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John Stoddard's Passing


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John passed away unexpectedly on Monday August 15, 2005. I have included a link to his obituary – it is a temporary link, to a pdf that takes a moment to load. http://www.dullroar.com/Stoddard/


Just so you know who I am, I am John’s daughter Lesley. I am posting this in an attempt to get some help tracking down trip reports that he may have written, to gather climbing stories and pictures that anyone would like to share with us. My mother and I would love to have this information.


It still seems so unreal that he is gone and I really wish that I was doing this to celebrate his 50th Birthday next March instead of the end of his life.


If this isn’t the best to place a post or you know where he may have posted, I would also appreciate that input.


Thank you,



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Dear Lesley,


I'm very sorry (shocked really) to hear this news. I didn't know your father well, but my old house-mate Mark Bebie worked with him at Microsoft about 20 years ago and they climbed together a bit. I happened to save a bit of old email that Mark sent me in 1987 after your father and Monte Westlund climbed the north face of Mt Baring, next to the Stevens Pass highway in the Cascades. This is an intimidating looking climb that doesn't get done very often. Mark and I talked about doing it, which is why I saved the email, I guess. Here it is with all the headers and everything, which gives you a little better feeling for those days. This was before the world-wide web existed.


Here's your father's email, forwarded to me by Mark:


From microsof!markb Mon Jun 15 14:24:49 1987

Received: by medusa.tc.fluke.COM (config 27-Feb-87)

from sputnik.tc.fluke.COM

for lowell on Mon, 15 Jun 87 14:24:46 PDT

Received: by sputnik.tc.fluke.COM (config 22-May-87)

for lowell@medusa on Mon, 15 Jun 87 14:24:39 PDT

Message-Id: <8706152124.AA25663@sputnik>

From: microsof!markb

To: fluke!tc.fluke.COM!lowell

Subject: weekend

Date: Mon Jun 15 13:53:41 1987

Status: RO


>From johnst Mon Jun 15 09:47:29 1987

To: jimb kristenl markb

Subject: weekend

Date: Mon Jun 15 09:43:26 1987


I spent Saturday climbing the N face of Baring with Monte. To my surprise,

this turned out to be a terrific adventure - it's not nearly the bushwhack

one would think from looking at it...

Dan was supposed to come too, meeting me at my house at 4. At 4:30 he

called and said he couldn't get up that early and was bagging out.

Monte and I got to the trailhead at 6:30. We ignored Fred's advice about the

approach and went directly up the bed of the stream that comes out of the

big slot on the N face - no brush to speak of, but a lot of loose rock and

some steep damp slabs. The next part of the route is very steep brush

climbing a la the N face of Index, for about 1000', but nicer and more open

since you're on a ridge crest. Lots of scraps of old fixed ropes, hemp and

goldline. As the brush was dry and we were in a neat position, this was

a lot of fun. Then a few hundred feet of low 5th class scrambling, with

*awesome* trundling opportunities. When you finally rope up (at the spot Fred

calls "Dolomite camp") the summit is only 6 pitches away! The first 3 of these

are easy, then there are 2 hard ones (5.8 and 5.9/5.10A) and another easy one.

You walk across a ledge to the summit slopes.

What climbing there is is surprisingly high quality, very steep with incut

holds on clean (but loose) rock. Marginal pro, spectacular exposure.

We were on top at 3:30, and probably could have gone faster if there weren't

so many distracting trundling opportunities. The best was a 3' x 4' block

that went 700' airborn down the "hideous chasm" Fred metions to explode in

fragments on the far wall.

The decent featured a long fast standing glissade where Monte cut tele turns

in his tennis shoes!

We brought home several interesting artifacts, including a jar with a scrap

of paper left in 1938 and the piton that protected the crux moves, cleaned

by Monte with a sharp tug. I brought the jar in, if anyone would like to

see it.


And here's some private commentary from Mark:


From microsof!markb Tue Jun 16 00:19:53 1987

Received: by medusa.tc.fluke.COM (config 27-Feb-87)

from sputnik.tc.fluke.COM

for lowell on Tue, 16 Jun 87 00:19:51 PDT

Received: by sputnik.tc.fluke.COM (config 22-May-87)

for lowell@medusa on Tue, 16 Jun 87 00:19:45 PDT

Message-Id: <8706160719.AA28648@sputnik>

From: microsof!markb

To: fluke!lowell

Subject: Baring

Date: Mon Jun 15 17:01:12 1987

Status: RO


I spoke with John about it. Sounds pretty dicy, esp. after

Monte removed the pin. It was about 20' out to your left

when you do the crux move, now you have to find the hole the

pin came out of and place some micro-nut protection (great!).

The hard climbing is fingers on incut holds and feet on

sloping holds. John described the crux move as a no-hands

mantle followed by a faith step up to grab a dubious block.

He spent some time psyching himself up for it. Near this

crux, there are pins all around you, showing where previous

attempts had ventured, but he said the face did steer you

the way they went, and there wasn't another choice. He does

tend to play up a story pretty well sometimes, but he doesn't

seem to play it up too much with me.


Both John & Monte are good 5.11 climbers. John says he liked

the position and nature of the climb so much he'd definitely

do it again.


My final analysis: sounds dicy.


Sadly, Mark Bebie died in a climbing accident some years ago, so he's not around to offer more. There are other old friends of your father's who occasionally post here. I hope some of them will see this thread and contact you.


All the best,

Lowell Skoog


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It is indeed very sad to hear of John's passing. We went on a couple of trips to Squamish with the same group and I remember them fondly; however, whenever I think of John I do not think of those trips but rather an interaction I had with him before we ever met.


It was in the early 80s and I had spent the day climbing at Index. I was living with my parents and upon arriving home the first thing my mother said to me was "Did you leave your pack at Index?" It then hit me that I did. "How did you know?" Mother replied: "Well a friend of yours, John Stoddard, called and said he had your pack" Me: "John Stoddard?" Mother: "Well he dropped it off." And there was my brown pack loaded with my gear. To this day I find it incomprehensible how he beat me home. He noticed an unattended pack foud out whose it was and returned it all before the loss was noticed!


Best regards & condolences,



Edited by DCramer
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I too am saddened to hear of John's passing. He was a good friend of mine and we shared several adventures in the mountains. His memory bring back a special time. During the 1980's in Seattle, John was perhaps the most motivated of an exceptionally talented group of climbers who were pushing the limits of Cascade climbing. I don't have many photos, just memories of John blowing us away with stories of his latest exploits, or getting us psyched to try something new and hard. There was a saying, "the psyched one motivates" to attribute the success of a climb to the guy who got up the earliest or kicked the most steps. John was the psyched one. He will be missed.

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I too am saddened by the death of your father. He was a good friend of mine, and we climbed often in the 80's. I am right now going to call my good friend Randy Stout, who was a room-mate of your father in 1980, in the basement of a sororiety!


It is saddly ironic that I just last week recycled an article from the Seattle Times, January 1985, about your dad and Mark Twight ice climbing in the Icicle Canyon in December, 1984. I wish I had saved it, so I could have sent it to you.


I have a ton of photos of John, ad would be happy to share.



Mark McKillop

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I should add some context to explain John's email, above. It may help you appreciate what his life was like in those days. The email was sent to fellow Microsofties jimb (Jim Borgeous), kristenl (Kristen Laine), and markb (Mark Bebie). Swapping Monday morning climbing stories around the cyberspace water cooler is old hat today, but it was quite new back then. You can think of John and his friends as trailblazers of a sort--CascadeClimbers.com is descended by several generations from the sort of informal chatter that climbers at Microsoft and elsewhere were starting back then.


I especially like the last paragraph, where John mentions that he "brought the jar in," which means he had it there at work. It's nice to imagine the four of them converging at his office to take a look at it.


I've lost track of Jim. Kristen was one of the founders of Women Climbers Northwest and now lives on the east coast, I believe.

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Wow, sorry to hear about John. We hadn't talked for many years until I got an e-mail from him out of the blue. He found my name in some obscure message board somewhere and thought it might be me and sent a message. It was good to hear from him. He talked of skiing 300 days a year, or something like that, and his family.


I don't have any e-mails or anything like that, but I probably have some slides (yeah, slides) from some of our trips together. He and I spent some time in the mountains and on the crags together. He'll be missed for sure.



Monte Westlund

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  • 3 weeks later...

I just learned about John's death today. I remember his very well, even though it's probably 15 years since I last saw him. He was such a talented climber, but he was always so supportive of whatever someone else was reaching for, regardless of the level. He and I wasted many a fine hour at Microsoft talking about climbing. I've often wondered what he was doing now, and I am stunned that he's gone. I don't know how much I could contribute, but I'd be happy to share any memories I have with you, Lesley.

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Hi Lesley,

Sorry to hear the sad news. Here is a bit about my memory about John.

I remember John as a low-key, soft-spoken, but very good climber and mathematician. My memory is generally poor, but two events come to mind. One of the first times I talked with him was at the UW climbing rock. I recall my boasting about some calculation I had just done and his incredulity. After I left for class, I realized that I had erred and his scepticism was right on.


The other event was a trip we took to Squamish, just north of Vancouver, BC. It is one of my most memorable climbing experiences. This would be in the early 80s. We drove up from Seattle in his car. He played a tape by David Byrne and Brian Eno, and I recall thinking how refreshing and different that music was.

Our climb was on the Chief, the big wall at Squamish, and the route was called, I think, cruel shoes. Neither of us had done the route before, but he knew something about it. The technical difficulty was within my ability, but he told me that long falls were possible on some pitches; not to worry though, he would lead those pitches. And so he did lead the scary and hardest pitches (gracefully, I might add), which I was very grateful for. We reached the split pillar, where the route joins another route, and then we descended. About 120 feet from the ground there was this perfect little ledge to sit on where our back would be against the wall and our feet hanging over the edge. So we stopped on this ledge to rest for awhile. John told me about some intoxicant he had brought in his pack, I think it might have been beer, but anyway, we enjoyed whatever it was that he brought. We sat there on the ledge for some time feeling the warm glow, chatting, and watching the darkening sky. Suddenly it dawned on one of us, probably John, that the descent through the dense forest below would be a bit darker than than it was up here on the wall above the tree tops. Normally, it would take about 15 minutes to descend from the base of the wall to the car. But neither of us had a flashlight, and the descent through the forest might be difficult in the dark. We quickly rappelled to the base and started down the trail. John said that we might lose the trail, in which case he should lead the way because he was more familiar (he said) with the forest below the Chief. You see, this forest has huge trees that hide huge boulders and cliffs. He knew the hidden dangers in this forest and he made it clear to me that we had to be careful. So, sure enough, we staggered only about ten feet down the trail before we got totally lost. He suggested that we get down on all fours and crawl out. It sounds crazy, but that is what we had to do. John led the way, and whenever we got to a dropoff, he told me to wait until I heard his voice at the bottom. A few times he did go over a dropoff, but it was never more than one or two body lengths. I would be left all alone in complete darkness at the edge, but I had complete confidence that he would lead me safely to the car. About 20 yards or so from the parking lot we somehow rejoined the trail and casually walked to the car.

So, that was about 20 years ago. Since then we moved apart. I haven't had much opportunity to climb since then, so the memory of our descent on all fours has become all the more valuable to me. It was only a few weeks ago that I was thinking how nice it would be to find John's email and give him an unexpected message. I would have thanked him for the wonderful experience he brought me.


Jon Nelson

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My memory is generally poor,


Jon Nelson


Mine, too, but I remember Jon Nelson and I remember meeting John Stoddard at Squamish and his talking about having done Cruel Shoes, a testpiece at the time. I only saw John occasionally at UW rock but he once loaned me or I may have loaned him some wire stoppers that came back with an impressive record of use plain to see on them. Bryan Burdo said that John had amazing pictures from his winter climb of Johannesburg. I do remember John saying that he was able to squeeze his work week into 3 days so he could climb the other 4, but that he had doubts whether the 3 days off climbing was enough time to recover from the 4 days out. There was also a rumor that he and Mark Twight were setting up to parapente off SEWS. The supposedly daredevil Mark thought it looked too risky and the normally cautious John tried it, had trouble, started to plummet but hung up on a tree. Bryan's comment was, "Programmers do it at terminal velocity."


Though I had little contact with John I remember his manner quite well. He somehow inspired confidence.


Andy Cairns

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Hi Andy,

I'm glad I remembered the route name correctly.

But that parapente episode puts our little forest crawl to shame. I'm glad you mentioned it though, because I once heard, or thought I heard, that Jon Carpenter tried parapenting off South Early Winters spire with Mark, and also got tangled up at the top. It would be strange if Mark took two "Johns" on the same ill-fated adventure (rather suspicious actually), so I guess I instead just misremembered the story. (But at least I got the John part right, even if the spelling is wrong.)


Jon Nelson

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Reading these posts supports my impression of John as a person who was cautious and sensible by nature yet still managed to have rattling good adventures. (Really rattlin'!) This reminds me of something he told me once, soon after he got married; he said that now when either he or his wife were leading a pitch, he would think 'Whoa...wait a minute here, isn't this a little too run out?'. He was always thinking about the other person.


I can't help but think of a line in my favorite essay-poem (Kamo no Chomei's 'Record of the ten-foot-square hut') "...whichever of the pair was most fervent in devotion was always the first to die. This was because, heedless of personal concerns, he or she thought only of the other party..." Chomei wrote that in 1212.


[Re, Andy's post] A three-day work week -- Now that reflects a true climbing spirit!


I see from the memorial article that he and your mom moved to Nederland four years ago. I lived in Boulder from '94 to '96, right next to Nederland. I wonder if you were living near Boulder back then -- I would have loved to have met John with his family. Too bad. Now I am a bit far away to make even the rememberence gathering, but I hope my little recollections here help somehow.



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  • 1 year later...



I apologize for resurrecting this but I heard about John's death just today. Mike Long, with whom John and I and Pat MaNerthney climbed "Falling Falls" somewhere out in Eastern Washington casually mentioned it in an e-mail. I felt a bit sick when I read it.


Lesley, I have the newspaper article Mark McKillop mentioned and a bunch of pictures from an Alaskan trip we took together in 1985, probably some from the Canadian Rockies and canoeing across Tumwater Canyon as well. I would be happy to scan and send if you are interested. PM me at: mft230jhp@hotmail.com


To all of my old Cascade climbing friends and acquaintances further up the thread it was a pleasure to read some of those stories, thank you.



Take care,

Mark Twight

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  • 12 years later...


I'm very sorry to hear of John's passing.  I barely knew him - we were referred to each other by Bryce Simon, I believe - and we did only one climb together, the 1977 first ascent of the East Buttress of Mt. Slesse.  I just happened to run across a recent routes guide to the East side of the mountain online and found our names, which led to wondering whatever became of John, and here I am popping out of the past, late as usual.  I'm afraid I have little to add to his remembrance save that he was comfortable to be with and held up his end of the rope, saving my 24-year old ass with a smooth belay when a little nubbin crumbled under a skyhook and a #1 hexcentric about 8 ft below held (barely - the cord was halfway broken).  This was on the thin face pitch above the point where the buttress dies into the East Face - a very airy, hairy crux to be climbing in alpine packs. A haul line would have been a nice addition to our skimpy equipage - and a couple more bottles of water.  Fortunately it wasn't too long for us and the terrain eased into a series of shallow steps, all rounded but with good holds.  It was still a fair ways before I found any decent anchor.

We descended via the North Ridge with a couple of rappels through the cliffs.  John got a little testy with me when I tied off and dangled in a blueberry patch for a few minutes while he waited below ignorant of my bliss.  

All the best


Attached photo may be from the same descent route on an earlier climb of the N.E. Buttress route I did with Dave Tucker in '75 or '76.

slesse from nw edit1.JPG

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  • 1 year later...


An interesting turn of events has brought me here for the first time.

I was attempting to write a recollection of my ascent of the East Pillar Direct on Mt. Slesse with Greg Child in 93 and of course had to start by acknowledging John Stoddard and Dennis Mullen's visionary and bold first ascent of the East Face proper of Mt. Slesse in 77, hammerless and no cams?

Then in thinking of John, I remembered our adventures together back then and was once again saddened to to think of his untimely passing.

I decided to look John up on line and found this thread and the remembrances of so many including most recently Dennis Mullen.

I met John in Squamish on one of my first weekends there in spring of 76 and he'd just bailed off the Grand from the start of The Flats and the fact that he was even up there blew my newbie mind.

John was the Seattle ambassador to our gang of misfits and we shared a lot of shenanigans on and off the rock with a shared love of climbing, weed and Zappa. He was engaging, smart, fun, sensitive and caring.

John's enthusiasm and support was critical to my success in solving the Misled bolt ladder (in Vasque Ascenders) and then freeing the 2nd pitch of The Phew which opened up my eyes to Cruel Shoes.

John was a dear soul and I will treasure his memory and miss him for as long as I live; maybe some day when things are better there's a gathering for him somewhere?

My condolences to his family and those closest to him.

Perry Beckham

Squamish BC

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