American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Foresta Hodgson Wood, 1904-1951

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1952

FORESTA HODGSON WOOD 1904-1951

Seldom in any lifetime does one meet a person successful in so many ways, so gifted and so charming as Foresta Hodgson Wood. During her full and happy days, she warmed and enriched the lives of all who knew her. Prospectors in the Yukon, classmates in school, wives of officials in Ottawa, cooks and corporation presidents, bomber pilots and Swiss guides delighted in her humor, her common sense and her lovable personality. The talented artist and sculptress, the gracious hostess of the drawing room and the wise, considerate mother was also the boon companion, the sportsman among sportsmen, the one indispensable member of each expedition.

Foresta was the perfect complement to her geographer husband, and as an expeditionary she was unequalled. When snow drummed against the tent and spirits sagged, her amusing anecdotes could make the storm a joyful occasion, while her apparently casual work with the primus made each supper memorable. Despite her apparent fragility, she had courage and endurance. For instance, at the end of a long day, I have seen her pick out her ram, kill him with a single shot, and help to skin him and pack the meat to camp. Similarly, I have seen her use a dynamic belay with speed and technique when she saw me start a slide on a steep Yukon snow slope. On Mount Wood, for instance, she never complained once about her frozen feet. Her courage was never shaken, whether she were traversing long ice slopes, travelling alone in bear country or flying in rugged mountains. In all activities she not only showed poise, but could be counted on for remarkable color photographs; in fact, she early became recognized as one of this country’s finest mountain photograpers. Little wonder that for these and other reasons she was considered such an outstanding expedition member.

The St. Elias Mountains she particularly loved. She knew the thrill of being in new country, the lure of the untrodden height. Even more, perhaps, she enjoyed the beauties around her—the patches of saxifrage and red lichen on warm rocks at the edge of a snow patch, the thrust of an icy monarch against the blue of space, the color of evening shadows on snow and of sunsets glowing on high summits above a darkened world. Many an evening she would eat her supper outside because “it was too beautiful to come in.”

Foresta’s expeditions to Little Tibet, to Mexico and to the St. Elias Mountains form an impressive record. But it was not the record, nor her ability to rise so magnificently to every emergency, that made her so memorable to her friends. They will always recall her warm and delightful personality, her sense and sensibility, her gentle, rare and loving spirit.

Robert h.Bates

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