Climbers Mobilize to Help Bachar
Bachar at play prior to the August 14 accident.
It’s tough to swing a cat without hitting a climber who cites John Bachar as an influence. His reputation for hard, bold climbing and pure ethics earned him the respect of many in his time, and that respect lingers today. When he walks into a room, heads turn. When he logs into Internet climbing forums, virtual heads follow suit. Whispers of “That’s Bachar…” follow in his wake. Nearly everybody who ever partnered with him calls him the best climber of his day – many of his FAs are still considered testpieces. All in all, it’s enough to make him seem bulletproof… invincible.
But now it’s painfully clear that isn’t so.
Unless you’ve been under a rock, instead of on it for the past month, you probably know that, on August 14, he and two friends, Anastasia Frangos and Steve Karafa (Bachar’s business partner at Acopa USA) were involved in a tragic car accident that claimed Karafa’s life and left Bachar with severe injuries. As if that weren’t enough, Bachar’s minimal insurance coverage leaves him in dire straights. "John has a broken neck," wrote Frangos in a Supertopo forum, "and will need extensive treatment."
But despite the looming dark, there is a bright light shining on Bachar. The climbing community he so inspired is rising up to support him in his own time of crisis and the example it is setting rivals Bachar’s own.
One climber who took Bachar’s situation personally is Tim Greene, who has known Steve for a couple years and refers to himself as Acopa’s “unofficial rep.” Struck hard by Karafa’s loss and Bachar’s injury, Greene immediately saw a way to help. At 3 AM a few mornings after the wreck, he started making phone calls to gear companies. He asked for gear donations so he could put together a prize drawing of sorts for those who would be kind enough to make donations. Says Greene, himself displaced and de-homed by hurricane Katrina, “The climbing community helped us [he and his wife] when we were sitting in a hotel in Arkansas wondering if we had a home or not. All of a sudden I’m getting paypal donations from people I’ve never met!” Why not Bachar, too, he reasoned. The response has been overwhelming. Gear makers left and right, as well as some pretty big names in climbing, have leapt at the opportunity to help out.
Throught all of this, the idea of starting a permanent fund to help injured, uninsured climbers has come up more than once. Says Greene, “Some people ask why haven’t we done this for every hurt climber out there? ‘I have a buddy with a broken back! He needs help, too!’ Well, why haven’t you? Have at it! We’re not a professional organization. We’re just a ragtag group of climbers.”
“It is a shame nothing’s going on for those other people," adds Greene, "but maybe we can help. If we get fifty, a hundred thousand dollars, we’ll have something left over for the next guy.”
And that goal may not be as unrealistic as it may at first seem. Pressed for a retail value of all the gear that’s been pledged, however, Greene is noncommittal. “Gear makers and sellers have pledged in excess of $30,000, but," he adds, "I’m careful not to count it all before we have it in our hands.”
“It’s not a ‘raffle,’” he states. “Make a donation and your name goes into a drawing open only to donors.” One chance to win runs $25 and three go for $50." All proceeds, according to Greene, will go to the Bachar Fund, set up by the American Alpine Club.
But whatever you want to call it, it’s certain that this effort is rocking the American climbing community in a way that has never happened before. Even climbers in other countries are pledging their support, as is Steve Karafa’s family. “[This] means so much to us, and it helps ease some of the pain to know how much the climbing community cares for the Acopa family,” wrote Karafa’s sister, Lisa, in a Rockclimbing.com forum. “Please be aware that my dad and I will be continuing my brother's dream by carrying on at Acopa.” On Supertopo she adds, "The aching my heart feels for my brother everyday is lessened more and more by the kind acts of all of you."
Those who would like to help can do so by visiting the website Tim Greene set up, Bachar Benefit, but that isn't the only way. One can also donate directly to the Bachar Fund via Paypal at www.mammothgear.com or via check, by sending it directly to the AAC:
The American Alpine Club
710 Tenth Street, Suite 100
Golden, CO 80401
In the Memo section of the check write, "John Bachar Fund." Donations to the AAC are tax deductible.
Here are a couple more ways:
Karl Baba has set aside a collection of his photos of Bachar. Buy one of these from him and he'll donate the proceeds to the Bachar Fund.
Phil Bard, the guy who took "the" photo of Bachar soloing in Tuolumne (the one on the old Fire poster) is offering up limited edition prints of that and others, with proceeds also going to the Bachar Fund.