Obit­u­ary

Gripped - - CONTENTS - Dick Howe

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.

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