Chuck Kroger


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Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 27, 2007 - 12:35pm PT

It is with great sadness that I share the following obituary for Chuck Kroger. He valiantly fought pancreatic cancer for 5 months, but on Christmas day he peacefully left us. His wife Kathy was by his side and grateful for all the friends and family who supported her and Chuck through this difficult time. Kathy reads Supertopo often, and I know she will enjoy hearing stories from all of Chuck's friends. A good friend of Chuck's once called him "the king of the one-day adventure"- it was a designation he loved. May we all smile and think of Chuck as we continue such adventures.

(1946 – 2007)

Chuck Kroger of Telluride passed away on December 25th in Denver, Colorado from pancreatic cancer after a five month valiant battle. Chuck was a man of many adventures that spanned many continents and were shared with friends from all over the world. Chuck was born on Dec. 1, 1946 in Iron River, Michigan. At 6 months, his family returned to Kalispell, Montana. A lifelong builder, artisan and tinkerer, he refused to go to kindergarten so he could continue helping his Dad and carpenters build their house there. His family later moved to Southern California, first to Pomona and then to Riverside, although he remained connected to Flathead Lake through summers spent at the family’s cabin. Chuck spent his summers on family hikes, camping trips, learned about boating and rowing, went timber cruising and worked some summers at the family sawmill.

Chuck graduated from Riverside Poly High School in 1965. During high school, he raced bikes and started going on Sierra Club hikes. Chuck attended UC Riverside for one year and was on the cross country track team before transferring to Stanford University. At Stanford, he majored in geophysics, and delved deeper into his lifelong passion for rock climbing, bouldering, and mountaineering. His senior year, Chuck was president of the Stanford Alpine Club. When Chuck graduated from Stanford in 1969, one of his professors commented that Chuck has spent more time climbing rocks than studying rocks than any previous student.

Chuck’s climbing career included being the first person to climb four routes on El Capitan in Yosemite in a single season (1968-69). He also did the first ascent of the Heart Route in 1970. His climbing took him all over the world, including trips to Alaska, the Alps, the Soviet Union and South America. Chuck’s climbing feats were chronicled in several climbing history books, which referred to him and his friends as the first of the “college boy weekend climbers,” capable of climbing as well as the full time Camp 4 climbers.

Chuck’s formative work experience, pursued between climbing and sailing trips, included guide work at several mountaineering and climbing schools in California and Wyoming, leading Sierra Club hikes all over the west, working as a carpenter and with Yvon Chouinard at Great Pacific Iron Works, which later became Patagonia. Chuck honed his construction and management skills and Spanish by building aquaculture facilities for the University of Arizona in Rocky Point, Mexico.

Chuck met Kathy Green, his wife of thirty years and partner in his adventures, in the Grand Canyon. After tying the knot in Las Vegas between escapades, they found their way to Telluride in 1979 where they established BONE Construction. Between remodels and new construction, Chuck Kroger’s creativity and attention to detail is recognizable throughout the Telluride region. He also went to Antarctica six times, working on National Science Foundation-funded grants, as a mountaineer and safety consultant.

Chuck Kroger turned his passion for movement to running and mountaineering in Telluride. A well-known face in mountain distance running, he was a six-time finisher in the Hardrock 100 (mile race) and also ran the Get High Race, the Imogene Pass Run and other events. He spent long hours hiking and exploring the mountains of Telluride, with friends, family (especially his father) and anyone with the stamina to keep up with him.

An inveterate tinkerer, he invented a line of rail-bikes, converted road and mountain bikes designed to run on railroad tracks. With friends, he would seek out (mostly) abandoned rail lines in the US and elsewhere to ride. He also made old snowboards into board sleds. When the Dolores River would freeze over he would take friends ice-biking.

Volunteerism was a major theme in Kroger’s life. He spent time in Mexico with an organization called Corazon, building simple houses, and also with Habitat for Humanity in Montrose. Some of the trails in the Telluride area are more usable as a result of his expertise in trail-building and maintenance.

Kroger had a slight problem with authority that led to a string of what might be considered dubious accomplishments. While at Stanford, he and friends pioneered the sport of “buildering,” traversing a ledge on the chapel, several ascents of the Golden Gate Bridge, and arduous trips through vents between buildings. He was also part of the “Valley Floor Seven,” a group of cross-country skiers prosecuted for trespassing after community relations with the San Miguel Valley Corporation soured and access to the valley floor was denied. He got off with probation.

A self-taught welder, Chuck used that knowledge to create one-of-a-kind practical architectural elements in the homes he built and also created a host of artwork which was often donated to local nonprofit groups for fundraising. The Ah Haa School and the Telluride AIDS Benefit auctions included such unique pieces as “The Puker” and “Very Sharp Chairs” which started intense bidding wars. In addition, his metal train stands and picture frames became local collectables.

His philosophy regarding his art work, that it should make people laugh and that it should probably move as well, summarizes Chuck’s life: always going places, making things, and bringing joy and laughter into people’s lives.

Chuck Kroger is survived by his wife, Kathy Green, of Telluride, his parents, Robert and Isabel Kroger of San Diego, California, his sister, Kathryn Kroger, and his nephew, Jeremy Kroger. A Telluride celebration of Chuck’s life is planned for the summer of 2008 so that his far-flung friends may attend.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Telluride Mountain Club, PO Box 2128, Telluride, CO 81435.


Dec 27, 2007 - 12:49pm PT
Dear Kathy, family and friends of Chuck,
Our condolences to all of you with Chuck's passing. He was a man strong beyond words and an inspiration to many. His smile and enthusiasm for life will be with us as we continue on with our struggles in the physical world.
My favorite Chuck memory is the black and white picture of El Cap that he "took" years ago. More than one way of taking pictures was his reply.
Let's run a long distance, climb a pitch and donate some of our time in memory of Chuck.
Kind regards,
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 27, 2007 - 01:17pm PT
A truly sad bit of news but thank you for your thoughts in memory. A full life to be sure just ending too soon.

From The Stanford Alpine Club history by John Rawlings and Glen Denny, 1999. I will post the chapter on Chuck's activities a little later.

I am glad that he died peacefully and my sincerest condolences to friends and family. Big loss to the climbing world.

Big Wall climber
So Cal
Dec 27, 2007 - 01:17pm PT
The man was bold & visionary. Sorry to hear of his passing. My condolences to his family & friends. Didn't he do an early ascent of Tephite Dome as well as the Heart Route? I'm sure he will be missed.

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 27, 2007 - 01:18pm PT
Very sad news - although I didn't know Chuck, my condolences to his wife, family and friends.

Several months ago Steve Grossman posted Chuck's story on the first ascent of the Heart Route, as it appeared in Climbing Magazine in 1971. See
Anne-Marie Rizzi

Dec 27, 2007 - 02:12pm PT
Kathy says, "Laugh some, don't just cry."

I'm too overwhelmed at the moment to share my comical tales of Chuck.

What a loss.


Trad climber
Mountain View, CA
Dec 27, 2007 - 02:19pm PT
Chuck's climbing exploits on the Stanford Campus were legendary. Then there was that Hoover Tower incident! A true pioneer on many fronts!

captain chaos

Dec 27, 2007 - 03:37pm PT
It saddens my heart to hear this news... the climbing world just lost one of its finest pioneers, my condolences to all family and friends... Craig

Big Wall climber
the Southwest
Dec 27, 2007 - 03:46pm PT
Chuck's inspirational spirit, generousity, modesty, humor, and enthusiam for life will be sorely missed but never forgotten.

My condolences to Kathy and to the many, many people who loved the man.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 27, 2007 - 04:34pm PT
While I never met him, he was an inspiration to a budding adventurer, his memory will endure.

Two proud FA's in the Valley:

The Heart Route 5.9 A4 VI El Capitan Southwest Face 1970 Chuck Kroger Scott Davis
Nickel Pinnacle, East Face 5.8 A2 III Middle Cathedral Rock 1968 Chuck Kroger Kep Stone


Mountain climber
Dec 27, 2007 - 09:04pm PT
I shared a rope with Chuck once in late 70's. Shiprock. He turned me on to "stealth climbing" techniques. Tan clothes, tan rope, drop off before sunrise (I think that was Kathy - thanks), escape car returns in late afternoon. ha. The rumors of the local Indians taking pot shots at climbers made for more excitement than the actual climbing. But fun was had be all.
My condolences to family, and may Chuck rest in peace.

My second friend this year to fall to cancer.

Dec 27, 2007 - 09:50pm PT
Chuck's other proud accomplishment in 1970:

FA of the Southwest Face of Tehipite Dome, VI 5.9 A4. far as I can tell, the route has not been repeated. In 1997, one of his 4" sheet steel bongs was found sitting on the ledge at the base of the upper part of their route.

My condolences to Kathy and your family.

RIP Chuck! You were an inspiration!


Tehipite Dome, Tehipite Valley, Kings Canyon National Park, CA
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 27, 2007 - 10:54pm PT
From The Stanford Alpine Club, 1999. John Rawlings' and Glen Denny's excellent book.


Social climber
Dec 28, 2007 - 12:05am PT
hey there.... say, to chucks dear family, i will pray for your fond memories and love toward chuck to carry you through your loss of him.... so very sorry, as to your loss...

i just read this:
Chuck’s climbing career included being the first person to climb four routes on El Capitan in Yosemite in a single season (1968-69). He also did the first ascent of the Heart Route in 1970. His climbing took him all over the world, including trips to Alaska, the Alps, the Soviet Union and South America. Chuck’s climbing feats were chronicled in several climbing history books, which referred to him and his friends as the first of the “college boy weekend climbers,” capable of climbing as well as the full time Camp 4 climbers.

thank you all for showing us some more history and another of the special folks that helped to forge it... we would not know, if you did not share...

once again, god bless you at this hard time...

Ice climber
Dec 28, 2007 - 01:21am PT
i didn't know chuck well. My wife, pam and i stayed with Him for a few days when we ran the 30 mile "telluride get high" trail race and for four days we just began to get acquainted with his wife kathy and Him.

I liked Him immedaitely. He just so seemed unconventional. But in a GRAND WAY. I admired His style. Strong. Individual. Unconventional. Not exactly like an outlaw but sorta...........
I repeated His Heart Direct route on El Cap and strived to emulate it in the style that He first did it. PURE. Not tainted.
In His climbing and in His life it seemed like He could not settle for less than what He thought was possible and He needed to push for more. Restless. Original. He was ambitious. He was smart and creative and He was proud. I have a background in architectural design. So did He. All night long we would talk about new ideas for interior design and He would get all excited about incorporating old Coloradian western style with new stuff. He was an original architect. EXCITED. He had alot of ideas. ENERGY. He wanted to fuse different styles and got all excited about His future houses and designs. There were so many cool things to do out there. His style was original. It was BONE! It was soooooooooooo COOL!

He acknowledged His participation in climbing history but didn't dwell on it or make it overly important. He did what He did and moved newer and more exciting stuff. He still loved to climb but found new passions and set new goals.
Climbing was something He did and learned from but then that led to other exciting things in life. Kathy, travel, design.

The weekend I spent with Him and kathy has stuck in my mind as something important and i will never take it for granted. He was excited about His life, his marriage to kathy and His business. i felt His enthusiasm and joy. It was real. I still have the pictures and the memories. it happened yesterday.

I guess i just feel like i should NEVER take anyone for granted. i just never know when someone might just go away.


I try and appreciate people for when they are here: when and while i can and give as much back as i can. I would have liked to have known Chuck better. I never gave Chuck enough. i am so glad we had those few days together.


Dec 28, 2007 - 01:07pm PT
worthy of a bump...

Social climber
The West
Dec 28, 2007 - 01:12pm PT
I never met him, but he was an inspiration. Condolences and positive vibes to the family.
The same malignancy that took my dad, suddenly and unexpectedly at 56.

Big Wall climber
the Southwest
Dec 29, 2007 - 09:08am PT
Chuck's railbike engineering was, like all his designs, very innovative. I never got a chance to ride one of his creations, but from all accounts they were the best out there.

Here's a website on railbikes for those not familiar with them:

Social climber
St. Looney
Dec 29, 2007 - 09:14am PT
Condolences to all. His inspiration lives on...

Big Wall climber
the Southwest
Dec 29, 2007 - 11:05am PT
A story with pics of Chuck:
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