American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Chester L. Errett, 1905-1994

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997



Chester L. Errett was a member of the American Alpine Club for 51 years. He was hard working, persistent and helpful to others in his vocations and avocations. Chet was born in Los Angeles, California, on October 23, 1905. He worked his way through Inglewood High School where he met his future wife, Evelyn, in 1920. He attended the University of California Los Angeles, intending to become a physical education teacher, but a fireman uncle persuaded him to become a professional firefighter. Chet and Evelyn were married in 1928 and he joined the Los Angeles Fire Department on April 10, 1929, retiring from Truck Company 10 as a Captain on April 24, 1951.

Chet was an early member of the Ski Mountaineers Section and Rock Climbing Section of the Southern California Chapter of the Sierra Club, serving as instructor, test judge and ski race judge. He was a Chairman of the Rock Climbing Section and later Chairman of the Ski Mountaineers. In March, 1938, after a major Southern California storm, Chet Errett and Howard Koster made a 40-mile round-trip journey to check on the San Antonio Ski Hut. In the same month he made a ski trip to Gem Lake in the High Sierra. On Labor Day Weekend 1938, he climbed the East Buttress of Mount Whitney.

In 1939 he made a winter ascent of Mount Banner and solo ascent of Mount Langley and, with his wife Evelyn Errett, an ascent of Popocatepetl in Mexico. In 1940 he made winter ascents of Mount Whitney and White Mountain. In 1947 he made an ascent of Ixtacihualtl and another ascent of Popo.

In 1942 Chet Errett and Robert Brinton conducted the Mountaineering School at Belmont High School in Los Angeles, recruiting dozens of men for the Tenth Mountain Division. Chet and Bob wrote a syllabus for the course. Chet was an professional expert in rescue and gave detailed instruction.

In January, 1943, after months of recruiting others, Chet himself started out as a private in the army with the Tenth Mountain Division at Camp Hale, Colorado. While still in the army, Chet graduated from the University of Chicago and was sent to Japan and Korea as an army firefighter. He had the title of Military Government Fire Chief of South Korea and was responsible for firefighting in over 85,000 square miles inhabited by 24 million people.

In 1952 Chet Errett was Fire Chief at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. He and Evelyn were part of a group of nine who attempted to climb the East Buttress of Mt. McKinley. After 27 days of traveling and climbing they were forced back to Camp V at 12,000 feet by a lack of food. In June and July, 1954, the Erretts made another unsuccessful attempt on Mount McKinley again with weather-related problems.

From October, 1954, to October, 1956, the Erretts were in Puerto Rico, where Chet held the position of Navy Fire Marshall. Chet and Evelyn became acquainted with Theodore Payne when he was still operating his nursery on Los Feliz Boulevard in Los Angeles and they were early (1961) members of the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flower and Native Plants. They became active volunteers at the Sun Valley location. Evelyn eventually served as President of the Board of Directors and Chet as Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds from about 1976 to 1984. The two were major participants in solving the zoning problems of the Theodore Payne Foundation. In 1980, when Chet was 75 years old, a fire threatened the Foundation grounds and, at 3 a.m., Chet went out to guide his old Engine Company to the nursery, saving the property from being destroyed.

After the death of his wife Evelyn, Chet’s health failed, and the last few years of his life he lived a hermit-like existence in the airy Hollywood Hills home that he had contracted. The Erretts had no surviving children.

A friend, Shirley Docter, taped an interview with Chester Errett in 1984. She writes:

Chet was goal-oriented, a man of action, hard working, intensely loyal and loving a challenge. In remembering Chet and Evelyn, it is impossible to think of one without the other.

Glen Dawson

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