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Guy Edwards, 1972-2003

Guy Edwards 1972-2003

The northwest face of the Devil’s Thumb, near Petersburg, Alaska, remains what is likely the most impressive unclimbed face in the Americas. It has been attempted by many times by people such as Alex Lowe, Jack Roberts, Dieter Klose, and Mike Bearzi. On April 13, 2003, Canadians Johnkim Millar (24) and Guy Edwards (30) started up the 6,500-foot face. They did not return.

A celebration of lives lived was held a recent Sunday at the top of one of Guy Edwards’ favorite climbs, an 80-meter old growth Douglas fir in Lighthouse Park, Vancouver. Guy endlessly exuded exuberance, complete absorption, and a taste for the wacky. Running up the cables of the Lion’s Gate Bridge or making first ascents of new buildings on the University of British Columbia campus were equal in intrigue to setting the standard on ice routes in the Rockies. His infectious enthusiasm and engagement made him famous.

Quietly famous. Guy avoided publicity. He greatly disliked putting together climbing résumés of technical ascents for grant applications, so I don’t see that I should create one here. He is perhaps better known for his in-the-buck ascent of Pigeon Spire than for his speed records in Squamish.

Guy embraced a self-propelled, adventure-oriented climbing ethos that fit so well with the inaccessible Coast Mountains. Quite a few years ago he and I paddled from our homes in Vancouver and headed up Waddington without having gathered any route description—the summit that eluded us on that journey was just a detail of the voyage. Two years ago, he was the inspiration behind a classic journey for those who live on the Rainy Coast: heading up into the mountains north of his home in Vancouver and continuing by ski all the way to Skagway.

Switching seamlessly from buffoon to sage and back again, Guy inspired all those who knew him with enthusiasm. Yet almost unnoticed underneath was the drive that got him where he was and kept him on the edge. I wish that I had the opportunity to talk to him about the accidental symbolism of his death on the unclimbed north face of the jewel of the Coast Mountains, the Devil’s Thumb.

Vance Culbert