American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Gary Silver, 1947-1988

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1989

GARY SILVER 1947-1988

Gary Silver was bom in Oakland, Nebraska. He graduated from the University of Nebraska, at Lincoln, with a degree in civil engineering. During his college days, he visited the Colorado Rockies and developed a love for the mountains and outdoor activities. His career advanced when Honeywell hired him as a temperature control engineer. Gary chose Spokane, Washington as his new home because of the relatively close proximity to the Canadian Rockies and the Cascades.

In the spring of 1972 I first met Gary through a business association in the construction industry. Immediately apparent to me and all his friends were his intelligence and athletic gifts. He excelled in cross-county running, crosscountry skiing and mountaineering. In conversation, it was best to avoid confrontation or debate, as he was an equally skilled debater. He loved to expound on subjects from body mechanics to the black holes in the universe.

Sport was always his greatest passion. During the 1970s and 1980s on numerous mountaineering expeditions from Alaska to Mexico, Gary developed his mountain skills to the highest degree on ice and rock. Ascents on Slipstream and Weeping Wall were common weekend trips from Spokane. In his “spare time,” he and his wife Eve donated their time freely to the local road-runners clubs, helping with race organization, food, etc. Climbing was not enough for him in winter and so he purchased a bulldozer and built cross-country ski trails for competitive racing at a local ranch near Spokane.

Of all his achievements in sports, he was particularly proud of his membership in the American Alpine Club. To describe his power and confidence in climbing, one incident on the north face of Les Droites in the Alps sums it up. For lack of an equal partner, Gary went, as he often would go, solo. Only 200 feet up, he broke the tip of his ice axe. Rather than retreat, he finished the remaining 3600 feet of mixed water-ice and rock with an alpine hammer and Lost Arrow piton in his left hand. Such was his self-confidence. On the second of two expeditions to an unnamed and unclimbed Alaskan giant in the wilds of the St. Elias Range, P 12,659, Gary finally managed to summit.

Gary’s lifelong dream of climbing an 8000-meter peak nearly became reality in July of 1988 on an expedition to Pakistan. The objective was Hidden Peak, but a border war altered the plans to Gasherbrum II. A stomach illness prevented Gary from the first summit bid with expedition leader Gary Speer. On the second summit attempt, Gary was trapped at the 2400-foot camp for three days in a storm. Gary began to show symptoms of cerebral edema. On this third day, he and his partner, Dr. Roland Willenbrock, began to descend. Gary’s condition worsened and at 23,000 feet he died.

The news of Gary’s death left me, his wife Eve and all his many friends numb with grief. There was now a void where once was his presence of enthusiasm and inspiration. He made an impression on all who knew him and changed people’s lives for the better. Gary loved the mountains and the challenges they offered. He will be fondly remembered by many friends and acquaintances whose lives he touched. A memorial park is being planned in his name along a beautiful 80-mile “Centennial Trail” to run between Washington and Idaho along the Spokane River. Gary dedicated his life to building athletic trails and pioneering ones of his own. It is only fitting that he be remembered in this beautiful setting.

Chris Kopczynski

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