Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Richard Revis "Dick" Culbert (1940-2017): Legendary Mountaineer

A man of many talents, Dick Culbert was a legendary mountaineer, explorer, geographer, geophysicist, Doctor of Philosophy, author, poet, and photographer. 
Dick Culbert, 1969 on the first (and only) winter ascent of Mt. Waddington.
Photo by Barry Hagen
He was born Richard Revis Culbert on 24 April 1940 in Winnipeg, Manitoba to Frederick Campbell Culbert and Margaret Rachel (Sanders) Culbert. 

Dick with his mother, Margaret and father, Fred. Courtesy Carole (McLeod) Cox. 

Dick displayed a natural curiosity from early on...

Dick (left) c1941 with his cousin, Carole McLeod. Courtesy Carole (McLeod) Cox.
According to his obituary, "He was deeply curious about the world: the last book he read was about string theory."

Dick was only three years old when his father's plane was shot down over Germany in 1943 during the Second World War.

At age three, he moved with his mother from Winnipeg to West Vancouver, British Columbia. In his teens, Dick joined the BC Mountaineering Club and the rest is history.

Glenn Woodsworth (pictured below) is writing a biography about his friend, Dick Culbert. I'll let readers of the Culbert Family History blog know when the book is published.

Mountaineers, Glenn Woodsworth (left) and Dick Culbert (right), 1964 on Desperation Peak in the Falls River area of the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Barry Hagen.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, one climber surfaced as an unstoppable force in the Coast Mountains: DICK CULBERT.[1]

1960-1975 was "The Culbert Era in the Coast Mountains."[2] 

Mountaineer Chic Scott called the 1960s "Culbert's Decade," noting that by the time Dick had reached his mid-twenties, he was already a legend in the climbing community.[3]

Described as the quintessential mountaineer, Dick was known for his uncanny route-finding skills and an almost super human ability to climb. 

Dick made several hundred first ascents, some of which have become classics; others so formidable they were never again attempted by others.

He enrolled at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1958. In 1963, he graduated with a B.A.Sc. in Geological Engineering (in the Geophysics sub-programme) and in 1971 he obtained his PhD in Geophysics.

Dick spent decades working in remote parts of the world. In his travels he photographed and catalogued thousands of images of flora and fauna that can be seen on his Flickr account and at DixPix.
An Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) above the Futaleufu Valley in Chile. Considered the largest flying bird in the world. Photo by Dick Culbert.

Dick is the author of two mountaineering classics, “The Climber’s Guide to the Coastal Ranges,” and "The Alpine Guide to Southwestern British Columbia." The former has been described as, to this day probably the finest achievement in mountain guidebook writing ever accomplished.

He is also the author of a book of poetry, "The Coast Mountains Trilogy: Mountain Poems 1957-1971" (Edited and with an introduction by Glenn Woodsworth. Vancouver: Tricouni Press, 2009.)

In the mid-1970s, Dick retired from climbing. He began building a series of hiking trails, the longest being the now very popular Mount Elphinstone Summit Trail on BC's Sunshine Coast.

In 2011, despite being fitted with an artificial knee, he came out of retirement for another ascent. At age 71, Dick returned to Squamish, BC to climb the Shannon Wall route he pioneered, now known as Skywalker.

Dick Culbert climbing Skywalker in Squamish, BC, 2011, age 71.
Last November, I asked Dick if he'd be heading to Chile again to visit his daughter, Kayla for Christmas. He replied, "I wish I was heading south, but alas I am in an end-game with cancer and will not likely be traveling again."

Dick Culbert died peacefully at his home in Gibson's, British Columbia on 23 May 2017, age 77. He is survived by his wife,  four children and eleven grandchildren.

A few days before Dick's passing, his son, Vance took this photo from Dick's balcony.
Dick & his son, Vance Culbert on Mt. Tantalus, British Columbia.

Dick was by all accounts a humble man but I think you'll agree this creative and passionate Culbert descendant deserves our praise.

Photo of Dick Culbert courtesy of his son, Vance
Richard Revis "Dick" Culbert's Family Tree:
John Culbert & Mary Ward (great-great-grandparents)
Richard Culbert & Jane Fairhall (great-grandparents)
George Arthur Culbert & Jean McLeod Campbell (grandparents)
Frederick Campbell Culbert & Margaret Rachel Sanders (parents)

[1]Quote from: Passion for Mountains, produced by the British Columbia Mountaineering Club, directed by Bill Noble, 2007.
[2]Canadian Mountaineering Anthology:Stories from 100 years on the edge by Bruce Fairley (1994)
[3]Pushing the Limits: the Story of Canadian Mountaineering by Chic Scott, Rocky Mountain Books, Calgary, 2000

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