Dick Howe was a legendary Rockies climber with a number of fist ascents and contributions to hard rock climbing. He passed away at 81 years old on Nov. 29.
For those who are familiar with the old classic routes on Yamnuska, then you’ll know about a climbs called Dick’s Route and Dickel, aptly named for Dick Howe and Dick Lofthouse who established the lines back in 1970.
Howe was strongly connected to the Calgary Mountain Club (CMC) and was one of the few old guard who still attended the slideshows and functions. I had the opportunity to spend time with him at a number of CMC events. When we talked about his old routes, he could describe the crux in near perfect detail, even decades after he last climbed them.
Shortly after he retired, Howe suffered a medical problem that left him partially paralyzed, but as Ken Wiens put it, “Dick’s mood and spirit remained high.”
Wiens plays a major role in the CMC and wrote a touching tribute to Howe on the club’s Facebook page, which included the following:
How can I describe him? Dick was larger than life right till the end. Dick was never a quitter, he never backed down from a challenge. He had one of those great smiles that warmed any room.
When I was 18, Dick saved me from a life in the ACC and introduced me to the CMC. He took me climbing, he taught me how to play safe in the mountains – and still have fun. He never took himself too seriously. He pushed me beyond my limits, scared the crap out of me, told the greatest stories, sang the sweetest tunes. He led by example. So many of the platitudes we hear about great people – well, Dick exemplified them all.
Also on Yamnuska, Howe established a major 5.9 variation to Directtissima with the 325-metre Shuftee. Howe explained that Shuftee is a British word that means, “let’s have a shuftee at this or have a look.”
Alpinist and author, Sean Dougherty, had this to say in addition to Wiens tribute: “Feeling both sadness but also amazing good fortune. Dick was one of those who made me feel so welcome at the CMC and was one of a small cadre of expats that affirmed for me that moving from the U.K. to Calgary and the Rockies was one of the best things I ever did, and helped define my 20s and 30s.
Howe’s a legend in the Rockies climbing community who had a profound influence on many of the area’s top climbers over the past 50 years.
As Wiens said, “There is hardly a CMC member that doesn’t have stories about Dick, and whose life wasn’t in some way made better through their friendship with him. He touched so many in the mountaineering world, the music world and all his other great friends.”