Wm. D. Loughman, PhD, ABMG

Hobbies and Divertisements


When I was a teen-aged Boy Scout, before high-school, I'd read Anderson's "American Mountaineering", published by the American Alpine Club. My interest in rockclimbing thus established, I joined a Southern California branch of the Sierra Club, to learn more and get expert instruction. Later, entering the University of California at Berkeley (UCB), I joined the University of California Hiking Club, or UCHC as it was known then. It's "CHAOS" now (No, not that one [grin]...).

Some of our early climbing practice was on the UCB campus buildings, influenced by "Whipplesnaith's" 1937 The Night Climbers of Cambridge, a book we may have appreciated too much. I and three companions distinguished ourselves by being first to rappel down the multi-story Campanile (campus bell-tower), ...and getting caught! The incident was good for a lot of mirth in newspapers both local and elsewhere. Of course we were hauled before the Dean. Fortunately, sighing "I was young too, once...", he let us off pretty lightly. But the "rope burns" smarted for weeks. Later, we climbed on all the SF Bay Area bridges, including the Golden Gate Bridge and the then-unfinished Richmond Bridge, and never were caught.

Over the ensuing years I became quite an expert climber, and made several legitimate "first ascents". Most were in Yosemite Valley, within Yosemite National Park, California. Others were on then-unnamed peaks, faces, and cliffs throughout the Sierra Nevada Range. My most frequent climbing parter was Don Goodrich, brother to my first wife and like a brother to me. Most of our climbs went un-recorded. It was our young oh-so-pure vanity that we didn't need citation in books. Others however, doubtless much wiser, took it upon themselves: My name (and his) occasionally can be found in standard climbers' guides for Yosemite.

...and Mountain Rescue

Don died 12 June 1959, in Yosemite. He and three other very experienced climbers were attempting a first ascent of the near-vertical 900-foot SW wall of Mt. Conness (12,590 ft). In a tragic accident, Don was leading when he dislodged a huge rock slab. He jumped free, but it rolled onto his body and smashed his skull. A truly heroic rescue attempt was started by his rope-mates and the 3-man support party below. One of them, the South African climber Dennis Rutovich, was a "distance runner". He must have set a record on his desperate non-stop cross-country run for help, 5-1/2 miles away at Tuolomne Meadows Ranger Station! The others set off up the rock. Don was retrieved from where he'd fallen, and gotten back down to the base camp at the peak's base. Tenderly and competently cared for, nonetheless he died from massive head injuries. The other rescue parties, hastily gathered from miles away, reached the scene far too late.

Important in the delay was a jurisdictional dispute between a neighboring County and the NPS: Mt. Conness lay exactly on their mutual boundary. Also, the Park Service was slow in gathering climbers from The Valley. From there a volunteer party - on its own and without official sanction - set out over the 40-mile drive to reach just the Conness trailhead.

From this I swore that local government agencies should never again want for skilled climbers, readily available. I formed the Berkeley Mountain Rescue Group (BMRG) in 1959. Its first members were drawn from the UC Hiking Club, with a smattering from the Sierra Club and other groups. BMRG conducted very realistic training sessions, and after awhile was moderately well-known.

Eventually BMRG (and me) would dissolve (1962-1968) into the Alameda County Mountain Rescue Unit (ACMRU). This soon crumpled under its government sponsor's neglect. From ACMRU members and others, I helped form the Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit (BAMRU) in 1970.

"Third time's the charm..." , and it stuck! BAMRU exists today, many years later, as an active and respected presence on the volunteer rescue scene. It is a certified member of the Mountain Rescue Association, and participates in inter-agency "call-outs". Always a very active member, I participated in a lot of these. Over a 15-year period in BAMRU I was privileged to serve inter alia as Operation Leader, Unit Leader, and Board Member. Today I'm retired from the fray, being now the Unit's only Life Member and Emeritus Member.

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Copyright © 2002-2004 William D. Loughman.