Through the Eyes of a Climber: Winston

Through the Eyes of a Climber: Winston

Meet our beloved Winston. An Amherst native who has traveled throughout North America and Europe on various climbing and geology expeditions. He can find common ground with everyone he meets. He is outgoing, witty, caring, and adventurous.

Winston has been climbing at On The Rocks climbing gym since it opened in 2018. He has the record for the most check-ins for anyone “near 100”, as he likes to say. Not only is he an avid climber, he has a high-level of expertise in the fields of philosophy, mountaineering, and geology.

His love for climbing and geology are intertwined and have both played an integral part in his career.

“Why do you love climbing?” “Because I love geology.”

“Why do you love geology?” “Because I love climbing.”

Early Career

His climbing career coincided with the start of his military career. He joined the United States Navy at age 22. He was stationed at Kodiak Island, Alaska as a weatherman. That was where he climbed his first real mountain, Barometer Mountain. While on the island, he received additional compensation, called “sea pay,” for being on an island. Later he went to oceanography school and then the Navy Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. 

Notable Friends and Memories

After he was stationed in Monterey, in 1967, Winston bought a little MGA convertible, which was advertised for $399, but the top was another $100, and with taxes it came out to more like $500. With a new ride and lease on life, he joined the Sierra Club in order to learn more about climbing. In Alaska he had done snow climbing, which he did have all the gear for, but still wanted to climb and learn more. For two years he was in Monterey, working for the Navy, and climbing. During that time, he met a young, up-and-coming climber, with whom he climbed most weekends for two years. Together they climbed Pinnacles National Monument, Yosemite, Granite Creek and Indian Rocks. 

Winston recalls what an interesting place Indian Rocks was in 1968, as well as some of his other climbing adventures. 

For example, during that time, Winston climbed at places like Mt. Shasta, which he climbed with the distinguished Bob Rice, who taught him how to self-arrest in preparing for that trip.

Additionally, he has run into, or climbed with, a number of notable climbers such as: Willie Unsold (the guide, who was also the first to ascend the West Ridge of Mt. Everest), Fred Beckey (legendary mountaineer and author), Jim Bridwell (a major force in the development of the Yosemite Decimal System and pioneer Yosemite climber), Allen Steck (of the Salathe Steck route on Sentinel Rock and the Hummingbird Ridge of Mt. Logan), Royal Robbins, Bev Johnson, Arlene Blum, and Annie Peck (and many more; Chuck Pratt, Gaston Rebuffat, Bradford Washburn, Galen Rowell, Wayne Merry, Pat Amant, Howard Hobbs). These are all incredibly brave and innovative climbers in early U.S. climbing history. 

Winston’s One Regret:

Winston says he’s been fortunate to have done a lot of wonderful things in his life (and is still planning more- including going on a camping trip this summer with members of the OTR community), and therefore doesn’t have many regrets. “I'm still alive, and that is a big deal. On average, twelve people die on the Matterhorn every year, and about sixty people have died on Pico de Orizaba. I did these, and many more climbs unscathed. [However,] there is one thing that I do kick myself over… I was so focused on taking pictures of mountains that in most of these cases I did not get pictures of people. Some are dead, and of those still around, I can't get a picture of them in their youth.”

Adventures & Climbs

Winston has climbed extensively in the Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming), Yosemite National Park (California), a number of peaks in Colorado, the Matterhorn (Switzerland), Mont Blanc (France & highest point in Europe), Seneca Rocks (West Virginia) and Pico de Orizaba (Mexico-about which he wrote his exploratory research book, which he describes as a “massive monograph”).

He has had a number of adventures while climbing and exploring. Below he describes different occasions where he could have, but thankfully never did, lose his life. 

Mount Moran 

Winston met a pretty girl who went by “Red.” She wanted to climb Mount Moran in the Tetons. She was working at the Merry Piglet in Jackson, WY. Winston decided to take her up the mountain, even though the weather wasn’t great. At one point they reached the treeline and dropped their packs. Winston then went to look for level ground where they could set up their tent. He then came face-to-face with a full-grown moose. They were both extremely startled. Winston mounted a ledge near-by, to try to get away from the moose. The moose (dumb animals that they are) judge size by height, and was terrified. As a result, it tried to run up a cliff which was too steep. The moose fell back and essentially splashed, or split open. Although not a hunter, Winston now claims that he killed a moose “with his bare hands.”

The Bugaboos 

Once Winston came face-to-face with a bear cub in the Canadian Rockies. He had encountered a bear at his camp before when visiting Seneca Rocks. However, the bear in the Bugaboos was a little too close for comfort. Next is an excerpt from Winston about the story:


Once my dinner was finished I got my Ensolite pad and sleeping bag out and tossed them down next to my little Triumph Spitfire. I took some precautions. The food went in the trunk. I left the car door ajar (no need to be fooling with a door handle in an emergency). Neither the car lights nor the horn would work unless the ignition key was turned on, so I left the key in the ignition, ready to be turned on if necessary. I brushed my teeth. (No need to smell like a bowl of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I'm sure bears like that too.) I left the zipper on the sleeping bag unzipped. (My mother once told me about a Boy Scout who was mauled to death by a bear because he couldn't get out of his sleeping bag.) Then I crawled in my sleeping bag and went sound asleep. 

Nose to Nose With a Bear

I was on my back. Generally I use my shoes with a sweater on top as a pillow. (Works great for me.) Sometime during the night I felt a light, tentative pushing on my nose. I woke up to a bear cub in my face. I wasn't scared. I took a deep breath and yelled as loud as I could. The bear cub ran off. I got in the car, turned on the key and then the lights, and I remember seeing it run across the beam of light, from left to right, and away from me. I then decided to spend the rest of the night in the car. It was a long night. 

Looking back, I think it just wanted to be friends. Were it to happen again, I would like to reach up and pat it on the shoulder. And I do feel bad about shouting. This was, for me, a signature event, even though it only lasted for a moment.”

Pico de Orizaba

Much of Winston’s career was dedicated to exploring, climbing, and researching Mount Orizaba. He dedicated 20 years, and went on 11 extensive expeditions to Mexico, studying the history and geological features of the mountain. Pico de Orizaba is a volcano between Mexico City and the Gulf of Mexico. Winston was fascinated by the amazing geology, biodiversity, history and culture of the Orizaba region. 

“I spent a lot of time exploring every side of the mountain, and tracking down thousands of books and articles focused entirely or partly on all aspects of the mountain. I claim, with good reason, that Orizaba is the most interesting mountain in North America. The altitude is after Denali and Logan in North America.”

Pico de Orizaba

Later Career

Winston went on to become a highly regarded professor of philosophy and geology. He is “somewhat trilingual”, successfully learning to read Spanish and French. Although retired, he is occasionally a substitute teacher in local schools and is passionate about working with younger generations from preschool to sixth grade. 

Winston has always had a love for knowledge, innovation, and friendship. That shines through when you talk with him. He’s well-accomplished, well-spoken, friendly, adventurous, and inspirational to all of us that watch him climb!

Winston at Climb On The Rocks

Winston’s Recommended Reading List: 

"Pico de Orizaba or Citlaltepetl" by Dr. Winston Crausaz 

"Geologists and Ideas" by the Geological Society of America, features an article by Winston about his mentor, Dr. Atl (a Mexican artist, scientist, and mountaineer, among many other hats)

"Paricutin" by Luhr and Smkin (includes the above article)

"Regional Geomorphology of the United States" by Thornbury (describes the geology of every major landform of the USA)

“Sacred Mountains of the World” By Edwin Bernbaum (a chapter in this book is written by Winston about the Popocatepetl Volcano) 

"Breaking Trail" by Arlene Blum, captures the spirit of the mountains (with whom Winston came in touch with when he was researching Annie Peck for his book).

"A Woman's Place Is at the Top" by Hannah Kimberley (a book about Annie Peck. Winston wrote a chapter in his book about Annie, as she was a pioneering mountaineer on Pico de Orizaba)

“Summit” magazines (a classic climbing magazine, for which Winston has written multiple articles)

“Starlight and Storm: The Conquest of the Great North Faces of the Alps." by Gaston Rebuffat 

"Ascents of the Grand Teton 1898-1974"

"The view from the edge: Life and Landscapes of Beverly Johnson" by Gabriella Zim

“Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills” 

“Let My People Go Surfing” by Yvon Chouinard

“Climbing Ice” by Yvon Chouinard

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