Spencer Swanger

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Re: Spencer Swanger

Postby Kristy Burns » Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:40 am

Great fun on San Luis. A celebration of life.
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Fun times on San Luis
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Re: Spencer Swanger

Postby Chicago Transplant » Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:45 am

While I never had the pleasure of meeting Spencer, he was always a great inspiration as I am sure anyone who aspires to climb the highest 100 would agree. But now I can say it is not just his accomplishments that inspire me. After reading these moving tributes and seeing how humble and helpful he was to others, and how he continued to climb just for the sake of enjoying his time in the hills, and his time with his friends, he is the type of mountaineer I think we all should strive to emulate.
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Re: Spencer Swanger

Postby Matt » Fri Jul 23, 2010 10:12 am

Chicago Transplant wrote:While I never had the pleasure of meeting Spencer, he was always a great inspiration as I am sure anyone who aspires to climb the highest 100 would agree. But now I can say it is not just his accomplishments that inspire me. After reading these moving tributes and seeing how humble and helpful he was to others, and how he continued to climb just for the sake of enjoying his time in the hills, and his time with his friends, he is the type of mountaineer I think we all should strive to emulate.

Until his passing, all I knew of Spencer Swanger were the glowing things Susan had to say about him, and they are many, many, many. Just hearing the level of respect and admiration in her voice was enough to convince me of his quality. Learning the rest of his accomplishments (peaks and otherwise) has been humbling for me, and I agree with Mike that he is a model for my own journeys.
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A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. -HDT
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Re: Spencer Swanger

Postby iluv80sgirl » Fri Jul 23, 2010 10:19 am

Susan-thank you for sharing that article...it was very poignant. Condolences to all who knew him.

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Re: Spencer Swanger

Postby DHatfield » Fri Jul 23, 2010 10:36 am

Very sad news! I had the pleasure to hike him a few times while on Mount Sherman back in 2005 and again on Mount Bross in 2006. Susan thanks for the great article too! My condolences to his family and his friends. He will be missed!

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Re: Spencer Swanger

Postby GuatemalaGirl » Fri Jul 23, 2010 7:53 pm

Spence was my precious friend. We climbed many peaks together on long adventurous 12-15 hour days. One day we summited 11 peaks on snowshoes. He was always there to listen (and give his wise and opinionated advice :wink: ) as we walked up the Incline and to Barr Camp each week during the winter for many years. What a character he was. Just hilarious. I have so many dear memories of him. Thank you, Karen, for sharing your wonderful husband with so many that loved the mountains, too.

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Re: Spencer Swanger

Postby robmbarrett » Fri Jul 23, 2010 11:02 pm

My last post to this forum to a great man with a storied life.
I can't capture the myriad accomplishments of his life -- only my fleeting encounters.

Several trips with Spencer are etched in my mind. The first was a climbing trip to Uncompaghre, Redcloud, Sunshine and Handies Peaks. I know the San Juan Mountain range was his favorite place to hike for the beauty that it holds. We climbed all four peaks in three days. The first was Uncompaghre. About 100 vertical feet from the summit he warned us that the clouds overhead did not look good and we should be careful. Not soon thereafter, hail came down with a vengeance. It was scary! Spencer, the accomplished mountaineer and leader he was, advised us that we would be able to summit but we would have to descend quickly. Sure enough, we made it safely even though lightning bolts started crashing. Several members of the group were knocked to the ground and had singed eyebrows but no one was hurt. I felt the touch of electricy on my head as I raced down the peak -- it was magical ! I remember following Spencer up Handies Peak on the last day. I was exhausted. I was behind him struggling to keep up and noticing the size of his quadriceps. He was sixty-six years old, leading the way up with the vigor of a man half his age. He inspired me to continue and we enjoyed a full hour at the top of Handies Peak on a beautiful sun-drenched afternoon.

The second trip was to the Dolomites in Italy in 2008. Spencer was a very knowledgable history buff and had several stories to tell about the Via Ferrata and the formation of the routes and how they were used during World War I. We scaled numerous paths in the Dolomites and enjoyed going hut to hut, enjoying the scenery of cloud formations and wildflowers known only to Italy. Spencer taught me a lot about photography on this trip. He had previously taken me to the Pikes Peak Photography Club where his photos of nature were admired and exhaulted by the members. He was patient, kind and instructive.

Finally I had the pleasure of hiking with Spencer and Karen in Zion National Park in 2009. He again schooled me with his knowledge of the Utah mountains and Butch Cassidy's 'Wild Bunch' gang. He talked about how he had met some of the pioneers who had helped advocate for the parks in the area. His vast knowledge of nature was astounding. In the park his methodical approach to trail problem-solving and communication allowed us to enjoy many precarious rappelling adventures. Even during a flash flood in the Virgin Narrows Spencer knew no fear. His calm demeanor transcended situational demands.

Above all Spencer was full of life. I was able to bicycle and camp with him in Utah Canyonlands National Park and scale the Manitou Springs Incline with him on numerous occasions. He knew no strangers, was quick-witted and had a charming smile. Although he had scaled many mountains around the world and had travelled extensively before I met him, he was modest. He lived for the moment. His keen eye for beauty surpassed the average man. I have known no one else with as much strength and character. It is rumored that the ancient Greeks only asked one question when a man died -- "Did he live with passion?". For Spencer Swanger, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

Some additional photos of Spence:


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Re: Spencer Swanger

Postby ClimbStewart » Sat Jul 24, 2010 10:17 am

Here's a link to a tribute I wrote to Spencer on my Climbing website at About.com:


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Re: Spencer Swanger

Postby susanjoypaul » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:31 am

Stewart, Bob, Kevin, Dean, Rick, Steve, Debbie, Uwe, Monique, Darin, Kristy, Netty, Doug, and Julie, thank you for all the wonderful stories. Spencer's family appreciates hearing your memories, and seeing your photos of their dad. As his youngest daughter, Heidi, noted in a recent email to me, "We need to preserve his memory for ourselves, and for our children." Spencer's eldest daughter, Christina added, "Growing up with Dad, we rarely got pictures of him because he was always on the other end of the lens." Needless to say, while this is a painful time, it's also a time for healing, and your generous outpouring is helping them - and all of us who knew Spencer - to do that. So thank you all for taking the time to share your memories of him. To all the rest who did not know Spencer, but took the time to offer your thoughts, those are also much appreciated, so thank you for those as well.

If anyone has any additional photos or stories they would like to share, you can still post them here, or, if you prefer to keep them private, please feel free to email them to me at susanjoypaul@yahoo.com and I will get them to Spencer's family. Or if you want to bypass me, send me an email and I will provide you with their email addresses.

There will be a memorial for Spencer in late August, and I'll be sure to post details here as they become available, for anyone wishing to attend.

Here's a photo of Spencer downclimbing the cruxiest section on Crestone Needle. He sure made it look easy.


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Re: Spencer Swanger

Postby Avrim Cantor » Sun Jul 25, 2010 6:38 pm

Susan, thank you so much for such meaningful words and photos. It's difficult for me to find the words to express how much Spence's friendship meant to me. I loved him like a brother. As they did for so many of us, Spence and Karen helped nurture my appreciation for the beauty of Nature. Spence taught me how to mountaineer, and through that, he helped me deal with stresses in my own life that created great challenges for me to overcome. Whether his hiking friends were struggling with work issues, relationship issues, health issues, etc., the experience of mountaineering, canyoneering, or just hiking with Spence seemed to help many of us put those issues in perspective, and be better able to deal with them. It doesn't seem real to me that he is gone. I expect my phone to ring, and Spence to say, "let's go do something". I am honored to have known him, to have shared some wonderful experiences with him, and to be part of all of you who did the same. My sympathy goes out to Karen, and other family and friends. I look forward to offering whatever support Karen needs during this most difficult time.

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Re: Spencer Swanger

Postby D_L_Niedringhaus » Sun Jul 25, 2010 7:28 pm

Like many others here, we have been absolutely stunned at the news of the tragic death of Spence Swanger. We would like to add our story of Spence to the other wonderful memories posted here. He took another skinny teenager under his wing back in 2004. Our son Patrick was just 16, but already passionate about mountaineering. On his first CMC outing with Spence, the members of the group thought they were going to be “babysitting”, but Patrick proved himself to be a worthy climber and went on many subsequent trips, always with Spence as his mentor and guide. Patrick revered Spence and loved climbing and hiking with all of the other wonderful members of the CMC, and he was never happier than when he was on a CMC trip. Spence’s guidance and mentorship further inspired Patrick and helped him achieve 12 14ers by the time he was 18. Sadly, Patrick’s life was tragically cut short by an avalanche near Grays and Torreys peaks in December of 2005. In the years since, Spence and Karen have been so thoughtful and kind to our family. They had a scrapbook of Patrick’s life made for our surviving son, and Spence initiated and led a memorial climb each year following Patrick’s death. Spence would call every few months to check in and see how we were doing and to share some of his latest adventures with us. We grew to admire and respect Spence as much as Patrick had. We have never known a more wise, gracious, encouraging, generous, and kind man than Spence Swanger, and we feel his loss deeply.
With love and sincere sympathy to Karen and family - Dave, Leah and Andy Niedringhaus

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Re: Spencer Swanger

Postby susanjoypaul » Mon Jul 26, 2010 6:30 am

The lives of Patrick and Spencer will always be intertwined in my mind. It was Spencer who first introduced me to Patrick, and who gave me the heart wrenching news of his passing. But all those times in between... anyone who hiked with those two will tell you they had a special kinship. Maybe it was because they shared so many of the same qualities: natural outdoorsmen, quiet, competent, always putting the needs of others before their own. We all behaved better around Spencer - he set a higher standard not by talking about it, but with his own actions, and no one wanted to make a fool out of himself and disappoint those silent expectations. Patrick had the same effect on people. Two very old souls, perhaps, born generations apart, traveling this earth in young men's bodies - they would often lag behind, and if you looked, you'd see them pointing off in the distance at this mountain or that drainage, discussing the topography, what lie ahead and all around. They seemed to see the world through the same eyes, and that sense of wonder too many of us abandon as adults was still very much a part of their existence.

I don't know what happens after this, but I do know that Patrick and Spencer will live forever in the hearts of all those they touched. And if their spirits have gone on to some other place, and Spencer needs a guide, Patrick is there for him.


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