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Obituary: Lars Holbeck


I learned of his passing from a friend on facebook. He was airlifted out of Grand Canyon last October with acute abdominal pain, and died last Friday night (3/13/09) of pancreatic cancer. Lars was a California boater, a formidable athlete, and a down-to-earth nice guy. Handsome, too. I met him only in passing, but among river runners he is a Legend. He is the only person I know of that has run he Grand Canyon of the Toulumne in Yosemite National Park, and also I believe he paddled the gnarly drops where the Merced River exits Yosemite valley and cascades through a morraine. Lars Holbeck took paddling to a level that few others could imagine, much less accomplish.


When I travelled in Chile in 1992, one of the few pieces of information we had about the rivers there was a set of notes handed down from Lars Holbeck. That was when I learned his name. He later wrote a book about the paddling in Chile, and then with Chuck Stanley he wrote The Best Whitewater in California. It was the first book of its kind, and one of the finest river guidebooks ever. I used an early edition to explore California in the summer of 1998. Lars lived not far from where I worked as a BLM ranger, on the forks of the American river. It was a high water summer and I paddled 2-3 days/week around the state (not counting work). I got my ass kicked and handed to me time after time. By the end of the summer I had retired from EVER attempting anything that Lars called class V, and would only attempt runs he called class IV at optimal flows with plans to portage regularly.

Here's a tribute to him, complete with Native American flute music and Grand Canyon scenery:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6BfAMxHk10&eurl=http://www.missiondelrey.com/native-american-flutes.html&feature=player_embedded

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
buggss6
Mar. 18th, 2009 01:41 am (UTC)
I am sorry to hear this news. I knew Lars and had the pleasure to share a privy with him 2 years in CA. I was living in a 20 foot camper, he was living in a little shack not far away. He was a really nice man...he allways had a kind word, a ready smile and a true modern day adventurer. I count myself fortunate to have spent time with him. Rest peacefully Lars.
liveonearth
Mar. 18th, 2009 03:15 am (UTC)
Yes....it is good to cross paths sometimes with such legendary folk. Sad to lose him so young....
neptunia67
Mar. 18th, 2009 04:20 am (UTC)
Sorry to hear this news. Sounds like a huge loss to the boating community.
liveonearth
Mar. 18th, 2009 04:55 am (UTC)
Much as we admired Lars, he was a fairly private individual not many people got to know him. I guess now we never will...
(Anonymous)
Jul. 31st, 2009 12:59 am (UTC)
Back in the Day
Back in the day Chuck Stanley, Lars Holbeck, and Richard Montgomery let me tag along behind them on the rivers of California, mainly because I was one of the few people they knew who had a permanent address and phone number. I can name one time on Forks of Kern with Richard, Chuck and Yvon Chouinard, when Lars and Richard were really my heroes. I have been trying to get in touch with Chuck if anyone knows where he is. - Cheryl
liveonearth
Aug. 1st, 2009 06:01 am (UTC)
Re: Back in the Day
Hi Cheryl; Sorry to say I have no idea where Chuck might be found, but if I do happen upon that info, I will let you know!

Want to tell the story of the day when you found you had real heroes? I'd love to hear it.
--Teresa
(Anonymous)
Dec. 1st, 2009 04:50 am (UTC)
Re: Back in the Day
Let's just say I was too cold and too tired by the end of the long day to be where I was and my heroes Lars and Richard were alert enough and selfless enough to make the day end very well, letting me follow their line, carefully selected for my benefit. It was about 1982, I think.
liveonearth
Dec. 1st, 2009 06:50 am (UTC)
Re: Back in the Day
Nice story. =-]
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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