It’s a shame that when I’m researching a particular climber the only thing that routinely comes to the forefront are brief reports of his untimely death. In these instances remembering that our sport is hardly mainstream and most people do not care to the degree I do. But the public’s attention is usually brief and dismissive of climbers accomplishments and art except when tragedy strikes.
So be it. We get it.
But Boyd N. Everett, Jr. didn’t settle for that.
Everett was an alpinist that, according to his friends that knew him, wanted the community to know about and understand more about climbing. He was a nerdy, reserved securities analyst for the Lehman Corporation from New York City by day, and a frequent visitor to the ‘Gunks and organizer of aggressive mountaineering expeditions on his days off. He also taught climbing lessons to youth groups, shared countless slide shows to church groups and other audiences, and later made films of his climbs.
He was an unassuming presence most people never took seriously as a climber if you hadn’t climbed with him. In fact, even in Talkeetna he was the subject of ridicule prior to his historic first ascent of Denali’s Southeast Spur in 1962. He carried around his briefcase in town for days until the weather cleared and his team could attack. Many others in New York had no idea of his climbing interest and accomplishments until late in his life. It seems he started coming into his own then.
His accomplishment on the new route on Denali was a remarkable feat in logistics and bullheadedness. They dealt with hard ice, tunneling and rough weather. The route require endless step chopping, rock climbing, climbing cornices and seracs at 10,800 ft. (a section known as “The Fluting,”) and overcoming an overhanging ice wall . One pitch at 10,700 ft. took the group all day to overcome because of the hollow snow and difficulty in setting up protection. At the end of the Spur, the team, knowing they didn’t have sufficient food supplies for all, sent Everett and partner Sam Cochrane to the South Summit.
Everett wrote the quintessential treatise on climbing in Alaska in those days, The Organization of an Alaskan Expedition, which, according to Jonathan Waterman, was copied by untold numbers of dreamers and climbers that wanted to do something big. His leadership and vision also took himself and his teams of climbers to the four highest mountains in North America and to an attempt on Dhaulagiri (26,795 ft./8,167 m.) It was the 1969 attempt on a new route on Dhaulagiri in the Himalayas that cut his life short in an avalanche around 16,500 ft. along with six of his teammates.
There are two records that I am quite impressed by and one I’ve always wanted to duplicate. Everett held the world’s highest recorded game of bridge on Mount Logan (19,551 ft./5,959 m.) He also hit one heck of a golf drive over the side of Mount St. Elias! I’ve always wanted to carry a ball and a club up to the top of some peak and whack it for everything I could in some sort of sense of victory, freedom, and endless space. I can imagine how Everett might have felt in his follow through.
Everett has a memorial fund established in his name that is now part of the ongoing American Alpine Club Mountaineering Fellowship Fund Grant. It was initiated from an endowment from his estate. It’s a fitting way for this man to allow his life to contribute more to climbing, just as he wanted others to know more about and understand climbing better.
Sources: 1) Waterman, Jonathan, High Alaska: A Historical Guide to Denali, Mount Foraker, & Mount Hunter, American Alpine Club Press, 1999; 2) 1964 American Alpine Journal, pp. 167-8; 3) 1968 American Alpine Journal, pp. 498-500.