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East Coast climbing pioneer Howard Doyle dies at age 64
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Dec 4, 2006, 2:02 AM
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Registered: Nov 27, 2002
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East Coast climbing pioneer Howard Doyle dies at age 64  (North_America: United_States: West_Virginia)
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Early Seneca and Champe rocks, Nelson and Judy Gap developer and East Coast hardman and pioneer Dr. Howard Thomas Doyle Jr., Ph. D., passed away at his home in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Nov. 27, 2006. He was 64 years old.

Born and raised in Jersey City, Dr. Doyle lived in Maryland for many years, spending weekends and holidays producing and repeating hard climbs throughout Germany Valley and the East Coast before moving to Utah eight years ago. He was a professor at the University of the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C., before retiring.

Dr. Doyle achieved his bachelors degree from the University of Maryland in 1966, then his masters degree from Montclair State College in 1969 and his Ph.D. from the University of Utah in 1971. He was a world traveler and an avid rock climber and skier. Many of the early hard routes at Seneca (many of which remain testpieces of nerve and skill to this day) were the work or inspiration of Howard Doyle and his contemporaries, freeing the old aid lines and setting new standards and modest grades.

Long-time East Coast hardman Eddie Begoon remembered Doyle as "the man who consolidated the idea of hard rock climbing at Seneca and all over the East Coast", as well as crossing the globe in search of good rock and deep powder. Next time you thumb through a Seneca Rocks guide, count the number of times you find his name, and think of the number of times you've climbed his harder routes.

Howard's memory for detail on climbs years in the past was uncanny; if questioned about a route in passing, with a moment's thought he could produce complete descriptions of gear, holds, and the FA conditions.

Howard Doyle was a big man. I only met him once, but I remember the solid mass of the man, even in his older years. Even then, faded and weathered, he had a presence, a strength.

As I have explored Seneca over the years since, tracing her routes and faces, and wandering the East Coast through other trad areas and lost corners, I have come to understand, in a very small way, just how large the spirit inside him was.

Howard was part of a cadre of true hardmen and women, doing what they did for the sheer love of it, with little glory or recognition. Their examples are still inspiring milestones on the Path.

There are not many like Howard Doyle, in any age. He will be missed.

(This post was edited by roninthorne on Dec 5, 2006, 12:13 AM)


Dec 4, 2006, 3:02 AM
Post #2 of 7 (13427 views)

Registered: Nov 9, 2004
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Re: [roninthorne] East Coast climbing pioneer Howard Doyle dies at age 64 [In reply to]
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Thanks for taking time to type this up. It was good to read about a pioneer in places that I climb.


Dec 5, 2006, 6:31 AM
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Re: [roninthorne] East Coast climbing pioneer Howard Doyle dies at age 64 [In reply to]
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I saw the news on supertopo. I was lucky to have climbed with Howard a few times, but I've spent a climbing career climbing many of his routes. Super solid climber with great staying power.
I remember after climbing with Howard, we talked about how we both trained endurance, for climbing at Seneca. He could safely lead Hard FA's onsight, with great gear placing skills, and the ability to hang in there for as long as it took. Just a great climbing style. If someone asked me to explain the difference bewteen sport and trad, my answer would be watch Howard Doyle climb. Thats how you climb trad.
Climbing has changed so much since Howard started putting up lines, much for the worse, ahh but his beautiful lines remain. I guess I will have to pick out one of his 5.10 r/x routes and pay my respects.
Good job with the write up roninthorne.


Dec 6, 2006, 10:44 PM
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Registered: Nov 27, 2002
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Re: [nutstuffer] East Coast climbing pioneer Howard Doyle dies at age 64 [In reply to]
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I appreciate your kindness... the supertopo write-up was very, very good. I got the news from Eddie Begoon while climbing at Franklin. I knew there was nothing on, yet, and that Howard was too important a pioneer to pass without recognition.

Thanks, again, Doctor Doyle, for all your gifts across all the years.

Thank you, Howard... climb on.


Feb 11, 2007, 7:40 PM
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Registered: Jul 11, 2004
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Re: [roninthorne] East Coast climbing pioneer Howard Doyle dies at age 64 [In reply to]
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I was at a party in DC or Maryalsn and Howard Doyle tells me this story about being shot at when climbing at a V cliff down River from Seneca, " I heard this ping pring ping in a circle around us". He sounded like he would be a great partner.


Jul 4, 2007, 7:44 PM
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Re: [--ross] East Coast climbing pioneer Howard Doyle dies at age 64 [In reply to]
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I only recently learned about Howie’s death. It’s so sad that someone who seemed so healthy and kept himself is such good shape (his PhD was in an area related to physical fitness) died so young. This is a little long but I wanted to include some tales about Howie that you may not know.

Howie and I were good friends in the early ‘70’s. We climbed, skied and got together at each other’s places. The first time I went to Howie’s house was after stopping at “Travs” after climbing at Carderock. I didn’t know how to get to his house, so I was doing my best to keep up with Howie’s car going down the Clara Barton Parkway (then George Washington Parkway, Maryland side), when the federal police by the waterworks pulled us over and ticketed both of us. At a party, Howie showed me one of his party drinks—drink ½ a beer, refill the can with any available cheap wine, drink again—I only tried it once. I took Howie and a few others for an overnight in my sailboat. Howie and Lotus were among a few close friends at Stevie’s and my wedding 30 years ago.

I first met Howie at Carderrock in 1970 or ’71. I’m not exactly sure of the year, but he had just started climbing. I think he had done some climbing; perhaps a climbing class, maybe from Bob Norris, but I’m not sure. I had a rope up (I don’t remember who I was climbing with) and here was this big guy who looked very interested. One thing led to another and he was soon tied on to my rope. A few weeks later I took Howie and his then wife, Cathy, on their first trip to Seneca. We started on Breakneck. Howie was a natural. Cathy, who had been a gymnast, was also quite good. This started several years of climbing together at Seneca and the Gunks. Consider that Howie weighed about 185 then and I was 125. Did I mention we used body belays—at least until Howie insisted I get a sticht plate. Fortunately, he never bombed on me on a lead, but I caught him a number of times on top rope. Howie’s climbing ability eventually far exceeded mine and he started climbing with better climbers such as Lotus, Herb Laeger and Eve.

One day Howie and I were working a boulder problem on a wall perpendicular to the “The Aid Box” along the Potomac River. Neither one of us got more than ½ way. Then on one try Howie grabbed a flake part way up the climb and with his weight ripped it off the wall. That was the handhold that got me over that spot. That was as high as I could get after that. Howie could reach higher and therefore climb higher. Although we didn’t solve the boulder problem that day I seem to recall that Howie and another climber solved it on a later try.

On one trip to Seneca Howie and I started out on a cool, but promising, morning to climb “Tony’s Nightmare”. It was mild enough that we both wore t-shirts. Howie led. Before I got on the first pitch the temperature had dropped and the wind picked up. By the time I was coming out of the chimney it had become quite cold. I saw Howie shivering on belay. I suggested we bail to get some warm clothing. But Howie said as he shook “I-I-It d-d-doesn’t b-b-bother me i-i-if it d-d-doesn’t b-b-bother y-y-you.”.

Howie wasn’t a club joiner. For example, he never joined the Mountaineering Section of the PATC, although he occasionally showed up and gave at least one slide show there (climbing in Europe). He did, however, go on a ski club sponsored, Thanksgiving weekend, car-pool ski trip to Mt. Sutton, Canada. I knew Howie had skied quite a bit at Hunter Mt., New York And when he was in grad-school in Utah he skied the backcountry of what is now Snowbird by climbing over the ridge from Alta. Before the Sutton trip we called ahead and were assured there was snow on the whole mountain. Sutton is a 12 hour drive from DC. He and I were to take turns driving. There were two other riders who were not going to drive. Howie turned up for the trip with a painful lower back from teaching a rowing exercise in one of his classes. He told me this happened every time he taught that exercise. (Something about a muscular imbalance—In Howie??) Because of his sore back he couldn’t drive much and I had to do most of the driving. To top it off, when we got to Sutton the only slope with snow was the T-bar. It was probably just as good, since his sore bake made it difficult for him to turn in one direction. We returned to DC early. The next year Howie again had the problem after the rowing exercise, but he told me someone had shown him a yoga exercise that helped quite a lot.

One year Howie and I had decided to go to Seneca during the Petersburg White Water weekend to climb and watch the races. However, one of his friends acquired two tickets to the Explorers Club annual dinner in New York and invited Howie along. So the deal was that I would drive Howie’s wife, Cathy to Seneca on Friday night. Howie and his friend would go to New York for the dinner and then drive to Seneca as soon as it was over. (Howie later mentioned that there was a lot of one-upmanship at the meeting—a speaker might say, “…There were 63 villagers on the island when I was there six months ago….” And someone else might mumble, “…I was there two weeks ago and there were only 58….” Anyway, the next morning there was no sign of Howie. In fact, he didn’t show up until mid-afternoon. It seems that Howie went to sleep while his friend was driving from New York. When he woke up they were almost in North Carolina and had to turn around and drive all the way back. You can guess how peeved Howie was about that.

The last time I saw Howie was at Carderock. I had finished climbing for the day and was just leaving when Howie and a friend arrived. We talked for a few minutes until Howie said, “We have to go work-out”. We planned to get together, but never did before he moved to Salt Lake. I’m sorry I didn’t have the chance to see him again.

In my mind I’m sure that wherever Howie is he’s doing the hardest, most exposed trad in the region, onsight.

Joe Ney

Cross posted on SuperTopo and Rockclimbing forums

(This post was edited by JoeN on Jul 5, 2007, 11:00 AM)


Jun 25, 2008, 10:08 PM
Post #7 of 7 (9935 views)

Registered: Jun 25, 2008
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Re: [roninthorne] East Coast climbing pioneer Howard Doyle dies at age 64 [In reply to]
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paul duval was a good friend of howards
News from the Needles

It is with deep regret that we post this announcement.

Paul Duval, a Needles pioneer, icon and friend to us all, died yesterday in a climbing accident at the Moonlight Ridge area. The accident involved mistaking the mark near the end of a rope for the mark at the center of the rope and resulted in rappelling off the short end.

Our condolences to his family and loved ones.


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