Rich Jack, 1948-2010
In 1987 I was the rock-climbing director of a Boy Scout Ranch outside of Fort Collins. I needed to hire a couple of climbers to set up top-ropes, so I put up a notice at the climbing store and met with a tall, blond guy the next day.
“And what qualifies you to set up top-ropes?” I asked.
Rich Jack smiled and gave me his AAC climbing resume, which consisted of 25 to 30 big walls. I hired him on the spot. As I was to find out, Rich was not only an expert big-wall and rock climber, but a balls-out skier, pedal-to-the-metal mountain biker, and ultra-competent ice climber. His wacky sense of humor and buoyant spirit inspired me, as well as the scouts. I can still hear the laugh hed give when he got in a tense situation—whoooooaahhhhh.
A native of Minnesota, Rich climbed extensively in Yosemite in the 1970s. He and Lou Dawson did their first El Capitan route, the Dihedral Wall, in 1973. The hardest thing they did together was the second ascent of the Hallucinogen Wall in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River in 1981. At the time it was the hardest aid climb in the Black, and had such a scary aura that no one wanted to repeat it. Rich was always proud of being part of the duo that took some of the foreboding away by doing the second ascent. Another of his accomplishments was a first ascent, the Dawson-Jack Route on the Diamond on the east face of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, in the summer of 1975.
His adventurous spirit took him to the Canadian Rockies to ice climb, to Moab to mountain bike, and to Crested Butte and Aspen to ski. Professionally, he was a highly respected critical-care nurse and supervisor in the Intensive Care Unit at Boulder Community Hospital for over 20 years. His skills saved countless lives and his compassion comforted patients and families coping with end-of-life issues.
Due to medical issues, he retired from climbing and turned his energy and drive to longdistance motorcycle riding. Always hardcore at whatever he did, he completed two trips from Boulder to Alaska and crossed the Arctic Circle on both the Dempster and Dalton Highways. He'd ride in snow, sleet, and hail, always in full-on motorcycle safety regalia.
Around this time, he met and married the love of his life, C.J. Joplin. He was as happy as I had ever seen him, was looking forward to retirement, and was dreaming of riding his bike to the southern tip of South America. His dream was cut short when a deer jumped in front of his motorcycle, throwing him off his bike into the path of an on-coming truck.
This summer friends and family will be trekking into Chasm Lake near Longs Peak to scatter his ashes. Vaya con Dios, mi hermano.