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Douglas Craig Zimmerman, 1957-2010

Douglas Craig Zimmerman, 1957-2010

Whether in the mountains, working on his farmhouse, or enjoying a short hike, Doug Zimmerman was most at home in the outdoors, where he found peace and beauty. On a sunny day in June 2010, Doug died suddenly while running through a park alongside the Connecticut River, apparently of a malignant arrhythmia.

Doug was a mountaineer in the truest sense. His unyielding spirit for adventure, humor, strength, and determination made him a wonderful traveling companion and the best of climbing partners.

Doug’s climbing career spanned four decades, with ascents and climbing adventures throughout the U.S., Canada, Peru, and Alaska. He was an uncomplicated man and a traditional climber. His pleasures were simple and his needs were few. He endured hardship with quiet calm and determination.

Doug loved to tell stories, especially of one particular adventure in the Canadian Rockies. He, Doug Bonoff and I spent nearly five days sitting out a storm on the Dome of Mt. Robson. Where others might have made hasty decisions to climb on or retreat, Doug understood the risks and exercised calm patience. Doug loved to say that it was the longest stay on Mt. Robson not resulting in a rescue.

Doug was a calm, levelheaded leader. He understood his limits and climbed competently and confidently within them. He was not a bold climber. His plan was to climb late into life, to become an old climber.

Doug’s wife Bet supported his climbing wholeheartedly. When she met Kenneth Henderson at an AAC black-tie event, she asked why he was always so well-dressed when climbing, as evidenced by old photos on display. Ken responded by saying, “My dear, you just never know who you’ll run into while in the mountains.” Doug clearly never heeded Ken’s philosophy of attire. For Doug, fashion was irrelevant. In his pack, a moth-eaten army green wool sweater, Dachshtein mittens, and a crampon-slashed pair of wind pants could always be found. On ice routes he continued to carry his wooden alpine hammer well past its usefulness. On our last climb together, at Pinnacle Gully on Mt. Washington this past March, a single Chouinard ice screw still dangled from his harness. Dulled and weathered, the screw was perhaps a connection to adventures past and those he thought lay ahead.

As I reflect back on the many adventures that others and I shared with Doug, I pay tribute to a friend who gave me some of the best days of my life. For this I thank Doug. Those who knew Doug and had the privilege of climbing with him will miss him forever.

Notes: Doug graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University in 1980 with a degree in Environmental Earth Science; he had been the co-president of the school’s Outing Club. His career in public service spanned 27 years with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, where he helped clean up countless polluted sites. In addition to rock and ice climbing and mountaineering, Doug was a runner, completing six marathons. He was also a regular blood donor, giving more than 65 units of blood during his life. He was a tissue donor, which he referred to as “the gift that keeps on giving.” Perhaps another person will be able to walk a trail or climb a mountain thanks to Doug’s gift of muscle and bone.

Donations in Doug’s honor can be made to the American Alpine Club or to the Founders of Environmental Earth Science Fund, Eastern Connecticut State University, Foundation, 83 Windham St., Willimantic, CT 06226. More about Doug’s life and loss can be found at cragman.com.

Robert Plucenik