Our friend, John Evans

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John Evans. Where to begin? While, yes, he had a birthdate and a day he passed on, these don’t really matter compared with the fullness of the long life he led. And while his accomplishments are many, it’s so much more the way he did everything than what he accomplished.
John was born and raised in Mansfield, Ohio, and was second in a line of four brothers – George, John, Rick and Bob. John got his start in snakes and lizards in Ohio, which led him to a life-changing summer job at the Reptile Gardens in western South Dakota, where he wrestled alligators.
As a teen in mountain-deprived Ohio, John was lured by his older brother, George, into a summer backpacking/pseudo climbing trip to the Wind River Range to climb Wyoming’s highest point, Gannet Peak. Against all odds they summited, and the flame was lit – never to diminish.
As so many people know, John was a unique and incredibly passionate and prolific member of the world’s climbing community. He got his start in technical rock climbing in the Black Hills, then quickly moved on to being a “dirtbag climber” (his words) in the early days of Yosemite’s infamous Camp 4. John became a big wall climber, being one of the early climbers to climb the nose of El Capitan, and performing one of the first documented rescues in Yosemite on Sentinel Dome.
He then became an expedition climber with nine first ascents around the world with several that have yet to be repeated (including the famed Hummingbird Ridge on Mount Logan in 1965 and the West Face of Mount Tyree after the first ascent of Mount Vinson in 1966-1967), and many more. He also has two mountains in Antarctica named after him – Evans Peak and Evans Heights.
John’s love for the mountains led him to the Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS) where he worked as an instructor and program director. He shined and touched so many lives with his gentle guidance and humor. Sandwiched between COBS and a 20-year career in the Antarctic was a decade working at the United Bank of Denver complete with, in John’s words, “dark suit, maroon tie and painful shoes.” In his position as an Antarctic support contractor, he specialized in remote field camps on islands along the Antarctic Peninsula.
On one of John’s early Antarctic experiences in the 1960s, he met Buzz Belknap, who invited him to join his family on a river trip. John accepted and was pleased to discover that Buzz had a sister, Loie. It was love at first sight and the beginning of what would be 52 adventure-filled years together.
What John brought to mountain climbing the Belknap family brought to the river community and, for John and Loie, it was a marriage of mountains and rivers that blessed the lives of so many people. They moved to the Conifer/Evergreen area in 1971 and raised their kids, Lynn and Barry, including them in their adventurous family traditions. When Barry passed on unexpectedly in 1992, the community came together and buoyed them up through this time.
In recent years, John and Loie have been blessed to have Lynn and her husband Mark Peesel here in Evergreen with their daughters, Zoe and Spencer. Family adventures have continued, and John has imparted a love of the outdoors and reptiles to his granddaughters.
Even with his tremendous adventures and accomplishments, his greatest impacts were his kind spirit and how he made everyone feel so loved. He taught us that anything can be turned into a joyful adventure. He was an incredible husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather, friend and role model with the biggest, kindest heart and incredible sense of humor. He will be missed.
Along the way, John was an improbably consistent chronicler of his various endeavors, and retirement led him to undertake the long-deferred attention to the tidying up and annotation of his journals to make them coherent to people not there at the time. Thanks to the marvels of e-publishing, these journals are now available to all.
For anyone who would like to learn more about John’s climbing experiences or to share a story or memory about John, visit his website: www.johnevansclimbing.com.
For anyone who would like to give a contribution in John’s name, there are two organizations that have made a big difference to John and the Evans family.
• Colorado Outward Bound School. COBS has been forever near and dear to John’s heart. Contributions would go toward student scholarships and can be sent to: COBS, 5161 Sheridan Blvd., Denver, CO 80212, or online at coloradogives.org/cobs.
• Mount Evans Home Health Care and Hospice. The family has been incredibly touched by the kindness and care of this wonderful organization. The mailing address is 3081 Bergen Peak Drive, Evergreen, CO 80439, or the website is: www.mtevans.org/giving.

A celebration of life for John is being planned for March 14th.


Published in Canyon Courier on Jan. 15, 2020


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