Gordon Williams, an Idaho climbing legend, passes.



  • I've mostly worked through my grief at Gordon's passing & I'm now celebrating his significant life, which would have ended in his rappel failure & 'big fall" on the Finger of Fate in Idaho's Sawtooth mtns in 1978. If you wish to believe that God spared him so Gordon could grace us with his fun ways for another 41 years, that works for me. She does work in mysterious ways.

    Gordon with his girlfriend Loc Paw in the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar in 2005.
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    Gordon showing his latest distilled rum creation.

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    Gordon hiking a large sand dune in Idaho in 2017.
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  • Thanks for a touching tribute Fritz, a life well lived



  • Indeed.

    @FritzRay I took the liberty to "tag" this In Memoriam for you. Seems particularly apropos. ✌



  • I just remembered a cheery Gordon encounter. I think the first time I ever talked to him was at a party at Kim Anderson's house in Hailey. Don't remember when, but Bill Clinton was a thing then, either before or after the 1992 election, I suppose. Anyway, I was struck by his pleasant resemblance to Clinton -- compact hair, open countenance and bright eyes, engaging manner. So I said so: "You look like Bill Clinton, you know!" He grinned and replied, "Ah yes, but I inhaled!"



  • @Marshall! Gordon did several trips to Nepal for long treks in the late 90's & early 2000's. He had stories about various Asians, but especially Chinese believing he was Bill Clinton. After a while he would deny that he was Clinton & then smile & ask "do you want to be photographed with me."

    When I did a long Nepal trek in towards Everest with him in 2005, he introduced me to his Sherpa girlfriend (one of several) in the Sherpa Capital of Namche Bazaar. She was very glad to see him, but then I got to meet her husband who ran another nearby tourist shop.

    Gordon's Memorial is at the Sun Valley Botanical Gardens on August 11th, 4 - 6 PM. It's open to everyone.

    Fritzray, Gordon, & Chris at about 17,500' on Goykyo Ri with a great view of Everest in the background. We were all high-school classmates in Hailey, Idaho in the mid-1960's.

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  • Awesome times you "boys" had, eh? Mountaineering dreams were the forerunner for my passion for rock climbing. Came to find out that I do not do well at altitude. Even like 12-13K stuff. Think maybe I had mild case of HAPE/HACE as a kid during a family vacation to Colorado and driving up the mountain too fast that predisposed me to issues years later? Wasn't a matter of acclimation for me either as I once had a summer job were I lived at 10,500. Very physically fit at the time but still always winded by minimal effort. Maybe for the best cuz I climbed bunches of rocks and am still here.

    Would be cool to go to the memorial. Haven't been up Sun Valley/Ketchum way in too many years now so it'd be a good excuse to get my arse in gear but would also be rather awkward seeing how I never knew or met Gordon. In any case: Respect for a life well lived!



  • I always wondered how I would do at altitude. By the time I went to Nepal in 2005, I had twice summited Mt. Rainier 14,400' or so, Both times I had a splitting headache & some nausea, which went away when we descended. I later figured out a lot of that was dehydration.

    Our Nepal in 2005 trek, went well up to the little tourist-trap of Goykyo at about 16,000'. By that time, one of my friends was vomiting in the trail at about 15,000' & another was simply miserable with less overt symptoms. Our pals, who ran our small Idaho based trekking company & provided infrastructure like food, tents, kitchen, guides, agenda, & permits were great believers in diamox, which cured both sufferers overnight, with a lot of peeing during the night.

    I had read about Cheyne–Stokes breathing, which is "respiration is an abnormal pattern of breathing characterized by progressively deeper, and sometimes faster, breathing followed by a gradual decrease that results in a temporary stop in breathing called an apnea. The pattern repeats, with each cycle usually taking 30 seconds to 2 minutes."

    It is common at high altitudes & I got to enjoy it for two nights at Goykyo, since we caught about 3' of snow the day we got there. The next day was clear, but some snow had to melt before we could go up to 17,500' for a great view of Everest. Gordon, Chris, & I amused ourselves on a short hike up above the little settlement.

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    The next day, hiking up to about 17,500' for a great Everest view went fine, but I soon got cold up there, then was seized with a splitting headache. Happily, we went down to about 14,500' that afternoon & I woke up the next morning for our outside breakfast at 5 degrees f. feeling fine. Gordon standing at middle left.
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  • @FritzRay During our hot afternoon today, I found a few more significant Gordon photos in my computer.

    Gordon climbing on Rocky Point 2010.
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    A toast with Gordon to "Cheating Death." It was important for us to make that toast after every outdoor adventure. Since this was mid-winter 2010, we were cheating death by drinking absinthe.
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    After we started the Decker Flat Climbing & Frisbee Club on our way in to climb Mt. Regan in the Sawtooth Range in 1970, we soon adopted conservation values. In this photo Joe Fox & Gordon are stabilizing a dangerously loose boulder on the summit of Mt. Regan.
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    Chris & Gordon nearing the legendary North Raker in the Sawtooths in 2006. It is very rare that climbers make the ugly off-trail journey in to it. We did it, since we never made it to it when we were young. There is no reason to go there;)

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  • I made a profound discovery today. In my first post on this thread, I mentioned I worked with Gordon in 2013 on a story of his nearly-fatal rappel failure on the Finger of Fate in Idaho's Sawtooth range in 1978. It turns out I posted the story I wrote about the incident.

    Here's Gordon's much more introspective story, that he wrote after he found my story lacking in details about the actual fall.

    Finger of Fate from the southeast.
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    A photo Gordon sent me of him at the crux of the 2nd lead of the Open Book route, where the jam crack ends under an overhang & climbers are forced right onto thin holds.

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    From Gordon: Starting down with feet spread wide I was leaning back perpendicular to the wall so my boots wouldn’t slip. Descending slowly and looking down for more foot placements I felt the line above release. Turning my head to look up, I saw the rope and anchor sling whipping against the sky above. My rappel anchor had slipped off the rock horn and I was accelerating in free fall with hundreds of feet to the floor… a dead man falling.

    Instantly I understood this to be the end. There was no hope of surviving such a fall. Anxiety and fear disappeared. Perhaps I stopped thinking. Time did not compress or elongate. There was certainly no flipping through old photos or videos of past events… no life flashing by. This was the end of the film, the part where the screen goes blank.

    I have no recollection of hitting the wall. It knocked the wind out of me. I came to my senses gasping for air, unable to get the first bite. It was a raw shock, being jerked from some quiet place back into my body. Everything was confusing. I was hanging upside down pressing lightly against the rock wall. Nothing made sense. How could Mark have caught me? My hands found the rope and I struggled to get back upright. Stepping onto a toehold produced sharp flashes of pain in my left ankle. It was broken.

    Mark was peering down from the ridge. Raindrops were hitting my face. The situation was coming into focus. He hadn’t caught the rope. Instead, it had snagged on the rock face. My rappel brake was jammed. This had prevented my sliding off the end of the rope after slamming into the wall. I used one hand to loosen the brake while holding onto the wall. Easing weight onto the rope again, I rappelled to a ledge fifteen feet below. Off rappel, a flick on the rope set it free from the snag… first try.

    Mark was stranded on the ridge and the threat of lightening was not yet past. He had to get down. We were too far apart to throw the rope back up so Mark rummaged into his pack for cord. He lowered it… too short. Next he pulls out his boot laces and tied them onto the cord. Altogether it reached and I sent the rope up. Mark set a new anchor and rappelled to my level. We followed the ledge system around the east side back onto the north face trying to find the top of the PT Boat Chock Stone route. We had enough gear to set two more rappel anchors and it would take five to get off the pinnacle. Several years earlier we had left slings retreating down the Chock Stone route. In spite of their age we hoped they might still hold our weight. They did.



  • @FritzRay Great stuff, Fritz!

    Gordon's Tribute keeps getting better and better. Also a reminder that at the end of the day all we really have are good friends and the fond memories. Appears you are both rich men in this department. Indeed!



  • Bump for a good tribute thread. I'll go back and read more (e.g. close encounter), but sweet writing Fritz. Effing-A: North Raker!!!!


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