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William B. Ross, 1938-1969


1938 - 1969

William Ross, along with six companions, was killed in an ice avalanche on the southeast ridge of Dhaulagiri on April 28, 1969 He was an inspiring companion, a kind physician, and a promising climber.

Bill was born August 19, 1938, in Oxnard, California. At the age of seven he moved to Mexico City, where his father was an experimental agriculturist. After finishing high school in Mexico he spent one year in a military academy in New Mexico and a year at the University of The West Indies Agricultural College in Trinidad. He attended the University of California in Berkeley for a short time and then entered Reed College, Oregon, where he majored in mathematics and graduated in 1962. Bill worked for six months at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and went on a survey cruise to the Indian Ocean. While on this trip he developed an interest in medicine and after pre-medical work at the University of Washington he entered Stanford Medical School in 1964. He had recently completed his studies there, and was scheduled to begin internship at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

While at Reed he became interested in mountaineering, and began climbing in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges. In 1966 he climbed Popocatepetl. In 1967 he climbed in Peru and demonstrated his professional training and good judgment in the efficient handling of an accident on a snow slope on Yanapaccha Norte, despite his own injuries. In 1968 with four other climbers he went to Ecuador and climbed Chimborazo’s north ridge and Monja Grande.

Bill had already lived a full and adventurous life by the age of thirty. As a boy he lived with his father and his younger sister, Vieno, on a yacht in the Sea of Manila near the Philippines. Once while traveling to Hong Kong the boat was caught in a typhoon and washed ashore on the Chinese mainland. The three members of the Ross family were kept in a Red Chinese detention camp for nine months before being allowed to return to Manila. Bill’s college summers were also times of adventure. He washed dishes at a Lake Tahoe gambling casino, picked peaches with migrant workers in the San Joaquin Valley, hitch-hiked across the country, and bicycled through Europe. One summer was spent in the Mexican jungle near Vera Cruz looking for pharmaceutical plants. He wrote beautifully descriptive letters of his experiences. He had an interest in poetry and a small volume of verses was usually a part of his traveling equipment.

Bill was a quiet, easy-going climber with great reserves of strength and judgment. He was a tireless worker on the 1968 Ecuadorian expedition. Whether the job was searching for odds and ends of equipment in the shops of Quito, inquiring in his fluent Spanish about road directions from local citizens, or doing more than his share of load-carrying and leading on the mountain, Bill’s steady energy never flagged. He had a keen analytical mind and was a delightful conversationalist through long equatorial nights and tent-bound days of bad weather. He had a strong, increasing interest in photography and made beautiful enlargements of mountain scenes. His gentle presence will be missed by all of us who knew him.

Herbert Hultgren