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William Hearrell Robins, 1957-2002

William (Bill) Hearrell Robins 1957-2002

Bill Robins, 45, died on July 7 while attempting a technical climb on the northeast face of Bolivia’s 17,159-foot Pyramide Blanca of the Cerro Condoriri group.

Bill was born on July 3, 1957, in Salt Lake City, Utah to John (Jack) H. and Zelda S. Robins, and raised on a family farm in Kaysville, Utah where he hiked, rode horses, and developed an inquisitive scientific mind. He earned a bachelors degree in chemistry from the University of Utah and a degree in geology from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Since 1988, Bill has worked as a senior research scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL) in Richland, Washington, where he contributed to the state of the art in explosives identification, for use in weapons inspections programs.

Bill made over 1,000 first ascents in Washington and Utah, and has climbed in Canada, Nepal, South America, Kyrgyzstan, and Australia. His ascents were always done in a strictly traditional way, from the ground up. In Washington, his first ascents include Pink Apes (5.11+) at the Potholes’ Hall of Frustration; and Bark like a Beagle (5.11X), Chemically Adjusted Reality (5.10a), and Painted Black (5.11b) at Frenchman Coulee. In Utah, his first ascents include Angel of Fear, a WI6 ice climb in Santaquin Canyon; Upper Bridal Veil Falls, a WI5-6 in Provo Canyon; and Gates of Hell, a 2,220' 5.10d R rock climb, also in Provo Canyon.

I met Bill at Frenchman Coulee in 2002. New to the Coulee, I was eager to learn from the locals when Bill, all six feet (+) of him, walked by in a white French Foreign Legion hat and painters pants (hand-painted with colorful flowers and symbols). When I asked him to help me pick out a few routes, he enthusiastically pointed out several fine lines from a three-ring binder of carefully detailed color pictures. He knew the place intimately, as he had put up hundreds of routes there over the years. He also maintained a website (users.owt.com/wrobins/) detailing many of the Coulee’s climbing areas, plus his own efforts to preserve the area through The Access Fund and the Washington State land managers.

Bill Robins had a remarkably bold, generous, and humorous spirit—he was a true character, and will be badly missed. He was deeply loved by family and friends, including Paul Certa and Leela Sasaki of Richland, and his four nieces, to whom he brought back gifts from his far away, exotic adventures.

He is survived by his parents, Jack and Zelda, his brother T. Richard Robins, his sister Ruth Ann Eldredge, his nieces Stefanie R. Christensen, Erin E. and Jessica S. Robins, and Margaret Ann White, all from Utah.

Keith K. Daellenbach, AAC, and Paul Certa