We lost a friend last week. Sometime after Friday, July 5 Andrew Barnes parked on the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, hiked down to the base of The Southern Arête and started climbing. At some point he fell, probably from near the top. It’s still unclear, and always will be, weather he was free soloing the entire route or aiding up more difficult sections
I first met Andrew when I interviewed him to be an intern at Kent Mountain Adventure Center in Estes Park, at the time he had one year left at CSU. He was one of two candidates. The first candidate was very professional and seemed like a really nice guy over the phone, definitely had all his ducks in a row. I met up with Barnes at a coffee shop in Ft. Collins, he was wearing a baby blue hooded sweatshirt with holes in it and would not stop smiling. By the end, (well, probably closer to the middle or beginning) of the interview we were both laughing like old friends and swapping stories. He was the obvious choice and quickly became an integral and irreplaceable part of the KMAC family.
If you never got to know Andrew, you missed out. He was always overly friendly and would make you feel good about whatever you were doing. Barnes was the guy who would be genuinely excited to hear about your adventures, regardless of how heroic or mundane. Andrew Barnes really was one of the best; as a friend, climber, artist, and human he set a very high bar that we should all strive for.
One of the last people that Barnes talked to was a National Park Service Ranger. He hadn’t paid to camp, which was his style, and the Ranger was writing him a ticket. Apparently Barnes talked him out of it. The Ranger showed the half written ticket to his family. I like to think of that image of him, smiling and charming a complete stranger out of giving him a citation and then giggling to himself that he got away with it – again.
There’s going to be a memorial service on Thursday 7/18 in Vedauwoo at the Hidden Valley Picnic Area at 5 PM, food will be provided. Beer won’t be, so bring some.
Directions: Take I-80 East from Laramie. Take exit 323 (Happy Jack Rd). Left off of the exit and over the bridge. Bear right after the bridge continuing along FR705. At about one mile you will see a giant sign that says Hidden Valley Picnic Area. Head on in through the gate to find the show.
~ Reed Woodford