American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Stephen H. Hart, 1908-1993

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1994



Stephen Harding Hart, who made several first Colorado ascents—Lone Eagle and Crestone Needle—in his teens and climbed many 14,000ers later with his teen-aged sons, died on November 7 in his sleep.

Hart is known as one of two founding partners of one of Colorado’s largest and most influential law firms with offices in Denver and Aspen, Boise, ID, Billings MT, Cheyenne WY and Washington DC. At the law firm, Steve’s office faced west toward his beloved mountains. He encouraged the mountaineering efforts of his staff.

His interest in mountaineering, law and history resulted naturally from his family connections. His father, Richard Hart, encouraged Steve and his older brother, Jerry (John L. Jerome Hart) to go on trips with Albert Ellingwood, Bill Ervin, Dudley Smith and Carl Blaurock. Dudley Smith, now 90, recalls that when he was 20, he, Jerry Hart and Carl Blaurock planned to claim a first ascent of the Crestone Needle. Blaurock scheduled the trip for mid September, when most of the season’s snow was melted. Ellingwood, Steve, then 16, and Eleanor Davis had, however, already reached the needle’s summit from the San Luis side on what is now known as Ellingwood’s Arête. Dudley also remembers climbing later with Steve in the Alps, particularly the Grépon.

Even earlier, when Steve was 13, he made the first ascent of the Bishop near his maternal grandparents’ summer home on Buffalo Creek with Ellingwood and Agnes Vaille. Again with Ellingwood, he made the second-known ascent of Mount Moran in the Tetons. On several climbs with Ellingwood, Steve carried a transit to measure elevations. When Steve was 17, he participated in the first ascent of Lone Eagle. Blaurock, Bill Ervin and Elwyn Erps were on the climb.

Steve’s son Richard recalls that Ellingwood, Jerry and Steve Hart were all involved later in naming Mount Oxford after the British university they all had attended. Richard, who is now a state judge in Vail, said his father climbed the last of his forty-five 14,000ers on August 12, 1972. He climbed many of them with his brother Jerry, Ellingwood, Blaurock, Dudley Smith and Henry Buchtel. He became a member of the American Alpine Club in 1927.

Steve Hart’s connections with Colorado history were inspired by his father, who taught law at the University of Denver, and by James Grafton Rogers, President of the American Alpine Club from 1938 to 1940 and a founder and first president of the Colorado Mountain Club. Rogers later became Steve’s father-in-law. Steve subsequently served the Colorado Historical Society for 50 years as president, chairman and chairman emeritus.

He is survived by two sons, Richard and James Grafton Rogers Hart, a teacher in Colorado Springs, and a daughter Georgina Hart Martin-Smith, a psychologist in Nederland, Colorado. A granddaughter is married to world-class climber and AAC member, Adrian Burgess.

Sally Ross

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