Tyler Adams 1986-2014
by Bill Amos
(The following is adapted from the remembrance I gave at the celebration of Tyler's life 11/7/14)
I've spent a lot of time over the last few weeks agonizing over what to say today. Not for lack of things to talk about, but more a search for a way to talk about Tyler that really captures who he was to me... I've only met a couple of people in my life that were so unique and on such a different level than everyone else that I could never come up with words to describe them. "You just have to meet him" was a phrase I often found myself using when talking to people about Tyler.
I met Tyler through climbing and it was in that context that I got to know him. Over the years we had many adventures together, and over the last few weeks a lot of memories have come flooding back. There was the time he was belaying me on a notoriously rotten aid climb (the third ascent of CL Concerto at Smith Rock) and the beak I was standing on blew out of the rock. When I stopped twenty feet later I looked down to see him flying a kite and laughing maniacally. Or the time we were half way up the ultra-classic Liberty Crack in Washington on a hot day and ran out of water. We kept going, laughing our way to the summit, delirious with dehydration. Or the the many days schwacking around The Menagerie looking, and often failing, to find this or that. Or the numerous times he'd pick me up and we'd fly around Mt. Hood or to the coast, enjoying a different perspective on the Oregon landscape that he loved so much. There were so many great days. The thing I often found myself thinking after we'd spent time together was, man, I really do have an awesome life.
Tyler accomplished so much in such a short time, especially in the realm of climbing. He put in many, many days replacing worn out anchors and fixed protection, resurrecting forgotten routes and making them safe for future climbers to enjoy. He also established numerous first ascents around the state. For a time there he was almost certainly the most prolific first ascentionist in Oregon, leaving a legacy of climbs done in an impeccable, and often bold style. At one of his favorite spots, The Menagerie Wilderness, this often involved ground up hand drilling from stances, a style that not many climbers in their mid-twenties have much interest in.
He had a deep respect for the history of climbing, and especially Oregon climbing. He spent time tracking down the older climbers and dragging them out to the crags and listening to their stories. After hearing of Tyler's passing, Jeff Thomas wrote, "Hey Tyler thanks for trying and occasionally succeeding in getting this old goat back on the rocks. You were the only twenty something that actually cared what the 60 and 70 somethings had done and had to say about it, and yes, you even sometimes listened to us." Like Jeff, he was also able to persuade other Oregon legends to get out including: Gary Kirk, Tom Bauman, Pat Callis and many others. He was always excited to retell their stories, and it was that legacy of bold climbing that influenced his own aesthetic. Two very important partnerships to him were with Chris Fralick and Steve Elder. With Chris he established many, many routes at Wolf Rock and The Menagerie including the classic Morgul Vale. He partnered with Steve on his multi-year quest to climb the East Face of Mt. Thielsen, finally this past March resulting in their route Brainless Child.
The Tyler I knew was an auteur of the absurd, a master of not taking things too seriously. He was a true iconoclast and, unlike the vast majority of people who say they don't care what other people think, truly didn't. Unlike anyone I've met before, he lived his life on his own terms. He sometimes operated on what I referred to as "Tyler-time" which often had little bearing on regular time. He could be difficult and opinionated. There was a nuance and depth to Tyler's character that's hard to capture with words. He was one of the funniest people I've ever met.
In retrospect I think with regret about all the times over the last couple of years that I told him that I couldn't go climbing, that I had to work, that the increasing complexity of life got in the way of truly living. Tyler had helped me with NW Alpine in various aspects since I started five years ago, but over the last few months he was working with me almost full time. Our office is right next to an air strip, so he would fly in and walk across the field as his commute. He brought with him his traditional sense of levity and we worked hard together. Looking back I'm so happy to have had that time with him.
I'm not sure that Tyler would want us to spend a lot of time in sadness, grieving. While it's impossible not to be crushed by this loss, I intend to celebrate the fact that I got to spend the time with him that I did. That we were blessed with his kind and hilarious nature for as long as we were. From now on I challenge myself to live more like Tyler did: to embrace the absurd, to climb the chossy towers and to laugh like none of the bullshit matters.
In 1943, Eric Shipton wrote, "He is lucky who, in the full tide of life, has experienced a measure of the active environment he most desires. In these days of upheaval and violent change, when the basic values of to-day are the vain and shattered dreams of to-morrow, there is much to be said for a philosophy which aims at living a full life while the opportunity offers. There are few treasures of more lasting worth than the experience of a way of life that is in itself wholly satisfying. Such, after all, are the only possessions of which no fate, no cosmic catastrophe can deprive us; nothing can alter the fact if for one moment in eternity we have really lived."
I take comfort in knowing that Tyler's life was full of of moments truly lived, and though he left us way too soon, he packed more living into that short time than most who live three times as long.
To learn more about some of Tyler's climbing accomplishments, check out his blog, Oregon Choss. He also documented a lot of flying he did in videos posted on his YouTube channel. Or even better yet go to Wolf Rock and to The Menagerie and repeat his routes, he would have liked that.