Thursday, April 30, 2009


Today I received news that my very good friend, John Evans, was killed while assisting in a mountain rescue in Wales, his home.

John Evans

I met John many years ago when he was a mountaineering ranger at Denali National Park on Mount McKinley. A native of Wales, he spent his summers on Denali, rescuing others, guiding, teaching mountain rescue, and mountaineering. He always gave more than he got.

Last June, John Evans, Buck Tilton (the founder of the Wilderness Medicine Institute), and I were on Daryl Miller's last mountain patrol. Daryl was the supervisory Ranger on the mountain. All of us were senior citizens. A Russian climber came over to Daryl one day and asked, "Are you the Rangers?" Daryl admitted we were, so the Russian, in a thick accent replied, "I have observed that you are all very old!"

Buck Tilton, Yours Truly, Daryl Miller, John Evans

It was a wonderful time. John and I went out twice together to climb peaks on that trip. He was so careful, to the point of instructing me (having climbed mountains for 50+ years) on the latest techniques in mountain rescue. We took off early in the morning when the snow was still crusty and hard, roped up and crossed the East Fork of the Kahiltna glacier to climb "Radio Tower" peak. It was so safe, so comfortable, so beautiful, so fun. It's the reason I've spent all my life in mountains. John was the best of companions.

John on the final ridge of the 'Radio Tower'
Mount Foraker (17,400') in the background.

John was a para-rescue jumper in the Airforce National Guard, although he was a Welshman. I don't ever know how he did it, because his home, wife and family, were in Wales. Everyone was his friend. He was the toughest of the the tough.

The Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter, 5000' of sheer cliff, just across the glacier from us.

We stood on the summit, gazed across at the immensity of Mount Hunter and ate our lunch. It was the best of the best; a day like no other in the mountains. It's why we climb.

The rangers rescue many climbers in peril every year. They risk their lives, work their hearts out, and most volunteer their services for free. Below is Dr. Jen Dow, Buck Tilton, John Evans, and a group of volunteers in Base Camp on Denali. The friendships and commaraderie are forged through the most intense physical and psychological experiences as our lives depend on our friends.

A Denali patrol reaches camp. Mount McKinley (Denali 20,320') in the distance.

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