In Memory of Bob Kamps

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Bob Kamps:
Man of Will, Skill and Wit
1931 - 2005

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Way back when, Bob Kamps broke his ankle and heel in Tuolumne Meadows, California, while scoping the first moves of a new route two miles from the road. When I returned with help, he had crawled a mile through the forest toward the road. There was Bob, inching along, bathed in sweat, pants torn, hands raw, showing his essentials: chagrined at his blunder but undaunted, in charge, full of will and determination.

Bob began climbing in 1955, and fervently pursued the sport until he died at age 73 from a heart attack, while reaching for a hold at a local gym. Bob began climbing in an era before gyms or how-to books, while he was visiting Yellowstone National Park. There, he recruited any climbing partner who could walk, and would invent techniques on the fly. For example, during his 1956 ascent of Pilot Peak, Bob cut a U-shaped bollard in a dirt hummock, which he used to rappel. Also in Yellowstone, he met Bonnie, his loving wife of 46 years.

While Bob was perhaps best known for the first ascent of the Diamond of Long's Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park with Dave Rearick in 1960, he didn't make much of the climb. His diary is terse on the subject: "Parades, TV stars, etc. Even Time Magazine." Bob would prefer to be remembered for his long-running love affair with climbing in good style on challenging, shorter crags, and for his many deep and lasting friendships. When asked about his favorite first ascent, Bob revealed with his crinkled smile that it was Tuolumne Meadows' Lucky Streaks, a wispy, sweeping series of steep cracks that he and I established in 1967.