Monday, September 27, 2010

Ed Spatt 1963-2010

Ed Spatt died in August, of lung cancer. That a guy who'd spent his whole life in the mountains, and probably smoked less than ten cigarettes in his lifetime, should die of lung cancer, is one of those fucked-up things that nobody can really explain.

I climbed once with Ed, a slab route on the Apron. I don't remember the route, but I do remember that it was incredibly hard (but Ed, who'd said "I'm in pretty lousy shape, onsighted the 11+ pitches), and that Ed's enormous climbing shoes stunk like sun-warmed dumpster when he peeled them off on Broadway. He was my physio. I last saw him in February, in the gym, revving up to train after finishing radiation therapy.

So I drove yesterday in the rain to Squamish for the celebration of Ed's life and I'll pass on a few of the stories that brothers, parents and friends passed on.

Ed was born in Bolivia. Red-haired and gangly, he wold respond to locals' stares by saying "Soy boliviano, pues!" and smiling. On arriving in Canada at age two, he quickly figured out that when he couldn't get what he wanted (usually more food), he could say "you're discriminating against me because I'm Bolivian!"

Ed grew up with two brothers and, well before he was old enough, he was doing adult stuff. One day a horrid stench came from his closet. On investigation, it turned out that young Ed was brewing beer in secret, having asked his mother, who'd said "absolutely not!" He was in the mountains early, hiking and skiing with family and climbing Slesse by age 16. Ed's teen climbing adventures also included beer-fuelled night-time ascents of the Lion's Gate Bridge towers and various UBC buildings.

Friends and family remembered Ed as somebody with a serious cholcolate habit, an infinite appetite for both food and the outdoors, and as somebody who, no matter how bad things got-- and they get pretty bad in the alpine sometimes-- never complained.

One day in the late 1970s after a first ascent in Squamish, Ed and the two first ascentionists were sitting around the top of the cliff. They were thining what the route should be called. A Beatles tune? A Carlos Castaneda character? Ed, staring across the channel at the fast food on the 99, said "man, all I can think about is burgers and fries!"

Greg Foweraker told about Ed's appetite. At a popular local place in the late 1970s, it was all you could eat for $5. Ed would eat a head of lettuce the night before to try to expand his stomach, and often managed to get down four or five platefuls. Years later, when Peter Croft (another guy with a legendary appetite) returned to give a slide show, Ed put his hand up and asked Croft "Hey, is it really true that you only ever got two plates of food at the all you can eat place?"

Ed qualified as a teacher, and, after teaching physics and math for five years, quit, because he was bored, and became a physio. He often wondered why people retired at the end of their lives, since that was when you'd be old and worn out, and unable to do fun stuff like ice-climbing and bike-racing. Ed wore red pants and red jackets. Ed needed food and would go hypoglycemic. More than one climber said it was dangerous to climb with a sans-breakfast Ed.

Rachel Stenberg told about kayaking with Ed and a group of people in the Charlottes years ago. One of them was into the Zen of rudderless kayaking, and when one day injuries prompted kayak-shuffling, superfit and superconfident Ed ended up in the rudderless kayak. And, on the trip's calmest day, in the middle of the sunny ocean, with nary a wave in sight, Ed managed to dump the kayak! After a letter-perfect ocean rescue, Ed was reinstalled in the rudderless, and instead of cussing the kayak, told the rescuers that he was happy -- after years in boats-- to have been shown how to pull off rescues properly.

One partner told of Ed's first attempt at Penny Lane. Ed whipped, ripped a piece, and stopped, a few feet above the ground, hanging upside-down, an ear-to-ear grin splitting his face. "Pretty intense, huh?" he said, and got back on the horse. Lots of people, including Ed's girlfriend Nica, told about how, last summer before his death, even when he could no longer walk or talk, Ed's enormous smile brightened his hospital room.

Food, food, food, beer, wine, food, mountains, food, biking, oceans, his friends, food, math, his brothers, food, his parents and relatives: Ed loved 'em all and made all of us smile. We'll miss you, tall man.

May there be a fucking MASSIVE chocolate buffet wherever you now are.