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A Hard Lesson Learned

Submitted by boulderinemt on 2004-11-29

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I just happened to stumble on an article I wrote quite awhile ago. I don't even remember writing it, but there it was on my profile. This summer I had to do probably the hardest thing in my life. My best friend and really the only climbing partner I have ever had died. Dwight Bishop was his name, and I think most of us know what happened to him. He died while trying the Grand Traverse solo.

Dwight was quite possibly the biggest influence on my climbing. Bigger than the magazines, and even myself. He taught a clean style, swift, strong and without alot of pro. I'm getting ahead of myself though. The story wouldn't be complete without the beginning.

I happened to do a search on this very site for someone somewhat close to me that could climb, and I stumbled on this guy named buttets. We emailed back and forth, with some names of climbs we had done, climbs we wanted to do, and our ethics. In one of his emails he told me to come up and see him, and we could climb in his gym in his attic. Well, I was already skipping out of school quite regularly to climb in Pipestone Mountaineering, so I happened to ask Jack (one of the workers) if he knew Dwight. All he said was "He is the best." That made me a little bit more comfortable. After climbing Pipestone for awhile, I went to Dwight's place. What I found was a second home, and a way out of the everyday occurance of school.

We climbed alot that winter, in what we dubbed the Butte Rock Club. I helped him hang plywood, helped him make holds, and we climbed when the work was done. Spring rolled around, and we were ready for real rock. Pipestone was our first outing together.

Throughout the next couple of years, we went to Pipestone, Split Pinnacle, and other areas around Butte. Then came the semester I left for school. I called him occasionally, but not that often. I went off to work at a dude ranch in the Crazies this last summer, and kept thinking "Man, I oughta get ahold of Dwight."

The phone call came right after breakfast. My mother actually heard about it, and decided she had better call me. I broke down. I hadn't felt that kind of pain since, well, I can't remember. I left the phone booth and told my boss I would need some time off for the funeral.

I took dudes out the next few days, on trail rides. I kept catching myself looking up at one of the peaks. Granite peak is at around 10,000 feet, and I was planning on calling Dwight when I was done for the summer to go climb it. The sun shone bright on it, and all I thought was how I should have called him more.

Lessons are learned through life, sometimes harder than we think we can handle. Dwight taught me alot, heck, everything I know about ropes and pro and technique. He also taught me a way of life, the same way that Larry did. The ethics of free trad came from Dwight, never hanging on pro, or bolts or any other kind of aid.

His funeral was beautiful, held in a park in Butte. I would guess 200 people showed up. All of us had been touched deeply by this short, 50 some year old man. We all had stories, whether about mountain biking, climbing, or skiing with him. The martial arts played a big part in both of our lives, and was a constant topic of discussion.

Right after the funeral there was a dinner that I elected to avoid. I had a mission, and didn't have much time off from the ranch. I told myself that I was going to go climb Pipestone with Dwight, even though he wasn't there in body. As I started up the first crack climb he ever took me up, the tears started welling. My mind ran back to when I first went climbing here, with him. I got to the top, and looked over the valley below. I sat up there for probably half an hour, remembering how many times I stood up there with Dwight telling a story about when he first climbed this place.

As the tears dried up, other climbers began to show. They were here to spread his ashes, and they couldn't have chose a better place. The area was hopping with climbers, bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. I watched the prayers, and went back to climbing. One of our mutual friends invited me to climb with him, on Frick and Frack, the first 5.9 and 5.10 problems I ever did, of course, with Dwight. Memories came back and I kept climbing till the tips of my fingers were hamburger.

The day came to an end, the ceremonial beer was drank, and we all headed in our respective directions home. I was going on a buzz of beer and adrenaline from climbing so hard, when the sky lit up in the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen over the mountains surrounding us.

Somehow I think that was Dwight giving his approval.


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5 out of 5 stars Great story. Thanks for sharing and I am sorry to hear of your loss.

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