PAUL MAURICE LEDOUX, JR.
It is hard to record the passing of a friend. Paul died on January 18, 1990 of complications from injuries sustained during a fall in the Needles of South Dakota on Labor Day weekend. He suffered back and leg injuries and was convalescing in California with his family at the time of his death. That he seemed to be recovering well makes his loss that much harder to understand.
Paul was an important figure in the Boston climbing scene for over 25 years. He was bom in Massachusetts and grew up at Army bases around the world. He returned to Massachusetts where he attended M.I.T. While there, he began climbing with the then very active outing club. Other than his period of service in the Army in the sixties, he spent the remainder of his life around Boston.
Finding himself not suited to formal academic life, Paul began a career as a cab driver in Boston. This let him concentrate his energies on his real interests: the outdoors, literature and the cinema. An extremely thorough person, he approached all these interests with a similar dedication. He was undoubtedly one of the best-read individuals I have ever met; there were few movies that Paul did not see.
But it was to the outdoors, particularly to climbing and hiking, that Paul was most dedicated. He succeeded in ascending New England’s hundred highest peaks in winter as well as summer. He climbed virtually every route in the ‘Gunks graded 5.8 or below, as well as many harder. Whitehorse Ledge in New Hampshire was one of his favorite areas. Not only did he repeat all the climbs, but he established several new routes and variations as well. Further afield, he climbed in most of the North American areas and did many of the Fifty Classic Climbs. In 1975, he participated in the first ascent of the northeast ridge of Mount Vancouver in the St. Elias Mountains, his one expedition. He became a member of the American Alpine Club in 1984.
Paul visited Europe several times. Typically, in Chamonix he ticked off many of the hundred finest climbs listed by Rébuffat and fitted in other routes as well. His major routes also included the Cassin on the Piz Badile and the north ridge of Piz Cengalo.
Paul’s interest in reading and climbing coalesced in his extensive library and the detailed knowledge he accumulated. He was an expert in the esoteric field of climbing guidebooks and he was of great assistance to guidebook authors and climbing historians. Though a man of few words, his letters were frequently lengthy and filled with detail. It was this knowledge that bore fruit when we tied for first place in the Rock and Ice trivia contest shortly before his accident.
All this biographical detail still does not get at the essence of the man who was our friend and companion on many adventures. Paul was so quiet that many found him hard to know. But behind that shield was a fine person with knowledge and experience to share. The memories we keep of Paul are those of successful climbs, of the enjoyment of finding obscure guidebooks, of solving the riddles of the trivia contest and of Paul’s driving through the night, as the rest of us slept, to get us to the next destination on numerous road trips. It is sad that we will not be able to share future experiences with us, but I know that he will be a frequent companion in my thoughts.