Jock Glidden was a climber’s climber, capable of moving fast in the mountains and comfortable on a variety of terrain. His accomplishments ranged from a roundtrip speed record of 4 hours 11 minutes on the Grand Teton that stood for a decade, to the first ascent of the North Face of Mt. Alberta, to participation in the infamous 1974 American Pamirs/USSR expedition.
Jock Glidden passed away on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, at his home in Ogden, after the balance of pains outweighed the sum of pleasures, and he determined that there was no longer any purpose in continuing the struggle against Parkinson’s Disease.
Writes Peter Lev, “Jock was a ‘go-for-it’ climber. He didn’t need ‘excessive protection,’ i.e., a piton or ice screw at waist level for every move. He depended on his superior skill, and instincts, which was the code of the climbing culture during the 1960s, 70s and into the 80s.”
Jock was born on July 7, 1935, in New Canaan, Connecticut, the eldest child of A. Leland Glidden, of Buffalo, and Jane Butler, of St. Louis. He was raised in New Canaan until his early teens, when his family purchased a cattle ranch near the Verde River in Arizona. He spent several years on the ranch until he was sent to the Putney School, in Vermont, where he competed in cross-country skiing and jumping. He then attended Middlebury College in Vermont, earning a degree in 1958, and where he also competed in cross-country.
He attended the University of Edinburgh in Scotland earning his master’s in philosophy in 1963. During this time, he took up climbing and mountaineering in the Scottish Highlands.
He obtained his PhD in philosophy from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1969. During his time in Boulder he married Roberta Bannister, in 1967. They had a son, Jesse, in 1969, and he was offered a professorship at Weber State that same year. He taught philosophy at Weber State for 29 years, retiring in 1998. He almost never drove to work, preferring a bicycle, or cross-country skis.
He was an accomplished mountaineer. He climbed the North Face of Robson in Canada in 1969. He climbed the North Face of Alberta, a first-ascent route still considered one of the great prizes of the range, in 1972. That same year, he also set the Grand Teton speed record from the Climber’s Camp, which stood for 10 years. He went trailhead to trailhead in a blazing 4 hours 11 minutes.
George Lowe, who shared a rope with Jock on numerous expeditions, told Rock and Ice, “Jock was one of my earlier climbing partners—and someone who made a difference in his local world. We did what we thought was a new route on the Northeast Buttress of Howse Peak in the Rockies (apparently the first ascent was done the year before), did the first ascent of the North Face of Alberta, and the first ascent of the North Face of Huandoy together. Plus I tried to keep up with him cross country skiing when I visited him in Utah. He was an incredible character.”
Jock was invited to join the USA-USSR Pamir Expedition in 1974 to climb Peak Lenin (now Ibn Sina) in the Soviet Union (now Tajikistan). It was a diplomatic effort to thaw the Cold War. Although considered a success, it was also met with tragedy, when Jock’s team encountered the bodies of Russian women who had attempted to summit ahead of them. The summit photo of Jock and his companions made the cover of The New York Times, but the drama of their diplomatic success was eclipsed by the resignation of Nixon, just days prior.
Jock ventured on with his mountaineering companions to the Himalayas too, where he summited Peak Nun, of the Nun Kun massif, from the Kashmir Valley. Although not without its challenges, he considered this expedition the most satisfactory.
He liked this observation from Epictetus: “It is difficulties that show what men are.” Though mountaineering could be an unassailable challenge to most, he nevertheless would bring others along with him who weren’t nearly as capable. Whether teaching philosophy, or how to place protection in mixed rock and ice, he was generally good-humored and patient. He was at home in the outdoors.
A dedicated environmentalist, Jock helped found the Ogden Group of the Sierra Club. Whenever he could, he spoke and worked on behalf of preserving Utah’s natural beauty for future generations. He loved birds of all types, a passion he shared with his daughter-in-law.
He spent a “Semester At Sea” with Roberta sailing the world, lecturing on the ship, and using port visits as impromptu field trips. He volunteered for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics at Soldier Hollow. He joined the Beehive Beemers BMW motorcycle club. He wrote and published an autobiography. He brewed beer, grew wine grapes, and loved apple trees.
He spent more time at his family cottage in Tabusintac, New Brunswick, Canada, as his health declined. There, he took up sea kayaking and was instrumental in donating significant migratory bird habitat to the Nature Conservancy of Canada. He had many friends in Tabusintac where he attended St. Andrews United Church. In Ogden, Jock was a member of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shephard. He and Roberta were divorced in 2000.
He served as a Hospice volunteer for over 15 years after retiring. One of his patients was a sheep rancher, whom Jock felt kinship with. While spending time with him Jock met the patient’s daughter, Josette, and they fell in love. Josette unconditionally devoted herself to Jock’s welfare during the final years of his life, and they pursued many great adventures together. Jock felt it important to acknowledge those he loved without interruption, including Josette, his three sisters Jennifer, Susannah and Elizabeth, his first wife Roberta, his son Jesse, his daughter-in-law Marty, his entire extended family, and his many dear friends and colleagues whom he met along the way.
Jock would also like to thank Intermountain Homecare & Hospice for their care, the Mountain West Parkinson Initiative, and the Davis County PD support group.
Jock Glidden will be inurned at the family cemetery in Worthington, Massachusetts, and at the Tabusintac Riverside Cemetery in New Brunswick, Canada. Due to ongoing public health concerns, a celebration of his life will be announced at a later date.