1931 to 2014
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