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Canadian Climbing Legend Richard Guy Dies at 103

He leaves behind a life of inspirational achievements and amazing accomplishments

The following is a press release by the Calgary Mountain Club (CMC) about the passing of Richard Guy, a longtime Canadian climber.

Richard Kenneth Guy died on March 9, 2020, at the age of 103. Richard often said, “I count myself as the luckiest person in the world. I was married to the best wife in the world for 70 years and I was paid for doing what I like doing.”

Born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, both his parents were teachers and imparted their son with good principles, “They were always impeccably honest, straight forward and outspoken against anything that was not for the common good.”

Richard met his future wife, Nancy Louise Thirian, in 1937. She liked to dance and he liked to dance so they hit if off right away. In addition they both loved mountains. In the summer of 1939, they set off for a two week holiday in the Lake District of northeast England. Staying in Youth Hostels, which were segregated into men’s and women’s dorms, they hiked the paths and reached numerous mountain tops. Their trip no doubt raised eyebrows and got tongues wagging but they didn’t care. Louise later confided that after that trip, “I decided that he was reliable.” Richard and Louise were married on Dec. 21, 1940, in Nottingham.

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So at almost 50 years of age, Richard and Louise came to Canada and started a new life—a big undertaking when you think that most of us are getting ready to settle into retirement at that age. Richard went to work teaching mathematics at the University of Calgary with the condition that he would not be head of department, but on April 1, 1966, the department head resigned and Richard was talked into taking over.

The big new adventure that Richard and Louise embarked upon was mountain climbing and skiing. Richard and Louise had climbed in the Swiss Alps, made their way to the summit of Mount Kinabalu in Northern Borneo and visited the Rhotang Pass and the Kulu Valley in India, so they were familiar with mountains. But here in Canada they devoted themselves to the mountains, first with their friends in the math department then later with the Alpine Club of Canada.

Every year since the club was formed in 1906, the Alpine Club of Canada has organized a General Mountaineering Camp, at a different location every year. Louise attended 31 of these camps and Richard attended 29, climbing hundreds of mountains. They took up cross-country skiing and were out on the trails every weekend until they were ninety years of age. In 1989, when they were in their early seventies, they undertook a ski adventure across the immense icefields of the St. Elias Mountains near Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak.

For many years the pair celebrated Richard’s birthday at Mount Assiniboine Lodge and on his 90th birthday he reached the top of the Towers, a challenging climb for anyone. A couple of years later, he and Louise skied the 11 km to Lake O’Hara Lodge for Valentines Day.

In 2016, Richard celebrated his 100th birthday at Mount Assiniboine Lodge by hiking six km to Wonder Pass then, the next day, hiking to the top of the Niblet. Even at 100, Richard was enjoying life and we played chess in the evenings (Richard always won).

Richard continued to go to his office at the University of Calgary and do mathematics long after his retirement in 1982. He used to joke that he had worked at the university far longer for free than he did on salary. Richard last went to the office on Friday, February 21, 2020, only two weeks before he died.

But the great love of Richard’s life was his wife Louise. A beautiful woman with a bright mind and a beautiful personality, she played a huge role in his success. Richard was dedicated to Louise even after her death in 2010—when he climbed the Calgary Tower for the Alberta Wilderness Association during their annual fundraiser, a framed photo of Louise hung around his neck. For the last ten years of his life, Louise’s photo sat on his kitchen table while he ate his meals.

In 2015, the Alpine Club of Canada built the Louise and Richard Guy Hut on the Wapta Icefield, thanks to a large donation from Richard in memory of Louise.

Richard earned many honours in his life: an Honourary Doctorate from the University of Calgary in 1991, honourary memberships in the Alpine Club of Canada and the Calgary Mountain Club and the pair were patrons of the Mountain Guides Ball in 1998.

Richard leaves his three children, Elizabeth, Michael and Peter, grandchildren Kenny, Andy, Rosie, Carol and Kathy, and two great grandchildren, Sarah and Emily.

Plans for a memorial celebration will be made by his friends in the Alpine Club of Canada and the University of Calgary Mathematics Department.

Donations in honour of Richard can be made to one of his favourite charities: The Alberta Wilderness Association, Alpine Club of Canada and the University of Calgary Scholarship Endowment.

A book about Richard and Louise was written in 2012 and is available from the Alpine Club of Canada: click here. Our condolences to his family and friends.

2015 Story on The National