On Friday July 30th Roy Lambertson, long-time member and leader in the Ski Touring Section, died in a climbing accident on Black Mountain near Baxter Pass in the eastern Sierras. He was with another climber on the mountain at the time, but no one witnessed the fall.
Roy was the son of Glen and Jean Lambertson. He, a sister, and a brother, grew up in Oakland. His father served with the 10th Mountain Division during World War II and was severely wounded in the fight for Mount Belvedere (Italy) — the same battle in which John Benson, after whom the Sierra Club’s Benson Hut was named, was killed. Glen recovered, went on to become an accelerator physicist and skied into his 80s, both of which undoubtedly inspired Roy.
Roy was leading advanced trips for the Ski Touring Section at least as early as 2002. November 2001 TRACK lists him as the contact for two-day trips to Pear Lake Hut, to Mt. Silliman, and for a ‘Mt. Lola Traverse’ trip. This was his typical schedule for the next two decades, though the Sierra Club restricted local sanctioning of the more difficult trips in subsequent years, forcing him to organize them privately. These included week-long spring tours and a series of trips along the entire Sierra Crest from Cottonwood Lakes to Donner Pass and beyond. In addition to skiing, he climbed in glaciated terrain, summiting Mt. Rainier
(twice), Mt. Shasta using north-side routes, and the Palisade Glacier U-notch.
His peak bagging experience included hundreds of High Sierra summits, roughly 60 of the SPS summits. In his late 40’s or early 50’s he even attempted the speed record to climb all of the 14000 foot peaks in California. He followed high-altitude technical rock routes on Mt. Whitney, in the Minarets, Palisades, and Temple Crag and explored the interior of the Grand Canyon. In 1999, Roy and Harlan Suits achieved a first ascent on the east face of Waller Minaret. The route, which they called "Fast Waller," is rated Grade III, 5.6.
In a 2020 application to secure permission for more advanced STS-led winter trips, Roy judged that he was in decent shape for a 59-year old. He was a regular in the Dipsea Race invitational division, had hiked the John Muir Trail in eight days in 2016, climbed and skied Mt. Hoffman in a day from Yosemite Valley in April 2019, and walked and skied from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows in a day (one way) in February 2020.
Roy was a regular on pre-winter service trips to Sierra Club huts, volunteering annually for maintenance and firewood stocking prior to ski season. This included participating in a
special 4-day repair work party at Benson Hut after damage from snow during the heavy winter of 2016-17. He also participated in several scouting trips, seeking places to locate a
fifth Sierra Club hut, including a one-day round trip ski to White Rock Lake from I-80. Both his Sierra Club and private trips were very popular; participants appreciated his mix of challenging routes and destinations balanced by careful planning, cautious execution, and a dry sense of humor. His “Benson Hut – The Hard Way” trip in 2018 was an example.
Roy’s family remember him as a terrific husband and father with a zest for life, a sense of adventure, and that keen sense of humor. He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Leah, and
their two children, Kelly and Trevor. The family is organizing a memorial service for Roy on August 21. If you are interested, please contact Karen Guldan so that she can provide you with details. The family has also established a fund in his memory to support maintenance of hikers’ huts. Although the form may appear to be a generic Sierra Club donation page, please use this dedicated link if you would like to contribute on line so that contributions can be attributed to Roy. If you prefer to contribute by check, please include “Loma Prieta Chapter – Roy Lambertson” on the memo line.
Photo by Stephane Mouradian