Forums: Climbing Information: In Memory Of: Re: [--ross] East Coast climbing pioneer Howard Doyle dies at age 64: Edit Log


Jul 4, 2007, 12:44 PM

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Registered: May 10, 2007
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Re: [--ross] East Coast climbing pioneer Howard Doyle dies at age 64
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I only recently learned about Howie’s death. It’s so sad that someone who seemed so healthy and kept himself is such good shape (his PhD was in an area related to physical fitness) died so young. This is a little long but I wanted to include some tales about Howie that you may not know.

Howie and I were good friends in the early ‘70’s. We climbed, skied and got together at each other’s places. The first time I went to Howie’s house was after stopping at “Travs” after climbing at Carderock. I didn’t know how to get to his house, so I was doing my best to keep up with Howie’s car going down the Clara Barton Parkway (then George Washington Parkway, Maryland side), when the federal police by the waterworks pulled us over and ticketed both of us. At a party, Howie showed me one of his party drinks—drink ½ a beer, refill the can with any available cheap wine, drink again—I only tried it once. I took Howie and a few others for an overnight in my sailboat. Howie and Lotus were among a few close friends at Stevie’s and my wedding 30 years ago.

I first met Howie at Carderrock in 1970 or ’71. I’m not exactly sure of the year, but he had just started climbing. I think he had done some climbing; perhaps a climbing class, maybe from Bob Norris, but I’m not sure. I had a rope up (I don’t remember who I was climbing with) and here was this big guy who looked very interested. One thing led to another and he was soon tied on to my rope. A few weeks later I took Howie and his then wife, Cathy, on their first trip to Seneca. We started on Breakneck. Howie was a natural. Cathy, who had been a gymnast, was also quite good. This started several years of climbing together at Seneca and the Gunks. Consider that Howie weighed about 185 then and I was 125. Did I mention we used body belays—at least until Howie insisted I get a sticht plate. Fortunately, he never bombed on me on a lead, but I caught him a number of times on top rope. Howie’s climbing ability eventually far exceeded mine and he started climbing with better climbers such as Lotus, Herb Laeger and Eve.

One day Howie and I were working a boulder problem on a wall perpendicular to the “The Aid Box” along the Potomac River. Neither one of us got more than ½ way. Then on one try Howie grabbed a flake part way up the climb and with his weight ripped it off the wall. That was the handhold that got me over that spot. That was as high as I could get after that. Howie could reach higher and therefore climb higher. Although we didn’t solve the boulder problem that day I seem to recall that Howie and another climber solved it on a later try.

On one trip to Seneca Howie and I started out on a cool, but promising, morning to climb “Tony’s Nightmare”. It was mild enough that we both wore t-shirts. Howie led. Before I got on the first pitch the temperature had dropped and the wind picked up. By the time I was coming out of the chimney it had become quite cold. I saw Howie shivering on belay. I suggested we bail to get some warm clothing. But Howie said as he shook “I-I-It d-d-doesn’t b-b-bother me i-i-if it d-d-doesn’t b-b-bother y-y-you.”.

Howie wasn’t a club joiner. For example, he never joined the Mountaineering Section of the PATC, although he occasionally showed up and gave at least one slide show there (climbing in Europe). He did, however, go on a ski club sponsored, Thanksgiving weekend, car-pool ski trip to Mt. Sutton, Canada. I knew Howie had skied quite a bit at Hunter Mt., New York And when he was in grad-school in Utah he skied the backcountry of what is now Snowbird by climbing over the ridge from Alta. Before the Sutton trip we called ahead and were assured there was snow on the whole mountain. Sutton is a 12 hour drive from DC. He and I were to take turns driving. There were two other riders who were not going to drive. Howie turned up for the trip with a painful lower back from teaching a rowing exercise in one of his classes. He told me this happened every time he taught that exercise. (Something about a muscular imbalance—In Howie??) Because of his sore back he couldn’t drive much and I had to do most of the driving. To top it off, when we got to Sutton the only slope with snow was the T-bar. It was probably just as good, since his sore bake made it difficult for him to turn in one direction. We returned to DC early. The next year Howie again had the problem after the rowing exercise, but he told me someone had shown him a yoga exercise that helped quite a lot.

One year Howie and I had decided to go to Seneca during the Petersburg White Water weekend to climb and watch the races. However, one of his friends acquired two tickets to the Explorers Club annual dinner in New York and invited Howie along. So the deal was that I would drive Howie’s wife, Cathy to Seneca on Friday night. Howie and his friend would go to New York for the dinner and then drive to Seneca as soon as it was over. (Howie later mentioned that there was a lot of one-upmanship at the meeting—a speaker might say, “…There were 63 villagers on the island when I was there six months ago….” And someone else might mumble, “…I was there two weeks ago and there were only 58….” Anyway, the next morning there was no sign of Howie. In fact, he didn’t show up until mid-afternoon. It seems that Howie went to sleep while his friend was driving from New York. When he woke up they were almost in North Carolina and had to turn around and drive all the way back. You can guess how peeved Howie was about that.

The last time I saw Howie was at Carderock. I had finished climbing for the day and was just leaving when Howie and a friend arrived. We talked for a few minutes until Howie said, “We have to go work-out”. We planned to get together, but never did before he moved to Salt Lake. I’m sorry I didn’t have the chance to see him again.

In my mind I’m sure that wherever Howie is he’s doing the hardest, most exposed trad in the region, onsight.

Joe Ney

Cross posted on SuperTopo and Rockclimbing forums

(This post was edited by JoeN on Jul 5, 2007, 4:00 AM)

Edit Log:
Post edited by JoeN () on Jul 5, 2007, 4:00 AM

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