Rich Davidson, 46, of Los Alamos, New Mexico, and his tent mate Debbie Marshall, 31, of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, died while climbing Annapurna IV in Nepal on October 4. The two suffocated in their sleep at 18,000 feet when unusually heavy snowfall collapsed their tent. Rich’s and Debbie’s bodies were recovered by their climbing partners and laid to rest on a hillside overlooking Base Camp.
Rich was bom on May 29, 1950, in Grand Junction, Colorado. He graduated at the top of his class from the Wentworth Military Academy, Lexington, Missouri in 1968. He attended New Mexico State University, where he received his BS in 1971 and MS in 1973 in Civil Engineering. He received an MBA from the University of Idaho in 1976 and was a registered professional engineer.
After working six years as a senior engineer for EG&G, Inc. in Idaho, Rich took a job at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1979 in the Design Analysis Group. He worked in several Laboratory groups and was currently a member of the Engineering Analysis Group.
Rich was an experienced mountaineer, having led or participated in many climbs in the Rocky Mountains, Alaska, Nepal, China, Mexico, Africa, and South America. He attempted Muzhtag Ata via the west ridge in 1984, Himalchuli via the southwest ridge in 1985 and Aconcagua via the north ridge in 1988. The latter two attempts were foiled by bad weather. He climbed Ixtachihutl, Popocatepetl, and Orizaba in 1979. In 1982, he climbed Mt. Faye, Mt. Athabasca, and Mt. Huber. A combined climbing and animal-watching trip in 1994 allowed him to summit Kilimanjaro via Marangu. In 1995, he climbed Denali via the West Buttress Route and Mt. Rainier on the turista route. The list of peaks in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho is far too long to list here.
He never considered himself a “peak bagger,” preferring to make his list “other people’s lists.” He accompanied/helped many of us up the harder Colorado 14ers, often by the more difficult routes. In his Denali journal he wrote, “It’s not conquering the mountain, but conquering something within—the satisfaction of personal achievement, the inner feeling of strength from sharing the summit with the mountain… some summits are really special. Denali was special.”
Rich was an avid back-country skier, road and mountain biker, rock and ice climber, kayaker, jogger, and backpacker. He was best known for his willingness and ability to mentor novices ranging from young summer students to adult first-time climbers. He was a superb teacher, taking the time and having the patience to introduce novices to the sports that he loved. Whether it was rock climbing, skiing, climbing a first Colorado 14er, or teaching avalanche and mountain safety, Rich’s concerns were first to ensure safety, and second to make sure everyone was having a good time. Like any true teacher he allowed the student to be in the spotlight and have the feeling that he was doing something “world class.” He leaves a wonderful legacy of loving students and friends who will remember him as a special sharing person and who feel fortunate to have had Rich touch their lives.
Needless to say, Rich will be on our minds whenever we have any backcountry experience that he would have enjoyed. In that way, he will certainly live on.