Remembering Bean Bowers

| July 13, 2011 | 25 Comments

Alas, Bean Bowers of Ridgeway, Colorado (and many other places as well) recently died of cancer.  This was a double tragedy as; 1) Bean was only 38, and 2) he had survived so many outrageous incidents that cancer seemed an unlikely way for him to go.  RIP Bean.

The indomitable Bean Bowers.

I met Bean at a few climbing gathering, but really got to know him when I was putting together a ski/kiting trip down to the Southern Patagonia Ice Cap in 2005. I asked a mutual friend, Kris Erickson, if “Bean” was Bean’s real name, to which Kris replied, “Hmmm, I don’t think so, but for a nickname, “Meat” or “Brick” would be more fitting.”  Bean was a very tough mofo with a heart of gold.  As I was asking Bean for info on the Ice Cap, he eventually asked “Who’s going?” It was only Ben Ditto and myself at the time, so I said the trip was open if he knew of anyone else who was interested.  A minute later, he was signed up.  I was surprised, and not surprised, as like many great all-around Alpinists, Bean was mainly known for his climbing skills, but was also a shredding skier.

Bean getting ready to ski the biggest wind-drift I've ever seen. This was on the backside of Cerro Torre and must have been 300-500' tall - bigger than some midwest ski areas.

After getting underway, we trekked up Rio Electrico,  and decided to do a warm up run on a peak named Gorra Blanca (White Hat – pardon my Spanish).  Bean knew the history of the area and didn’t think it had been skied from the top as the summit was guarded by a classic Patagonia ice mushroom.  We cramponed our way around a weakness in the ‘shroom and soon enough I was on top with Bean.  I was busy being blown away by all of the scenery, so Bean asked if I’d mind if he started down the run.  “By all means – be my guest.  Let me take a few photos.”

Bean made a few turns in the thin summit powder and then went fully bases up and into a low orbit before falling out of sight.  I was sure I had just witnessed his death, so my first thoughts were “Don’t panic – we don’t need a second victim.”  My second thought was of his girlfriend.  Bean was going out with Helen Motter (they were later married) who I first met when she was going out with Hans Saari, who fell to his death skiing in Chamonix. The thought of calling her with a double dose of bad news wasn’t appealing.

Bean just moments before losing it on Gorra Blanca.

I worked my way down the arete until I could see Ben and shouted down to him:

“Can you see Bean?”
“Yes.”
“Is he okay?”
“Yes.”

I couldn’t (and still can’t) believe it.  Bean had gone a few hundred feet totally airborne before bouncing once and then sticking it on a fifty degree slope with blue ice, bershrunds and ice towers all around.  He had landed on the one and only sliver of powder on that entire side of the mountain and somehow survived.  He climbed back out to us, but right near the top a 15′ overhanging cornice blocked his path.  Ben and I tied together every piece of webbing we had, anchored it to an ice axe and and threw it down to Bean who proceeded to Batman up it hand-over-hand.  I had know know Bean for about four days total and was very impressed.  And relieved.

A day later, our trip got even more exciting when we walked into one of the most intense storms any of us had ever experienced.  We were camped on a rocky perch about a mile below a col that when the weather went from sunbathing to a howling hurricane which lasted roughly 3-4 days.  After the first day our perch was covered in verglass, and even though we had repeatedly staked the tent out with everything we had (a total of 21 anchors, including pitons, cams, tent stakes, rocks, etc), I was sure we were going to lose the tent. The wind gusts were so strong and violent that the pressure from the tent collapsing was making my ears pop.  When it got really bad, we’d put on everything we’d need to survive when/if the tent exploded, so at times we were sitting around in a tent fully clothed for skiing, including helmets and goggles.  After about day two, we decided that it was alright to use waterbottles for pee bottles, so we wouldn’t have to go outside.  Bean explained that it was okay as urine was sterile (I’ve since heard otherwise from less sporty partners), so the rest of the trip was flavored with, uhmmm, tangy water.  We also spent quite a bit of time debating the merits of shitting on rocks in the vestibule and then throwing them out the door, but decided against it, which meant we had to get fully geared up for battle, including crampons, helmets and goggles to take a dump.  Ever the optimist, Bean proclaimed that the best part of all of this was that because the wind was so strong, we wouldn’t need toilet paper.  This became his battle cry as he’d head out for a dump: “Patagonia – it’ll rip the shit right out of yer ass!”

Bean hanging out in our tent while the weather raged outside.

(As a humorous postscript, we finally decided to make a break from our camp, and after climbing a mile to the col… it was almost dead calm.  We had been camped in the bulls-eye of a wind venturi.  Hahaha.  Oh well.)

Once we got up onto the icefield, it was time to kite.  Bean had never kited before, so he was kind of nervous about it, but game.  As often happens with kiting, once I launched, the wind turned out to be much stronger than expected, so it was a matter of hanging on for dear life while rocketing down the ice cap through 12″ of new snow and towing a sled.  I was on the edge of control when I looked over and saw another kite next to me, which I assumed was Ben, as he was the more experience kiter.  We continued on like this for about 45 minutes without really knowing where we were going when suddenly a STUNNING cirque appeared to our left.  It turned out to be the famed Cirque of the Alters, which is the backside of the Torres (Egger, Cerro Torre, etc.).

Pulling into the Cirque of the Altars under kite power. Wow.

The wind blew us into the cirque and died right at a perfect camp spot, and it was only then that I realized it was Bean, not Ben beside me, and man was he pumped up. This was his first time kiting and we had just covered what would be a brutal slog at blazing speed.  All Bean could say for the first five minutes was “Holy shit!  Holy shit!  Holy Shit!” He then explained how he was talking to himself the whole way – “Come on Bean, focus, relax, stay calm, don’t crash.  Focus Bean.  Stay calm.”  He was instantly addicted to kiting and for a guy who loved the Southern Patagonia Ice Cap, it was like finding religion.

We stayed in the Cirque of the Altars for about six days and did some of the most scenic and spectacular skiing I’ve ever experienced.  Making turns where your spray washes up against the golden granite walls of Patagonia is a surreal experience.  On one day, we followed a group of climbers up the shoulder of Cerro Torre who were doing the second ascent of the Ferrari (I think..?) Route.  Bean was beside himself as this was something he had always wanted to climb, the weather was perfect and it looked like the party was going to make it.  He was frothing at the mouth to jump on it, but settled for the ski descent instead.

Bean at the base of the Ferrari Route without climbing gear. That's what you get for hanging out with a skier. Sorry buddy!

Anyone who was lucky enough to spend time with Bean has similar stories.  The guy lived life to the absolute fullest and when I last visited him and it was apparent that he was quite sick, he was still talking about his upcoming plans.  But, if you never had a chance to meet Bean, I’ll share his secret Mac & Cheese recipe – boil pasta, add a pound of cheese and stir.

“Bean, that’s uhmm, pretty thick Mac & Cheese.”
“Yeah?  How do you do it?”
“Well, I add some milk and maybe some butter and spices.”
“That would be Mac & Cheese & Milk & Butter & Spices.  This is just Mac & Cheese.”

It's Mac and it's cheese. Just like the name says. Any questions?

I miss that guy!
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Category: Commentary

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (25)

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  1. AJ says:

    thanks for sharing Andrew

    RIP Bean

  2. Derek says:

    RIP Bean. 38 years lived to the fullest, that’s for sure.

  3. LC says:

    Andrew,

    I loved this post–you’re memories of Bean had me laughing out loud! The world is more dull without him I’m sure. RIP Bean.

  4. Dostie says:

    Sounds like another kindred spirit. Nice eulogy.

  5. Jane Bowers says:

    Thank you, Andrew, for capturing the spirit of Bean & for sharing some of your wonderful photos of him in his element, which is also yours.

  6. Ken McKean says:

    That was a really touching write up, thanks.
    RIP Bean

  7. Taran says:

    Man, my heart is full of sadness. Bean and I went to boarding school together, he was like a little brother. We eventually lost touch but I always thought of him over the years and marveled over his adventures, wish I knew the man my brother Bean had grown up to be. I see he still had that great smile.

  8. I never knew the man, but I was scared of Bean Bowers.

  9. I did not know Bean, but I’m moved by this write-up. I feel like I did know him, now.

    Awesome writing on a difficult subject, Andrew.

  10. susan ashen says:

    wish I knew Bean..

    RIP

  11. Kitty Calhoun says:

    Thanks, Andrew

  12. Ralph S. says:

    Thanks for that, Andrew. RIP Bean.

  13. d3 says:

    thanks for bringing him back to life with your stories in this post, andrew. beautiful. what a void he left. many sympathies to his friends, family, and especially helen.

  14. Pete Connelly says:

    Bean stayed with me for a few weeks in 94. I still have his phone number in my journal. We used to play this silly drinking game called Mexican. When he wrote down his number in my journal he wrote Bean “the best Mexican player ever” Bowers. What a guy. What a loss.

  15. Erica Hibbard says:

    I miss you cousin Bean. I will always love you.

  16. Nice story of Edwin C. Bowers III alias Whitey alias Beanie alias Bean… Thanks.

  17. Angela Hawse says:

    Thanks Andrew for the awesome photos and story of Bean. Miss you Bean.

  18. mingo says:

    I skiied with Bean somewhere out west sometime in late 1990’s.
    I remember he ripped his pants upon the summit and would have gotten frost bite. I sewed the seam at altitude while he ate a sandwich with 5 other friends. Good times.
    I hope you reincarnate in a snowy place soon.

    If friends love and awe could bring you back you’d be out on a peak with us.

  19. Geoff Gardner says:

    Great stories, thanks! He was a great man. I remember on e tour we did in CB,CO and his feet were so cold he asked to warm them on my stomach. Two solid ice blocks and it was an honor to have them.

  20. Hunter Dahlberg says:

    Good stuff, thanks for posting.

  21. Erica says:

    What an incredible inspiration to us all…..may we each carry a piece of his powerful spirit in our hearts.
    Thank you for sharing. Peace

  22. Meads says:

    I lived with Bean in Telluride for just short of a year. We were all broke living 8 of us in a two bedroom apartment in the mountain village. On powder days Bean used to wake up at like 4 in the morning and skin up to the upper chairs dodging snow cats on the way. He would ski the upper chairs all day (no lift ticket checkers) for free. RIP Bean gone too soon! See ya on the other side

  23. Andrew Rubin says:

    Thanks for sharing these memories. He was my first guide on the Grand Teton, taught me how to push my limits (including the ones that I didn’t even know I had) and was truly a great guy. RIP Bean… gone way too soon.

  24. Mark says:

    Was in New Zealand with Bean as an exchange student in 90. He was a brother. He took the spirit of that year and kept it alive forever. I tried to track him down for years. Should have tried harder. Bean brought people together. He was a very special person and I miss him.

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