Tributes to Layton Kor, 1938–2013

Layton Kor during the second ascent of the Naked Edge

Layton Kor leading the Naked Edge, Eldorado Canyon. Photo by Pat Ament / Copyright Chris Archer)

Climbing asked partners, friends, and admirers of the late Layton Kor to write a few words in tribute. Click on each name or scroll down to read what they said. We will continue to add tributes as we receive them.  

Jeff Achey, Pat Ament, Chris Archer, John Gill, Steve Komito, Steve Levin, Jim McCarthy, Mike Pont, Royal Robbins, Steve Roper

Jeff Achey
Co-author of Climb! The History of Rock Climbing in Colorado; first ascensionist of hard Eldorado Canyon free climbs

I never knew Layton Kor, but like many Colorado climbers I learned to understand climbing through Kor stories. To me, Kor represented a kind of focus, an almost desperate willpower. If a person was going to climb, it should count. When Kor saw a beautiful line—and he had a great eye for lines—it was as if he was stricken. He just had to climb it, and he would make it count.

I think Kor’s most distinctive routes are in Eldorado Canyon: mixed free and aid lines like The Wisdom, Canary Pass, and Night. Foot-for-foot at the time of the FAs, these were the most outrageous pieces of rock yet climbed. Ground-up, onsight, very few bolts. When the cracks ran out, Kor would hook and nail the most fragile sandstone flakes, and if those ran out he would start free climbing again. He was almost unstoppable—a big, powerful, blue-collar bricklayer turned loose on the rock.

And in my mind, more than anyone, Kor embodied climbing in the 1960s. Though he was incredibly skilled, he wasn’t a technician. He had the speed and boldness of the great European alpinists, spiked with the American fascination for big walls, but his climbing wasn’t about glory or legacy. Instead, for Kor, climbing was part of the urgent, existential soul-searching that represented his generation as a whole. So for me, that will be Kor’s true legacy: Climbing should be a journey to the edge of the impossible, in search of the unknowable.

Lynn Hill, Pat Ament, and Layton Kor

Lynn Hill, Pat Ament, and Layton Kor. Photo copyright Chris Archer

Pat Ament
Frequent partner in Colorado during the 1960s

It mattered to Layton that in my early teens I already had a reputation as a climber, my small, wiry body strong and full of desire. He needed competent companions. Not many could keep up with him. I was determined. In time, I hoped I would be one who could ascend with him almost as an equal. Layton hovered down into the little breathing universe of my face, gazed into my eyes, and with his well-known smile, that small, curved, Clint Eastwood, half-moon line at either corner of his mouth, gave me the famed look of the imp that seemed to say you were at the center of the best days you would ever know.

A warm winter day of late 1961, or was it early '62, Layton and I set out to make the second ascent of Eldorado’s spellbinding Naked Edge. A few days earlier, with Bob Culp, Layton had made the first ascent of the route. He was eager to get back up there and relive the route's exhilarating exposure. The route reaches upward into Eldorado sky in true grandeur. Unlike a straight corner of a building, the Naked Edge gradually steepens, from vertical to overhanging, a truly imposing structure of sandstone about 600 feet above the bushes and trees and talus.

Harvey Carter, Layton Kor, and Ray Northcutt

Harvey Carter, Layton Kor, and Ray Northcutt. Photo copyright Chris Archer

He and I soloed some 200 feet or more up the steep Redguard route, the large man above me. The final moves to the actual start of the Naked Edge took on a frightening aspect. I watched Layton stem, stretch, and traverse under the ceiling of a cave and then out to its lip. I had not done this cave before and watched him deal with an assortment of loose blocks, half-cemented bricks, fitting together in interlocking sets. These blocks formed the ceiling of the cave and its walls. Layton leaned confidently back on whatever block he chose to grab. Having come down through a family of bricklayers, Layton was a natural and skilled artisan. Near my school one day I ran into him at a nearby work site. With his large hands he wielded a trowel expertly, judged the exact dollop of mortar, or chipped a brick's edges to a perfect fit. On one route he and I did on Eldorado’s Rotwand, a vertical line he named Kinnder Rooten, his Dutch for “kind of rotten,” he seemed to hold the wall together as he climbed. He was a master at this sort of transcendence. Not only did Layton climb walls, he built them—a climb would go up before our eyes.

He leaned out and up to a flake near the top lip of the cave and made a lieback move over and upward. He continued until out of my sight on a ledge at the start of the actual Naked Edge. Layton saw no need for his 15-year-old partner to have a belay. Apparently he was not worried about me. My upper body was bound and constricted, by the coiled rope I carried around one shoulder, the pack, and a lightweight down jacket I wore. From time to time I remembered—with a small rush of excitement—that I had no rope. If I fell, if a hold broke off, I would go 300 feet straight to the ground. It was impossible to be sure about every hold, to know if a hold had a hidden fracture perhaps.

My parents trusted Layton. In their eyes he was the perfect and proper guide. Not once did they ask him or me a single question, as to whether or not we knew what we were doing. For them, it was a given. I was in the safest possible hands. They might have shuddered had they seen the situation I now was in, loaded with gear, choked by my  pack straps and rope. How naively but faithfully I moved out under the roof of that cave, where the slightest slip meant the end of my apprenticeship. It was not for me to wonder why, rather it was mine to do… or die.

Huntley Ingalls and Layton Kor. Photo copyright Chris Archer

Chris Archer
Friend and Eldorado Canyon aficionado

I had the good fortune to become friends with Layton during the last six years of his life, and to climb with him on the last route he did in Eldorado Canyon (The Bomb, February 2009). For decades before I knew him, he had inspired me to climb fast and to put up new routes. Unfortunately, although I tried, I could never quite pull off his trademark gallows humor, like “Don’t fall now or we’ll both go!” To pull that off, at least occasionally, you must actually belay off A5 anchors, and my partners, unlike Layton’s, knew there was absolutely no chance of my doing that! With Layton, it was always a distinct possibility.

Layton inspired me even more deeply during his last few years. As I got to know him better I discovered a kind, compassionate, and gentle soul who never complained of the discomfort and indignities that he almost constantly experienced, and who was still just as excited about climbing as he was in the 1960s. His sense of humor and appreciation of the absurd never waned, even as his body failed him. I hope that when the Reaper comes for me I can face him with the good humor, courage, self-deprecation, and unflappable style that Layton unfailingly exhibited.

Thanks, Layton, for teaching me so much of what is important in climbing and important in life.  You’ll always be with me, partner. I just wish you’d stayed here with us much longer.

John Gill
Bouldering pioneer

I will always remember Layton on his first visit to the Jenny Lake boulders in the Tetons, so many years ago. He wore lightweight climbing boots, probably Kronhoffers, argyle knee socks neatly tucked into corduroy knickers, an alpine sweater, and a stocking cap. I still see him as he stretched across the traverse on Falling Ant Slab, chatting away cheerfully. His enthusiasm and energy were infectious. On another occasion, my wife, Lora, and I were swimming at String Lake when Layton arrived with two doting young women in tow, stripped to his shorts, and swam out to the boulder in the middle of the lake, where we carried on a shouted conversation at a distance. His energy and climbing feats were exceeded only by his charm.

Steve Komito
Climbing partner

In the early 1960s Layton harbored a deep desire to repeat three ascents that he considered desert classics: Spider Rock, Totem Pole, and Cleopatra's Needle. In less than four years of intense activity he accomplished these three aims plus nearly a dozen first ascents, including Castleton Tower, the Priest, the Titan, Shangri-La, Venus Needle, Bell Tower, Standing Rock, and the Mitten Thumb. The last two I was fortunate enough to participate in.

My clearest memories of these adventures include the feeling of sand in my ears and eyes, the sight of Layton's enormous rock shoes in stirrups over my head, tiny belay stances hung over a void so vast that at times it seemed I must be looking downward into the heavens, and always, the sense that The Force was with me.

On a cold afternoon in March of 1964, I was winched, in tandem with a haul sack, onto the summit of the Mitten Thumb. This space looked about the size of a card table and was poised more than 400 feet above the level floor of Monument Valley. The exposure was so appalling that…I could not rise off my knees. Layton grinned monstrously at my discomfort. In a moment he had unleashed me and tossed the two rope ends back over the dreaded edge…. With a theatrical look of finality Layton dropped out of sight like a sacrificial maiden down the throat of a volcano. I clung to the rappel ropes which, taut as fiddle strings, were humming a chorale of salvation and rebirth. Up from the depths rang a discordant aria: "Oh, shit!"

"Layton! Oh God, what's gone wrong?" I couldn't bear to peer into the abyss to view the worst for myself. In an instant I could envision my bones bleaching on this lofty altar.

"Jesus, shut up, will you? When I want your help, I'll ask for it!" Layton's reply might have registered briefly on seismographs in neighboring states. I felt reassured that the descent was proceeding normally.

[Excerpted, with permission, from a story in Climbing 113.]

Steve Levin
Author of the Eldorado Canyon guidebook

It isn't possible to be a Colorado climber and not be influenced by Layton Kor. His imprint is in the DNA of places like Eldorado Canyon, where I have spent so much of my life. Even the names of his routes inspire wonder: King's X, The Wisdom, Kloeberdanz, Guenese. These aren't just route names, they're icons from another era, a time when so much was unknown and unclimbed. They transcend the ordinary, rising into the realm of myth.

Jim McCarthy
Partner on the first ascent of Mt. Proboscis' southeast face (1963) and other routes

When I think of Layton, the first thing that comes up is Energy. I've been around climbing now for over six decades, and have been fortunate to have met many of the great climbers in that span of time. Every generation someone appears with incredible drive and enthusiasm. Fritz Wiessner comes to mind. So does Galen Rowell. Layton was one of these unique people. He burst onto the scene in the late ’50s like a supernova lighting up the night sky. His like comes around every once in a while. He will be missed.

Mike Pont
Early developer of Rifle, Colorado, sport climbing

I'll never forget rolling into Rifle, back in the day, with Kurt Smith. We came around the corner by the Wasteland. There he was, knee deep in the creek and fishing. We started bolting some route, Vision Thing I think, and he came over and watched. After about 15 minutes of watching us with our Bosch hammer drill, he turned to Kurt and laughed, saying we were lucky he didn't have "one of those" back in his day or there would have been nothing left to bolt. He went on to tell us that he had put up a route or two down closer to the fish hatchery. Never found those pitches, but I'm sure they are there. Good bye Layton, and thanks.

Royal Robbins
Partner on Mt. Proboscis (1963)

Layton was a wonderful climber, and a really genuine person. Very likable and fun to climb with.

Steve Roper
Partner on first ascent of West Buttress of El Capitan (1963)

When I first met Kor, in the autumn of 1960, I was appalled by his bursting energy. It was the time of year when the burnt-out residents of Camp 4 were doing short routes and telling themselves that winter was imminent. So when Kor showed up and aggressively paced the campsites in search of partners for big routes, I cringed. I had already enjoyed a good year, after all. But, as I soon learned, Kor was a persuasive fellow, and we went off to make the third ascent of the north buttress of Lower Cathedral Rock. This climb was notorious for its intimidating aid pitches, and on one of these I saw Kor at his finest. Whistling "Bolero" incessantly, he soared upward with such professionalism and verve that I had no idea of the pitch's difficulty. Cleaning, I found nested pins, tied-off pins, knifeblades mashed into seams, and pins packed behind creaky flakes. I was impressed.

Kor wasn't around the Valley much during the next few years, but in early 1963 we laid plans to try the Nose of El Cap during the spring. In February, as I was doing little but working and socializing, I received a sobering message from Kor: "My weights, the boulders, and new routes in Eldorado are keeping me in superb shape." He went on to say, "No matter what we take on the wall, we will still suffer, but I don't care; for the Nose I'll go through anything (even lose one of my balls!). Impressed once again, I headed immediately for the local boulders.

On March 20 a postcard of El Cap, postmarked Yosemite, arrived at my house. "Come to the Valley, dad, to join me in the snow. I am hot to do something. Will be waiting for you." This telegraphic prose lured me away from my job in mid-April and into an adventure that kindles my memory equally with the climb of the Nose (Kor, Glen Denny, and I managed to climb this superb route—its third ascent—at the end of May). The weather in the Valley during the spring of 1963 was abysmal and Kor was restless. On one of his wanderings Kor studied a route that seemed not only worthy of his skills but, more importantly for this time of year, dry. The West Buttress of El Capitan is not as high as the Nose, nor is it as imposing, but it had caught the eye of earlier climbers because it so boldly separated two outstanding walls: the Salathé Wall and the west face.

Every Yosemite climber of the early ’60s knew of Kor's prowess on rock, but a few neophytes were blissfully unaware of his powers of persuasion. To climb with Kor was to be in the company of a master, and when the master called upon you—well, there was no possibility of refusal. Talented, but somewhat intimidated by Yosemite's walls, Erick Beck had planned a modest schedule for the year: a slow progression of increasingly difficult ascents. El Cap, the dream of us all, lay in Beck's future. Or so he thought.

Kor lured Beck to the West Buttress as easily as the Pied Piper ensnared the children of Hamelin. Later, Beck was to claim that it had not been a mistake to accompany Kor on the lower section of the West Buttress; rather, it had been an education. But it was hard going, and after several climbing days spread out over a fortnight, Beck realized he was out of his league, mentally if not physically. Kor, meanwhile, was enjoying himself immensely: his main concern was whether Beck would have the mental fortitude to continue. But Kor had long been accustomed to climbing partners less committed than himself, and he knew someone else could be coerced if Beck came to his senses, which he did in early May.

Jim Harper was next; he lasted a day, as did Kor's third partner, Ed Cooper. Beck went up once again in a futile attempt to conquer his fears. Now it was my turn, for I had recently arrived in the Valley to get in shape for the Nose. I too fell prey to the soft ministrations of Kor, and I too was lured unwillingly to the West Buttress.

Feeling uneasy about the blatant use of fixed ropes in an era when such aids were beginning to be frowned upon by our peers, Kor insisted that we soon push for the top. I will never forget the overall feeling of the next three days. I cannot conjure up individual pitches—thankfully, I must add—but certain segments have permeated my consciousness. One incident, a trivial one, still amuses me. There I was, nervously affixed to a vast plate of granite by strings and spikes. Kor arrived at my hanging belay station bristling with an enormous rack of iron. Without pausing, he clambered over me as if I were a mere set of handholds and footholds. The iron rudely caressed my body; flailing limbs knocked my glasses askew. Seconds later, his feet treading my hair, he was driving a piton, asking for my remaining iron, and attaching the haul rope. I gazed at him in wonderment.

Near sunset of the second day we found ourselves close to the rim, huddled on tiny bivouac ledges separated by 40 feet or so. Kor settled onto the higher ledge in the twilight. From my perch I watched the Ribbon Fall Amphitheater turn golden, an entrancing sight. Kor, always uneasy when alone, rappelled to my ledge for social reasons, pleading with me to search my brain and come up with esoteric variations on the word that described a certain female feature. Normally I would have responded to such a request with gusto, but my reverie was so profound that I demurred. But finally it became too difficult to remain aloof from Kor's power, and I rattled on and on as nightfall arrived and Kor reluctantly swung hand over hand back to his lonely granite aerie.

[Reprinted with permission. This piece was excerpted from Roper's original draft for a chapter in Beyond the Vertical, a Layton Kor book published in 1983. A new edition of this book, edited by Stewart Green, will be out this summer.]


Previous Comments

That's it Royal, that's all you have to offer? Steve gave us so much more. For those of us of the same age, that idolize you guys, we expect at least a small eulogy of the greats. One of which you are.

Dyke reese - 01/27/2014 6:38:31

I met Layton Kor in 1964 through friends who were climbers. He was a brick layer by profession but had already made spectacular climbs in the Grand Tetons, on El Capitan, etc. A gentle, quiet man, with enormous hands, he invited me to climb in Eldorado Canyon with him and a friend one Saturday morning. It was a fairly steep climb and we were all on lines for safety. There was one point where you had to wedge your knee into a crack, reach up and pull yourself over a small ledge - this some 300 feet from the floor of the rock face. Like a fool, I had worn cutoffs, so it took me awhile to get my knee anchored, and by the time I did, I didn't have enough strength left in my arms to pull myself up, and I fell. Spinning on the rope, I cracked my dead against the rocks, getting a slight concussion, and Layton and TJ (?)lowered me down to the ground. A week later, Layton showed up at my house with all his gear and said "Come on, we are going back to Eldorado. If you don't do it now you will never climb again." And so we did, and when we reached that spot, he simply pulled me up over it from above and we went on to the top. It was glorious. A year or so later I was in the Art Library at CU and saw Layton there looking through some art books. He had just returned from climbing in Germany and Austria and was fascinated by the work of Edvard Munch! We talked about the art and about his trip. I am not sure I ever saw him again, but my experiences with him helped shape me into the person I became. I just learned of his death earlier this year through a notice about a tribute gathering organized for this weekend here in Boulder. There will be many stories, but I will always remember mine. Sheila Koons Tabakoff

Sheila Tabakoff - 06/21/2013 1:55:52

Deaths usually do not bother me - Layton's does !! Summer 1960, Art Gran, George Bloom and myself arrive in Boulder and add Layton to Art's VW bug - heading to the Bugaboos with all our gear , Art is only person in the car shorter than 6'2". Having unfolded and packed in to the Meadows, Layton decides to drag me up onto the North Face of Bugaboo. We are wearing only kletterschue and mince across the still frozen neve towards the base of the NF - nicking little cuts in the snow and being prepared to "self arrest" with the pointy noses of our piton hammers. Of course we scream up 3rd class about 800' of slabs which if I had being going slower I would have insisted on a belay for. The climbing begins to appear very serious to me - to cross a blank slab towards a crack system Layton sets a knife blade from which he reaches way WAY to the right and smacks in part of a 3/16" bolt from which he pendulums to a crack and resumes 5th class - up UP. There in my most ambitious of all climbing situation - as I hang on the bolt , legs spread for balance whilst tapping out the knife blade, my piton hammer dangling now from its sling, as I pull out the knifeblade with my fingers, is suddenly un-knotted and bounces down thousands of feet, growing micro-scopically smaller every millisecond. Now we are fucked - anticipating many further pitches of aid and I don't even have a piton hammer - what an A-hole. Layton halts my apologies and says calmly and confidently -"hey, don't worry - just let ol' TROOPER Kor take care of it!". He starts screaming up all the subsequent pitches which he makes 5th class - occasionally stabbing a 3/4' angle into the dirt at the back of some crack. Who's gonna take care of us now - Trooper Kor ain't with us no more.

Claude Suhl - 04/30/2013 8:54:32

My climbing days began in 1968, "Big Rock", few know of me, however, many routes do. The climbs I did were between me and the rock, nothing, no one else mattered. Layton was a common name among climbers, but a very uncommon human being/climber. He set standards for others to follow..It's sad that todays equipment lessens the skill of climbers. Layton has "forever" been placed into climbing folklure, which he did even prior to his leaving. Thanks to those who rememberd and set aside any differences as well as egos to remember Layton, (Robbins)

Bill Skadder - 04/29/2013 8:11:58

I met Layton as a bright eyed 16 year old planning my first expedition to SE Alaska. I was recovering in a hospital bed when I found a photo credited to him in Ascent that had some distant peaks in the background I couldn't resist. After writing to him through the editor of the magazine, he took the time to reply and offered a closer photo of my dream climb from a recon trip he had been on. Traveling through Colorado that February in the late 70's, I stopped by his home and, nervous as I was to meet such a famous climber, I spoke with him about my objective. He offered encouragement (even though I was obviously quite young), then gave me his grainy black and white of the NF I still have today. I can still feel his warm, firm, climber's handshake. I made it to Alaska that June riding on his encouragement and buoyed by the thought that maybe a little climbing skill osmosis had taken place. We suffered typical SE Alaska weather he had warned me about, and opted for a different objective leaving my dream climb to a future FA which has yet to happen. Maybe he now has the chance to climb that arete on the NF we talked about. As climbers, it seems the list of dream climbs never shortens. I would like to think that Layton continues to follow his dreams, climb, and smell the freshening mountain sunrise where ever he may be. -Wishing you warm bivouacs and new horizons. Keep climbing Layton. Thank you.

Curtis Olson - 04/27/2013 11:46:33

Never met him, but always an inspiration since the beginning of my climbing career with the Alpine Rescue Team in Evergreen, CO about 1962.

Bill Wedgwood - 04/26/2013 6:29:45

A few years ago after Layton had moved to Kingman, we had been talking about a line he had been eyeing. There were some cool towers out in the desert he had been scouting. Anyway, his health had been failing him for some time and his energy level didn't seem to be very high. Thinking it was going to be a relaxing weekend we sorted gear on Saturday evening and then I went to sleep, looking forward to sleeping in and then waiting for Layton to get up the next morning. 4:30 AM my blissful rest was brought to a screeching halt by Layton pounding on the door and telling me to get up and get going! He hadn't lost his gumption, that's for sure! As it turned out, by the time we got to the base of the climb at 6AM, it was already 105 degrees. We talked it over and rather quickly decided to go to the Cracker Barrel and eat bacon instead. He fell in love with my shoes, a brand new pair of Acopa JB's. When I told him what size they were, 14, he couldn't believe it. He tried them on and they fit perfectly. I gave Bachar a call and they didn't have any 14's in stock at that time. John said he wanted to give Layton a pair at no charge since he admired Layton so much. I just gave Layton mine since they were new and John said he'd send me another pair when he had them. Layton asked me for John's phone number a while later so he could call him and thank him. Some time after that, John called me to thank me for getting Layton in touch with him. He so enjoyed his conversation with Layton! Two weeks later, John passed away. I miss you already Layton. Thanks for being my friend.

Jody Langford - 04/26/2013 5:29:02

Layton passed away with significant medical, funeral, and other expenses. Friends of Layton's have set up a website for donations in Layton's memory to help Layton's wife, Karen Kor, with those expenses. The website address is: All donations go straight to Karen with no intermediaries and no fees. Please give generously and spread the word!

Chris Archer - 04/26/2013 10:15:50

I didn't know Layton well, but I stayed at his home in Kingman a couple of times. He and his wife were kind and gracious, and made me and my friends feel very much at home. He seemed like a big kid in a lot of ways - a really big kid, with a lot going on "upstairs," and a whole lot of energy. He took up a lot of space in a room, and seemed more comfortable outdoors, where he could swing his long arms and legs around and not hit anything. Layton couldn't sit still - his mind was always going, and his body was always trying to catch up. He was intelligent, funny, quick-witted, and a great conversationalist. I remember one evening, "Patriot Games" was on TV and he muted all the action scenes and provided his own dialogue. He was hilarious. Some people are spectators in life - Layton wasn't a spectator. He couldn't even watch television without jumping into the action. Layton wasn't slow, like an old man, even in his 70s. He was lively, animated... he'd light up when he talked about climbs he was going to do, get very excited about the prospects of a new crag, a new route. He didn't rest on his laurels, brag about his accomplishments, or dwell on the past - didn't seem to care a lick about what he had done, but was much more excited to talk about the next climb. He was a young man in his mind and in his spirit. His damn body just gave out too soon. We did a few hikes, and went climbing one time in January 2010. I have only one picture: Layton, Scott Baxter, Albert Newman and me, sitting on the tailgate of Stewart Green's old Ford Ranger after a day of Arizona desert climbing. Layton worked on a new route that day and we all followed. That was a good day out. He and the other guys made it that way. I didn't take any pictures of Layton, and never asked him about any of his climbs. I was a visitor, not a voyeur, and the stories he did share were unprompted, and startled me in their detail. He had seen a lot, and remembered everything. I'm so glad I met him. He reminds me of why we're here. We may not all be magnificent climbers, but we don't have to be spectators, either. I think about him and am reminded to leave the past behind, live in the moment, and look to the future, the next challenge, the next climb. Squeeze every drop of life out of the body you've got, while you've got it. Don't be a spectator, be part of the action. I think he inspired a lot of people that way, made a lot of people want to do more, live more, be more like Layton Kor.

Susan Joy Paul - 04/25/2013 5:43:57

A Late Introduction To a Third Cousin. My grandpa Kor and Layton were cousins. We had a National Geographic from the early ‘60’s featuring his climb of The Titan as well as his book. That is how I knew of him. When I moved to Colorado in 2008 and saw on a climbing website that there was going to be a presentation sponsored by Neptune Mountaineering on Layton’s climbs I was confused. I didn’t realize that he was still around. I prepared a short note of introduction as to who I was and slipped it to him before the show. Several weeks later I got a nice handwritten note back from him stating that it had been a long time since he’d “met a genuine Kor”. My family and I stopped by his home the next summer for a visit and he and his wife welcomed us enthusiastically. We went out for pizza and he told story after story about climbing, fishing, and his travels. He really was larger than life…. Exuberant, manly, boyish, and bounding in energy. Once it cooled off in the fall of 2010 I went out to do some climbing. Layton’s mind had first ascents planned. One would be a first of the “Kor-Johnson”. It just goes to show how much he wanted those around him to really “live”. Sadly, however, his body had other plans. He toughed through a fourth to low fifth class scramble which he protected with some cams, pitons, and nails. Layton wanted to make the most of our day out together and willed his body on. He cared about me and about showing me a good time. We kept in touch over the next couple of years and got together when he came to Colorado. He went out of his way to make me feel valued. The thing I learned from Layton over the brief 4 ½ years I knew him was to never stop exploring. Don’t rest or brag about what you’ve already done. Always look for the undone and do it. Keep your mind active with learning new things. Take time for other people. And “Getting old is no fun”. And, it was good to know Layton Kor.

Barry Johnson - 04/24/2013 9:36:48

I first met Layton in the fall of 1963, in the local dive known as the Sink. I had been climbing already on the Flatirons when we met. I was eager to climb and Layton was eager to meet young coeds so it was instant rapport. We tromped through the snow that winter to get to the base of climbs and although we never did grades higher than 5.7, had the time of our lives, often in the company of Larry Dalke and Pat Ament. I was also on the trip to Monument Valley when Steve and Layton did the Mitton Thumb. Being away from home for the first time and an impressionable 18 year old, what I received from Layton more than any climbing knowledge, was an appreciation for life with all its absurdities and an introduction to a world beyond the small town conservatism I had experienced until then. From him I learned of faraway places and other interesting climbing characters. Best of all, he conveyed to me a sense of the possible if I was willing to take risks. Often through the years, I have heard him in the back of my mind saying to me, “Just got for it and see what happens”. In time circumstances and marriage to another climber intervened and we lost touch with each other. Layton was profoundly affected by John Harlan’s death on the Eiger and entered a reflective and religious period. I went off to Nepal to do research. In fact, we did not meet again until nearly 50 years later. Again it was instant rapport but tempered by maturity. At one level Layton was the same; at another very changed. His sense of humor was still intact, but his devotion to family was something I had not seen before. Humbled by his disease, he had developed a fine sense of irony and compassion. A fun loving bohemian had transformed into a great human being. Or perhaps he had been that all along and it was I who had changed. I was always impressed by Layton’s energy and climbing abilities, his sense of humor and adventurous spirit. Now I also remember him for his great dignity and strength of character, right up to the painful and exhausting end.

Jan Sacherer - 04/24/2013 8:13:17

Living in the shadow of Layton Kor had its ups and downs. For years as I was growing up in the early 60’s I idolized the man that I only got to see when he was home from a climbing trip and usually preparing for another. Then I reached the age where it was my turn to climb with the legend (at least in my eyes). The first climb I did with Layton was on the second buttress of Hallett Peak in Estes Park. I remember hiking the trail above Bear Lake with Joy Kor and thinking how will I ever keep up with this man. Joy and I had to take three steps to his one, and as many who have climbed with Layton know he always seemed to be in a rush to get on the wall. Needless to say it was a great day on a big wall with Layton leading and telling his jokes at the right time to keep me relaxed. My first climb on an exposed big wall Layton knew exactly when to inject the humor. About 15 years later I find myself living in the Philippines, and one day I receive a call from Layton wanting to come and do some diving. A couple of weeks later I am at the airport in Manila and here he was diving gear in hand towering a foot and a half above the rest. Hello nephew, when can we go diving? Well with the same zealous energy for climbing Layton loved to dive. For three weeks we went diving every day to new locations and hunting for big fish and lobster. Keeping up with Layton and his long legs and powerful kick was just like 15 years earlier heading up to Hallett. Layton headed back to the states and I settled back into my work and family life when the phone rings and Layton tells me he would like to come back to the Philippines. The next thing I know he is living there and convincing every one of my friends for a dive partner to go to new places. He has a topographical map of the bays and areas around where we live and is always studying them for a new dive site, as he did when studying the rock face for a new route. At this time in his life he met Karen his wife and what a relief that was for me as he had other interests then just diving. Layton moved on to Guam and was working as a window cleaner for a period doing high-rise buildings, and of course diving. I asked him about the window cleaning and he said there was nowhere else in Guam to climb. I moved to Arizona and Layton followed a little later where we had the pleasure of doing a number of first assents in the Huachuca Mountains. One in particular Mustang Mountain had a really great limestone face about 600 feet vertical until the last pitch which was overhanging for about 100 feet. We got to the base of that last pitch and there was a small ledge with a bush around which was a bunch of hardware nuts and pitons nested for a rappel anchor. I thought it strange until I followed Layton to the top. It was a killer, but as usual Layton calls out are you okay nephew with that calm but are you coming tone. I like to think that many before had tried and failed where Layton showed his skill. Layton was not only a climber, diver, fishing enthusiast, he was a great friend and Uncle. He never wanted to flaunt his accomplishments and often spoke to me about how he was not interested in making his life and climbing into a spectacle. For those that really knew Layton they know that he was always happy when he was climbing, or planning a climb. Thank You all for your kind words and thoughts of Layton.

Kordeen Kor - 04/24/2013 4:03:47

A brief P.S. Jim McCarthy is one of the people I most respect in climbing, and he is my good friend, so I don't think he will mind if I slightly tighten the second to last sentence of his entry above, to say, "His like came around once."

Pat Ament - 04/23/2013 7:46:57

I think I know what people mean when they say Layton did not complain about his illnesses. I think they mean he kept things in perspective and did not lose his sense of humor. He certainly did, though, talk about his ailments. Often on the phone with me, or on email, he expressed his irritation at being so limited now by his health problems. We discussed our various diseases and physical breakdowns. He certainly did share with me, speak candidly about, his discomfort, the pain he had, the fatigue, how old and bothersome dialysis was, and what medicine did what or failed altogether. We both did some complaining about how we wanted to find the strength again to get out and climb. He spoke with me about a trip to Boulder, where I might drive down and pick him up. We both share a special love for Boulder where we lived and climbed for a long time. We both have many friends there. But the health problems were getting to be too much, and Layton was quite frustrated that he no longer had the energy to make such a trip. It seemed so strange to me, in that once he would jump into his car and go anywhere on a whim. And then soon the health problems rather quickly worsened.

Pat Ament - 04/23/2013 7:40:00