American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Mark Bebie, 1952-1993

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



Mark Bebie and his friends, Steve Risse and Tom Waasdorp, died on March 20, 1993, while attempting Slipstream on Snow Dome in the Canadian Rockies.

Mark was a Washington native. He grew up hiking, skiing and climbing in the Cascade Mountains. Mark graduated from Lakeville High School and Syracuse University. After college, his work included a stint with the airplane manufacturing giant, Boeing. In 1983, he joined a small, but rapidly growing, computer software company, Microsoft, as a programmer. In 1988, Mark quit his job and embarked on a climbing odyssey which included a series of high-standard ascents around the world.

During two seasons in the French Alps, his climbs included the Central Pillar of Freney, the Voie Jackson on the north face of Les Droites and the Cecchine-Nomine route on the Grand Pilier d’Angle. In the Alaska Range, he teamed up with Jim Nelson and completed the second ascent of the Infinite Spur on Mount Foraker, ten years after the first ascent. In southeast Alaska, he made the first ascent of the south ridge of Mount Augusta and the south buttress of the Devils Thumb. He traveled to the Tien Shan in Asia and climbed Khan Tengri. In the summer of 1992, Mark was part of a strong team in the Karakoram that just missed summiting on Shipton Spire after climbing a big- wall route.

During his years at Microdot, Mark’s weekend climbing trips were legendary. His well-worn Datsun (and later Subaru) with the famous Piolet license plate would be heading towards the mountains or crags well before five P.M. on Fridays. With only two days to quench his thirst for climbing each week, he pushed beyond what most people thought possible. One late summer weekend, he hiked into the southern Picket Range of the Cascades, traversed Mounts Terror and Degenhardt and was back at work on Monday morning, a trip that would take most climbers four or five days to complete. Mark’s most significant climbs in the Cascades were the first winter ascents of Bonanza Peak and Mount Triumph and a new winter route on the west face of the north peak of Mount Index.

Mark lived simply. There was no fuss or fashion about his clothes, his hair or anything else. His infinite curiosity coupled with an amazing ability to focus and concentrate meant that nothing was ever without interest for him. After a long climbing trip, Mark might call you and talk for hours, not only about the climb, but also about the books he had read while in camp, the people he met, the wildlife he encountered, the municipal politics of Yakutat, clear-cutting on the Inland Passage, French wines, international issues, computers and anything else that was on his mind at the moment. He was never bored. On an ice-climbing trip to Colorado, he and his partner turned an otherwise average trip into a tour of brew pubs, looking for the best stout, which they found in Telluride. Mark enlivened a day of lift skiing by getting enough runs to bring the lift-ticket price down to less than a dollar per lift ride.

Whether climbing, skiing or hiking, Mark loved to be out in the open air, breathing, living. Indoors or out, he expressed his zest. Around camp, you would find him reading, melting snow, brewing tea, sharpening tools or listening to news or a cultural broadcast on a short-wave radio. In town, Mark was always “being productive,” as he would say, researching a new climb, reading about an old one, sorting slides, brewing beer, studying oriental rugs, working out, anything to keep moving, to feel alive. There were times when his intensity and constant motion would drive you crazy. But he always took the time to bring you back with a kind word or a warm gesture.

For all his climbing accomplishments, one thing we shall remember most was Mark’s incredible greeting whenever and wherever we encountered him, a smile underlined by a grizzled chin, an unblinking stare magnified by glasses

and then a massive handshake. His hands were perhaps the most animated and expressive parts of him. At times it seemed that without hands Mark couldn’t really express himself.

Mark is survived by his parents Hans and Austie Bebie, his sister Wendy Gordon and her family, his sweetheart Charlotte Fox and his many friends. We all miss him.

William Pilling and Jim Bourgeois

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