Mark Powell Passes

  • Mark died July 2nd at the age of 91 in LA.

    I knew Mark during the 1960s when we would both show up either in the Tetons or the Needles of the Black Hills. In addition to his many climbing adventures he was an extra in several western movies. I recall him telling a story of working with James Stewart on a film, with Stewart flubbing his lines so often it wore the rest of the cast out.

    I think Mark taught meteorology at a community college in California for many years. He was charming and a delight to be around.

  • He was one of the first to adopt climbing as a lifestyle rather than a hobby.


  • It sounds like he lived an amazing life. I did not know him but knew of him. . Rest in Peace, Mark Powell.

    There only seems to be a handful of active users on this site so I have rarely returned here.
    Thanks for posting here of his passing, John

  • I forgot to mention today is 11th anniversary of John Bachar's passing.
    If we could have kept his 4th of You Lie conversation going on Supertopo I would have gotten to post the wonderful npr production just made by Frederick Douglass's descendants taking turns reading his riveting and still as true as the day it was written, 4th of July address to Congress

  • @jgill Thanks for posting this up, Mr. Gill. I took the liberty to add an "in memoriam" tag. 👍

    @Alfalfa said in Mark Powell Passes:

    It sounds like he lived an amazing life. I did not know him but knew of him. . Rest in Peace, Mark Powell.

    Ditto. Although I think I may have met him once at JTree.

    There only seems to be a handful of active users on this site so I have rarely returned here.

    It is common on forums for only small subset of members to be active posters while the silent majority lurks. RPU also does not do advertisements, nor contract "SEO Placement" companies to artificially inflate things or any of the other dubious tactics commercially backed operations utilize in the "war for eyeballs".

    Hence, I am happy we're still here after a year and seemingly the most "successful" of the ST refugee sites other than FB. Also that what is here is the real deal. Organically grown, if you will, with an exceptional signal vs. noise ratio. @Alfalfa, for e.g. has made 67 posts and sports a reputation count of 56 - or 84%, if you will. By comparison, my reputation on some other boards were I am fairly well respected runs somewhere in the low 30%.

    That said, I'd love for more diversity. Maybe you could help us out with that, eh? Especially since you seem to set a pretty high quality table. 😉 👍

  • He may have been a dirtbagger at first, but he was college educated and was certainly working for a living during the time I knew him. He may have taught courses in geography at the junior college level as well as meteorology. I was a meteorologist in the early 1960s, so I remember that best. He was a very handsome guy, and was married at least twice (Beverly Powell Woolsey and ??? - I knew her but can't recall her name).

    The ankle injury Mark incurred in Yosemite was an ongoing problem in his climbing, but he did well in the Needles where one stands on small nubbins consistently. Bob Kamps was his frequent climbing partner.

    Many of those who set standards in the 1950s, particularly in California, are gone. Dave Rearick, 88, suffered a stroke six years ago and lives in a retirement home in Boulder. I chat with him weekly and am astounded at his memory for events and people that long ago. I thought I had met Dave in 1958, but he corrected me - we met in the Tetons in 1956 or 1957, roughly about the time I met Chouinard.

  • I don't know how to link posts from FB to here, so I'll just post this photo, which Bonnie Kamps posted on the supertaco refugees site.

    Other than the image, her only comment was: "Mark Powells's progress report on the first ascent of the Nose."

    So, here you go:
    Mark Powell letter.jpg

  • My condolences to his family & friends. My life is poorer, for having never met, or climbed, with him.

  • Most climbers who know anything about Mark Powell think of him as part of the first ascent of El Cap. A Yosemite climber. But he also climbed extensively on the bizarre towers of the US desert southwest.

    One of my favorite climbing photos is of him, Jerry Galwas, Don Wilson, and Bill (the Dolt) Feuerer on the summit of The Totem Pole after their first ascent in 1957. It has been posted in many books and articles, and is readily available on the web, so I hope I'm not violating any law by posting it here.

    Iconic, right? Cool dirtbag-looking climbers, refugees from the real world, doing what they do. Beatnik-era heroes, casually posing on the summit of a desert tower after a ridiculously difficult and dangerous first ascent. And maybe you think that they were probably pretty happy to find that little pool of water on the top, cuz they were no doubt thirsty.

    But wait. Top of a desert tower. in Arizona, in summer. Pool of water?

    Now I didn't hear this from the guy I heard it from, and you sure as hell didn't hear it from me, but...

    ...word is, that little pool may not have been there when they arrived.

    Whatever. The climb, and the photo are iconic.

    Summit of Totem Pole, Jerry Galwas.jpg

  • Last week I asked Rearick to refresh my memory of what he told me of his ascent of the Totem Pole. On top he and a companion were looking away when TM Herbert yelled behind them, "Whoops! I dropped the rope!" 🙂

  • @jgill Heh.. Ah, the Games Climbers Play.... Probably no small amount of brief panic there. 😬

  • @jgill said in Mark Powell Passes:

    On top he and a companion were looking away when TM Herbert yelled behind them, "Whoops! I dropped the rope!"

    And when they turned around from fussing with their anchor, there was TM, sitting empty-handed at the edge of the summit. It was December, and they knew they were going to die. And then TM swung his legs back up over the edge -- with the ropes tied to his ankles.

    Anyone who is interested in more about Mark Powell's desert tower climbs, or pretty much any desert tower climb done by anybody, should order a copy of "Desert Towers" by Crusher Bartlett.

    It is maybe the best climbing book I have ever read. Great writing, great history (including a 5-page section on the Navajo viewpoint), fabulous photos (large format), lots of first-person tales... I reviewed it for the American Alpine Journal in 2011. Available through Amazon or Sharp End Publishing.

    Desert Towers.jpg

  • Sorry for your loss John. I am always amazed at what you guys and gals accomplished with such minimal gear! I can't even fathom abseiling with the dulfersitz ? on real cliff let alone a big wall!

  • I just talked with Dave. Mark had three wives: Beverley, Chris, and Mary. Mary passed away a few years ago. Mark was chair of the geography department at Pierce College in LA for a time.

  • Mark Powell was my Meteorology Teacher at Pierce College in Woodland Hills. He truly was a character, he made learning fun! I will never forget his shouting out a date and pointing at a student and saying "Solstice, or Equinox?" He was a classic!!

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