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He kept it nonmundane and dynamic, always. By Christian Beckwith at

On December 23, 2010, Bean Bowers—climber, skier, writer, guide, devoted husband, bon vivant, resident of Denver, Bozeman, Jackson, Ridgeway, El Chalten, and friend to countless people around the world—broke his femur skiing. Less than two weeks later, he woke in the middle of the night, vomiting and with crippling headaches. Soon, he was back in the hospital, but this time his leg was not the issue. Tumors wracked his body. As doctors performed brain surgery to stop their spread, Bean entered his next challenge: Stage 4 metastatic cancer.

That challenge ended Sunday. Bean was 38.


The first time I met Bean was on the Lower Saddle between the Grand and the Middle Tetons.

“Hi,” I said, the late-afternoon light slanting over from Idaho. We were the only ones up there, so it seemed appropriate to introduce myself.  “I’m Christian.”

“Mean,” he said, growling.

I must not have heard right. “What’s that?”

“Mean,” he growled again, deeper this time. It was the mid-1990s, and he was barely in his twenties, but he was already thick as a burl. It was if he’d existed, quite possibly where we were now standing, in perpetuity.

“Well, Mean, it’s good to meet you,” I said. His hand, calloused from countless pitches in the mountains, swallowed mine. Though his eyes winked, he was, altogether, one of the more intimidating people I’d ever met. I can’t remember what I did the next day, or with whom, but I’ll never forget meeting Bean.

Somehow, over the months that followed, we connected a couple of dots. I’d just started editing The American Alpine Journal, and the next year Bean sent in his first trip report, from the Bonington-Whillans route on Chilean Patagonia’s Central Tower of Paine.

After being in the park for four days, on February 10 Dave Nettle and I decided to hike to the base of the gully leading to the col between the North and Central Towers. The snow from previous days had given us concerns about potential avalanches. After two cups of coffee, we set out under cloudy skies. The weather became progressively better as we climbed up to our gear; the gully had avalanched recently, then frozen the night before, paving our way to the base of the rock. With little wind and patchy skies we set out up the route at 2 p.m. The climbing varied widely in the 11 pitches we climbed. When we reached the summit at 11 p.m., the weather began to worsen and continued to do so as we descended through the night. We arrived at the col for an amazing Patagonian sunrise, and got back to Campamento Torres 27 hours later in time for that third cup of coffee.

The report illuminated a couple of Bean’s qualities: a penchant for good coffee, number one, and for moving quickly in the mountains as well. When he told me he spoke Spanish, I asked him to translate an article, “The Riddle of the Cordillera Blanca,” for the Journal the following year. His lucid translation retained the cadence and rhythm of the original language, and revealed a gentler side than I’d seen on the Saddle. He had managed nuances with ease, and when he later told me he wrote poetry too, I was almost not surprised.

Read the rest of the article here.

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