Harold Igoe, 1921-2007 - Climbing Magazine

Harold Igoe, 1921-2007


I first met Harold in Colorado, where he enlisted my services to guide him for 700 vertical feet of climbing over seven hours. He was 82 years old. Harold was born spirited, and he never slowed down. Born in Charleston, SC, raised in Chicago, IL, he was a service veteran of 25 years and flew B24s throughout Germany and northern Italy during WWII. Shot down “a few times,” and once walking 30 miles back to base, he was responsible for saving at least one fellow serviceman’s life. After the war, he flew Hurricane Hunter missions out of Bermuda. In uniform at 21 years old, he charmed his wife of 62 years on a bus in Miami, and they would spend their lives together. After serving, Harold returned to Chicago, where the only camping store in town asked him if he wanted to work for them “because he was always there.” The mountains would be his next quest. Harold’s first climbing experience was on the steep quartzite cliffs of Devil’s Lake. Over the ensuing decades, he would climb rock and alpine routes in the Wind Rivers, Tetons, Eldorado, Joshua Tree, Mexico, Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Sangre De Cristos, to name a few, in addition to aspiring to climb El Capitan. Harold and Julia were on the road nine months out of the year, and with all of his passion for climbing, he still found time to raise two boys, woo his gal, canoe the boundary waters of Minnesota, white water raft Browns Canyon on the Arkansas, spend Winters in Ajijic, Mexico, and guide backpacking and hiking tours in Mexico and the United States. No one knows for sure how 13-year-old Harold was allowed into “speak easy” joints in downtown Chicago during prohibition. What is clear is that Harold was well-liked by everyone who knew him. He was feisty, and he went after what he wanted. I spoke with Harold two weeks ago, and he was planning his next trip to Colorado to climb with me. You inspire me, Harold. I hope you climb your El Cap, and I hope that I have the courage to live with the vigor for life that you always have. Harold is survived by two sons, a daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren.

—Scott Smith