When a professional mountain guide like George Gardner, 58, who was universally liked and respected in Jackson Hole and far beyond dies suddenly in an climbing accident, a palpable pall descends on this Valley. George was considered the best of the best in his profession of mountain climbing and had climbed The Grand many times. As a senior guide for Exum, he's taught hundreds of people the skills of rock and extreme mountain climbing.
He died this past weekend in a fall while doing a solo climb in seemingly perfect conditions, but with little margin for error. No one will ever know exactly what happened. His teenage son was here this summer with him.
I'm not a mountain climber, but am an avid hiker and fly fisher and have been a professional fishing guide here since the late 80s---though I'm no longer guiding professionally today. This news is sobering for all of us guides who've had close calls over the years. And frankly, it's one of the reasons I finally gave up guiding. A guide's first and foremost responsibility always is, in as much as humanly possible, assuring the safety of their clients and themselves. We're all trained in first aid, wilderness safety, and CPR and must be re-certified every year. But none of that guarantees that accidents and death won't happen. When you're time is up, it's up. Life can turn and change on a dime.
But by the Grace of God go any of us. But by the Grace of God go I. May God comfort his wife and children and all the many friends and colleagues George left behind.