Remembering Mark Hesse: Climber and Trailbuilder

I've been thinking about my friend Mark Hesse, a long-time Colorado climber, who passed away after a freak fall and accident at the Boulder Rock Club, a climbing gym in Boulder, Colorado, on January 27, 2014, at age 63.


Besides being a wonderful person, Mark was an amazing climber with an amazing resume of climbs around the world. In 1982, two years before I shot these photos, he soloed the south face of Denali via the Scott-Haston Route. And in 1986 he and three others did an alpine-style first ascent of the steep northeast buttress of 22,241-foot Kangtega in Nepal.



I first met Mark in 1970 when Billy Westbay and I started climbing with him. That year, Billy and I began going up to Boulder almost every free weekend to climb at Eldo, solo the Flatirons, or crank testpieces in Boulder Canyon, like Athlete's Feat which we first did with Mark.


Usually, we bivouacked at Mark's house on The Hill in Boulder. It was across the street from a cemetery so occasionally Billy and I unrolled our sleeping bags in the grass but we always avoided the graves. We slept like the dead. Or rather, with the dead. When he wasn't studying, Mark would go climbing with us lads. Those were good days.


After thinking about Mark on the day of his passage to the higher peaks, I dug out a roll of black-and-white photographs that I shot of Mark in July 1984 for a magazine article. Mark and I scrambled around on the upper East Face of Gray Rock at the Garden of the Gods to get the photographs. They capture his essence, confidence, smile, and friendly demeanor.


I hope you're enjoying those cliffs and peaks on the other side and organizing some trail-building. I'm sure heaven's paths could use some maintenance and love.


We miss you, Mark.



Images: Mark Hesse at the Garden of the Gods, Colorado, in July 1984. Photographs © Stewart M. Green



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