AC­COM­PLISHED ATH­LETE WAS AN EX­PERT IN MOUN­TAIN RES­CUE

The Globe and Mail Metro (Ontario Edition) - - OBITUARIES - TOM HAWTHORN

Bold, tal­ented and preter­nat­u­rally calm, the lean Mr. Auger es­tab­lished many routes over such dif­fi­cult ter­rain

He was a mem­ber of an ill-fated Mount Ever­est ex­pe­di­tion in 1982 and a Cana­dian pi­o­neer of wa­ter­fall ice climb­ing

Tim Auger and five climbers were less than 500 me­tres from the sum­mit of Mount Pu­mori, a satel­lite peak of Mount Ever­est, when a howl­ing wind be­gan pun­ish­ing them. Blow­ing at 65 kilo­me­tres an hour, the sting­ing wind “just picked up the snow and drove it into our faces,” Mr. Auger said later. He knew the death toll for climbers in the Hi­malayas was about one in 10.

“There were many lit­tle mo­ments of ter­ror. There were long, long mo­ments when we had to think about whether we were go­ing to make it.”

The ex­pe­di­tion mem­bers were mak­ing the treach­er­ous climb with­out Sherpa guides or oxy­gen. The 7,145-me­tre Nepalese peak had only first been con­quered in 1962 and just four other groups had made the as­cent be­fore the Cana­dian at­tempt.

The men, led by Ian Rowe, a me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer from Golden, B.C., per­se­vered, and at 9:15 a.m. on Oct. 7, 1977, reached the top.

“When we set foot on the sum­mit, which was a small plateau, there was no wind,” Mr. Auger said. “It was eerie, as though we were in an air pocket.

“It was a per­fect day and the view over the Hi­malayas was fan­tas­tic. We were above the clouds and had a mag­nif­i­cent view of Mount Ever­est, which had been a back­drop to the whole climb. And in the other di­rec­tion we could see into Ti­bet.”

One of the climbers un­furled a Cana­dian flag and the men took turns hold­ing it, hug­ging each other in the ex­hil­a­ra­tion of hav­ing com­pleted a climb and know­ing that from that point, in Mr. Auger’s words, it was all down­hill.

Mr. Auger, who has died at 72, was a noted moun­taineer who be­came an ex­pert in moun­tain res­cues dur­ing a long ca­reer as a war­den with Parks Canada in the Rocky Moun­tains.

He was a mem­ber of an ill-fated Cana­dian Mount Ever­est Ex­pe­di­tion in 1982. He is cred­ited as a pi­o­neer of wa­ter­fall ice climb­ing in Canada with first as­cents of Bourgeau Right-Hand and Bourgeau Left-Hand in the Rockies, dan­ger­ous climbs un­der con­stant threat of avalanche.

Bold, tal­ented, and preter­nat­u­rally calm, the lean Mr. Auger es­tab­lished many routes over such dif­fi­cult ter­rain as sheer faces and frozen wa­ter­falls. His great skill was all the more no­table for his hav­ing spent his child­hood in a flat Prairie city.

Timothy Frank Auger was born in Toronto on March 6, 1946, to the for­mer Dorothy Kath­leen Hill and Fred Saun­ders Auger. The fam­ily moved to Win­nipeg in 1951 when Fred Auger be­came pub­lisher of the daily Win­nipeg Tribune, a po­si­tion he later held with the Prov­ince news­pa­per in Vancouver. The lad de­liv­ered his fa­ther’s news­pa­per.

A spir­ited boy, he climbed drain pipes and tele­phone poles. One child­hood friend re­calls him climb­ing the in­te­rior of a three-storey laun­dry chute in a house they were vis­it­ing.

At 13, he read Hein­rich Har­rer’s The White Spi­der, a har­row­ing ac­count of at­tempts – many of them doomed – to conquer the Eiger in the Ber­nese Alps of Switzer­land. The book cap­tured his imag­i­na­tion.

As an arts stu­dent at the Uni­ver­sity of Bri­tish Columbia, Mr. Auger in­dulged his pas­sion with mem­bers of the Var­sity Out­door Club. In­spired by a book about climb­ing the build­ings at Cam­bridge in the 1930s, they sur­rep­ti­tiously hoisted, hauled and chim- neyed up build­ings on cam­pus, us­ing win­dow ledges like ledges on a cliff face.

At 18, he and Dan Tate com­pleted only the sec­ond as­cent of the Grand Wall route on Stawa­mus Chief Moun­tain, a gran­ite mas­sif tow­er­ing 700 me­tres above the wa­ters of nearby Howe Sound over­look­ing the mill town of Squamish.

Mr. Auger was one of a quar­tet of climbers to com­plete the first as­cent of a route along a 300-me­tre crack sys­tem ex­tend­ing up the Chief’s rock face. It was named Uni­ver­sity Wall, as Mr. Auger should have been in class on cam­pus in­stead of climb­ing. It also gave him the op­por­tu­nity to re­spond to his mother’s ques­tions about his where­abouts by re­ply­ing, “At Uni­ver­sity.” Uni­ver­sity Wall was also the ti­tle of a 10minute 2006 doc­u­men­tary by Ivan Hughes on the 40th an­niver­sary of the ar­du­ous climb.

In 1972, he was one of three climbers to as­cend Keeler Nee­dle on Mount Whit­ney, a dan­ger­ous climb in Cal­i­for­nia’s Inyo Na­tional For­est that had claimed sev­eral lives. Mr. Auger’s group needed three days to get to the top, be­com­ing only the sec­ond group to com­plete the climb.

An am­bi­tious Mount Ever­est Ex­pe­di­tion in 1982, involving more than 100 spon­sor­ing com­pa­nies and five years of prepa­ra­tion, in­cluded 20 Cana­dian climbers and 39 Sher­pas.

An avalanche fa­tally crushed three Sher­pas and two days later cam­era­man Blair Grif­fiths of Vancouver was killed when an ice tower col­lapsed. Mr. Auger and two Sher­pas were in­jured in the sec­ond ac­ci­dent in the no­to­ri­ous Khumbu Ice­fall. Mr. Auger and six other Cana­di­ans climbers aban­doned the project.

“I just re­al­ized that for me I’m on the wrong moun­tain at the wrong time,” he said.

Mr. Auger spent six years as a war­den at Lake O’Hara in Yoho Na­tional Park in eastern Bri­tish Columbia be­fore mov­ing to Al­berta to be a war­den at Banff Na­tional Park.

He be­came an ex­pert in moun­tain res­cues, of­fer­ing in­sight on sling res­cues by he­li­copter and in postavalanche prob­ing tech­niques.

On one res­cue mis­sion, he dis­cov­ered in 1975 a cave in Yoho im­pen­e­tra­ble for much of the year be­cause of flow­ing wa­ter. It was named Yo­hole.

The Banff Cen­tre pre­sented him with the sec­ond an­nual Sum­mit of Ex­cel­lence Award in 1996 for his sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to life in the Rockies. For the last four years of his life, he was an hon­orary mem­ber of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Cana­dian Moun­tain Guides.

Mr. Auger, a res­i­dent of Can­more, Alta., died at Banff Min­eral Springs Hos­pi­tal. He leaves Sherry (née Doner), his wife of 46 years, and their son, Corey Auger, of North Vancouver. He also leaves four grand­chil­dren and a brother, Barry Auger, of Vancouver.

Other no­table climbs in­clude the fa­mous ver­ti­cal rock for­ma­tion El Cap­i­tan in Cal­i­for­nia’s Yosemite Na­tional Park. He sur­vived a spec­tac­u­lar 600-me­tre fall dur­ing the de­scent from the East Ridge of Yukon’s Mount Lo­gan, Canada’s high­est peak. One of his favourite chal­lenges was Banff’s Mount Louis.

Mr. Auger posed for a pho­to­graph on the sum­mit of Mount Pu­mori. He sent a copy to his brother, not­ing the height in feet of the moun­tain on which he stood, as well as the sur­round­ing peaks of Nuptse, Lhotse and the loom­ing Ever­est. He also inked in “5foot-9,” his own mod­est height, dwarfed as he was by the moun­tain­tops, a re­flec­tion of his dry wit.

MARTIN TAY­LOR

Tim Auger climbs a vari­ant of the north ridge of Athabasca in Au­gust, 2010.

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