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Michael S. Martin, 1940-2001

Michael S. Martin 1940 - 2001

Michael S. Martin drowned September 6, 2001, near the completion of a solo hike up the Upper Black Box Canyon in Utah. He was 61 years old. Mike had recently returned to Denver from a trip to the Tetons and had spent 11 days in the Coast Range of British Columbia in July.

Mike began climbing as a graduate student in mathematics at the University of Washington in Seattle in the early 1960s. He extended his range from the Washington Cascades to the British Columbia Coast Range on trips arranged by Joe and Joan Firey.

You can get a sense of Mike’s climbing from his July 2001 trip, his third to the Klattasine area. The first was in 1992, by which time Dave Knudson had been organizing these ventures for several years. Mike, Dave, Mickey Schurr, and I enjoyed traveling the glaciers and ridges at the eastern end of Klattasine Ridge. We reached some summits previously climbed only by John Clarke and Peter Croft. The Big One, Peak 2468m, soloed by Croft via its beautiful north ridge, eluded us again, as it did in 1992. Mike, Mickey, and I were turned back by the steep and loose south ridge with less than 50 meters to go to the summit, vertically.

Mike would tackle about anything. I know that he savored the memories of the bittersweet moments when we turned back to climb another day almost as much as he did those of the summits. There were many of the latter, some previously unnamed virgin summits among them. Rarer were summits of named but unclimbed peaks, for instance Determination, on whose summit he stood with Dave Knudson, Mickey Schurr, Bruce Watson, and me in August of 1997. From this point we watched the new route we had put on Reliance a few days earlier raked by avalanches. It was at once exhilarating and chastening.

In Canada, Mike climbed many Coast Range classics: Queen Bess, Tiedeman, Cerberus, Geddes, Monarch, Munday, and Waddington among them. His footprints have crisscrossed some of the most beautiful and interesting parts of the Range. We shared successes, failures, and chilly bivouacs in British Columbia and elsewhere. Mike climbed with many other people and in many other places—Colorado, especially, and Europe.

Mike joined the mathematics faculty at the University of Denver after taking his degree at Washington. In July we had discussed the classes he was looking forward to teaching there in fall of 2001. Mike spent several sabbaticals at the Open University in Milton Keynes, England— a base for his European adventures. At Denver, he was advisor to the University’s climbing club for a number of years and helped bring others into the sport. He was a member of both the Alpine Club of Canada and the American Alpine Club.

On September 16,2001, he was warmly remembered by colleagues, students, friends, and family at a memorial held at the University of Denver. He is survived by his sons Neil of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Douglas of Austin, Texas; and by his sisters, Andrea Bachrach of Burlingame, California, and Jane Martin of Berkeley, California.

Whether I was in the mountains or at a desk puzzling over some mathematics, as long as Mike was around, a problem was just an opportunity for mental or physical exercise. He was a splendid comrade. He found the best in things and went ahead strongly and hopefully to the end.

Peter Renz, AAC