My thoughts have been preoccupied with the untimely loss of an exceptional human being. Guy was a cross between Buddha and a leprechaun; he radiated a delightful spark and spirit emulated from his connection to Mother Nature, his depth of character and his passion. Somehow just meeting him felt like a blessing. I walked away from a simple encounter with Guy wearing a grin and feeling awestruck – not so much by Guy’s accomplishments (which are legendary) but rather by his uncluttered simplicity which stemmed from his enlightened embrace of life. He was wise, humble and content. Guy inspired us.
Last week his special spirit was snuffed when an avalanche swept him off a cliff while participating in the annual Hyalite “Icebreakers” climbing competition. I felt like puking when a friend told me Guy Lacelle died that morning in our local ice climbing haven. Full of shock and disbelief, my heart wept for JoJo (a long time friend and climbing partner of Guy’s) and for Guy’s wife Marge whom I don’t know but feel a connection to simply because Guy shared pictures and stories of her. Later as the full tragic story came together in bits and pieces, my sorrow and shock was deepened by compassion for the other climbers; Adam – Guy’s partner that day, Sam and Josh who were climbing above.
I want to admit also, that I am uncomfortable with the fact that the tragedy occurred here, in our own ice climbing “backyard.” Guy was from Canada. He climbed all over the world. Somehow the tragic loss would be more palpable if it happened somewhere else – anywhere else; another country, another state. My thought is purely selfish. Anywhere is still a “backyard” for others. But the fact is, Guy was a special guest…here. On a purely selfish note; I feel disheartened and a bit let down by Hyalite even though I know how ridicules that sounds. However I am heartened by the love, respect and care in which the local community handled the tragedy. I talked with the sergeant in charge of Gallatin County SAR (search and rescue). He told me it was an honor to be involved – an unforgettable day that felt like he and others had recovered a Viking.
I am too choked up to write more. Let me share a letter written for The Bozeman Daily Chronicle by my dear friend JoJo:
“As an organizer and emcee of the recent Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival, I want to extend my deepest appreciation to Bozeman, all the great folks that traveled from across the country and Canada to be here, and the entire outdoor community for all your love and support in the face of the tragic loss of our dear friend and mentor Guy Lacelle. Guy (rhymes with see) was lost in an avalanche on Silken Falls in Hyalite Canyon on Thursday, December 10th.
Guy, originally from Ontario and living in Prince George, British Columbia, was the greatest and most accomplished waterfall ice climber to ever live, experiencing routes around the world that may never be surpassed. But more importantly I, and scores of others, knew Guy as the most wonderful and inspiring human being we’ve ever known. In 18 years of loving and being loved by this man, I’ve never known anyone to be as ethically pure, morally strong, competitive yet compassionate, such a committed conservationist, and so caring of others and animals.
Last Thursday Guy and 23 others were engaged what we call the Hyalite Ice Breaker. Simply, I designed this as a like-minded event where old and new friends simply go out and try to climb as many routes in Hyalite as they can. Whoever does the most gets only their name inscribed on a special ice axe on display at Northern Lights Trading Company. It is a celebration of the partnerships, bonds and experiences found while ice climbing in the Hyalite Canyon. Guy truly embraced the Ice Breaker more than anyone. He was here for weeks in advance to re-connect with friends and climb and strategize. He was competitive but not in a "I’m out to beat you" sort of way. He just loved the gamesmanship of it. And like the true gentleman and hero he was, he only enjoyed it if you where having fun right along with him.
When Guy’s wife Marge told me on Friday morning that Guy and his family would want the Festival to continue, it gave me the emotional strength required to go forward. After all, if there was one thing I knew about Guy, it was that he would be heartbroken if he knew anyone did not have a good time nor didn’t get to experience the joys of ice climbing because of his expense, even in dying.
Yet I need to acknowledge the local community again for embracing that spirit and helping us make the most of the weekend. Personally I wouldn’t have made it through three more days without you. Thank you to all the participants for your enthusiasm in the clinics, many of you trying ice climbing for the first time. It would have been easy to cancel the whole thing, but seeing so many of you energized by the sport over the next three days made it all worthwhile. Thank you for attending the wonderful public tribute at the Emerson Friday night. Thank you for the respect and care during the private reception we held for Marge and her family at the Emerson Grill on Saturday. They too are humbled and grateful for the love and support shown by the Bozeman community and look forward to returning soon.
Many people have asked on how they can donate to the memory of Guy Lacelle and his family. Without hesitation they requested any donations be made to the local animal shelter, Heart of the Valley. Please follow the "Donate Now" links at www.heartofthevalleyshelter.org. Please be sure to check the "In Memory of" option.
Thank you all.
May you all have a happy and safe holidays with your loved ones.”
Joe Josephson – Livingston, MT