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Michael Woodward Hane, 1935–1971


Participation in an expedition to the Cordillera Blanca had long captured Mike’s imagination. Early in 1971 I learned of his determination to go finally to Peru during the coming summer. Later, Gerry Roach told me that his Seattle-based expedition had an opening for another strong mountaineer; Mike would be an appropriate selection. The primary objective was a second ascent of the east peak of Chacraraju.

On July 12, in the early afternoon, three members of this expedition were nearing the summit ridge of Chacraraju, on a new and difficult route from the south side, when an ice avalanche in their ice flute was released. The third man was Mike and despite the protection of anchors into the ice and a hard hat, the impact of the falling ice and snow injured him mortally. It was a selective act of fate and heroic efforts to overcome the destiny of the event enabled Mike to reach the hospital in Huaraz, 52 hours later, still alive. His incredibly strong constitution could not overcome the effects of his injuries, however; he died early on the morning of July 15, never having regained consciousness.

Mike Hane had many friends, both in and out of the mountaineering community. His enthusiasm for the loves in his life was intense and infectious, and those who knew him well inevitably loved him for his ways and concerns. I remember meeting him first in the early 1950’s, when he was still a high-school student in Seattle. His spirit was alive and untamed, and climbing was his strongest ambition. But he had been raised in a tradition of wilderness appreciation and he knew many skills of the traditional hill-walker and backpacker. We had many memorable Northwest campfires in those years.

A deep love of the mountains led Mike Hane into serious mountaineering at an early age. In 1953, he participated in the second complete climbing traverse of the Cascade crest from Cascade Pass to Glacier Peak — the Ptarmigan Traverse. He spent one entire summer on the Blue Glacier in the Olympic Mountains, doing glacialogical studies, and part of another summer on the Juneau Icecap. He was fortunate to have shared in first ascents in the Northern Cascades during the early 1950’s, in the era when mountaineering in the Northwest first attracted a large, enthusiastic following.

Mike studied physics in college, eventually completing his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania with a specialty in the area of molecular biology. In the intervening years he had worked for awhile at the Scientific Laboratories in Los Alamos, returning to an early childhood home. He loved northern New Mexico and had always hoped to return there more permanently someday. Mike had many good friends in Los Alamos, and during the period around 1962 he also met my sister Julie there. In 1963 they were married, just before his return to graduate school in Philadelphia.

The Hane family, with a young son Joshua, had lived in Berkeley during the past few years. There, in addition to post-doctoral research in his field, Mike had resumed his mountaineering activity, acquiring many new California friends in the process. But his strongest ties were always in the Pacific Northwest. In recognition of this sustained enthusiasm for the Northern Cascades, and for their preservation as a wilderness, a memorial foundation in his name was established by the North Cascades Conservation Council this past fall. His oldest friends were still his best friends. All of us who knew Mike Hane well miss him with great affection.