American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Julius Reinhold Boehm, 1897-1981

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982

JULIUS REINHOLD BOEHM 1897-1981

Julius sat with his back against the warm rocks on the upper crater rim of Mount Rainier. He was writing in the summit register. I looked over his shoulder and read the words, “America is the greatest country in the world.” This was typical. Julius wasn’t thinking about getting down from the mountain (it was five P.M.) or about his fatigue (he had climbed from 11,000 to 14,410 feet this day—no small endeavor at 80½ years of age). He wasn’t commenting on the climb or what he had accomplished. He was only thankful that he lived in America, in the Pacific Northwest, and that he was now closer to “the face of God.”

Julius had a habit of doing the right things and of having a fine appreciation for music and art. This is what I liked most about him as a friend—his positive and appreciative approach to life.

From his early days in Vienna he loved the mountains. At about age eight he began climbing in the nearby Alps of Austria and Switzerland. During World War I he fought as a member of the Austrian cavalry and saw service in mountains on the Dolomite front.

After the war he learned the trade of piano maker which was compatible with his love of fine music. He also kept active in athletics. He was a member of the Austrian Olympic Track team in 1924. In Paris, he ran a 440-yard leg of a mile relay in 48.2 seconds. A year later, he became a founder of the life-saving movement in Austria and was one of the first lifeguards on public beaches there. In addition, Julius was an avid skier, fencer, boxer, oarsman and polo player. In 1936 he was selected to carry the Olympic torch on the final stretch in Austria before it crossed into Czechoslovakia en route to Berlin. Then, in March of 1940, Julius skied from his homeland through the Silvretta Mountains to Switzerland in order to avoid being drafted into the German Army. A month later he landed in the United States with a pair of skis, a backpack and $4.00. It was not surprising that he would end up in the Pacific Northwest near the mountains that he came to love. During World War II he taught skiing for the Coast Guard at Stevens Pass and Mount Rainier. Through the years following the war Julius touched thousands of Northwest youngsters by teaching them skiing, swimming and horseback riding and by his support of the Seattle Youth Symphony.

He financed his activities by starting a homemade candy business, and despite his Austrian origin, he became known as the “Swiss candymaker” in Issaquah, Washington. He filled his combined home and candy shop, built in Swiss/Austrian chalet style, with wood carvings, sculpture, paintings and other works of art pertaining to the mountains. In 1949, at 50, he climbed the 14,780-foot Matterhorn, and three years later he carried an Olympic flag to Mount Blanc, “atop the roof of Europe,” on the opening day of the 1952 Olympic Games.

Over the years, Julius’ business profited through the sale of his quality candies which were in great demand. This profit was put to good use in building a chapel dedicated to all mountaineers who have lost their lives in the mountains. It was named in honor of his good friend Luis Trenker of Bolzano, Italy.

At the same time, a non-profit foundation was established with Julius’ help. Its purpose is to build high-altitude shelters of a “life-saving” nature. This foundation has been given the name “High Alpine Shelters Foundation.” Those of us who were his friends will miss his enthusiasm for life, his singing as he climbed in the mountains, his jogging to the mailbox (even in his seventies) and his ever cheerful outlook.

George R. Senner

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