April 24, 1937 – Nov. 29, 2018
Dick never took himself too seriously. He pushed me beyond my limits, scared the crap out of me, told the greatest stories and sang the sweetest tunes. He led by example. So many of the platitudes we hear about great people – well, Dick exemplified them all.
Dick was born in Burma in 1937. At four years of age, in response to the Japanese invasion, he was evacuated to Scotland where he spent the next few years either hiding in bomb shelters or collecting shrapnel off the streets. Soon after, Dick was sent off to boarding school until he turned 15. He later moved to Glasgow to work on locomotives and apprentice as a millwright. It was during this period that he met Louise, who became his wife – a union that lasted until his death more than 60 years later. In 1963, Dick and Louise headed off to Australia, but when they missed their boat, ended up in Vancouver instead. With jobs hard to come by, Louise returned to Scotland and Dick moved to Calgary. When Louise reached Scotland, she learned she was pregnant with their first child (Lesley). She remained there until she gave birth and then rejoined Dick in Calgary. Dick said his career always kept him close to “anything metal” and the specialized tools he needed for this craft. At night, he used the same tools to fashion his own inventions.
In the 1960s and ’70s Dick, was a member of a small cadre of Rockies climbers pushing up new routes on almost anything they thought could “go.” This included lots of work in cmc valley and as part of the first ascent teams on many Yam classics including Bottleneck, Pangolin, Gollum’s Grooves and Dick’s Route. Some notable first ascents on ice include Nemesis and Jaws.
“He did a lot of climbing with Dick Lofthouse. For some reason lost to the grave now, Dick H. always climbed the even-numbered pitches, and Lofthouse the odd.”—dave Dornian
Dick’s other love was music. In 1973 he started the Rocky Mountain Folk Club – and was still playing his guitar and singing to crowds in his care home until just days before he passed away.
While Dick did many notable first ascents, it wasn’t his technical climbing prowess or bold exploits that defined him: it was his impact on everyone he met. His gentleness, his support for new climbers, his smile that could fill any room – these are the things we will remember about him. Dick could recount every move on every climb he did in shocking detail. He climbed with many people – and touched each of their lives in some great way. There is hardly a Calgary Mountain Club (cmc) member who doesn’t have stories about Dick, and whose life wasn’t in some way made better through their friendship with him.
“When I was 18, and a new climber, I met Dick while working at a summer job. He took me under his wing, undid all the wrong things I had so-far learned about climbing, and introduced me to the CMC. He took me climbing, often, he taught me how to play safe in the mountains – and still have fun. He tried (unsuccessfully) to teach me to drink scotch. When I showed up for climbing one morning, obviously suffering from the ill effects of too much drinking the previous night – he took me out
on polished slabs – unroped, where I seriously suffered. He explained that climbing hungover was an advanced technique – that I wasn’t ready for yet!”—ken Wiens
Dick was a great volunteer in the climbing world. In the 1980s, Dick, his constant climbing partner Mal “Tabs” Talbot and Mike Mortimer, became a major force in the Alpine Club of Canada (acc) huts committee. As Dick was an experienced millwright and Tabs a cabinet maker, they left their mark on almost every hut in the Rockies. Building new huts and upgrading existing ones. Many acc huts are only standing today thanks to the tireless efforts of these three.
“In 1989, as part of the large CMC contingent, Dick worked for over two weeks straight on the construction of the new Bow Hut. Dick’s favourite ‘job’ and his delight on all the work parties that he took part in was declaring the end of each working day with his announcement of ‘Miller Time’ and ensuring that everyone had at least one beer to enjoy before dinner. He was presented with a Distinguished Service Award by the ACC for many years of hard and skillful work in helping bring tired old buildings up to the standard they are today, and helping design and construct many of the newer ones that we all now enjoy.”—mal Talbot Dick gained a reputation in the mountaineering community for bringing his metal working prowess together with his love of climbing. He loved to design new climbing tools or improve the design of existing equipment. On the wall of the cmc room in the Ironwood Stage & Grill (Calgary), one can see a “7-up” – a hammer-in ice anchor designed by Dick. He was also a master at sharpening ice screws and axes. He could make any ice screw, regardless of age, cut through ice like the proverbial hot knife through butter.
“I think about the time Dick welded a Simond Chacal blade onto a Terrordactyl shaft and called it a ‘Chacadactyl’. Ludgar Simond, the owner of Simond was horrified when l showed it to him!”—mike Mortimer
Days after Dick retired, a medical mishap resulted in his paralysis, but Dick’s mood and spirit remained high. When cancer was supposed to take Dick from us, he fought back and carried on. About six years ago, a few of us climbing in Mexico were called and told that Dick was in his final days, if not hours. Six years later he was still going strong, mentoring high school students, playing in his folk club, stealing cookies away from the dispensary in his care home, hiding them under his shirt and then giving them to Louise.
On Fri. Dec. 7 many of Dick’s climbing and music friends, together with his family, celebrated his life with a traditional Scottish toast and lots of stories and music. Plenty of scotch and tears flowed. We will miss him greatly.
Dick is survived by his wife, Louise, his daughter, Lesley, and his son, Graham. Dick’s ashes will be taken to Scotland to be spread in the ocean in front of his mother’s home.