Seth Thomas “ST” Shaw and Tim Wagner had successfully climbed a new route on the east face/southeast couloir of Mt. Johnson in the Ruth Gorge of the Alaska Range when, on an overcast rest day, the two set out for a bit of ice bouldering. Upon entering the crevasse, the ice shifted and an immense amount of ice buried Seth Shaw. Having completed a climb of his dreams, Seth lost his life “passing time with a little workout.”
Seth was known to those that met him as one of the kindest and humblest fellows about. He was always keen to help others out, be it with his profession as a snow forecaster or with a helpful tip for a tricky move on a climb. His motivation for climbing was quite simple: it was fun. “Hee haw,” he would often chuckle as he tied in.
He climbed for the joy of it, not for what others might see of this frivolous pursuit in him. One would have to pry tales of the varied types of climbs that Seth excelled at. No discipline was out of Seth’s practice or enjoyment.
The son of Tom and Anne Shaw, Seth grew up in Southern California with training in gymnastics and wrestling, two sports that suited his body type and would parlay well in his true calling of climbing. Drawn to the mountains of Utah, Seth attended the University of Utah and received a degree in Meteorology, which he applied as a forecaster for the Wasatch Avalanche Forecast Center. Each winter, backcountry enthusiasts were greeted by Seth’s adroit observations on the local weather and snow conditions. His colleagues were happy to have him part of the team.
Be it ticking the steep sport routes in the Hell Cave of American Fork or soloing the major ice climbs of Provo in a day, Seth was a player in the strong community of Utah climbers. The quest for unclimbed ground provided Seth with many an adventure on the sandstone haunts of the southwest. Combining these skills with a penchant for cold and snow, Seth went on to the Greater Ranges. Two routes in the Kichatnas, a new route on the northwest face of Mt. Hunter and a new route on the north face of the Moose’s Tooth are testament to his determination in the Alaska Range. In 1998, Seth ventured to Shipton Spire in the Karakoram and enjoyed a fine ascent. These and other desperate climbs Seth would summarize in his unique drawl as “not so bad.” He was understated in much of what he did, especially climbing, which left those of us who knew his skills wondering how hard his routes really were.
Perhaps Seth will leave a mark in the gastronomy circles with his broccoli peanut butter burritos and on the fashion scene with the shorts and polypro combo. These quirks are a reflection of his dedication to climbing. If something wasn’t directly essential for climbing, it didn’t justify an expenditure.
Yes, Seth, we loved your sense of humor and childlike goofiness, but damn, we’ll miss you. You were always motivated, and you were stronger than all of us.