Why I am honoured to have known Ryan Triplett
I first met Ryan Triplett while climbing at Little Si near Seattle in the fall of 2003. He immediately stood out for several reasons (in the order which I noted them): (1) warming up in jeans on the 5.12c (Technorigine) that I was projecting at the time, (2) being the most vocal, outgoing, and sociable person at the crag, and (3) swearing like a trucker as he repeatedly lobbed off his 5.13c project (Black Ice). Ryan was climbing with his wife Jen, and my climbing partner and I ended up walking out with them in the dark, being the last ones to leave the crag. We had lots to talk about on the way out, as we had many shared interests, including climbing and cycling (which Jen had recently taken up). By the time we reached the base, we had exchanged phone numbers and Ryan seemed genuinely excited to climb together, despite climbing a full number grade harder than I did.
We started climbing together regularly, and Ryan immediately integrated me into his extensive circle of friends, climbing and otherwise. The time I spent climbing and hanging out with Ryan was full of laughter and jokes, Ryan would have a huge grin on his face from the time I said hello to the time we said goodbye. He was always ready to crack a joke, and was constantly on the verge of laughter, even if the joke was about him. The time that sticks in my mind as one of the funniest moments was when Ryan, Andrew, Jen and I were hanging out in their VW bus after a day of climbing at Smith Rock, and Andrew noticed that Ryan had several national parks magnets affixed to the interior of the van. Andrew spontaneously remarked (in the tone of someone who was mentally handicapped, with accompanying gestures): "My name is Ryan and I am collecting magnets from all of the national parks...". Everyone burst out laughing, and Ryan was laughing harder than anyone.
Ryan was the most outgoing person I knew; he would strike up conversations with everyone at the crag, and leave with phone numbers for half a dozen new climbing partners. Most of my friends in Seattle were introduced through Ryan, he was always bringing people together and making everyone feel at ease. Ryan was incredibly selfless, and would do anything for his friends and family. His fierce loyalty even extended to his and Jen's dog, a mini Australian shepherd named Makiah, or 'Monster'. I remember walking out from Smith Rock with Ryan and Makiah, and when a passing male climber we didn't know made a joke about Makiah's appearance, Ryan angrily retorted that Makiah was probably better looking that the climber's girlfriend (or something to that effect). His deep love for his wife Jen was always evident when he would call her on the way back from climbing and be stoked to hear about how her bike race had gone, and be brimming with excitement to see her when he got home. Ryan was a better person that I am in every aspect, and his kindness and generosity stood for me as a model of what I could aspire to. I felt deeply honoured and humbled every time I would hear Ryan refer to me as his friend.
If I had to describe Ryan in one word, it would be "psyched". I have never known anyone with more zest for life than Ryan. From climbing to cycling to hockey to running, Ryan was always up for a good challenge, and loved nothing more than working up a sweat. It was always great to climb with Ryan, as he continually pushed himself to get stronger and send harder climbs, and inspired those around him to do the same. Ryan loved climbing and was perfectly suited for it, with innate physical ability, a go-for-it attitude, strong head space, and the ability to perform under pressure. I witnessed these qualities come together for impressive sends on several occasions, the most memorable of which occurred while climbing at Nightmare Rock in Squamish in 2005. Ryan was leading a mixed gear 5.12c, gunning for the onsight. About 30 feet into the climb a light rain started, coating the rock and making the holds slick. I would have lowered off immediately, but Ryan was in the zone and kept climbing despite our pleas that he come down and wait for the rain to stop. Half way into the crux, the last cam he had placed was pulled out by the rope, introducing the possibility of a serious fall should he blow the subsequent moves. Most people would have been paralyzed with fear, but Ryan barely blinked an eye and fluidly pulled through the remaining difficulties to the anchors to complete the onsight.
Ryan was the best climbing partner I have ever had. Over the years I have had several good climbing partners who could belay competently and skillfully, but I always felt the safest when climbing with Ryan because I knew that when he was belaying me on a route, he genuinely cared about keeping me safe and didn't want me to get hurt. Many people will engage in casual conversations with others at the base of the climb while they belay, but with Ryan I knew that if I was sketched out above my last clip, he would ignore everything around him and watch attentively, ready with encouragement and beta to get me through my tense situation. It was always great to send a climb with Ryan on belay, as he would show the same excitement for my success as if he had just sent his own project.
Often when I move between cities I lose contact with friends I had in my previous location, but this was not the case with Ryan and Jen when Roanne and I moved from Seattle to Salt Lake City upon completion of my graduate degree at the University of Washington. Ryan was incredibly conscientious about keeping in touch, and we continued to get together several times a year. He came to Salt Lake City to visit, we met up in Red Rocks for some climbing, and we returned to the northwest to race in the Sea-to-Ski race together. My last e-mails with Ryan were discussing the recent Tour de France doping positives and laying plans for the epic mountain bike adventures that we were going to have the next time I was back in Seattle.
Ryan Triplett passed away in a climbing accident in Mazama, Washington on September 7, 2008. Receiving this news and with it the knowledge that I have shared the final jokes and adventures with my closest friend made for one of the hardest days of my life. I am sure that Ryan held the title of 'closest friend' for many of his acquaintances, and my heart goes out to everyone in trying to cope with the loss of this kind, generous, vivacious individual. My life won't be the same without Ryan, he had a personality that cannot be replaced. Ryan will forever stand out for me as a shining light that burned brighter than all the others, and was extinguished much too soon. The one consolation is that Ryan packed a lifetime of adventure into the 31 years that he was on this earth, and passed on doing what he loves best, moving over rock in the beautiful outdoors. So long, little man Triplett; I'll look forward to the next time I see you, lobbing off your projects on that great crag in the sky.
Here are some of my favourite photos of Ryan from the five years that I knew him:
These two are of Ryan bouldering in Leavenworth in 2004 (a pursuit that he disdainfully referred to as "pebble-wrestling"), on the left climbing an unnamed V6 and on the right climbing a V7 called Premium Coffee:
Here is another from the same trip, of Ryan calmly mantling out the sketchy highball finish on the V6, with Andrew spotting:
And one more from that trip, of Andrew explaining something while Ryan ignores him and thinks about how he is going to send the problem before Andrew does:
Here is one from a trip to Smith Rock in 2004, where Ryan decides to onsight a greasy 5.11d crack (Zebra Crack) in the sun as his warm-up for the day (in his typical climbing attire of Levi's jeans):
Here is one of Ryan and Jen at a Seattle Mariners baseball game that we attended in 2005 on my birthday:
Here is one of Ryan giving me beta and encouragement as I shoe up at the base of Dakine Corner (5.12b/c) on a trip to Smith Rock in 2005. Note the mug in the foreground containing Ryan's "Cowboy Juice", as he referred to the strong black coffee that he drank each morning to get fired up for the day.
Here is one of Ryan sending his project on the same 2005 Smith Rock trip, a burly 5.12d called Kings of Rap:
Here is one of Ryan and Jen from our wedding in 2006, which they flew to Toronto to attend. Fond memories from that trip included my "Bachelors Party", for which only Ryan, Jen, and my brother Fras were present, and which involved Ryan, Fras and I trying to climb at Old Baldy in a snow storm while Jen huddled in a sleeping bag trying to fend off hypothermia.
Here is one from our trip to Red Rocks in 2007, with Ryan warming up by onsighting a 5.11d called Yak Crack:
And another from the same trip, with Ryan telling me a dirty joke to throw off my concentration as I start up a 5.12d called The Gift:
Here is another from 2007 after the Ski-to-Sea race, on a hike in Bellingham with Ryan and Jen and Ryan's family: Trish, Tom and Molly (and of course, Makiah, or 'Monster' as Ryan liked to call her).
And finally, my favourite photo of Ryan, which conveys his sense of humour, zest for life, and why he was just so stinkin' fun to be around: