portaledge and slam it back down onto 1 bolt were terrifying. and the notion of sending up a non-climber [jeff bechtel] to lead and finish one of the final pitches was harrowing! after the show, a large group of us went to a local pub, drank crap beer and told many stories, staying up way too late but managing through todd's infectious enthusiasm. that one encounter solidified his legendary image in my mind, and every trip, whether to hueco, the needles, the tower or yosemite includes imagery of todd.
during every all-night drive to an obscure crag, on every desperate pitch when we're fumbling with gear, and finally when we celebrate the close of each day around the fire drinking beer, sharing a bottle of scotch, and telling tall tales, let's continue to celebrate this man! this friend! this LEGEND...
As I sit here trying to put my thoughts into words, the tears are still welling in my eyes. This morning I opened the online Casper paper and saw an intro blurb about some climber who had fallen. I happened to notice the name of Todd Skinner in the leadin and it all went downhill from there, eventually leading me to this site.
I briefly knew Todd while in college in the early 80's. I don't recall when I first met him, but I saw him off and on for 2 or 3 years. He always had a big smile and a few minutes to at least say hi. I never had the opportunity to actually climb with him, but I was fortunate enough to get to watch him from time to time. Sometime around '85 he gave a talk on campus about some of his climbing expeditions. One story in particular that I recall was his that of climbing in a valley somewhere in the Middle East that had been painted blue by some wierd French artist who likes to screw with nature. I recall him telling of having climbed way up into a chimney where nobody could posssibly see in or out, and there he saw 3 purple dots that had been painted in all this blue.
I knew Todd was destined to live a life I could only dream of. I never became much of a climber, and upon graduation, I moved out of state, got married, started a family, and my priorities all changed. A year or two later, on a trip back home, we passed through the University, and as we walked through the Union, we saw Todd leaning up against the rail, scoping people. He had that same big grin on his face and he recognized me as we came up. We talked for several minutes before parting ways. That was the last time I saw him.
Over the years, I would always get a thrill when I'd see references to him and his climbing travels, whether it was in one of Galen's articles for Outdoor Photographer, or Bill's National Geographic layouts, or the more recent blurbs in the Wyoming papers talking about his participation in the search for a hiker who had fallen in the Winds. Every time I would see one of those articles, I would think back to a distant past and the few conversations I had with him.
In my life, I have met literally thousands of people, but only a handful stand out as truely remarkable. Todd Skinner was one of those few. While my encounterss with him were few and in the long distant past, I have always referred to him as my friend. Had our paths crossed again, I'm sure he probably would not have remembered me, but I know he'd no doubt have treated me as a friend. I often wondered (hoped) if I'd someday run into him again. Sadly, it was not to be.
To his family and many friends, I send my deepest sympathy and regards. This man touched so may lives, and I feel blessed that mine was one of them. I can tell from the postings on this thread that I am not alone.
So long, Todd. It was an honor to call you my friend.
What an incredible collection of great stories on this forum about our old buddy Todd - we‘re all so blessed to have known him, or known of him. Let me add a few more tales - it‘s a bit easier now than four days ago, now my eyes have dried up some. I went to UW with Todd, Orion and Holly and was very lucky to get to know the Bob and Doris as well. What an incredibly rare, genuine, warm, and generous family.
Todd was kind enough to let a novice like me to tag along on some trips to Vedauwoo on occasions, with my other personal climbing icons, Gregg Waterman and Paul P. The sharp crystals there are hard on everyone’s hands (even with lot’s of tape) but one thing I still remember was that Todd’s digits were always the most abused by far! How he could keep those mangled, shredded, gruesome fingers in the cracks and on the face, while pulling off those amazing human fly moves, I’ll never know.
It’s not a stretch to say Todd saved my life. He and Gregg and Royal had just soloed a quick 5.8, so I figured I would go rope less as well, based on the way they flashed it. I got about ten feet from the top, then looked down. My exposure needle quickly went redline and I panicked, froze up and the sewing machine leg thing started - while I began to lose my hold. But there was Todd, looking down at me, displaying his classic, motivating, twisted grin of confidence and said, “no problem, you can do it - go for it!” Thanks Todd, I wouldn‘t be typing this now if you hadn‘t been there. Just wish I could have returned the favor.
As mentioned in a previous post, Todd, Orion & Holly all became extreme alpine skiers (it helps when coach Dad was on the USST). We formed an intramural team (Todd came up with the name “Klammer’s Klan”) and Todd, Orion, me and someone else whose name escapes me (not Franz) ruled the competition for several years. I’ll never forget watching him run gates, in typical rad garb (a bit too cold for lycra though), wearing that huge, open green trench coat - what a sight!
Speaking for myself, and probably a few of us, I’ve lived vicariously though Todd’s adventures and we are so fortunate that because of him, we could dream about being on Trango Tower, on the wall in the Valley or wherever, getting that virtual adrenaline rush, distancing us from the hum-drum, daily routines. While our role model won’t be easy to see in a tangible form now, I know Todd’s certainly with us, encouraging us to try for another ten feet, or reach out in ways we’re unsure of. Heck, he’s already using his new galactic powers, bring us all together here; I just wonder which of the stories told so far have him laughing the most!
To Amy, Bob, Orion, Holly, and all of the extended family - I know you will find inner peace and serenity, as time helps heal the huge void you‘re feeling. We’re all with you in spirit, as is Todd.
To Todd - Thanks friend, for letting us ride with you for a while, and climb on, you cosmic cowboy!
I met Todd through his good friends and fellow climbers, John & Carol Gogas. I remember him sharing stories with me about his covert ‘drilling’ which took place at night with the drill wrapped in a large towel to muffle the sound!!! (Places shall remain nameless)
There’s a great camaraderie in the climbing community – the posts here reflect that in abundance. Glad I had the chance to meet such an inspiring and likeable man – so saddened by his death. Condolences to Amy and family and all his close friends … our thoughts are with you
Rodney Ellis & Jude Williams (formerly from Texas, now living in Australia)
Have been reading so many beautiful things about Todd all week... they've been lovely reminders... his eyes sparkle and dance even now in my minds eye. I feel blessed to have spent time climbing with him in Josh and the Black Hills and catching up over dinner when our paths crossed at trade shows, slideshows or other events.
Todd was such a gracious host and always a grateful guest. He had incredibly diverse interests and uncanny knowledge. His stories will live on in the hearts and minds of all who heard them. For all his climbing prowess, it was his mind that seemed never to rest. His theories and ideas made for great conversation and often left me pondering for days. Just being around Todd always left me feeling warm and happy. I always thought the phrase "The incredible lightness of being" described Todd.
He once told me that when certain events combined in such a way as to be synchronistic or somewhat magical... such that you knew you were in the right place or doing the right thing... that it was like finding a cairn in life.... and you would know you were on the right path. I have always remembered that and often smiled and thought of Todd when I stumbled onto a "cairn" in my life. I just love that!
What an incredible gift he was to the world...His many contributions will live on...
I only wish he could have.
Todd will be sorely missed... My own sadness has only been eased by my wonderful memories and the stories shared here by others.
My heart and prayers go out to Amy, Hannah, Sara and Jake and to all of their families.
Oh Toddley, as we referred to him when we saw him. Climbed with him a few times in the 70's at Devil's Tower and Vedauwoo and climbing routes beside him. What a treat to run into him. Great guy and an absolute pleasure to be with. Good God what a loss. I can hardly believe it. I was stunned to read the Casper Star Tribune.
What a gentleman, whether climbing with or swapping stories. Todd climbed at the pinnacle of the art. Pushing, pushing climbing to new heights. And remaining tied to his roots in Wyoming.
My condolences to the Amy and the children, the Skinner Family, and all who knew the special,kind person Todd was. Truely a legend for Wyoming and climbing. Fill your hearts with the joy that Todd brought to people all over the Wyoming and the world.
Reminds me again of how fragile life is.
Godspeed and Vaya con Dios Todd, We will all miss you.
First things first, my most sincere and heartfelt condolences to Amy, Sarah, Hannah & Jake, my pain over these past few days can never compare to the sorrow you must feel at the tragic loss of your husband & father. I hope that these few words offer you some comfort that a great many people in this world share some of your agony.
I like many, others posting here, held Todd in the highest regard as a friend & mentor even though I only saw him rarely. I first met Todd at Skinner Brothers Outdoor Camp in the late 70’s where he was working as a counselor & group guide. His wit, enthusiasm and story telling skills were already well developed at that time. We learned crucial life skills from Todd such as, how to fry trout over an open fire on a stick and eat it off the side of your own hiking boot with a Bowie knife, how to lead a group of impressionable campers carrying 1/3 their body weight 2 miles down the wrong trail on a hot summer afternoon and laugh about it (I swear he had the map upside down) how to build a rabbit snare, what to pack in a survival kit and most important, how to wear the same t-shirt for a whole month without washing it. (My mother never forgave him for that but she did take up climbing at the age of 40 to get over her fear of heights. My raving on and on about watching Todd climb at camp probably had something to do with that as well.) I also remember someone asking Todd to describe the terrain & difficulty of different climbing ratings. (At the time I think there were only a couple of 5.13’s in the world.) Todd got to 5.14 or 5.15 and graphically explained that this grade was overhanging talus.
In 83 when I went to UW stories of Todd climbing the dorms and onto the roof of the cafeteria (I always marveled at the strength and control the traverse over that roof would take) were common though many didn’t believe them. The next time I ran into Todd was in Hueco in 90 or 91. My wife and I were checking out the area on a long weekend to El Paso and we were watching this guy climb through the binoculars. After watching him climb for a few minutes I thought out loud “That has to be Todd Skinner”. We hung around for a while until he came down and it was Todd and I think Paul P. He remembered me from his uncle’s camp over 10 years before and they proceeded to lead us around the area showing us boulder problems that they were working. This tour included a lovely oasis full of bat dung that they called the Devil’s Butt hole. I’m not sure it smelled that good but it had this hideously overhanging boulder problem that you started laying on your back. It went up through a narrow chimney on 1 to 2 finger pockets, Todd cruised it, I couldn’t even start it. I saw him again at the Albuquerque Rock Gym the next spring when he set a competition route for a climbing competition. That was the last time I saw him. I always meant to stop at the shop in Lander and say “Hi” the few times we were through, but I never did. I regret that.
Todd has always been one of my favorite people though I have spent little time with him. I’ve admired him for his passion & skill in everything he does, his quick wit, and his quicker smile. He was ALWAYS fun to be around & that is a very admirable trait.
Todd, you have touched more lives than you know and we are all better for your doing so. May we all inherit a hint of your charisma. Thank you.
St. Peter, open the gates, otherwise he’ll just climb over.
I ran into Todd a number of times through the years at different climbing areas. I remember one time at Hueco around 1986, my friend and I were soaking up the dwindling rays of a November sunset (and a couple brews), having just top-roped a 12a. A frigid breeze froze our hands but our hearts were warm with the satisfaction of accomplishment. Then, Todd walked up with a pair of shoes and chalk bag. He waved and made small talk as if he had all the time in the world instead of 10 minutes until utter blackness. We gushed about the climb as he put on his shoes. “Man that was hard”! “Especially that weird move about 20 feet up”. “Don’t forget that hold way over there”. Dismay gnawed at our thoughts as we avoided asking the obvious question, “You aren’t going to free-solo that thing, are you”? Of course, Todd flowed up it with jaw-dropping ease. We sat there muttering and wondering how someone so congenial could be so good! We couldn’t get resentful because he was too nice. Damn!
Years later I ran into him in Yosemite at Camp 4. I got a spot in the same site that he was in and wondered why he wasn’t hanging out with some elite climbers in some elite climber cabin. He joined the dinnertime festivities with gusto. It struck me that he enjoyed the camaraderie of campfire tales and shared tribulation perhaps more than the stories themselves. It didn’t matter the difficulty of the climb but rather how close one was to the edge of their capabilities and how one cheated fate, once again. Hah! Todd also had a knack of making less capable climbers feel comfortable. While some elite climbers are often aloof and try to intimidate others, Todd was engaging and fun.
Todd was one of the truly good people that I have ever met. My heart goes out to his family.
First I would like to say how truly sorry I am for Amy, the kids, the rest of Todds family and us in the climbing community that have been touched and blessed by just existing on the same planet as Mr. Skinner.
Ive spent hours reading these posts from folks all over the place - some I reconize, some Ive climbed with and around but most just a lot of people that are happy and thrilled they have come in contact with Todd. Such a wonderously joyous guy to laugh, climb, dance, swap outlandish tales and cowboy stories with. No matter what you could always count on the mad-hatters grin of his. Ive spent some time going through the letters and cards I received from Todd and Paul over the years and spelling be damned! Ive got stories to tell!
I met Todd in the late 70's when I was climbing with Paul Piana out here in California. We all met out at Joshua Tree a few times and I can still remember him spending hours teaching me how crack climb and lieback edges. God knows it didnt do any good but he was patient and helpful. Even over campfires and burritos there was always tips and, "come see us in Wyoming this summer". Todd would send me the occational postcards of encouragement just to fool me into thinking I might have some climbing talent.
Well I did go to climb in the country Todd loved so well. I was dragged up (and surprizingly led quite a few) more than a few spires in the Black Hills and thin cracks on Devils Tower. At the FIRST ANNUAL Black Hills CLIMBATHON I can still hear Todds laughter bouncing off the Ten Pins needling me up those crystal encrusted Needles. I have the group photograph on my wall with Mr. Skinner up-front-and-center that big 'ol cowboy grin on his face and a full head of hair on his head.
Well as we all know Todd went on to conquer the world yet everytime I bumped into him whether it was at a western crag, a slide show or the Valley I would see him greet people with an unbridled enthusaium. Always a hand shake and a howdy! He and Paul came to stay a few days soon after the Salathe Wall and we talked about their adventures, art and the such.
Now i find that now my sadness is gone and Todds memory has forced a goofy smile on my face.
Over the next few years i took Todds advice and visited the magic of the Wind Rivers, the Exum Ridge of the Grand Teton various routes on Devils Tower and the Black Hills. He even lent me his tipi for a portion of my honeymoon!
Well sometime in the late 90s i bumped into Todd cragging around some wall around Jackson Hole. Engauged in some "not-for-mere-mortals-5.12b-thin-crack" he stopped what he was doing to invite me to toprope some "out-of-shape-visiting-artist-routes" and joke around with me, poke my ribs with a few "goshes" and invitied me to his spectacular slide show in Jackson Hole. Since i was raring to see and hear of his travels, climbs and friends I didnt dare miss it.
Todd took the stage and during the introduction to the show proceeded to have me stand up in the audience and introduced me because even after all these years he still had a couple of my paintings in the start of his stunning slideshow. That blew my mind! Of all the places, things and people he could of had in that show he used my scribblings. Still had them in there up to '03.
Well the world is a much better place because Todd Skinner has occupied a place in it. His wit, joy of living, that grin, his friendliness, etc...etc... I was showing one of my college art classes, Paul Pianas "Big Wall" book yesterday, showing them photos of determidation, team work and talking to them about Todd. Though I had just fleeting visits, climbs and connections to Todd I still considered him a friend and i wanted to show and talk to the students how a life is well lived and played out to the fullest extent.One of the students mentioned, "That he (Todd)looked like he had the focus of God but the sense of humor of the Devil".
Boy...its a damn shame. There will be stories and campfire legends about Todd Skinner for years. I'll tell some myself and pass some onto my kids but Todd was an original, a mentor and a friend and i'll miss him. I hope members of his family read all these tales and testamonials and find some comfort in them. He was a hell of a guy.
I'll be there in spirit on the 28th. I'll light a candle for you. Miss you buddy.
My Prayers go With You and Your Family;
you know... i certainly didn't know todd well. i had beer with him once or twice at the lander bar, but many of my climbing friends were really close to him and quite wonderfully (and unavoidably) affected by todd. so, instead, as a climber, i grew up around todd stories. stories about carrots flying off el cap followed by tirades taken on the way to the van from those who ended up on the business end of the carrots, about waking up to gunfire in what was to become pete's at hueco, about beta for "pockets" that were little bitty dishes, about trips into the wilderness that were made bountiful because of some kid who could hit birds and small mammals by throwing rocks, and about blow torches and cracks filled with axle grease. beyond the stories,
i also got to experience the hospitality and spirit he inspired; the will to take pleasure in doing it the hard way because climbing was about growth, about not rushing but pushing, and most of all, to understand that climbing was about people and community. when someone asks what inspires one to climb, why in the hell people do it; well, it is people like todd that are the answer. they bring together and support amazing communities, they inspire countless people to keep working, to not give up, to have fun and take joy in the struggle, and to rejoice in the fellowship that this pursuit provides. todd made everyone around him a better person; his vehicle for this was climbing. for this, i think i can say that i am eternally grateful to both him and his family for this wonderful gift. rest in peace.
Todd touched so many lives, and from recent experience I know how comforting it is to hear these stories, so I feel compelled to tell you how he impacted our family. My brother, Ken Koski, had been missing in the Wind River Mountains for five days in September. To make a long story short, Todd was one of the two climbers that found Ken on Bonneville.
It appeared to Todd that Ken was standing on top of the peak (probably taking pictures), and the weather had probably changed quickly, bringing a strong wind that blew him off. Todd estimated that Ken had fallen 400 to 500 feet, but because of the ruggedness, and shadows of the rocks, he could not be seen from helicopters searching the area. While waiting for the helicopter to come, Todd found the chip from Ken's camera and slipped it back in. As a result, we have over 300 pictures that Ken took on this last trip, including 5 or 6 of himself that we will treasure forever.
Ken knew Todd, and Paul Piana as well, and would always attend any presentations either were giving in the area when he could. Todd put himself at risk to find Ken, not because he knew him, but because someone of his expertise was needed to search that part of Bonneville, and he volunteered. For this we will be forever grateful.
An interesting note. Ken was buried on September 20th, and I read where Todd's mother passed away on that day. When we were at the cemetery, we noticed that Ken's gravesite was next to a headstone marked "Skinner", and we found that ironic and comforting.
Cheryl, Ken's wife, plans on attending Todd's sevices. We feel your loss and our thoughts and prayers are with you all. I'm sure you are like us, and are finding some comfort knowing he died doing something he was so passionate about. We are fortunate to have so many great memories, and our loved ones will live forever in our hearts.
I am not a climber but a family member and I wanted to say how much the forum has helped this week. I have sat reading this forum each night in our hotels as we drove out to Lander from the Bay Area, CA - and then I would sit back and think of all the crazy family moments in the last 11 years that Todd took part in and smile. So I thought I would share a few with you…
I was lucky enough to marry into the Whisler family and get to call Amy & Todd my Sister/Brother in Law. Due to his speaking schedule, I actually did not get to even "meet" Todd until after Scott and I had said our vows - and Todd was one of the groomsmen! He had flown into town, slides, projectors, and all, just in time to put on a monkey suit, show up at the church and take part in our wedding. I was actually introduced to him while taking the group photos after the ceremony. One of my favorite wedding photo's is of all the wedding party being silly while Todd with that grin of his leans over and gives my hand a kiss. The ham-it-up/grin-and-have-fun-with-it attitude was present and active that night!
It was also present the time my then 11 month old daughter and I were walking to the house on Lucky Lane and were unexpectedly pelted with flying watermelon after a fireworks “experiment.” Or one Thanksgiving at the house at Hueco Tanks when my daughter wanted a crown like her finger puppet and Todd and Lucie cooked up a crown made out of a Nilla Wafer Box for “Queen Zilla”. Five-plus years later that crown still exists and is sometimes still worn!
My son Austin (now 5) remembers Todd as the guy who taught him it was OK to pee on a tree!
The one memory that always makes me smile is the time I called Lander to talk to Amy about a family event and Todd answered. He was on Daddy duty because Amy was out and told me some joke and then said hold on a moment he had to make dinner. I heard a can open, some digging in a drawer and a plunk and then he called Supper is Ready. When he picked the phone back up I asked what was for dinner and he said “Can O’Beans because Jakie likes them that way” … I could see the grin through the phone line that night. I am still not sure if the kids got more for dinner but just typing this makes me smile and be amazed at the off the wall humor of Todd.
I was checking my emails last night and got an email from my co-leader of my daughters Girl Scout troop. She was able to swing setting up a rock wall event for the girls at our next meeting. Since she did not even know I had left town or why – I think Todd must have had some part in swinging that.
and all others. I can't express in words my heartfelt sorrow at the loss of Todd. He was one of the finest individuals I have ever known and I have fond memories of climbing and socializing with him from trips in Wyoming to the old outdoor retail days in Las Vegas when we would all wake up in the desert, go climbing in the morning, then go to the show in the afternoon when it would get too hot.
I'm incredibly fortunate to have lived in Lander and had Todd and Amy among my friends. I moved to New York this Fall and since I can’t be there today I find myself at this forum instead.
So thanks to all who've posted, this is a great way for scattered friends and contacts to feel a little less remote.
The force of repetition in these messages really has it right about so much of what made Todd special: his charisma and contagious enthusiasm, his generosity, his love for adventure and a good joke, the focus and intensity that he brought to climbing and to life.
Todd was both a great story-teller and an intense listener, a disciplined and self-motivated athlete with an uncanny ability to find and engage others as a coach and motivator. He was a wonderful friend.
I'm super lucky that my last day climbing in Wyoming this summer was with Todd and other good friends. I remember after hours of gut-splitting jokes I found myself top-roping on a route harder than I could get up, and pretty soon I thought I'd done enough to be tired and satisfied, but then there was Todd behind me, "Wait! You've at least got to do these next two moves!" And how could I refuse?
So he coached me through those moves, and when I came down there was that excitement in his eyes, just because of this one fun move on an everyday little sport climb. That day and so many others were that much better because of Todd’s enthusiasm.
So to Amy and the family and everybody in Lander, my thoughts are first with you today. I wish I were there to share food and stories and begin turning old memories into new. Other days will come.
I remember two years ago at the Fourth of July Todd stopped by late, just to drop off fireworks. He couldn't stay to eat or even to watch, but maybe some part of him just wanted to know that we were blowing things up on his behalf. It’s raining in New York today, but I think if there’s a fireworks stand anywhere in this city, then by god I’m going to find it.
Condolences from Brooklyn on Saturday, October 28, 2006:
I send my sincere condolences at the time of their loss to the Skinner and Whisler families, especially to Amy and her brother, Garold (with hopes that he calls me soon). I was shocked to see Todd's obituary this morning as I sat down with my coffee to read yesterday's New York Times.
I remember vividly my meeting Todd in January 1992 when I was on an extended vacation to Las Vegas, Lander and Salt Lake City with Garold, who lived then in New Orleans. I wrote in my journal of that meeting: "I like the way Todd said, 'My God, how the hell are you.' Amy has glued a photograph of him onto an old Wheaties cereal box, and it looks like it belongs there; it fits."
Also, from my journal, I found one of Todd's observations and I think it fitting to add here:
"Todd said [recounting his climbing trip to Vietnam], 'Whenever I think something is undoable, insurmountable, I think of that [Vietnamese] farmer plowing his pond with his water buffalo and the leeches in the rice paddies.'"
Though I never had the occasion to enjoy Todd's company since that vacation, I have often thought of him, of his warmth and welcome, and his legendary bravery.
"Not a whit, we defy augury; there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all."
I think it might be best to keep the Todd stories here - easier to keep track of.
With the new multi-page threading (20 posts per page), this will serve as an easy-to-find
(and navigate) archive for future reference - without having to track down multiple threads.
I am not a member of the climbing community but I met Todd at the Inc. 500 conference over four years ago in Albuquerque where he was a headliner speaker. I was so moved by his talk and presentation that I waited in line for nearly an hour just to shake his hand and chat with him for a few minutes.
I believe Todd is being laid to rest today and wanted to let you how saddened I was to learn on Tuesday of his tragic passing and to express my condolences to you, especially his father, wife and children. In addition to being a world class climber, Todd was an excellent communicator and first and foremost a world class individual. His ability to relate his climbing experiences, specifically his first free ascent of Trango Tower, to business world challenges was truly magical. His attitude, enthusiasm and yes, energy, were infectious. I know he touched the lives of thousands through his motivational speeches and presentations.
I know nothing I say can bring much comfort at a time like this, but I know that the world is truly a better place because of the life of your son, husband and father. You can be certain that in the place where Todd is now he is the same incredible individual that he was in this life and that he will be that person to you and to others for eternity. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Dear Family and Compadres of Todd,
Hans & I cannot be with you in the flesh today, but wanted you to know how we are celebrating Todd on his 48th birthday. We woke up this morning and said "Howdy" to Todd & Paul lassoing the Salathe and "Climbing Wildly,"on our bedroom wall as they do every morning of every day.
We have been checking this site for posts several times daily since we heard of our hero's flight from earth. I have shed countless tears daily and been touched and gladdened by my own flashes of Todd as well as by those that have been shared here this week.
And though I thought I had posted all the photos we had ever taken of Todd, it wasn't until a few moments ago, that we remembered we had color shots of Todd and Beth, the first day we met them at Index, Wash. while he was attempting to free "City Park," the first 5.13C. We have a photo album of the year of our Excellent No. American Rockin' Tour with Todd and crew, and there in all his goofy grinnin' glory is our "Golden Boy," donning his pink tank, scruffy hair, baggy pants, wearing a rack of RPs, and one of the first TCUs (ever) clipped onto a swami belt with no leg loops, and not a cam in sight.
It was June 29th, 1985, the 30th anniversary of my birth, and dawn of the birth of my role as a rock climber. Surely, the best gift of the day was meeting Todd - moreso, it is the gift of a lifetime, the kind that keeps on giving, as his passion, positivity and enduring inspiration light my path with his Spirit of Play, his everlasting wisdom, and his heart of Gold. I haven’t actually seen him in more than a decade, and yet he has come up in conversation all these years as though we’d just hung out with him yesterday. We have had subscriptions to “Climbing” and “Rock & Ice” since 1986, and every single month I open them up to see what’s up with Todd, always hoping he’s still out there blazing new trails and having a blast.
We are with you, Amy, Jake, Hanna, Sarah, Todd's Dad, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews and friends near and far. We grieve for your immeasurable loss, we grieve for our own loss of a man who rocked our world, encouraged us to be better beings by example, to pursue our passion, and be true to ourselves to the very ends of the earth and for all time, to simply enjoy the good life.
Here are the photos of a Scruffy, hatless cowboy, with a lopsided grin and the trademark mischievous spark in his baby blues, bold and brave and as true and wise and kind and funny as the day is long and the life that is tragically cut short for a man who deserves so much more of everything…
To Todd, who showed us that although freedom is the pinnacle we all strive to reach, it is the approach we take, the tools we carry and the effort we make to be the best that we can be as we arrive at the base of each day that determines whether we are truly free.
Take flight and take comfort, Todd, in knowing your wings are buoyed with our love and our Blessings
P.S. I hope that posts of todays celebration of Todd's remarkable life will appear here,later, so those of us who could not be with you can feel like we were via your thoughts and feelings. With heartfelt thanks and Blessings to you all - Lezlie
My sincere condolences to everyone who knew and cared for the man. I never met Todd, never knew him. He was the face and voice on a half a dozen videos that i would watch when i first began to climb back here in Ct. He made it seem like fun. It was. His influence goes far beyond those who knew him. No doubt some of the joy and enthusiasm i get from climbing today was passed on from him.
I met Todd only once and have never forgotten it. He was conducting a clinic during the open house for City Rock Gym in California 16 years ago. I was just learning to climb and was in awe. While many of the invited climbing legends who attended appeared bored with the whole affair, Todd patiently spoke with everyone there with sincere enthusiasm and interest. He asked me what I had done - at the time, very little, I answered with embarassment - yet he was interested in where I had learned and the few beginning routes I had done. He was genuinely funny, warm, engaging, humble, and the best climbing teacher I've ever had. To this day, I remind myself of advice he gave me way back then and often teach it to others.
In a time when it seems that many people choose to interact only with those that can somehow further themselves, Todd didn't. While he will be remembered by many as one of the greatest climbers of our generation, I will simply remember his as a generous and kind soul - something that is rarer and more precious than any athletic accomplishment.
We have all been blessed in different ways by knowing Todd. We, as climbers, have been inspired, motivated, re-energized, and challenged through all the adventures and long dinner conversations we have had with him. But, you must know that he has left his best qualities within you. Amy, you (like Todd) have a strength and passion about life and a kindness in your heart that can radiate and comfort people all around you. Hannah, you carry your dad's playfulness, his laughter, and his sense of humor. Sarah, you carry your dad's thoughtfullness, his nature to think and plan out every detail, and his gentleness. And Jake, you carry his strength, determination and lovable cowboy nature. But all of you have that same brightness in your eyes that welcomes everyone and makes them feel at home. Thank-you for who you are!
We love you so much
I dont know what to say. I heard only today via word of mouth. I met Todd at Hueco Tanks over 25 years ago? If someone would please tell Amy I'm so sorry. I dont know what else to say.
From; Les Harmon, once a climbing partner of them both.
Here is Todd summer 2005. He is enjoying a video of friends bouldering well.
to Amy, Hannah, Sarah and Jake--we only spent a few days with you all but the memories are strong. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Sam, Paul, Steve Johnston
My sincere condolences to Amy and the family. I met Todd in Cape Town , South Africa and travelled around my home country amazed at all the opportunites for climbing he saw here. His inspiration created Rocklands and his vision saw our hardest route at the time , Jabberwocky. ( 32 )
He inspired climbers here to believe in themselves and helped enable us to climb on a par with some of the best.
When I travelled to the USA in '92 he went 4 hours out of his way to pick me up, and greeted me like I was family.
Really brilliant guy, able to mix with anyone and leave them feeling inspired about life.
So sad he is gone,
with love from all the South African climbers.
I first heard about Todd back in 1996. I had just discovered climbing at Vedauwoo in Wyoming. I emersed myself into every book I could find to read about Todd & Paul. They were truly inspiring individuals to a novice climber. I knew right away these two were "larger than life".
I was fortunate enough to see one of Todd's slide shows at the ICF in 97 or 98. His stories and adventures were quite entertaining. I thought this guy was a mythical climbing god!
I had the chance to meet Paul several years later and would run into him at Sinks from time to time and speak briefly to him. I regret never having the chance to meet Todd. He was truly a talented human being.
I do not know Todd but have been hearing his name for nearly 12 years now. Reading these thoughts from all you family and friends of Todd is way inspiring! I am a father of 3, a husband and a climber, and now have another hero to chase!
Thanks for sharing these personal thought. I hope that when my adventure hear on earth is over I will have proven to be a man deserving of such love from my family, friends and community!
I just visited with my parents in Casper for the first time since Todd's death. You know how some times you can predict where something is going. She told me how sorry she was and then started in: "You know I still remember..." Yeah, I know mom... "when I went out into the kitchen one morning to fix breakfast and there's this guy peering in the window at me!" Yeah, that's my friend Todd, mom... "I think he had to go to the bathroom or something - he'd been out there camped in the back yard all night."
Of course he charmed her, and let me tell you - that ain't so easy with my mom when you work outside her system, like showing up in the window unexpectedly at 7 AM! As we've seen here, Todd's infectious enthusiasm touched people well outside the climbing community. Almost everyone he met was someone to share a laugh with.
I heard Paul’s interview on Weekend Edition on NPR this morning. I heard the conversation and it caught my immediate attention. Without knowing it was Paul speaking, I knew by his words the Todd he was talking about had to be Todd Skinner. By the end of the interview, when I found out it was Todd, I was deeply sadden for all who knew him.
I met Todd through Climbing Industry trade shows nearly 20 years ago. He was a featured speaker and guest of many equipment suppliers and retailers. I had the pleasure of dining with Todd and his comrades on several occasions and recall how I enjoyed those meals. Todd was infectious; he just made you happy you were around him. I remember him to be extremely witty and very funny. He told amazing stories.
I offer my sincere condolences to his wife and children, his family and friends.
Weekend Edition Saturday, October 28, 2006 · Rock climber Todd Skinner fell to his death Monday in Yosemite Park. He found fame in 1988 after scaling the 3,600-foot Salathe Wall on Yosemite's El Capitan. Paul Piana, who joined Skinner on the 1988 climb, tells Scott Simon about his friend.
I have just come home from attending an amazing memorial service for Todd Skinner. It was full-on Wyoming style--outside, close to Sinks Canyon, complete w/the light of the moon, a clear sky, slideshow, bonfire, fantastik food, and over 500 friends and family from all over the country. It was a party, a celebration of Todd. Yesturday, October 28th, was the actual birthday of Todd. Candles were lit on two giant birthday cakes and we all sang Happy Birthday. A profound moment for sure.
It was so obvious how much he was admired and loved by all that knew him. Many got up and spoke of the good times w/Todd."God damn your eyes!" was brought up, and so many more 'Toddism's'.
Seeing his wife, the beautiful Amy Whistler, and his three kids, Hannah, Jake, and Sara brought tears to my eyes. I hadn't seen Todd, the family, or Lander in over 5 years. Life moves in mysterious ways and now, having two little girls of my own, time easily got away from me.
Todd was in my life for 26 years. I first met him in 1980 in Joshua Tree, then again in Hueco. We became friends for life, traveling and climbing all over the U.S. and Europe. He was instumental in many of my climbing accomplishments, always knowing in his heart of hearts that I could do anything I set my mind to do. And this he did to so many people in his life. If you go to www.toddskinner.com there is a Memorial Fund set up for his family. Please donate, its such a good cause.
One thing I have learned from Todd's death, is to try and not let to much time go by without seeing those who are dear. I am kicking myself now for letting this time fly by and not seeing Todd sooner.
Thank you, Bobbi, for sharing your heartfelt experience of Todd's memorial/life celebration yesterday, especially since we couldn't be there to bid him farewell. And I totally understand what you are feeling...
To Scott W.
Scott, I conducted my own memorial by sailing west past the gate until the sun had disappeared below the waves. I thought about you ;and the family. More hugs to everyone there, especially for amy and her children. love, larry
It has helped me to cope with not being in Lander and with the many friends I have there by reading the many entries here. It is a crushing blow to lose some one that is larger than life and all I can think about is the family he left behind.
Just this weekend I traveled with my family and as we entered our street and turned into our driveway, my 2yr. old son Beck said "We made it!"...My wife Jennifer turned to me and said "Isn't that a Todd Skinner line?". I had taken it for granted, but I believe I began saying that after having spent days climbing with Todd. I remember he always said something to the effect of "By golly...we made it back from another day of climbing!" as if to say we must cherish every moment. His influence is broad and it stunned to me realize that he had even affected my young son through me.
I missed being with you all this weekend to celebrate Todd's life and support Amy and the kids; but we will be there next summer. It won't be the same, but you all already know this.
Many thanks to friends who travelled the miles to celebrate Todd's birthday and to those who send their warm thoughts.
First, an assurance. As my wise friend Steve P. told my rock, Steve B. "Since Amy was strong enough to live with Todd, I have great confidence that she'll be strong enough to live without him."
Second, an answer to your requests to let me know what you can do for me and for our children. Dance with your partner in the kitchen to a cowboy love song. Tell your children bedtime stories of mountain men, the old west, and true everyday heroes that they know personally. Expect and demand exceptional performance from everyone you meet and complement them on it - whether you're talking to Yo-yo Ma or a local rodeo cowboy. Surround yourself with the absolute best people on this planet.
Finally, a tribute. I want to share a song that I wrote for Todd many years ago. In the sixteen years since I put these thoughts on paper, he grew in many ways, but mostly as a Dad. Photos will be posted soon.
We have all been fortunate to be held in the gaze of Todd's blue eyes.
I want to see as you see through those shining eyes.
Your vision of this day, sweeter than any in the past.
I want to dream as you dream - your head is in the stars.
Your wildest expectations will be memories before long.
I want to work as you work - with impatience and with fire-
no considering time or sweat, only the task that's burning.
I want to feel as you feel when you're lying in my arms
content with knowledge that my love will keep you warm and breathing.
I want to think as you think - no limits, only possibilities.
The world presents unending choice of opening doors.
I want to sleep as you sleep after a well-lived day,
drugged with satisfaction or restless for more time.
I want to laugh as you laugh with no shadow of regret.
Your clear, bright voice brings joy to the circle of your friends.
I want to know what you know about the days ahead-
that the dreams, the work, the memories all lead to stronger steel.
Words can't describe how sad I am this week as I returned very recently from a climbing trip to Yosemite. For the third year in a row Todd welcomed me to his Yosemite Ranch. He was never hesitant to fill my wine glass, put dinner on my plate, and gab into the wee hours of the night with the most fantastic climbing stories and tales of yesteryear. It has been a priveledge to know you Todd.
It is surreal that only two weeks ago I was in this mans presence. Todd talked much about some great granite cracks near the Wind River's that they were developing; knowing that I like crack climbing so much. I told him before I left that I would come out to Wyoming for a month to see this amazing trad climbing area. I know Todd would still have me visit.
To Amy, Hannah, Jake, and Sarah I am so sorry. I grieve with you.
There are two things that always come to mind whenever I think of Todd: He was someone filled to the brim with a kind of "spiritual incandescence" and as well a personal effervescence. Together, these two qualities merged in a spectacularly unique individual ... someone who was a light for the world and everyone around him. We are all so lucky that, for whatever time we shared with Todd, we had the chance to stand in that light.
Its hard to believe that this is post number 360. I am amazed that everyone has come and posted their individual memories about my Uncle that are now being saved and being made into memory books for our family. I thank you all for the continuous stories and thoughts. Also, I would like to thank everyone who spoke at the memorial and all the climbers who included me into their Lander family and communtiy- you all are awesome. Thanks also for all the offers for climbing I got- I appreciate it. I cannot wait until that pancake breakfast we talked about. I will def. bring tons of t-shirts that we can cut the collars out of haha. We need to make that happen. I can't stop coming back and reading everything. This weekend was most def. one of the hardest if not the hardest things I have ever had to go through but everyone being there to support eachother, thank you SO much. I have made the decision to climb again and do a run or two up Devil's Tower in memory of the dream my Uncle Todd and I had. Any takers to come with are more than welcome. Just drop me an email. I took this picture of Sarah and I. I thought it was cute. Please still keep Sarah, Jake, Hannah and my Aunt Amy in your thoughts. (Aunt Amy...I LOVE AND MISS YOU ALL ALREADY)
What a beautiful post and lovely tribute to your uncle Todd and family and friends. You are quite special in your own right and a great writer, too - You speak straight from the heart and hit the bullseye everytime with your keen eye and your eloquent expression.
Becca, You have your uncle's tremendous appreciation for all the people around you, too - It's one of his most precious and endearing qualities. It's not surprising to me though, being that you are a member of the magical Skinner family. Great photo of you and Sarah - you look like sisters!!!! You guys are A #1 ADORABLE!
Glad to hear the rock tower is calling to you - if it's truly what you want for yourself, you will have a ball, and like your Uncle Todd, you won't ever feel you've climbed enough...take it from me...I'm 51, and I don't climb as much as I'd like, but when I get the chance to rope up you can't keep me away from the crags.
If you're ever in the area; visiting JTree or Yosemite; just holler and we'll come by and visit with you! We're in Van Nuys, CA.
Peace and healing be with you and Many Happy Trails and Ascents to come!
Every single thing you wrote is an unparalleled testament to your infinite love and devotion to your eternally embraced and highly admired man. As we all grieve Todd's death, I can't even begin to imagine what it is like for you and your beautiful children, Amy. Thank you for sharing your wonderful self and your stunningly beautiful feelings for Todd with us. I'm sure that our cowboy/hero knew exactly what he was doing when he picked you to be his cowgirl/heroine and partner for life. No less than the Best would do!
May your love for one another and Todd's for you all begin to light your way during these dark days.
We are thinking of you and your safekeeping. We have sent a small donation and hope you will be well cared for in the days to come.
Thank you, too for reminding us to nurture our love for one another while there is time and opportunity.
Wishing you Peace that passes understanding and a healing heart-
I would like to send my most sincere condolences to Amy and her family. Though I met Todd only twice, once at Hueco Tanks and then in Albuquerque, I have to agree that he was an amazing individual with a strong love for living life to the fullest. His memory will live on forever, as he has touched so many lives. Amy you are an amazingly strong woman! Your reply to the offers for help is incredible. I have printed it out and am having it laminated so I can tape it to the bathroom mirror; I want to read it everyday to remind myself what is truly important, my family and friends. And as our Free At Last poster is autographed, “Let’er Buck”
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family,
A little over a year ago, my husband was diagnosed with lymphoma. We have two small children, ages 4 and 2. I thought long and hard about what life would be like without him (he is now in remission). I was scared about a lot of things, but decided in the end they were all surmountable, especially with the right network in place to help me. It sounds like you have a lot of support of family and friends -- it also sounds like you are a strong cookie, but do remember to lean on your support network from time to time. You'll enjoy your kids more if you have the network to help ease some of the burden. And don't forget to be a little selfish. Take good care of your health, mental and physical. Sometimes let someone else do the work while you just enjoy your kids. They need you now. They really need you.
I had a short but fun climbing career. Learned on Tuolomne meadows slabs, continued to the valley, then moved to France for a 1.5 year postdoc and more climbing. Returned to work, then marriage (non climber), then kids, so I don't climb anymore. My only encounter with Todd was when he spoke to our company, Cadence Design Systems. You could hear a pin drop in the room as he told his tales. He wowed the crowd, and people talked about it for a long time. (Are there any video's of one of his inspirational talks? They should be sold with the proceeds going to the fund for the kids!)
Take care of yourself Amy, those 3 precious little ones are depending on you. My condolences to you, your children, and your entire family. May you find solace in your happy memories.
I am sorry I was unable to make it to Todd's service. It sounds like it was a fantastic tribute to a life well lived.
Even though we had minimal contact the last several years, my memories of times with Todd are among my fondest. From the nascent years of Hueco as a climbing destination, when 12 people made it crowded, to speed climbing in Yalta 20 years ago at the USSR speed climbing championships, Todd always made where ever we were special and fun.
Like all of us, I'll miss him. It's a poorer world with his passing.
I received the sad news of Todd's death from my teenage son, Sam, a member of the British Youth Climbing Squad.
Sam and his younger brother Ed were eight and six when Todd and a mixed bag of North American and South African climbers, including my two friends Andy de Klerk and Ed February, arrived on our doorstep in Bamako, Mali en route to the Hand of Fatima. I was then working in Mali as a Geologist and was able to provide modest support to their logistics. In return, Todd and his friends were an inspiration for my children. The erection of a portaledge on the exterior of one of the classrooms at the American International School will be fondly remembered by a wider audience!
Only a month ago while on leave in the UK (I am still working as an itinerant Geologist in Africa), I e-mailed Todd a short note with details of what the two boys had been up to on a family rock climbing road trip around England & Wales in August. His response was immediate, enthusiastic and supportive. They were really pleased. Typically his response included a warm invitation to the delights of Wyoming rock!
We are all saddened to learn that the opportunity to renew our friendship will not be possible.
I found out about Todd today. I never climbed with Todd but I met him about 20 years ago at Devils Tower. I had a VW bug with bad brakes and he gave me a can of brake fluid that was about five years old. It got me to the winds and then back home.
Hanging out at the campground we thought it was hilarious that his major was in business of all things. His stories: volkswagon busses, climbing. teepees and more climbing
He gave us Beta on how to climb Pingora and he had great spirit. Really great spirit.
I am sad and very sorry.
I just found my e-mail from Garold & Lucie Whisler yesterday about Todd.
I am one of those who never knew Todd, & I am not a climber. I may have met Amy once in Las Vegas sometime between 1992 & 1994, but I'm not sure. Todd may have even been with her. Anybody hearing Garold or Lucie speaking of Amy & Todd knew that there was immense admiration for their son-in-law (and his wife, their daughter! :-)). And when Hannah was born, it was as though the sun was shining JUST for them! And then the twins came! Same thing!
I can tell that the rest of the world thought very "highly" (no pun intended!) of him, too, whether or not they agreed with him in whatever way! (I have learned so much about the climbing world since yesterday!) From all of the stories that have been told, & are yet to be told, about Todd, I know that he was well-respected, & loved by many people. He will be missed.
My prayers & heart go out to Amy, Hannah, Jake, & Sara, and to his father, brother, & sister, as well as the Whislers (including Young Garold, Scott & Mollie & their children, & to all of the rest of his family & friends who knew & loved him.
I had the honor of seeing Garold & Lucie for the first time in 11 years, 2 years ago this week at the memorial service for a mutual friend, another outdoorsman, Eric Anderson. I know that Eric & Todd are climbing thru Heaven together, along with others friends that they have picked up along the way!
God bless & happy climbing, Todd. You are missed & loved!
Wo, I just found myself in a conversation with Todd about ultimate meanings. Through our different approaches to the question (me, from within the space-time goo, Todd from out on the edge of life on this planet) we arrived at the same idea, Now is important. Right now.
Really been thinking of those vibrant, hilarious, and sunny times - with a good breeze blowing off the sea. And those cloudy, dark times with very cold hands; ultimately buoyant times, generative, lightening, enlightening, and enlaughening. Especially the half year vagging and cragging around Europe. Todds first trip overseas; massive packs and little clue. A wonderful muddling through. Such a fertile time, a beginning point sending us onward. Todd rededicated himself to the rock, came back to the states, and went to work at Hueco.
I have this big collage of alternating memory flashes... That bright-eyed face of Todd, turned upward, screaming, I am Spartacus (and he was) under the serious Peloponnesian sky, standing in the narrow arrow window of the Byzantine hillside ruins, preparing to dump boiling urine on the heads of my men. Gods were visible in the clouds. The smell the rock walls is vivid. And there were the quiet times, hugging all night, Christmas eve 1983, on that cold limestone knife ridge above Patras and the Ionian Sea, jumping jacks every twenty minutes, shivering, laughing till the morning sun long walk down to plates of dripping souvlaki, shots of ouzo. To the backstreets of small town Finland, as everywhere, making friends, heading out to the family sauna and snow roll. Serious puking on the ferry from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire. Getting experienced with Guinness. The small car ride through Belfast to Fairhead on the northeast coast - columnar, like the Tower. Dalriada climbers. Fontainblea boulders - and the one problem I did that you didn’t get. Ha! Endless smoky trains with late night sleeper car gendarme visits. Todd, always so innocent, so guilty. So maddening - that heart pounding chess. Cruising through Stavanger fiord you circled around the frozen deck, arms held out to the looming cliffs. You wanted to climb them all. And you did. You kept at it. I kind of marvel at that. Damn your eyes anyway!
I could go on but right now I’m thinking of some lines from a poem called, A Brief For the Defence, by Jack Gilbert, in his book, Refusing Heaven. Great title!
... If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything...
Really cool to have hung out with someone who had magnitude at the beginning, and the middle as well.
Right now EmmyLou is singing that old Hendrix song, loud...
Nothing can go wrong
Nothing can go wrong
My sweet waterfall
when I go
when I go down deep
I want you here with me
My sweet waterfall
I can see
a rainbow calling me
through your mystery
my sweet waterfall
for a million days
fall with me for a million days
my sweet waterfall
Nothing can go wrong
Nothing can go wrong
My sweet waterfall
Nothing that I can say will take the hurt away, I realize that. I am just so sorry for your loss. I have held you in my thoughts and my heart bleeds for you. I know how much Todd means to you. You have a love that very few find. Bank on that love. I know that Carol is there with you. Lean on her. She's a rock. I send my love to you and the kids, Rhonda
Sending our fondest love and thoughts to Amy, her children and Todd's family, after hearing about Todd's accident on 23rd October.We were privilaged to welcome Todd into our family home, alongside Paul Piana and other wonderful members of the expedition team, when they came to Mali, West Africa, to climb The Hand of Fatima.Our children then,were little, but oh, do they remember that visit! What an inspirational team!Fantastic at their sport, organised beyond belief, laid-back, kind-hearted,funny,wonderful, wonderful people.
So very sad that Todd has gone, but he has inspired so many, of which our children are some, and this inspiration will carry on.
Thinking of you all at this very difficult time. Keep smiling, as Todd would always want you to.
Denise, Ashley, Sam and Edward Hamer
There is no way to express the loss we all feel at this news. There is so much I will miss about Todd, but I will forever miss the sounds of his children when he came home, and smores and stories in the teepee while waiting for King and Queen Nature to arrive(..to be continued in his honor..:0)) To Amy, H, J and S...we will always keep coming home.
I have been reading all these wonderful posts over the last few days. I am blown away by the responces and the thoughtfulness of everyone. I find it difficult to jump in and add my own thoughts as it seems that everything has been said. I have been trying to think of new ways to say how this tradgety has affected my family and what I have learned from Todd as well.
Ultimately there must be some good that comes from his loss. For us, as with many, it has forced us to pause, and take time to reflect on those that are important in our lives. To take the time to tell someone we love them or what they mean to us.
I first met Todd when I decided to get more serious about climbing and moved to lander about 10 years ago. After my long drive from Wisconsin, I was introduced to Todd by Andy Skiba and we immediatly headed up to the Wild Iris. It was late June of 95' and we trudged through waist high snow to a 5.14 project those guys were working on. Andy took me over to a 5.9 that I finally managed to get up. When I was being lowered, Todd had followed our tracks over through the snow to see how it was going. I always remembered being impressed by how he actually cared about what I was trying and that he took the time to come over to me.
I lived on Lucky lane the next summer and again always felt welcome and part of a close community even though I was on the low end of the spectrum when it came to grades and only around for the summers. I was always impressed with the people and their inclusiveness to others. I know Todd had a hand in developing these attitudes and values and it rubbed off on everyone he met.
That was the beginning of my climbing career. I have been climbing many places around the world and there are few that are as inclusive and welcoming as the Lander climbing community. His enthusiasm and energy cannot help but spread. I sure appreciated being exposed to these values from the start. It has affected me in my climbing. I have and will continue to try and pass that along through my interactiuons with others in and out of climbing.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Amy and the kids, family and friends all over.
I'm taking the liberty of posting a couple excepts from an email exchange I had with Todd over the Wet Denim Daydream on Leaning Tower Bolt controversy. Reading his words again made me feel that his food for thought should be shared. At first I thought I'd just post his philosophy of the second two emails but added the one below since we're climbers and having the ethical perspectives of various pioneers serves the community debate and consensus.
One interesting point that hasn't been brought up is that I talked
extensively to Angus Thurmer about adding bolts to WDD and he had no
problem with it. He pointed out that if the bolts were far enough from
the corner, there would be two routes: WDD using aid and not reaching out
to clip the bolts, and WLN clipping the bolts while free climbing. I just
called him and he was 100% against chopping the bolts, stating that it was
an intellectual problem, not an ethical one.
One reason I haven't brought this up is that I have never considered the
first-ascentionists to be the owners of the route, and this includes me
and routes I have put up. The future climbers inherit each route before
the chalk dust settles and our allegiance must always be to them. If Alex
Huber really did create a crimp on the last section of the headwall of the
Salathe as I have been told, the climbers to come are affected- not the
climbers that have already passed.
Angus asked how climbers could clip
the bolts while aid climbing and think they have done WDD. He likened it
to using a long cheater stick, which is also a personal choice. He
stressed personal choice again and again, which I agreed with completely,
and bemoaned the "sheriffs" that have always appointed themselves the
interpreters of fixed rules in a dynamic, evolving sport.
Another reason that I haven't brought up my discussions with Angus is that
this situation must stand on its own. What if it was one of Harding's
routes? Do we leave it exactly like he did, in a "mausoleum mind-set"?
Who could seriously argue that he was against bolts? Again, reverence for
the past, allegiance to the future.
Also, there are fanatics on both sides. I got an e-mail from someone who
I have never met and has never done a wall who paraphrased the Zen saying,
"Chop 100 bolts, put in 101". Sounds like nobody "wins" ,but for sure the
rock loses- and, by extension, so do we all.
Stay hungry- Todd Skinner
Karl note: This is just grist for the mill. Folks who want to debate Todd's perspective on this should copy it to a new thread.
....................from another email
One of the good things about climbing for so many years and in so many
different areas is that my perspective has improved. I've seen people
die, seen children that were starving and would not last the month, seen a
family bury a 6 month old girl and hurry on toward a doctor 5 days away to
try to keep their other 3 kids from dying of malaria- things that really
do matter. We are only petty if we allow ourselves to forget how
wonderful and easy our lives are here in America.
Thank you once again for the spectacular photographs- you'll have to visit
next spring to see the frames I made- Todd Skinner
........Ending of another email...
We must move toward the light even if the journey leads through darkness-
...So prior to our hike I spent a considerable amount of time arguing with my 6 year old son Lachlan on why he had to wear his hiking boots, not his flip flops. We get to the trailhead to meet up with Todd, Amy and the kids, and there's Jake, wearing flip flops. Seeing the injustice, Lach instantly turned to Todd and demanded, "Why's he wearing flip flops?" Todd responded with a smile, "What better way for him to learn?"
I will miss his enthusiasm for life and how excited he got for the little discoveries the kids made along the way. How kind, caring, and gentle he was with Hannah, Sarah and Jake.
Amy, here is the poem...It is a Pueblo Blessing, of which Todd took some poetic license. It seems appropriate in the days to come.
Hold on to what is good, even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe in, even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do, even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to your dreams, even when it is easier to let go.
And hold on to my hand, even when I am far away.
Never thought we'd be saying s'long...
"The wild wind is calling, I would be free."
The last time I saw Todd I spent the afternoon sitting on his living room floor chatting about the 6 years that had passed since the last time we had spent time togehter. The difference this time was that we were sharing more thoughts on parenting then climbing. Hannah and Sarah were rolling around all around us, and I was expecting my second in about 6 months. How times had changed?
Todd was probably one of the greatest influences on my climbing career. Not because he was such a great climber, or he tapped into a part of me that made me try harder, but because he was so inviting and friendly. His presence is electric and it has and uncanny ablility to spread like wildfire. He gets everyone around him jonesing. He had a glint in his eye and a beaming smile. My grandmother would have said "he has a little devil in his eye."
Whenever I speak of my time living in Lander, on Lucky Lane, it is with warm thoughts and great enthusiasm. Todd and Amy are two of the most generous, and kind people I may have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Amy, Hannah, Sarah, and Jake, my deepest sympathies for your loss.
With much love.
I erased my previous draft as it was too long-winded! My brother, Bob and I met the Skinners on a Gannett Peak Expedition in 1977. Bob summitted Gannett and was on Todd and his Dad's team; I traveled with Orion and Holly and summitted Mount Helen.
My most vivid memories of that summer were Orion singing "George of the Jungle" while saddling the pack horse, "George" each morning, Todd's athletic ability and my first rappelling experience with their Dad as the top belay! I know where they get their sense of humor from-the look of sheer terror on my face was mirrored by their Dad and my spontaneous laughter when I finally leaned back and stepped off the edge was drowned out by his!
The following summer I had the priviledge of summer skiing in Zermat with Amy Skinner (Courtney's daughter?) and climbing with Steve Macintosh...WOW!
I emailed Bob the day that I heard about Todd's passing and he said that he would try and locate some pictures from our summer in the Wind Rivers and send them along.
We are devastated by the combined losses of Todd and his mother, but know that Amy, the children, Orion, Holly and Dad are in good hands with all of the close friends and admirers world-wide of this remarkable family.
I have already sent a contribution to the Memorial Fund and hope to return to Wyoming oneday.
I've spent a couple of days reading this thread and thinking about Todd. I didn't know him very well, but I am strongly affected by his death. I met him a number of times over the years and he did always seem to remember me. I appreciated that and I was a little amazed by it.
Todd had a very strong presence about him, and many people here have talked about it. His energy really was infectious and when in his presence you would find yourself doing things you might not have otherwise. My favorite memory is from 1989 (I think) in City of Rocks. A friend and I were at the store and buying a few supplies. Todd was there too and next to the store was a house with a large backyard and a a tree filled with apples that were almost within reach. I don't remember the exact details, but Todd was definitely leading the push. Soon we were standing on the fence, and stretching out and grabbing some fresh apples. They were delicious.
I will miss Todd's energy and his youthless abandon. My sincerest condolences to his family and everyone else whose life he has affected.
I continue to be grateful for this thread. It comforts me and soothes my heart and mind. Todd has always had a profound influence on me, even though the times we shared were few and far between and mostly long ago. Two friends reached out to let me know what happened to Todd. I sat for a long time thinking about Todd. Then I thought about all the people I love and how as time passes I will continue to lose them. As I get older I am aware that for all of us the odds seem to increase and the inevitable draws nearer. Todd's memorial spurned me into action, determining to let go of the past and it's seeming injustices and apparent misunderstandings and embrace the future.
Thanks Karl Baba for sharing Todd's words. "Reverence for the past, allegiance to the future" confirms the direction for my life in all things.
So many beautiful things were said at the memorial, but one I carry with me now is what Todd's cousin Ellen said. I paraphrase here, but she told a story about a conversation she and Todd were having at family wedding not long ago. Todd talked about death, remarking that sudden death was the worst, hardest for people left behind to get over. How a long, slow death gave you time to spend with the person and get used to the idea. Todd queried Ellen in his usual daunting fashion, asking "how do you die gracefully?" Ellen said she was dumbfounded and neither of them had an answer. Now at the service, a few short days since Todd's death, she knew the answer... it is to live gracfully.
It is a remarkable community that Todd created around himself, and so even in his death, he continues to touch us...
Just got home from Todd's memorial service a couple of days ago, "Toddisms" echoing in my head as I drove. "Live your life like a thrown knife." I feel more like a folding knife stuck in a pocket most days, but maybe I have time to change that. Still feels unreal to know he is gone. Seeking solace in the poetry of Rumi, these words speak to the emptiness I feel:
Imagine the time the particle you are
Returns where it came from!
The family darling comes home. Wine,
without being contained in cups
is handed around.
A red glint appears in a granite outcrop,
and suddenly the whole cliff turns to ruby....
...he gave me a bowl
And I saw: the soul has this shape.
Shams, and actual sunlight,
help me now.
Being in the middle of being partly in myself,
and partly outside.
The diversity of the people who came to Todd's farewell party is an amazing testament to the broad influence Todd had in this life. They ranged from cattle ranchers he grew up with in Pinedale, to corporate executives in suits, climbers of all stripes from far and wide, Lander locals who knew him as a great dad to three fantastic kids, dogs and small children romping in the melting snow and mud, and of course his large and loving family.
Todd, you will live on in our memories, and in the inspiration we draw from you as we carry on. May the wind always be at your back, pardner.
For those that could not attend Todd's memorial service, we just posted a SNEWS® Live podcast from the service with rememberances that we hope will further help to underscore just how much this man meant to so many people. For me, it is his smile that would light up any room, any event, any moment, that I will always remember. To listen, go to: http://www.snewsnet.com/cgi-bin/snews/07277.html
My husband and I first met Todd at a slide show in NJ. It was classic Todd. We remember him saying, "Why work? Go climbing! You can work when you are 90!" I guess we took it to heart because a few years later we quit our jobs, sold our condo and, in our mid-thirtes, decided to "go climbing." During our 2 year climbing trip we met up with Todd again while climbing in Hueco Tanks (March 2, 1998). We related to him our first meeting and the fateful words he spoke. Needless to say, he was thrilled.
We had a mutual acquintance in the outdoor industry and Todd wanted us to send him a fax from his house about how here we were living the dream and there was our friend still sitting behind the desk. Kind of a "wish you were here" with a Cheshire cat grin! Typical Todd.
The other day, my mother handed me a small clipping from a local paper that told of his death. I was so saddened. I just kept looking at the words thinking they don't really tell people about the man. The feeling stayed with me for days. When I told my husband the news, he had the same reaction.
Our meetings were fleeting but he left a big mark on us. His enthusiasm and personality were contagious. He will be missed. Our sympathies go out to the families and friends left behind.
Life continues in the Skinner household, thanks to your good wishes and wonderful memories. I wanted to post a few photos of Todd as Dad for you to see. I'm a gumby in the computer world, so I'm crossing my fingers that this works!!!
Again, thank you to all who are supporting us. We welcome your calls and visits and look forward to seeing you down the road.
Amy and team
Thanks so very much, Amy! What beautiful pictures! It is sooo good to see their smiling faces... and to see Todd in that most precious role as their father. Children anchor us and tie us to the future like nothing else. What a blessing they are. You are kind to share these photos with us. Todd always said you were an awesome mother... I am glad to know that they will always find comfort in your arms and courage to explore the world with you by their side. Warmest and best wishes to you and the kids.
My condolences to you, your family, and all your dear friends. I read your post on the "twins" thread. Your children are beautiful and your spirit is impressive!
All our best,
Courtney, Jim, and our newborn twins, Parker and CJ
Thank you for sharing photos - it's great seeing him as a dad! You don't know me - I went to school with Todd in Pinedale, but if you need anything, if there is anything I can do to help, let me know. I mostly live in Jackson & sometimes Pinedale, but often drive the Jackson-Pinedale-Riverton loop and usually pause in Lander.
Thank you so very much for those wonderful pictures and for letting us share in your grief, I know that reading these postings has helped me to better understand Todd and his many friends around the world. We are all better persons because we knew him. In my case, it was many (too many years) ago and I am sorry that I did not keep in touch.
Please say hello to all of his family for me and I look forward to seeing future pictures and postings on this site.
Thanks for posting the pictures. I was half way between laughing and crying. I especially like the picture where sarah has the net over her head. I adore those kids. When talking on the phone to Jake on Saturday, he informed me that I was coming to see them for turkey. When I confirmed it he said SARAH! BECCA IS COMING TO SEE US! Just talking to them and you, Aunt Amy makes me soo happy. You dont know how much I love you all. The first picture is of Uncle Todd before we went to explore on some rocks. I will include one of my favorite memories of him below the pictures:
The second picture is proly my favorite picture in the entire earth now!! When we were driving up to go explore, we pass this sign that says PRIVATE PROPERTY. So..of course, being me, I bring the point of the sign up. Uncle Todd launched into a story about how his friends and him went out there to explore and see if there was any good climbing. One of his friends saw the sign and asked what would happen if they got caught since someone's house was in the middle of the property. Uncle Todd said, "well..someone's got to tell them the Pope died!" I dont think I have ever laughed so hard at a story in my life. We did get confronted by the owners but Uncle Todd talked his way out of getting into trouble, like he could..I really truly miss him and love him. Pictures from last thanksgiving:
Most of them are of Sarah and I since we seem to really have a bond with eachother.
Just because time marches on and the shock of losing Todd in our world is wearing off, does not mean we are thinking of him or missing him any less. I could never forget nor ever want to forget the treasure trove of gifts we have all received from this goodhearted, mischieveous soul that came barreling through our lives like a shooting star, before being called back to the heavens, all too soon....
This site, as well as Todd's Virtual Climbing tour site are on my favorites list and I check in a few times a week to see if there are any new posts...I was delighted to see your post & photos, Amy, and yours, Becca - thanks so much for shraring these intimate family shots - Unofortunately, I never knew Todd as a Dad, but when I photographed him with my 11 month son in J.Tree in 1991, I had no doubt what tender, loving destiny lie ahead for him, and I am so happy he found that supreme joy that comes with finding one's soul mate and creating a family in the embrace of that love. Todd loved well and was dearly aloved in return. That will never change within him nor within you, his family and us, his friends, whether we knew him well or briefly.
Been out of the loop for a while and am just finding out now, so for me this just happened yesterday...
I met Todd at Hueco in the early 80's, and climbed with him there on and off for the next decade. It seemed like we had a yearly reunion there every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Man, so many memories! Long bouldering sessions in the Dark Heart, full moon nights in the East Spur, trying to work out the moves on the overhang at the top of Amplified Heat, watching Todd inadvertently free solo Plastic Famtastic.
Todd was way better than me (understatement!), but he was always encouraging of my efforts, always pushing me to try harder than I thought I could. He was even encouraging when I turned down an invite to go down to Copper Canyon with him, Bill Hatcher and Les Harmon so that I could start Grad school. He knew that being a musician was as strong a passion for me as climbing, and supported my decision. "Go be great," he said. Well, I 've tried to be. I've tried to put the same intentisty into my music as Todd put into his training, and now I play on Broadway in NYC.
We ran into each other a few more times at Hueco and at Yosemite, where he was as excited about my traditional ascent of El Cap as he was about his & Paul's free ascent. I saw him briefly in Lander two summers ago on my way to Sinks Canyon and the Tetons.
Sorry about the length of this post, but I am overwhelmed with thoughts and memories of Todd. As I end here, two things stand out: One, his smile. He was always smiling as though he knew a secret you didn't, and it always drew you in. Two, his hands. His hands were the strongest I've ever encountered. When you shook hands with Todd, there was no give to his hands whatsoever. It was like gripping a rock. It's hard to believe that those hands are now at rest.
Amy, all my best to you and the kids. When I heard the news I gathered up my own kids and held them for a long time. You are in my prayers.
No one knows when that last drop of ink
Will fall from the end of an angel’s trembling pen…
That signifies the end of
A good man’s life.
So, if with pleasure, you are viewing,
Any work a man is doing,
If you like him or you love him
Let him know it!
Do not withhold your approbation
Until that pastor makes oration
For he cannot read his tombstone
When he’s dead.
I remember hearing this from an old Groucho Marx
‘You Bet Your Life’ episode while waiting for Todd and Amy to come out of the Wild Iris cold and down to my 1-room apartment “The Alamo” in Lander around 1990 to warm up while they were working hard to develop the Wild Iris. “Said why don’t you live in Lander? It’s warmer down here than up there in Atlantic City.” And so they would and the rest is history.
Knowing Todd since 1980 in Oak Creek Canyon, AZ when Todd came on the scene like gasoline and was soloing everything on site, to his Wind River Home in Pinedale, to the Devil’s Tower Teepee, to Hueco Tanks haciendas and finally back to the Wind Rivers and Lander, there was always so much fun and shenanigans involved as with all who knew Todd.
If you were at the memorial service or are reading this now, I have to ask,
Who here was ever handed a plate of food or fed by Todd? Raise your hand!
Who here was ever sheltered in some form or fashion by Todd? Raise your hand!
Who here has ever laughed with or at Todd? Raise your hand!
One can envision multitudes of hands being raised.
Memories arise of driving back with Todd during a “Stay Hungry” Midwest Slide Show Tour after a winter training in Hueco Tanks had put us in fine shape. Todd was eager to climb in the new areas of the Midwest and East Coast and anxious to do a good job with his North Face sponsored Salathe slide show when I threw a little wrench in his plans.
“The father of one of my best friend’s from Arizona had recently lost his wife of 40 years. My friend says he is really bummed and could use a little company. Could we stop by for dinner with him en route to your St. Louis slide show?” Todd looked at me for a second like I was nuts, feeling the time crunch of slide show responsibilities and the desire to burn a few laps on any chunk of overhanging stone. How far out of the way is it?” Todd asked. “Couple hours”…his look intensified, but then softened as he said, “Well, by God, let’s go put a smile on an old man’s face.”
Todd gave Homer a lot to smile about through numerous adventures. As Homer, an astute old football coach, bid us farewell that night, he looked at Todd and said, “Clownman, you come visit an old man again! Now, no matter how small, a kindness delivered with good intention should never be undervalued. For years to come, Homer would ask me, “What big wall is Clownman climbing this time?” Or, “Where’s that Clownman now?” And that is what Todd was, a well-remembered clown, he just didn’t always wear the red nose, unless it had gotten lots of sun.
Thanks Todd, for all the incredible memories: breaking bread, the 5.13 flashes, the possible impossible, the training sessions, the elusive obvious, and the stories that made climbers and all folks come to life.
Always on the cutting edge of climbing,
An impression of Todd at the Wild Iris, WY
My heart goes out to Amy and the children, the Skinner and Whisler families, all the Lander friends, and Paul, Bill, and all the intrepid climbers/adventurers Todd shared life with.
Many who have heard of Todd’s passing felt as if they’d been punched in the gut.
Here’s one little story to help:
When Paul, Todd, Galen, and I were just pulling off the ground at Mt. Hooker in 1990, a football-sized rock got dislodged by the haul bags and came sizzling down into Galen’s gut, sending him reeling bassackwards thru the meadow. Looked like Terrible Terry Tate had delivered it. On impact, it wasn’t obvious if Galen had broken ribs or a rock projecting out of his back. Todd and I looked at each other with great concern
(F-u-u-*-…!). But Galen was coming out of it… slowly. Maybe we should hold up on the climbing for a while I pondered to Todd.
Todd and Galen reflecting at basecamp, Mt. Hooker, WY
Todd, in his brilliance, seeing Galen resurrecting with laudable durability, shouted,
“It’s a great day for a summit! Don’t worry, we’ll make it!”
“OK, Game on!!!” we all thought. (15 yard penalty for roughing the photographer) Galen was up - the stadium would have roared had there been one there. And off we went and somehow we all knew we would make it.
So while you’re thinking about Todd,
Take the punch, but be sure to get up and put on your game face!
It’s the Cowboy Way.
When a legend dies...print the legend!
Tim N. Toula
P.S. Todd’s already at the summit. We’re still climbing… May we all join him!
P.S.S. Thanks to all those friends who have called or in some way shared their thoughts.
My God.....that's just about the saddest thing I can imagine for the family. My heart goes out to the entire Skinner family. Wish I had more to offer than just lame words of condolence. At least I know that their incredible strength will see them all through, not to mention the huge circle of friends.
During this season of reflection, I’d like to say thank you and pass on a challenge.
Every day that has passed since Todd’s death, I’ve benefited from his legacy of generosity, kindness and optimism. Every day that goes by, I receive a letter, call or visit from at least one person who was better for having met him. This great legacy also extends to the enormous community of the Whisler and Skinner clans, who taught Todd and me how to live a life that makes a difference in our world. We both had tremendous childhoods and were given the foundations of love of the natural world and the importance of sharing whatever we had from a very early age.
Bob and Doris Skinner raised three exceptional children – one of them was my husband and the other two, along with their families, are the greatest of friends. My children and I are fortunate to be a part of this extensive and wonderful family.
When I first met Todd, we began to read, write, think, discuss and argue how to best reach the goal of making our lives, and the lives of those in our community, better. For almost 20 years, we learned from our parents, our children, and our friends that you cannot, and would not want to, achieve one goal without the other. The community that we considered was one made up of friends, family and strangers as far reaching as Capetown, Halong Bay and the Copper Canyon. Todd believed that you could and should learn from anyone you met and so we learned: toughness from the Tarahumara, humor from the Vietnamese “boat people”, love of life from the South Africans, integrity from the handshake of antique gun enthusiasts.
Life was rarely easy with Todd, and so it was good. He demanded exceptional performance from all of us whom he chose to surround himself with and applied even higher standards to himself. In his book, written with sister Holly, he wrote, “Your final gratitude is always to the mountain for being hard enough to change you on the climb.” He changed me and I am grateful.
Todd left us with many reminders of how to make a difference in someone else’s life. I received this note recently: “ You don’t know me. I am an 85 year old who sat next to your husband . . .. What a nice young man. He made me laugh. . .” One of my favorite Todd stories is from a trip before I met him. He was camped at Buox, France in a weeks-long rainstorm. With his trip just starting, he traded his brand new, hi-tech mountain tent to his Czechoslovakian neighbors for their tattered, floorless, canvas tent. He always admired the toughness and desire of the eastern European climbers and did all he could to support their efforts.
I tell these stories to remind myself and our community that Todd left a challenge for us to rise to: learn from everyone you meet, surround yourself with people willing to measure themselves against the highest standards and strive for improvement, share what you have, keep your sense of humor, and never give up.
And so I say thank you to my community for adding to our lives with previously unheard and familiar old “Todd” stories for my family to cherish, astonishing support, incredible food, unending hugs, and assurances that the future will be bright.
My friend and I were cruising around Sinks Canyon some years ago and were looking for some mtn biking after we had finished climbing. We ran into this guy hanging by a pickup with a bandana on and a friendly grin. Right away I knew who he was.
I told my friend that this was Todd Skinner and that we should go talk to him but we were both reluctant because we had been "dissed" by other big name climbers before.
Anyhow, I asked Todd where we might go to find some good riding. He was so down to earth and he gave off an amazing energy. He was humble saying he couldn't help us because "he couldn't ride a mtn bike worth a damn and that he always fell off them". I am sure someone with his background and skill set, especially bull riding, could hold his own but he was just being modest.
I asked how the hell he developed the tendon strength to do those 1-finger pull-ups that I saw him do on a climbing video and he said that he trained with weights so he could pull those overhanging pocket climbs at Wild Iris. When he showed me the middle finger tendon on the back of his hand it looked as big as my thigh.
We talked for awhile and then we were on our way but his attitude and vibe were highlights of the trip for me. I had a few moments with him and am saddened by his loss knowing what a great person he must have been to hang with. I feel for his family and friends and their loss. However, I bet that their memories of him will loom large and run deep like the mountains and rivers that he roamed.
To me, Todd Skinner is a modern day Mountain Man.
P.S.- Amy, your attitude and perspective is truly an inspiration.