Gilbert V. Harder, 1945-1979

Author: John McKeel. Climb Year: N/A. Publication Year: 1980.


On September 19, 1979, after several days of storm, an avalanche swept away Camp IV of the American Annapurna I Expedition and with it, the lives of Gil Harder, Eric Roberts and Maynard Cohick. Gil was a very special person to mountaineers in Texas. He was quiet, humble and kept to himself at home. But once Gil reached the mountains he underwent an amazing transformation. He became alive, animated, and drove himself relentlessly to the top. This earned him a “summit-at-all- costs” reputation that he partially deserved, especially after his climb of Nanda Devi with Eric Roberts. But perhaps the Air Force was partially to blame. More than once Captain Harder, a pilot, was declared AWOL and only a splendid letter congratulating the Air Force for Gil’s climb of the tallest mountain in India, written by the Indian Ambassador saved him from court marshall proceedings. But there was more to it than just “go to the summit” or “go to jail.” Even in college, where Gil first started to climb, he would continue to the top of most of Colorado’s fourteeners after the others had turned back because of storm. Just how many summits Gil reached we’ll never really know but the list includes McKinley, Robson, Logan, Noshaq, Huascarán, Aconcagua, Pik Kom- munisma and Nanda Devi. It must have been especially hard on Gil being stationed in Abilene, Texas. Since the mountains were so far away, he would train by spelunking and long distance running. In his last year Gil ran three marathons and completed a fifty-mile road race in the Dakotas. He was a humble man with a powerful soul that burned with desire to stand on top. We’re going to miss him.

John G. McKeel, Abilene Mountaineers