Art and Jim mentioned in National Geographic Magazine
Update: 04/2011 - A feature storey on Yosemite mentions Art and fellow climber Jim Erickson, and their role in the development of new routes on Half Dome.


Some random musings and memories about Art in hopes that they will reach those who would like to know more about this remarkable, unique individual.  Thanks for bearing with me, in writing this, to process through my shock of hearing about Art’s death.  My first published website, so sorry for the snags... M.L.S.


Yesterday I learned of Art’s passing.  I haven’t seen him physically in over 6 years, but soon found myself deeply crying for the first time in twice that long.  I first met Art fresh off the boat from St. Louis as a hopelessly naive, sheltered, shy, 17 yr old CU freshman.  Art was my next-door dormitory neighbor. My life was about to change..


In his first days of discovering climbing, as Art confessed to me later,… before guide books and how-tos, and climbing gyms… he would drag guys from the dorm, and for “protection” they would tie a rope around the waist of one guy at the top of the climb…..and have him just hang onto a tree or whatever was handy in case of a fall of the actual climber below.  Needless to say, they learned better very quickly and fortunately without anyone being tugged off the top of a cliff.

I remember..... Art coming home around midnight after a climb….from the rock, not the bar…. completely fried.  Another lesson learned as they become so enraptured in the climb that they got caught on a route after sunset.  He shared how their ropes got tangled up and in the dark; they had to cut themselves free using a lighter to burn through one to free themselves.

I remember...... Art.…after being sick as a dog with the flu for a couple of weeks, was so “Jones-ing” to go for climb that he drug me, a non-climber, up to Estes Park to belay him…. Here I witnessed a feat I will never forget: Art launching up a totally unprotected 5.10 first pitch route above a couple of craggily looking boulders that would have meant death in a fall.  He realized half way to the first protection that he was in trouble…he had overestimated his condition and found himself still too weak from the flu to continue, too committed to back down.   Somehow he summoned the sheer will to move on, dry heaving from the sheer agony and pain he was putting himself through.  Finally reaching a small ledge, he sat and continued to dry heave (fortunately dry - for me below).until he could regain his senses and strength.  He finished out the easier pitches of the route, hauling my ass behind him on jumars all the way.   

I can't speak much more of Art’s climbing.  He hauled me up a few other routes over the years, the “Umph Slot”, and others…. but it was clear to me that I was out of his league in having any possibility to keep up.  Art was climbing with Jim and Dave and Luke and others of his caliber, and I remained happy to regale in the tales of his exploits from safely on the couch.  In 1976 he headed off to Yosemite, and with Jim Erickson filmed a well known early climbing movie- “CLIMB!-The Northwest Face Of Half Dome”.  Narrated by Robert Redford, it also was a new beginning for the then fledgling cameraman David Breashears.  Over the years after that I saw less and less of him.  Today, in all honestly, Art’s death won’t directly affect my life, but he was one of those individuals whose presence IN my life will have always affected it.

ART AND JIM ERICKSON's FILM - Narrated by Robert Redford - 1976

At age 23, Art and Jim Erickson went to Yosemite to attempt the first FreeClimb of this world famous face.  The moview was narrated by Robert Redford, and is still available today.  Find a summary about Art's movie "FREECLIMB - THE NORTHWEST FACE OF HALF DOME"  at the following:

It can be purchase here or elsewhere ( No, I don't make any residuals of sales) :


We lived together off and on for years after Baker Hall at CU.  Mostly in a house on Marine St., an already somewhat beat up bungalow that had been the old Head Start office in town. 

 In a little over a year of meeting Art, I found myself in that home’s old- time claw- foot bathtub.  Four of us decided it would be a good idea to fill it with the last of the hot water before all climbing in together, …. Result.. more water on the floor than in the tub.  No worries… we’ll just heat boiling water on the stove and schlep it in… result  - scalded backs, and lots more water on the floor!

In winter, rock climbing shut down, Art would actually take joy in snowstorms…in that he could then do his “route” around  the exterior of the house, sometimes a mere 12' or so up, on the window jambs and skirt boards…. in the snow… barefoot….. in order to “build up the capillaries in his feet”.

Over the years, whenever I found myself in a new place to stay… soon Art would be crashing on the couch, as if the couch were some time-space portal, he learned to master.  Wherever my home was, he would soon be looking for new routes to put up in and around the place.  Once, in a small basement apartment I rented, he asked me to take a picture of him, timed just so, while doing a “dynamic” move - jumping into the room on the run from about 10’ away, then without touching the floor, grabbing a small window ledge.  I said great, and after giving him "a minute to take off his shoes", I counted to three, and in he jumped, - completely naked! (picture attached).  PS he aced the move, which I could never come close to repeating.

MARINE ST. HOUSE - Thaddeus and Kiely-dog, how bout that red velvet wallpaper?

Art had entered CU in the engineering school, on a wrestling scholarship.  He bounced around majors, dropping out in his sophomore year to climb full time.  A truly brilliant guy, he awakened in me…. a bigger view of the world…. and exposed me to his joy for life. 

 I was in a way, Art’s sidekick, often the foil for his pranks….….  posing as Rodin’s “The Thinker”…while Art, shining a single light bulb laterally in an otherwise darkened room,….traced my outline on the wall…. to then fill solid with paint….. sure that the home’s owner (and our housemate – Thaddeus), would appreciate the new work of “Art” and wouldn’t mind at all!  A little enhancment upon the red-velvet and gold lamey wallpaper first put (taped) up!. It’s amazing that old house on Marine St. didn’t collapse under the weight of all our shenanigans together.

Yes, Art WAS a “work of Art”… a self made man, a unique individual, a free spirit and a free thinker.  He once did a brilliantly colored painting back then, that he titled “cool running”…I think was .indicative of Art himself…. fiery volcanic red above a horizontal water line…..a powerful shark swimming peacefully in the cool blue and calm below.  I think I still have that painting long buried somewhere in my basement.  I actually went looking for it this morning, at first thinking it was a hopeless cause, buried in the 25 years of crap, and then asking…. What would Art do?  What else… go for it!  With a little handhold on that piece of trim, a toehold on the corner of that box, I found myself doing a “treacherous 5.12 unprotected route”   - over piles of filling cabinets and boxes trying to find the painting, and soon I was hanging from the ceiling, peeking into boxes not seen since the dinosaurs…. gotta get rid of that stuff!!   

Art was never into the clutter and collecting of "stuff" that I’ve found myself in, and certainly not the other three C’s:  comfort, cleanliness or cash.  My memories of him are those of endless hours of chess, accompanied by a pint of Old Bushmills, then going bouldering by the light of the full moon AFTER finish the Bushmills.  And doing routes in the dark which I failed at earlier in the light of that day, with him edging me on all the way. Art was like that for me….Challenging and digging and probing, mischievous, breaking up perceptions of my own limitations,  always breaking barriers, but also always in a big and warm-hearted way…challenging one’s own possibilities.  Bringing presence, bringing laughter and a smile.