On his way down from summitting Patagonia’s Cerro Solo in 1972, Howie Richardson looked across a 10- metre avalanche-chute standing between him and camp. Above, giant seracs were breaking off and cascading down the chute every five minutes. After considerable deliberation, he decided to attempt the crossing between ice falls, and jumped in. Just as he did, a mass of ice blocks the size of train freightcars came booming and crashing down the chute and he was swept up with the dense glacial ice. Arms and legs flailing, he managed to stay on top of the monstrous slide, but not without his ice axe impaling him in his side. Although some of us ‘softer’ sorts might consider this a major event, Richardson just felt lucky that he wasn’t ser iously injured and walked back to camp with his partner.
Richardson hasn’t stopped adventuring yet, even nearly into his 70s. The untamed white hair on his head and a single eyebrow that grows almost ear to ear reach out in curly white tendrils that seem to reflect his own desire to reach beyond the boundaries of his life and into the unknown. When he smiles, his eyes squint slightly, bordered by deep lines from too much practice in this activity.
To the community in the Okanagan and beyond, he is perhaps most well-known for his authorship of
His life hasn’t been solely about scr ibbling down route descr iptions and drawing topos. He is retired from a career in teaching, even though he claims, “If you asked most people, they would tell you that I never worked.” Throughout his life he worked more jobs than most people: as a taxi dr iver, in a bakery, managing a fish hatcher y, conducting team-building exercises for cor porate groups, in avalanche control (dur ing which he and his truck were bur ied in snow – twice) and roper igging for movies.
Perhaps the belief that he never worked stems more from his two main careers: working in the outdoors and teaching at a university. After all, the most challenging question he was asked at his first Outward Bound interview, which consisted mainly of playing on var ious obstacle courses, was, “Would you be prepared to shave your beard off for the job?” More willing back then to remove excess hair than he seems to be now, he got the job and worked over 20 years for the organization. With Outward Bound, he could share his passion for the outdoors with others and also travel from his home in Britain to Canada, the U.S., and even Hong Kong. The courses involved teaching a wide range of activities “impossible to duplicate in today’s fully certified world,” said Richardson, but climbing was always on the list. “I’ve always really enjoyed teaching people to climb – just love being in the mountains. If anybody would pay me, or even not pay me, just give me food for wandering around in the hills, I was more than happy.”
Being “in the hills” has always involved more than climbing for Richardson, but climbing became his most consistent of outdoor activities. “I just like exploring…I’ve
Above: Howie Richardson on Assholes of August 5.10, Skaha, B.C.