Ned Gillette and Ellesmere Island


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Fat Ba$tard

Social climber
St. Paul, MN
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 7, 2007 - 12:22pm PT
I posted the following on the Telemarktips forum and am posting this here by suggestion of one of the responses.

For some years I have been searching for a published account of Ned Gillette's Ellesmere Island expedition and to date my search has turned up nothing outside of a few passing comments. Does anybody know of a published account of that expedition and, or have an idea as to anybody else who may know? I would love to get my hands on a copy if anything was published. The Ellesmere Island expedition has always intrigued me and every year as the seasons change I renew my search for information. Thanks for any help you are able to provide.

Trad climber
Denver, CO
Dec 7, 2007 - 12:39pm PT
I thought he wrote a book about it. . .
You might check with Outside magazine or National Geo Expolorer.
They might have had an article on it. I remember reading an
article in Outside a loooong time ago that was about his
planning for the trip, but not the trip itself.
I was lucky enough to meet Ned after he & Rowell & ?
just had climbed Mustagatah (the first western climbers in
China) in '77. I did a pretty neat radio story on it--he was
quite a gentleman, and a great explorer. Too bad bandits killed him in Pakistan.
Good luck.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 7, 2007 - 12:54pm PT
There's a good book by a Canadian traveller, Jerry Kobalenko, about adventures all around Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg Islands. He's travelled there perhaps 20 times over the last two decades, in spring and summer. The book is called "The Horizontal Everest". It's not what you're asking about, but a good on topic read.
Fat Ba$tard

Social climber
St. Paul, MN
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 7, 2007 - 02:20pm PT
Thanks for the help. All of my online searches have turned up nothing. I've found articles on various other expeditions by Gillette, but all were after Ellesmere Island. Next week I'm going to try the library and see what their periodical databases turn up. I may need to then search for a hard copy, back issue of a magazine. That seems so old fashioned.

Social climber
The Deli
Dec 16, 2007 - 10:35pm PT
Hey FB, here you go!
Ned was my uncle – my Mom’s brother. We sifted through her file of Ned stuff (mine’s in storage…) and found a couple of articles. I don’t know exactly when they were published, but it was in the late 70’s in a local Vermont newspaper (as you can tell by the type-set…). I had to chop both pages of the first article in half because Photobucket only allows 800 pix max… I would have posted larger images that would be easier to read, but the site wouldn’t let me… I left the Nike and Volvo adds in because they show the era. Hope you can read this and it helps your search! If the text is too difficult to read, I can email you larger versions.

Ellesmere - Not the greatest scan, but you get the picture.
I found this photo in a more recent (1990) article on Ned in a Dartmouth alumni magazine.
Photo by Ned Gillette.

This article has nothing to do with the Ellesmere trip, but I like it and decided to include it here.
The last line is rather ironic…

Now I’ve got to go get another beer to say “cheers” to the greatest hero a kid could ever have. I wouldn’t be a climber if it weren’t for him. We love you Ned, and we miss you a lot!

Social climber
The West
Dec 17, 2007 - 03:26am PT
Wow, ask an yea shall receive. He was your uncle, minerals? I remember him from those badger pass xc touring races, he once gave my dad a bottle of champagne for coming in last. (he'd had the flu)
Big Kahuna

Ice climber
Hell Hardest climb I did was getting out of bed.
Dec 17, 2007 - 03:41am PT
Dam B! Put that goat on him that you sport and you are his mini me! As well as a dam fine climber in your own right.
Fat Ba$tard

Social climber
St. Paul, MN
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 17, 2007 - 11:15am PT
Thank you so much for the response, great articles. I picked up this information from the telemark tips forum.

"The Magazine your looking for is Mariah winter issue 1977, Vol. II
Number 4. I know this is the one because I'am looking at it as I type. Ned is on the cover sking on light weight 75mm gear, with those crummy light weight ankle boots I first tried to tele in.
This was the original Outside Magazine."

The poster mentioned he will attempt to get the article scanned and posted somewhere.

I'd love a copy of this emailed to me, thank you. I can read the text, but larger is better in my advanced age.

Got to love the Nike shoes!
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Dec 17, 2007 - 02:11pm PT
I sent a link to this thread to a friend who worked in The Valley in the Winter of '75-76.
They did a lot of running together, and he mentioned that he tried to keep up with Ned
on X-country skis - Ned had been an Olympian in the 30k. I remember him telling me
stories about Ned at the time of his senseless death several years ago.

captain chaos

Dec 17, 2007 - 04:14pm PT
Minerals.. your uncle was a very good friend of mine, and we did two great trips together, one was the Everest Grand Circle with Jan Reynolds, Steve McKinney and Jim Bridwell, and like all those kinds of trips there were some interesting times. The other one was on Aconcagua with Pete Patterson and Earl Wiggins, as a matter of fact when we were on our way to Aconcagua from Santiago we got stuck in Portillo for the night due to a slide over the pass. The Portillo ski area had just closed but there was still lots of snow and so we went out and tried our new skis and packs full of new gear. Ned wanted to try the lake run even though it was half water now, Pete and I knew the area well from past trips there and didn't recommend doing it, as we knew of people falling in even when it was frozen. Ned really wanted to do it badly and so finally we agreed to give it a go with the plan to hug the bank to get around the lake, if it would be possible anyway. I got to the bottom of the lake run first and when I looked up, Ned went blasting by me skating across the lake, I almost sht but then thought well if he falls in I'll know its not cool and so I followed in pursuit, about 200 meters out he broke though and disappeared I couldn't believe my eyes, then out of nowhere he popped up and was screaming for help. I looked back and saw that Pete & Earl were skirting the bank, I had two choices, go and try to save Ned and drown with him if it didn't work, or get my ass out of there before I broke though as well. In the end, I knew I had no choice... I had to go over there and try and pull him out as it was clear that he was going to drown if I didn't. The surface I was on was about 6 inches of wet snow with 3/4 of an inch of slush ice at the bottom and it was moving like swells in the ocean from Ned's thrashing to keep afloat with skis on and pack now full of water... so without hesitation, I went forward and spread eagled out and stuck my pole out to Ned, although he only managed to grab the tip of the pole, I got him half way out and then with no warning he lost his grip and down into the darkness he went... all I could see were bubbles and an eerie quite, suddenly he burst to the top of the surface with an wild electric type force I have never seen before... screaming bloody murder for help, I reached out with my pole and told him to grab around the basket, which he did, I gave a huge tug and yanked his ass out, skis, backpack full of water and all... which of course added a huge amount of weight onto the fragile surface we were on. I mean it didn't hold his weight when he was moving across it 60 pounds lighter (or more), before I could say anything he blew out of there like a bolt of lightening and was on the bank on the other side of the lake before I could blink. I put on the after burners and got my ass out of there as well, it was an intense situation and one that I'll never forget. The next trip Ned had planned was the row boat trip to Antarctica from Puenta Arenas, of course he asked me to go, I gave it a thought and said I don't know... I really have no experience with that kind of thing, he assured me I had the right stuff and would be OK, and so he took me out rowing so I could see what it was like, the first results were disastrous as I sunk his rowing scull out in the middle of some lake not far from his place in Stowe. I continued rowing and managed to keep the thing afloat but it wasn't enough for me to think I was the had the right kind of experience in the big seas like that to be of much help should something go wrong and so I declined. Anyway, I have many good stories of the two trips I did with Ned, so should you or any of your family wish to hear some, let me know, OK... I really miss Ned, he was a good friend, a great person with a spirit this earth does not see very often- Craig
Fat Ba$tard

Social climber
St. Paul, MN
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 18, 2007 - 01:00pm PT
Thanks for the emailed articles - my email reply got bounced back. All the best, Alan

Social climber
The Deli
Dec 19, 2007 - 01:33am PT
Alan, glad I could be of help. My Mom seems to remember that issue of Mariah, and thinks that she has a copy buried somewhere. She has also enjoyed reading this thread. Thank you. If the article is posted, could you post a link to it on this thread?

Craig, that is a great story! I remember seeing pictures of you in the Everest Grand Circle book… and I think we’ve been on El Cap at the same time. I would love to hear any more stories that you might have about Ned and I appreciate you taking the time to write! So, why is it that he kept falling into trouble and you guys kept plucking him out? :)

Yeah, I probably have a few stories that I could share…

I found these two on a poster:

Though it wasn’t a summit, I think this is kinda cool:

My hero:

I think this was on the Karakoram traverse in 1980 – a 300-mile winter ski crossing with Galen Rowell, Kim Schmitz, and Dan Asay.
Photo by Galen Rowell.

-Bryan Law
captain chaos

Dec 19, 2007 - 11:21am PT
Bryan, its really good to see all these things on Ned... they bring back great memories, and its nice to see the photos of Ned in his element. Ned was a very passionate adventurer, and he was also smart enough to bring solid people on his trips, he never let his ego get in the way when others voiced their opinions and or made critical decisions, which I always admired, it was one of the main reasons things always worked out. I was floored when I got news of his death the entire situation and circumstances were unbelievable. I couldn't even imagine how wild and bizarre that must have been for both Ned & Suzie... like a nightmare that didn't go away when you woke up. The thing which really got my attention was that Ned got out of the tent and fought them off to protect Suzie you can't be any more noble then that. Ned was truly bold right down to the biter end, there are not enough words that I can come up with that show my respect towards Ned, his last moments were truly heroic, I can only hope to handle things the same way should I be confronted with something like that.

Riley, nice to hear that the Everest Grand Circle was a good motivator for you... the trip was pretty wild, it was all our first time over there, and to top it off it was in the middle of the winter, on the Nepalese portion of the trip anyway. We all got our eyes full to say the least... lots of close calls with some big old monster sized avalanches, and rock fall on Pumori that seemed to picked me out of the bunch for some reason, as every time I went across this one ice face, I would have these football to TV sized rocks come off from above me and beeline it straight at me going Mach 1... I would watch them until I saw their final line and then would dive and duck in the opposite direction, we were 3rd classing in this particular area and directly below was a big old cliff, you know the kind you don't walk away from. Anyway, this one day about 30 of them came off all at the same time, I couldn't follow them all and so I just dove down face first stuck my ice axe in and hung on hoping I wouldn't get hit... and by luck I didn't. I guess it was the Himalayas way of welcoming me, same type of thing happened on my first climb on El Cap and with Speed Skiing. It seems the spirits of these of things wanted to drive it home to me what was involved when you venture into their territory, and believe me, I got a full dose.

Fat Ba$tard

Social climber
St. Paul, MN
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 20, 2007 - 12:14pm PT
Here is a link to the telemark tips Mariah article and the link to my photobucket account also. If I ever get my hands on the original article I'll rescan it in higher resolution. As it is the print is a bit tough to read, although I can make out most of it.

Got to love Camel sponsoring an expedition. Thanks for posting.

edit - forgot to post the link
Fat Ba$tard

Social climber
St. Paul, MN
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 20, 2007 - 12:21pm PT
Speaking of posters - any chance you have the Epoke 900 posters of the Ellesmere or Denali trips? If so, could you post a picture? When learning to cross country ski for the first time, the rental shop had these posters hanging on the wall. This was the first time I had heard of Epoke 900 skis, Ellesmere Island and Ned Gillette. I had to look up Ellesmere Island in an atlas. I feel old.

edit - I just noticed on the skis in the photo - remember the heel locators on the back?

Social climber
The Deli
Dec 20, 2007 - 10:52pm PT
Jaybro, my Mom seems to vaguely remember Ned telling her a story about that day at Badger. Nothing like a good bottle to cure the flu, aye?

Yeah, Riley… EGC… a good book with great photos and some neat stories, for sure! It’s definitely an inspiration to read. He was an inspiration to many. Glad you enjoyed it.

Thank you for your kind words, Craig. Yeah, he was an amazing person in many ways, to say the least. It’s nice to hear about those days. If you’ve got more, we’re all eyes.

Alan, the first Ellesmere article that I posted was published in the Times-Argus (?) on 4/10/77 (or at least that’s what is typed on a second copy of the article that I found). Thanks for posting the link – that’s quite a long article! Neat snow formations… and I remember seeing the birthday party photo in another article or a slideshow a while back. The first photo of the guy on his belly is typical Ned humor – they were always clowning around, always having fun. Speaking of clowning around… reminds me of hearing about the stories of “The Great Canadian Food Fight” and such other infamous fun and games… Maybe someday Mom will dig out her copy of the Mariah issue. I looked through a few posters, but we have more somewhere. Susie also has a bunch of stuff… maybe one of the Epoke posters…? I’ll keep an eye out.

A few stories from a while back…

I had the chance to hang out with Ned a little bit over the years – both in the house where I grew up in California, and back East, when we went to visit him and my grandparents. One time, when I was a little kid (maybe around 8 or 10 years old) Ned let me loose in a candy store. I forget exactly where it was, but probably in Stowe. It was just like the saying goes… I was in heaven! And of course, this was the kind of thing that my parents or grandparents would never do (they knew better). I had a big bag and kept pilling on more and more candy. Ned paid for it, we got back in his car, and I proceeded to scarf down candy like it was my last meal. Life was great! We laughed and laughed. Anyways, he had to drop me off with my grandmother later that day and I was going to ride with her to Montpelier or down to Cape Cod (don’t remember exactly). By that time, I had eaten so much candy that I was absolutely WIRED! (Like I wasn’t a hyper kid to begin with…) My poor grandmother had to put up with me “bouncing off the walls” for a couple of hours, which she wasn’t very happy about. I don’t think Ned ever heard the end of that one! But we sure had fun!!! And that was Ned. He was a best friend.

Ned used to take me out around Stowe and we’d find all kinds of fun stuff to do. I remember driving out to one of the local ponds, with a kayak strapped to the top of his Subaru. I got in the kayak with its nose in the water, and he would pick up the back end of the kayak, hold it over his head, and then give it a good shove forwards. The kayak would go shooting out into the pond and I would laugh and say “Do it again, do it again…”

Another time, while in Stowe, we had to run a load of junk down to the local dump. When we were at the dump, I noticed an old pair of alpine skis that someone had discarded. I asked the guy at the dump if we could have the skis and he said “Sure, go ahead and take ‘em.” I’m not sure if I had any idea of what I wanted to do with the skis, but by the time we got back home, we had an idea. We were going to build a bobsled! So, we sifted through Ned’s woodpile, found a few scraps of lumber and went to work. We basically built a crude wooden box and then nailed the skis to the bottom of it (after we took the bindings off…). The cockpit was quite small – just big enough for a little kid. It was then time to take it for a spin (in the middle of summer). Ned lived in a neat house in the woods outside of Stowe and all of the local roads had a dirt surface. He grabbed a 20-foot section of an old climbing rope, tied it to the front of the bobsled, and then tied the other end to the rear bumper of his Subaru. It was time for a test run!

I climbed into the bobsled while he fired up the Suubie with the back hatch open and started towing me down the driveway. Then we headed down the dirt road in front of his house. He kept an eye on me out the back and I kept yelling “Faster, faster!” We got up to 22 mph and I was bouncing all over the place, with sparks flying off the ski edges and the biggest grin of my life on my face. At one point, the bobsled hit a pretty good size rock that tipped it over onto one ski for a quick moment, until it tipped back onto both skis. Laughing ecstatically, we zoomed around for a little while before heading back to his house. Test run number two never happened. When we got back, we took a look at the bottom of the skis… they were toast!

Thinking back on that day I realize how dangerous that bobsled ride was. We weren’t going very fast, but my shoulders and head were exposed above the top of the bobsled cockpit and I didn’t have any sort of helmet on. If that thing had tipped all the way over, it wouldn’t have been pretty… And my Mom probably would have killed him. But I survived and we had a great time. I couldn’t have had a better teacher to teach me how to have fun. Ned was an expert on fun.

Here are a few more images that I scanned:

Ned in his element, doing what he loved to do – Karakoram, 1980.
Photo by Galen Rowell

A classic photo from the New Zealand trip.
Photo by Jan Reynolds

The Sea Tomato, pre-voyage. This photo was taken in the evening, just offshore of Cape Cod. Ned let me tag along for this photo shoot, which at 14, was like another trip to the candy store. The photographer had a pretty neat setup going, with an assistant to hold lights and a flash. I had to hide inside the “padded cell” when it was time for the real photos…
Photo by Gregory Heisler

The Mad Rower.
Photo by Gregory Heisler

Another fun day in the Drake Passage.
Photo by Ned Gillette

Ned is on the right, my grandfather on the left, and I’m the dorky looking kid in the middle. Summer, 1984 – Ned was 39 and I was 12. Figured I’d throw this one in to go with my stories above.

I found a few things on Ned with a Google search…

An article on the tent designer, Bob Howe, with a blurb on Ned and the use of Bob’s tents on Ellesmere:

Highest point ever ascended on skis, Muztagh Ata:

“In Passing” …scroll down.
Hey Craig, you’re in this one too!

He was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 2000.

Here are a couple of AAJ covers with photos by Ned…

This one also has a cool Bradford Washburn Ama Dablam photo."linck"

This one includes an Ed Cooper El Cap photo."linck"

An old article from the NY Times on Ned’s death:

He took a round or two of buckshot in the stomach from a 12-gauge in the middle of the night and didn’t die (due to blood loss) until later the next day.

Hope that wasn’t too much for one post…

Dec 20, 2007 - 11:23pm PT

Social climber
The Deli
Dec 20, 2007 - 11:25pm PT
Thanks, Werner!!!

Trad climber
Top of the Mountain Mun
Dec 21, 2007 - 01:06am PT
Ned was an inspiration to anyone who loves adventure. Thank you for this insight to a very cool man.

Social climber
The West
Dec 21, 2007 - 01:19am PT
Great stuff, minerals, those reminices bring so much more to the story...
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