Peter Terbush


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Trad climber
San Diego
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 16, 2008 - 11:21pm PT
I am cross-posting this from another thread, because I want to see if anyone else out there remembers Peter.

The 1999 Glacier Point rockfall claimed the life of my friend Peter Terbush. When the rocks started falling Peter held the belay and saved his partner, Kerry Pyle. It took them a week to dig his body out, and when they found him he was still holding the belay.

Peter and I met when I was 14, and had just moved to Singapore. He pretty much taught me how to climb.

Climbing in Hindhede Quarry (scene of many early adventures!), 1996

Goofing around near Bukit Timah

A rainy day at the Quarry

Leading a new route at Dairy Farm -- this picture taken shortly before a rock broke and Peter took a 20 footer, leaving skid marks down the wall and hitting me with the rock (I still have a scar).

Mt Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo -- my first climbing trip! It rained a lot and we only had 1 book (an Elmore Leonard novel). We tore it in half, and Peter had to read the second half first. Unfortunately he was a much faster reader than me, so I had to keep tearing pieces off my 1/2 so he had something to keep reading. By the end of the trip the book was in 20 pieces.

First attempt on the Dragon's Horns, Tioman Island, Malaysia. We pretty much got swatted down the first attempt, but had a great time. I was 14, Peter was 18. I recall Peter didn't have any underwear on the climb (after swimming he had left it to dry on a rock, and forgotten it). And somehow he ripped a hole in the crotch of his pants. As he was leading a pitch, he shouted down for me to "watch him". Looking up, I was greeted with a very direct view of his balls. Gross!

The Dragon's Horns.

HDB Tyrolean. We got in a little hot water for this one.

I know there has been some controversy regarding the family's lawsuit against the NPS, but I don't think that should diminish his memory.

We miss you Peter.

Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
up Yonder (the edge of Treason)
Sep 16, 2008 - 11:31pm PT

Desolation Basin, Calif.
Sep 17, 2008 - 12:20am PT
I never met that fine young fellow, but I do remember his story. IMHO, he is one of the greatest heroes in the history of climbing. When I teach a beginner about the importance of the belay, and the seriousness of those words, "Belay on", I tell his story.


Trad climber
So. Cal.
Sep 17, 2008 - 12:25am PT
I remember Peter!

ALWAYS keep your brake-hand on the rope when belaying. It's your job.

Peter died with his brake-hand on the rope.

Sep 17, 2008 - 12:32am PT
I remember him.

We ran into ground zero and grabbed him and ran with him back out hoping we wouldn't get nailed by a rouge loose piece of rock with our number on it that may have still been sitting around up there.

Must have been a terrible feeling for him to be trapped like that.
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Sep 17, 2008 - 12:34am PT
Scott - Thank you for putting a face to Peter. It's too bad the resulting litigation stole some of the
spotlight from what was surely a heroic and highly honorable action on his part. May he rest in peace.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Sep 17, 2008 - 12:37am PT
I think of him every time I'm out on the Apron.
Now I will see his youthful face too.
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Sep 17, 2008 - 12:56am PT
Interesting article:
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Sep 17, 2008 - 01:04am PT
Yeah Ed, I also think of him and his holding on to his belay. I never knew him but understand the circumstances surrounding that hideous event. Wanted always to know who he was. Thanks tons, Scott. What a rare, freak occurrence too.

Sep 17, 2008 - 01:16am PT
I was in the Curry lot when the rockfall that killed Peter let loose. The parking lot was complete pandemonium as everyone in Curry ran frantically for safety in the meadows. I vividly remember a mom running at full speed, grasping her kid's arm and trailing him behind her. It was a scene straight out of a Godzilla movie.

Everyone ran for safety but Peter. It must have taken amazing strength and courage to hold tight. If I remember correctly, there were a couple of other climbers around the base of the Apron adjacent to Peter. They ran and survived. Peter held the belay. A true climbing hero if ever there was one.

Oakland: what's not to love?
Sep 17, 2008 - 03:41am PT

I've thought about Peter a lot after hearing the story. Thanks for sharing your memories. Got any more?

From a poster at


Trad climber
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Sep 17, 2008 - 10:32am PT
I met a friend of Peter's out in Crested Butte once and she told me the story. Then I heard more details of it later.

Trad climber
Indiana (the other Mideast)
Sep 17, 2008 - 10:39am PT
That's truly an amazing story. Thanks for the insight Scott. RIP Peter!

climber's near nevada...
Sep 17, 2008 - 11:51am PT
I never had the honor to meet the man, but I think of him as a Hero - plain and simple. He saved his friend.

Trad climber
San Diego
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 17, 2008 - 11:56am PT
More random memories of Peter:

Peter opened my eyes to what is possible. During Christmas break of my freshmen (high school) year, while I was doing traditional family stuff, Peter jetted off to New Zealand, solo.

After arriving in Christchurch he hitchhiked to Mt Cook Village. There he picked up a partner and after sitting out a lot of bad weather they went up and bagged "The Footstool", a New Zealand Grade 3+ alpine route.

I remember Peter missed the first week of school, and I was worried sick that something had happened. When he finally showed up the next week, he casually recounted his trip to me. I was so incredulous, I had never known anybody who had done such a thing before. My first reaction was, "You can you that???".

Jetting off by oneself to another country, hitch hiking, picking up climbing partners (strangers) -- these concepts were completely foreign to me, I hadn't even considered them a possibility. But Peter showed me that you are the master of your own destiny, and the possibilities are only limited your imagination.

I guess it was what you would call a "paradigm shift".

Sep 17, 2008 - 11:59am PT
Thanks Scott for posting up the pictures and memories of Peter.

Trad climber
San Diego
Sep 17, 2008 - 02:36pm PT
Great post Scotty. Believe it or not, a lot of what you describe in Peter I see in you. It looks like you kept a large part of him with you.
Tahoe climber

Trad climber
a dark-green forester out west
Sep 17, 2008 - 03:53pm PT
All I can say is "let his spirit - and bravery - live on through the rest of us as we try to live up to his example."


Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Oct 8, 2008 - 10:38pm PT
Wow, I missed this the first time around.

Peter died a hero in a sacred place doing what he loved...and he did it right. It's just a shame that his life was taken.

May God bless him. We still think of you, bro.

And Scott, thanks for posting this stuff, it must be hard.

Social climber
Oct 8, 2008 - 10:40pm PT
hey there scott and bruce... just now found a link for this, from the new curry-rockslide, oct, 8, 2008 post:

thank you for loving your dear friend peter-james to share this story of what real love for others will do...

thanks for sharing the picture of the memorial, and letting his deed of love and courage to not be forgotten...

you know, thats what friends are for.....
god bless....

he is a part of yosemite that should never be forgotten...

edit: i was just thinking... one never knows when ones whole life-duties may be building up strenth, stamina, love and courage to oneday save another...
Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
Oct 8, 2008 - 10:46pm PT
Respect to an awesome human. Greater Love.....
The user formerly known as stzzo

Armchair climber
Sneaking up behind you
Oct 9, 2008 - 01:00am PT
What a great thread. Much respect to Peter and his family.

Anyone know Kerry Pyle? I'd like to hear his story.
Brom Kim

Mountain climber
Centennial, CO
Apr 21, 2009 - 02:16am PT
These photos are crazy, man. I went to CU with Peter for the year he was there. He talked about that Kimbalu trip, and the tyrolean - funny.

I was never much of a climber, more a skier, but he taught me some good skills, and friends, he and I he had some great adventures.

I remember we bivied on Quandary at 12,000' in a snow storm and summited and skied off the next day. His nose froze white on the way up, and on some level, I think he thought it was cool, i.e. all alpinist-like, tough.

On the way down, his binding screws kept pulling out of the crappy foam core tele skis he was on.

I got stressed and short with him, being green, and told him to get his sh1t together so we could get off the mountain. Of course, down at 10,000' the sun came out, it got warm, and I felt like an ass, but he took it all in stride as usual.

We also climbed Orizaba on a crazy intense road trip down in Mexico, the year Hale Bopp comet was in the sky, but earlier that year, he, Drew and I were up on Loveland pass, skinning and skiing in the Valley ski area in the middle of the night.

The tip loop on my Voile Snake Skins broke because it was so freakin' cold, at least -50, so we hung out in the snowcat garage at the ski area for a few hours until dawn, when I hitched back up to my car.

That night, the comet was huge, and I've never seen so many stars.

Outside of climbing and skiing, I remember he drove around in this old jeep that was full of gear and crap. My buddy Drew, he and I cleaned it out one day - banana peels, gear, stale pizza, gear, clothing...

I remember crashing in my car on the back side of Evans, freezing my arse off, after some stupid stunt. Peter crashed in his bivy, on the ground outside.

On waking, there was this 32 oz. beer he was drinking the night before, mostly full, frozen solid, sitting next to Peter's head. That guy could sleep ANYWHERE, a talent I envied.

Peter was also a big Indian food fan from growing up in Singapore, so we'd often, on a whim cook up these big thalis (mixed plates). He was always good for spontaneity, fun.

Peter was a great guy, and an old and gentle soul. We all loved him. He was like a younger brother to us. We all took it pretty damn hard when he died.

I saw something today about Peter not being a mover and shaker on some memorial, but it was way too early to tell if you ask me.

Judging by this thread, there was a lot more to the story, had he not been called back so soon. He taught a lot of skills, and was always up for any adventure. That spirit is pretty rare.

My now wife and I got to hear the news from Carl Castle on NPR on the radio on the way to school that morning, which was no fun at all.

I should put up some photos. I am not being morbid or sentimental, but Peter's is a story worth retelling. There's artwork in my portfolio linked below that is somehow related.

Brom Kim, MA

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Apr 21, 2009 - 03:07am PT
Never met Peter, but his earlier photos remind me of a young Jim Madsen with Rebbufat hair.

Trad climber
Ogden, Utah
Nov 19, 2010 - 12:49pm PT
I was lucky to have known Peter for a year while i went to school in Singapore. I climbed with him many afternoons at the quarry. We pioneered some crazy routes out there and generally had a lot of fun swimming in the water on hot Singapore afternoons. I was a senior the year that we climbed together and he was a junior. We both ended up going to Nepal where we marveled at the mountains and wished we had more time. Peter and i also climbed Mt. Kinabalu over a three day weekend full of hiking, climbing, mini-busses, crazy bivouacs, hitchhiking and dodging fee demanding local tour guides that left both of us sunburt with chappy lips (a Peter trademark i might add) and sore as hell! Many times we ate dinner together at Newton Circus or any of the tasty local food vendors. Rainy days we climbed in the gym after school. I spent a couple of days climbing with Peter after we had both returned from overseas. We simul-climbed the flatirons to warm up and then spent some time on a few routes in Eldorado Canyon. The Ruper Traverse and another dihedral lower down in the canyon that i can't remember the name of. They were good days. Sunny, cool and the company couldn't have been better.
After Eldorado i had only sporadic contact with Peter over the years until one day i read of his passing in Climbing magazine. The article was recounting the details of the lawsuit surrounding the incident of his untimely death. I felt like i got punched in the stomach and i just sat there and stared for a while. I remembered all the things we had done together. Times that we had. I looked up some pictures that i had of him and of us climbing. I feel bad that i didn't get to attend his funeral. It's hard to keep up with your old schoolmates when your scattered all over the world. If his parents read this I want them to know that your son was a dear friend to me and that i miss him. I want to offer my condolences to you. Belated as they may be. Many times as i climb i feel that he is still with me in some way and all the time when i hike to the belay and sing "Truckin" by the Greatful Dead I think of him. Here is to Peter, a great climber and an even better friend!

Christian Michaelson

Trad climber
Apr 18, 2015 - 05:28am PT
bump for the memory of a great kid and a reminder about the dangers of rockfall.

A eulogy written by his father:

Trad climber
'cross the great divide
Apr 18, 2015 - 07:13am PT
We happened to drive into the Valley from CO right after that huge Glacier Pt. rockfall occurred. I remember hearing sirens and seeing the remnants of a dust cloud. We didn't really know what had occurred but had been in the Valley during other major rockfalls in the past. A year or so prior to this, I watched my friend come within a few feet of getting wiped out by a car size block that ripped from the gully just to the right of the top of the Zodiac. The dust cloud from that rose to half the height of El Cap.

The next day we met Peter's friends, including his partner who's rope had been held by Peter. They looked as shell-shocked as any survivor of a war might look. They clearly were not at the acceptance point of what had happened, and I just remember the look of shock in their eyes. I'll never forget that.

Trad climber
Upland, CA
Apr 18, 2015 - 10:52am PT
This is a worthy bump. It's good to read these recollections of a hero.

I've always felt a bit haunted by this particular accident as I spent the day climbing in that area with a partner 48 hours before it happened. I've not really climbed on the Apron since.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 18, 2015 - 11:26am PT
Thanks - that's a beautiful eulogy by his father.

Trad climber
Apr 19, 2015 - 08:08am PT
wbw, thanks for sharing that. I cannot imagine what that experience must have been like for his friends who were there.

It seemed like Peter made the most of his all-too-brief life. That eulogy is incredibly touching.

I came across his story on Mountain Project's page for Mr. Natural

Sep 28, 2017 - 04:22pm PT
A good time to remember a hero. Rest In Peace Peter. You are remembered.
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