I never knew Michael Ybarra. For that matter I never knew the great Fritz Wiessner either, but I still know what he did and I like to think we shared things in common. Michael, for those of you unfamiliar with him, was best known as a talented writer. Climbers knew him as a climber that made a living as a writer.
He passed away while climbing alone, in the Sierra Nevada mountains just over one year ago. The exact details of how he left us are unclear. It doesn’t really matter, either.
Unlike reading news of a death of an actor or actress, the news of Michael’s death actually stung. Michael died doing what I like to do and spend a lot of time day dreaming about. And Michael was more like me than say Bjørn-Eivind Artun, who we lost the same year, was like me. (No surprise there, really, but the point is made.)
Michael wrote for my local newspaper, The Washington Post once as an investigative reporter, and later he worked for the Wall Street Journal as their adventure correspondent. Then he also wrote articles in Alpinist, including a piece published posthumously in issue 43.
Michael also wrote a remarkable and very readable biography on the man behind the darkest days in Washington, DC, Patrick McCarren of Nevada. I am going to finish reading it shortly and will tell you more about it later.
And he loved the mountains. He lived out of his car for portions of his journey. He climbed regularly in Yosemite and had the respect of other climbers.
There will be a memorial service held at CalTech on Monday, October 14, 2013. I won’t be able to go, but maybe you can. If you go, you can celebrate what it Michael means to you.
For me, it is that life at work and with our family responsibilities may seem incompatible with climbing. In reality, love for the mountains and playing among them is actually an anchor for ensuring that I enjoy all aspects of life to the greatest extent possible. There is no doubt, from the people I know that actually knew Michael, that he was alert to life and he was at peace living his.
Climbing matters even though we work nine to five.