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Jim Straight


(With input from Suzy Miller, William Straight, Bill Priedhorsky, and Lynn and Norbert Ensslin.)



Fig. 1. Jim Straight on Sugarloaf, Organ Mountains, 1980’s.



Jim Straight was an active Club member and accomplished rock climber for many years. He climbed in the Brazos, the Organs, Yosemite, and White Rock. In 1984, he served as Vice President and Climbing School Director. After that, for over 20 years, he was our expert in rigging and running the “Ludwig” leader fall belay exercise, with the gratitude of his fellow instructors and the apprehension of his student victims. He really enjoyed operating the release mechanism!


More recently, Jim was a major contributor to the Mountaineers history, and digitized our old slides. His wife Bobbye edited the entire document.


Just last year, Jim helped with the knots class for the new Climbing School.




Fig. 2. Jim Straight rigs the Ludwig leader fall exercise at the "Y" during the climbing school (Danny Gallant photo, April 2005 or 2006).




Fig. 3. Jim Straight helping with the knots class, April 2023.


Jim joined the Mountaineers trips to Yosemite, starting with the first trip in June 1984.



Fig. 4. Jan Studebaker, Lou Horak, Jim Straight, Norbert Ensslin, Dennis Brandt, Ralph Menikoff, Gregg Brickner, Chris Foster, and Dave Barlow (Jim Straight photo, June 1984).



Figure 5 shows Jim Straight on the crux aid pitch of the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock, one of the “50 Classic Climbs of North America” in Steck and Roper’s book. It looks like he’s posing for the book’s cover photo!



Fig. 5. Jim Straight on the crux aid pitch of the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock (Lou Horak photo, June 1984).




Fig. 6. Gregg Brickner, Ralph Menikoff, Steve Iversen, Lou Horak, and Jim Straight on Half Dome after climbing Snake Dike, a spectacular, extremely exposed friction climb (Jim Straight photo, June 1984).



Jim’s daughter Suzy Miller remembered that climbing was Jim’s favorite way to escape because it required total concentration and focus. He said, “When you’ve climbed 10 feet off the ground, you’ve forgotten the problems at the office. By the time you’re 50 feet off the ground, you’ve forgotten that there even is an office.”



Fig. 7. Jim on the Glacier Point Apron, Lou Horak below.



Jim was an excellent climbing instructor. He taught some of us how to climb friction slabs by taking “little baby steps” with the weight over our feet and our bodies away from the rock. But just in case, both Jim and Lou Horak sewed leather patches on their climbing pants for sliders!



Fig. 8. Jim Straight leading Hoppy’s Favorite Direct, Glacier Point Apron, demonstrating the cool nerves and proper balance required to climb run-out friction slabs ( Lou Horak or William Straight photo).


On the Club’s Yosemite trips, Jim and his climbing partners always did more pitches than anyone else, up to 50 or more in a single week-long trip. His favorite tee-shirt, “PITCH, PITCH, PITCH” was very appropriate!


We really admired his strong climbing partnerships with Roy Lucht and Lou Horak, and both relationships were life-long friendships. At the Lab, when Jim and Roy were Group Leader and Deputy Group Leader, they built a climbing wall on one of their buildings!




Fig. 9. Jim Straight toproping (in Yosemite?.) Photo provided by Suzy Miller.


In memory of their father, Suzy Miller and William Straight have offered a Climbing School scholarship fund to help students with enrollment fees. This very generous offer will, in Suzy’s words, “Honor Jim’s memory and encourage others to discover a passion for climbing the way Jim did.”


Suzy and William are also donating Jim’s climbing equipment to the Club for teaching purposes. Both of these gifts will indeed honor Jim’s memory, and continue his many years of contributions to the Mountaineers.


Fig. 10. Jim belaying in Yosemite.

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