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The Original Desert Rat: Kyle Copeland | 51

Kyle Copeland passed away on October 3, in Salt Lake City, after a long fight with Crohn's disease. Kyle's first ascents spanned the country's boldest...

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Kyle Copeland passed away on October 3, in Salt Lake City, after a long fight with Crohn’s disease. Kyle’s first ascents spanned the country’s boldest climbing arenas: El Cap, the South Platte, Eldo, Fisher Towers, Arches and the Diamond, where his Diamond Star Halo (V 5.8 A4) lies. Yet he was most renowned for his exploration and development of the desert Southwest.

Kyle was a talented musician, a VW grease monkey, an outdoor software designer, dinosaur-bone collector, and a rigger on Hollywood movie sets. His modest appearance—smudged glasses, tangled hair tied in a Navajo bun, dirty baseball cap, grease-stained jeans, and a sincere smile with a cigarette plugging the space where a tooth used to be—belied himself as a true Renaissance man.

Visitors to Kyle’s modest home behind the main drag in downtown Moab were occasionally intimidated by Kyle’s grumpy side—not to mention astounded by his collection of musical instruments, sewing machines, surveillance equipment and dinosaur bones. At his home, Kyle had constructed most of a whole dinosaur skeleton from fossils he had found. It looked like something out of a museum, and it was made of hundreds of pieces that he had found and painstakingly puzzled together. Anyone who spent a day with him at the crags had a friend forever.

Once a horse escaped its corral and was running loose in Moab. The police, fire department, and horse “experts” couldn’t capture the spirited animal. Kyle (so the story goes) hopped on his mountain bike, chased the horse down, lassoed it and rode it back to the corral.

Another day we went to one of Moab’s best crack climbs outside of Indian Creek, an Earl Wiggins masterpiece, Class Act (5.11). None of us could piece together the pumpy lieback. Kyle lit a cigarette, grabbed the rack of cams and sent the thing without so much as a quiver, cough or whimper. Kyle schooled us all.

Todd Gordon