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Joe Puryear...RIP


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A message from Gaitor this morning who said it was okay to post it:


I received one of those dreaded phone calls early this morning with the news that my good friend Joe Puryear died while ascending Labuche Kang (7,367 meters, 24,170 feet) in a remote region of Tibet.

Joe was a former climbing ranger on Mount Rainier and one of America’s elite alpinists. He joined the staff at Camp Schurman in 1996 with Mark Westman and Lara Bitenieks. They represented a new cadre of skilled climbers who together helped changed the way our climbing rangers did business and served the public for the National Park Service. For two years, Joe led the climbing rangers on the east side of Mount Rainier and participated in many difficult rescues. He was greatly respected for his climbing skills and ability manage complex situations both on the mountain and in the front country. Joe’s talents led him to pursue a career in alpinism and along the way he authored books on climbing in the Alaska Range and in the desert SW of America. Most recently, he and David Gottlieb received prestigious climbing grants (Mugs Stump, Gore, and Lyman Spitzer) in order to ascend unclimbed peaks and frozen waterfalls in Nepal and Tibet.

I don’t have a lot of information at this time, but the word is that Joe fell through a cornice. He was with David at the time, but David did not witness the event. He ascended the top the ridgeline after putting on his crampons only to find Joe's tracks leading to a broken ledge. Fearing the worst, he descended 1,500 feet to find Joe, who did not survive the fall, and shortly there after retrieved the sat phone enabling him to make a call to the US. David was alone at the time, but does have the help of one Sherpa at base camp. They are in a very remote region without rescue services and it’s unclear what his next steps will be. For now, I am thinking about David as he descends the mountain back to base camp.

Once again, the Mount Rainier climbing community has been rocked with the lose of a wonderful friend and person. Joe was good friend with Lara, who died while climbing on Mount Wake in 2007 in the Alaska Range, and also with Charlie Borgh, who was swept to his death in an avalanche on Mount Delta Form in Alberta, Canada 2008.

I’ll send out more information about the accident, David’s descent, and a memorial when possible. I have attached a picture of Joe as I remember him best, in the mountains and on top of his game.

Information about the expedition can be found at: http://climbtibet.blogspot.com/

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I didn't know Joe past a few email exchanges. But he was always willing to answer any stupid question I had on some obsure route no mater where he was in the world or what he was doing when I asked.


If you look through his Supertopo Alaska guide it quickly becomes obvious that Joe had one of the best Alaska climbing resume's ever put together. I really admired that...but even more I admired that he was always willing to share what he had experienced with anyone that asked.

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this tr of his fawk'n :rawk: ed! http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=659457


nothign to be said to make it better, a bit of beowulf usually comforts me:


wise king, do not grieve

it is always better to avenge dear ones

than to indulge in mourning

for every one of us

living in this world means waiting for our end

let he who can achieve glory before death

when a warrior is gone that will be his best and only bulwark

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My wife and I met Joe in Squamish many years ago while binging on IGA cookies during a Squamish summer day of rain. The next day we cragged together and since then we've stayed in touch and our friendship has grown. Beyond his amazing achievements in the mountains, Joe was humble, respectful and full of positive energy, and always good humored and stoked for a good laugh.


My deepest condolences to Michelle and his family. Truly a great loss for all of us, and I will miss him.

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My condolences to his family.


I never met Joe, but I read all his trip reports posted here. I loved the fact that he would post a cutting edge climb on the same board as a south side Hood climb.


Seeing this thread hit me pretty hard considering I don't even know him. Nonetheless, you'll be missed, Joe.



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My memories of Joe are of him rocketing past me on Rainier at light speed as I trudged towards the summit, his second time summitting in 24 hours (as I later discovered). He had superhuman energy and ability, but was also very humble and kind - a rare combination.


I am very sad to hear this news, even though I did not know him well - I know that he was a special one, and that is already leaving a great void in many people's lives.


At the same time, I feel lucky to have met him and grateful for all that he contributed to the climbing community.

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