It was with great sadness yesterday that I learned of the death of Felix Kiernan in Yosemite.
I didn't know Felix too well. I first met him on the Argenitre campsite in 2008. He probably saw me for the naive eighteen year old that I was. At the time I remember him and his friend Tom Brookes seeming a lot, lot older than me, despite them both only being twenty two!
The next time I saw Felix was in the Bregalia the following year. Hamish Dunn and I had got the train over from Chamonix to meet Luke Hunt, who together with Felix, Tom Brookes and Steve Barratt had been climbing in the Dolomites, ticking their way through hard classics.
We were all super psyched to climb the Cassin Route on the Piz Badile North Face. The next day the six of us slogged up to the spur beneath North Ridge and bivied for the night.
The memories from the next day are some my best from that amazing alpine summer. Our high bivouac paid dividends and we were the first teams on the route. Luke and Steve - the strongest rock climbers - flew at the front, with Tom and Felix following not far behind and Hamish and I bringing up the rear. The route is totally classic, sustained and brilliant throughout. Soon Hamish and I were on the summit. We started down climbing the North Ridge and quickly caught up with Felix and Tom. Together the four of us abseiled the North Ridge, leap frogging each others ropes. Back at the spur we retrieved our stashed bivi gear and set off on the long slog back to the valley, reaching the valley shortly before last orders. The next morning it was raining. After a huge Pizza Hamish, Luke and I headed back to Chamonix, whilst Felix, Tom and Steve headed home.
That was the last time I saw Felix. As a fellow climbing lifer I'd always presumed I'd bump into him again at a crag somewhere, someday and share our memories of that great day on the Badile.
Felix you were too young. Why is it that the worst things happen to the best people? I am proud to have known you and wish I knew you better. Farewell my friend.
|Strong team! - left to right: Tom B, Felix, me, Hamish and Big Steve. (Photo: Luke Hunt)|
|Tom and Felix cook up delicious feast the night before the Badile.|
|Just after dawn on the Cassin. Hamish leading, with Felix belaying on the left.|
|Felix and Hamish on the descent - Hamish isn't normally this miserable, but his rock shoe clad feet were pretty sore!|
|Felix and I just after getting down.|