History Lessons

Posted on: July 1, 2005


As I read the article on Mount Hunter (Issue 9, "Mountain Profile: Mount Hunter," Pages 24-43) I kept thinking over and over that history is written by the winners. It's understandable, but often it isn't the only story.

My long-distance relationship with Hunter started in Madison, Wisconsin, when Josh Hane showed slides on a sheet hung up in the backyard of the "Z" Buttress, which lies roughly halfway between Rattle and Hum and the Northwest Basin Variation and leads up to the West Ridge. I didn't pay too much attention at the time to Josh's proposed route, but it would soon become more deeply etched in my mind.

In early July 1996 word trickled in that Josh and his partner Chuck Drake were missing from their camp on the Kahiltna. Soon the National Park Service confirmed that Josh and Chuck were presumed dead on their attempted new route—the Z Buttress. A few days later I was making phone calls to Josh's girlfriend and his many close friends. That was a hard summer.

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Josh's father, Mike Hane, had died from injuries sustained on Chacraraju in Peru in the late 1960s when Josh was a toddler. Less than fifteen years later his beloved uncle, Franz Mohling, died on Mt. Logan. My point isn't to say Josh had a death wish or his family was cursed. It's just to say the obvious: climbing is dangerous no matter how much we convince ourselves of our own invincibility and skill.

Josh had completed a master's degree in cartography and was already busy on his master's in art. The combination of mapmaking and art made his imagination wild. When he died, his many friends just couldn't believe such an intelligent, sweet, likable, funny, spontaneous, shit-eating grin of a wonderful person would never come back from Alaska. It was the loss of his incredible potential that was/is so hard to accept....

I'm still mad as hell at Josh for dying on the route. His beginning on the mountain reminds me so much of Michael Kennedy's. I suppose if things had gone just a little bit differently, Josh would be telling his version of his crazy days on Mt. Hunter in the pages of Alpinist.

But they didn't. And we miss him.

—David Panofsky, Madison, Wisconsin



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