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Life and Death in the Wild
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Outside Magazine
April, 2003

One cold Sunday February 2000, 67-year-old mountaineer Guy Waterman laced up his boots, hugged his wife, and walked up New Hampshire's Mount Lafayette to die, Five days later his frozen body was found curled up near the summit.

A flurry of articles probed his suicide (includ- ing one in Outside, by Rob Buchanan), but journalist Chip Brown stuck with the story to produce this ruminative account of an extraordinary life and death. Born the son of a Yale professor, Waterman was a Capitol Hill speech writer before alcoholism derailed his career at age 31.

But then an article about the Eiger inspired his redemption: "Mountains and mountain climbing dawned on my drunken, shamed, lonely life like a beacon of hope," he wrote in an unpublished memoir, Waterman and his wife moved off the grid, climbing often and writing classic guides to northeastern crags, his sad fate was set in motion, Brown suspects, by both the prospect of old age and the loss of two of his three sons, Bill, the eldest, disappeared in Alaska in 1973, leaving only a note reading, "Going off on a trip." Middle son John died under similarly cloudy circumstances on a solo climb of McKinley in 1981.

"Plainly," writes Brown, "something died in Guy Water- man when the breath went out of his sons." He offers a searing, cerebral por- trait of a man who worshiped at the altar of wilderness, even when it claimed his boys and, ultimately, his life.