1931 to 2014

John Turner

Gripped - - OBITUARIES - Yan­kee Rock & Ice, Clas­sic Climbs in North Amer­ica Fifty

was con­sid­ered one of the most im­por­tant free climbers in North Amer­ica, his routes have stood the test of time, and many are well-known clas­sics. John Turner passed away on March 30, at his home, Church Farm, in Long Buckby, Eng­land.

Turner be­came an im­por­tant part of climb­ing com­mu­ni­ties in Que­bec, On­tario and the north­east­ern U.S. He spent seven years climb­ing in North Amer­ica dur­ing the 1950s and 1960s. He was a man well ahead of his time in the dif­fi­culty of the routes he es­tab­lished, the style in which he es­tab­lished them and in his at­ti­tude to­wards climb­ing. Laura and Guy Water­man de­scribed, in their book Turner as “an iso­lated comet flash­ing across north­east­ern skies and then dis­ap­pear­ing.”

He went on an amaz­ing new-rout­ing spree in North Amer­ica. Many of his routes achieved an awe-in­spir ing sta­tus in fol­low­ing years, many last­ing a decade un­til they were re­peated. One such route was The Joke 5.9, in Bon Echo, which he climbed in 1960 with Dick Strachan. The Joke was rev­o­lu­tion­ary for its time, a long slen­der or­ange ramp r ising out of Maz­i­naw Lake for 120 m. The pro­tec­tion, in the for m of pi­tons, was mar­ginal at best. Most climbers broke left at the top of the ramp, and avoided the last pitch by John Turner, which went more-or-less straight up, and on which he ap­par­ently had one of his leg­endary falls. It re­port­edly took Turner four at­tempts to climb the or ig­i­nal fin­ish.

Of all Turner’s routes, the one most climbers will know is the north­east ridge of Bu­ga­boo Spire. The route ap­peared in

as climb num­ber 10. The Water­mans cred­ited Turner with the best rock climb of his time, Rec­om­pense 5.9, and the hard­est sin­gle climb, Re­pen­tance 5.10c (done in 1958, it is con­sid­ered to be the first 5.10 in the area), both in New Hamp­shire. They also said he had the bold­est lead, Bloody Mary 5.9, at Poke-O-Moon­shine, and con­sid­ered him the most im­por­tant climber in the north­east­ern U.S. dur­ing the 1950s.

John Turner at his home, March 2013

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