Remembering Hope Barnes and Kathy Phibbs
From the 1992 Women Climbers Engagement Calendar

On January 28, 1991, Kathy Phibbs, 33, and Hope Barnes, 32, were killed in a fall from Triple Couloir, an ice climb in the Washington Cascades. Their deaths have been especially hard for their communities to accept because, though both women had already contributed greatly, Hope and Kathy had much more yet to give.

Kathy was well known as a climber, guide and local character; Hope was known nationally as a two-time Olympic rower and locally as a serious ski mountaineer and climber. Both women lived intensely. When phones began ringing with the news of their deaths, we began to realize how much we had lost. These two women carried much of what we all strive for: enthusiasm, joy, perseverance, competence, integrity, and passion.

Kathy Phibbs was born August 21, 1957 in Washington, D.C. She graduated from Pomona College in 1980 and formed the Cucamonga Rambling Company to apply for a Vera Watson-Alison Chadwick-Onyszkiewicz grant. The resulting 1981 expedition made several first female ascents in Peru and Bolivia, including the West Ridge of Huayna Potosi (Bolivia). In 1983, Kathy organized the first meeting of Women Climbers Northwest. She worked as a messenger, window-washer, chimney sweep and part-time climbing guide until 1985, when she opened the Northwest office of Woodswomen. As its director, Kathy developed numerous rock climbing, mountaineering, and skiing trips and led trips to Ecuador and Denali. In 1989, she was a member of a successful all-women expedition on the Southwest Ridge of Pumori in the Nepal Himalaya. In 1990, she led 33 women to the top of Mt. Rainier to commemorate the centennial of its first ascent by a woman, Tacoma schoolteacher Fay Fuller.

It seems impossible to confine Kathy Phibbs to the boundaries of a page; in life, the mountains alone were big enough to hold her. Over 18 years, Kathy slowly discovered a place where she could dream up and live out adventures, giving shape to her fierce will and imagination. But what is extraordinary is how much she wanted to share her world with other women, and how generously she did. She taught, she gave slide shows, she climbed with friends, she listened to others' dreams. Looking back, it amounts to a sustained act of faith in herself and in other women.

Kathy took pleasure in the smallest details of climbing: after negotiating a tough move, she'd rehash it, working her hands the whole time as if she were still on the rock. She'd sit on a summit as if she belonged there, ruler of all she surveyed, a box of ginger-snaps in one hand, the other stabbing the air, naming peak after peak after peak. The self-proclaimed "old goat" loved snowy ranges all over the world, but called the Cascades her "Beloveds." Now her Beloveds have welcomed her home.

Hope Barnes was born December 5, 1958, in Boston, Massachusetts. She entered the University of Washington in 1976 and joined the women's crew team. In 1978, she transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where she captained an undefeated crew team. Hope earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in 1980 and won a silver medal in the World Rowing Championships in 1981. She met Sprague Ackley on a ski trip in 1982. In 1984, she was captain of the crew at the Los Angeles Olympics. Hope entered graduate school in medicinal chemistry in 1985. In 1985-86, she chaired the Women's Olympic Rowing Committee. She skied from the summit of Nevado Copa in Peru in 1987; in 1988, she was awarded a University-wide fellowship for "scholastic excellence and general merit." In 1989, Hope and Sprague skied the quickly receding glaciers of Irian Jaya in Indonesia. She was awarded her doctoral degree posthumously on February 8, 1991.

Hope Barnes was clear of head and clear of heart. Hope was remarkably able to know what she wanted--a berth on a rowing team, a degree, a summit--and make that knowledge come to life. She also had the knack of sharing her quiet passion for life with many people. Hope took what she learned as a scientist (persistence, thoroughness) and as a world-class athlete (focus, teamwork), and she added to them her own fierce independence and integrity.

She was a supremely competent scholar and athlete, yet always willing to take a novice climbing or listen to another idea. She wore her numerous successes and achievements lightly, giving the impression she found equally impressive accomplishments possible in all of us. Hope was a truly rare element; we have been honored to have her in our midst.

Reprinted from the Women Climbing 1992 engagement calendar with permission of the publisher, Women Climbers Northwest.

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