Reflection by Daniel

So I’ll start off by introducing myself, although that’s probably not too necessary, as I recognize most everyone here from overlapping interests, or, at the least, from Ben’s BBQ’s, Thanksgivings, or Superbowl parties. I’m Daniel. I would like to think I have the dubious distinction of being the only one here first to meet Ben via Craigslist before I even moved to San Diego, but given the diverse nature of the crew here, I’m not so sure.

I was looking for a place to live when I moved here, and I dilly dallied just a hair too long on getting back to him about a room at the famous La Jolla Shores digs.

We kept in touch via email because he was training for Ironman Arizona, and that’s my sport of choice (well, shorter distance ones), but was starting to notice the regular emails streaming from the YAG list (Young Adults and Graduates) of the same person, albeit different email address. Friendship slowly built based on triathlons and YAG experiences, but experienced exponential growth after a rather amazingly awesome JTree YAG weekend in 2010.

I realized pretty early on in our friendship that Ben was someone worth keeping track of. Perhaps because I considered Ben one of the more luminous people I had ever met. Maintain the light, indeed.  So by the powers of Google mail I saved every email conversation Ben and I ever had, save the reply to his original housing ad and maybe 1-2 others. Last night I spent all of last night reading the exchanges between us for the last 3 years. There were some common threads worth sharing:

We are both egregious planners. Lots and lots of planning. Emails back and forth about this or that logistical hurdle. Photo sharing after outings. Horrendously eye-rolling puns and a near complete indexing of any 4+ star 5.10a or easier route on Mountain Project, Supertopo, and Summitpost that was within about 500 miles radius. Wikipedia articles about one thing or the other as result of conversations we had on the trails. Did you know that Tahquitz rock outside of Idylwild is named after a disgraced shaman? No? Well, neither did I before we both dug into the depths of the Internet after climbing there. These are the messages that litter my inbox.

I wasn’t so much in Ben’s philosophical world as I was the athletic side; although the depth of Ben’s personal philosophy was clearly evident, if not outwardly spoken. Actually, now, as I say that out loud, I know it to be a lie. We just talked about different forms of ethic, perhaps none dearer to Ben than the ethics of haggardness. It would be more appropriate to call it, “how to do climbing / mountaineering / the outdoors the right way” but that lacks the appeal of the term haggard. What is haggard? It’s the result of going out and doing something big and a bit audacious: pushing one’s personal limit to a large degree in a style that does not seek to justify the means by the ends. Should one accomplish those ideals, it’s impossible not to be haggard as result. While it wasn’t a goal unto itself, bonus points were always given for unkempt/helmet/hat hair, blood, torn clothing, and other visual cues that would make one otherwise generally unfit for public viewing.

Not only should haggardness be celebrated, it also makes for one of the absolute best photo galleries on the planet. Sante perhaps said it best one stupidly long day of trail running: “where were you while we were getting haggard?” The smile that emerged from Ben’s face as result of that lyrical reference was a thing of beauty.

His outdoor aesthetic extended past just a pursuit of deliberately crushing oneself on a regular basis: trad was purer and more fun than sport, multipitch was better than single pitch, and the mountains themselves were the best. If something can be done in a single push car to car with less gear it should be. If it can be run, do so. If it’s too small an objective, link it up with something else nearby until the day gets big enough to be a little bit intimidating. If too technically easy an objective, solo it; if still too easy, solo it in approach shoes. Keep it satisfyingly challenging and fresh, but always within oneself. Pursue speed to its prudent end, but never a second faster than that. A good climb was a good climb, regardless the difficulty; going out and doing all of that with friends was the best.

Perhaps this is the world I remember best about Ben: going out and getting haggard. Whether that was on a run, a climb, a triathlon or anything else it was a true joy to share the time and I will assuredly miss that profound friendship.

I consider the quality of the people one surrounds oneself with a strong reflection of the depth of one’s own character. Knowing only a glimpse of how wonderful you all are testifies to how awesome Ben was and it is utterly humbling to be counted among you.

I am so grateful to have met Ben’s parents in the nick of time and will forever treasure our shared experience at Western States. In seeing the interaction, the very depth of love shared between you and Ben was both inspiring and heart-warming. It gave great insight into where Ben had built his foundation. I wished I had the chance to meet the whole family. I can only imagine how it was growing up in such a household.

I want to thank you all. I want to thank you for letting me borrow your friend, your brother, your son for these last few years. It has been a true blessing. It has been said before, but seeing how Ben was so unique a relationship to so many different people, my heart goes out to each and every one of you.


Given at Ben’s Memorial Service on August 14, 2012: