Re­nais­sance Man

Gripped - - STORY - Story by Au­tumn Sar­tain User’s Man­ual. Skaha Rock­climbs: A

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.

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