Sunday, November 15, 2020

Men in Hats - Part One

How things have changed since I started this blog in 2006. Back then my posts were simple confections with an image or two and 75 word paragraphs. The nascent blog was about photographs. Those early efforts featured a photograph or two with a short description of the image(s). That's it. Then sometime in our adventure together I began telling stories and the images took on a supporting role. In 2018 while scouting the location of my one and only wedding shoot I started to call myself a writer, at least in my fertile imagination. I remember the very moment I made that leap. And about the same time I inaugurated my byline Telling Stories in the online photography magazine, Shadow and Light. In fact, editor and publisher Tim Anderson reached out to me because I could tell a story in few words. That's a virtue I guess.

In this week’s post I’m straddling photography and storytelling with the first of a series of posts dedicated to portraits of men wearing headgear. Welcome to Men in Hats, Part One. Actually the series is of portraits and the hat thing gave me a handle.

George Hurley and Peter Lev met at the University of Colorado in Boulder in the late fifties. Both became skilled rock climbers whose careers were built on that heady pursuit. Both self-possessed men have lived their lives their way. Other than his time teaching school in Africa with his wife Jean after almost getting his Masters in English, George made his living as a climbing guide and climbing school director until his retirement a decade ago.

Peter Lev

Peter walked a similar path as a climbing guide, mountaineer, and an avalanche forecaster. In 1979 he became part owner on Exum Mountain Guides in the Grand Tetons and the chief avalanche guru at Alta Ski Resort in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. Peter calls avalanche forecasting a “dark art” and would be the first to say it’s part science and part Kentucky windage. Lick your forefinger, stick it in the air and guess which way the wind is blowing. Not much more than sorcery in his view.

George met Peter in the Needles in South Dakota’s Custer State Park in 2008 for what turned out to be his 50th Anniversary climb and Peter’s 48th. George was already putting up first ascents throughout the Southwest in the late fifties, often with Layton Kor with whom he had a charged relationship. George always referred to Layton as “Kor” in a tone chilled with ice.

George, now retired, continues to climb the granite faces of the White Mountains of New Hampshire where he lives with his wife Jean whom he rescued from a rocky face in Boulder’s Flatirons in 1959. One imagines Jean’s breathless “My hero” when he saved her comely self.

Peter guided in South Dakota for Sylvan Rocks, his own guiding company, after leaving Exum in 2009. Last time we spoke he was living in Ouray, Colorado with a den of retired guides in what he calls “a tarpit of old climbers.” I love that description.

When we were talking about his Ouray tarpit, I told him about Kim Reynolds, a climber and guide a generation his junior who happens to live just up the road in Ridgeway. I extoled Kim’s considerably virtues and Peter exclaimed, “I should meet her.” The lanky dude’s not dead yet.

When I first posted this image back in 2008, Peter made it clear that he thought the photograph made him look old. Taut, sinewy and sharp as a cut glass, perhaps. And old or not he used it on his website. And it’s still the headshot on his Facebook page. You’re welcome.

1 comment:

Blacks Crossing said...

What great photographs and story telling about George Hurley and Peter Lev, Men in Hats, Part 1. Both photographs tell a massive amount about the men, which good photographs do. Any person who has less fat on his or her bones, tends to wrinkle and show sinew earlier. Just part of life. But what a joy to read some about their lives, how they met, and how they moved so wonderfully into advanced years. Thanks again, Steve, for continuing the "Telling Stories" series in Shadow and Light. The ability to tell a story in few, but precise words, continues the tradition of E. B. White, who was a master. You are in good company!