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A Climber We Lost: Clark Jacobs, February 4

“Climbers We Lost” is an annual tribute to community members we've lost in the past year. Clark Jacobs, age 67, was one of those climbers.

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You can read the full tribute to Climbers We Lost in 2021 here.

Clark Jacobs, 67, February 4


As far as I go back in my memory, Clark Jacobs seems to be there. I thought he always would be. Clark was a climbers’ climber, the one you wanted to have your back when shit goes sideways.

Clark Jacobs. (Photo: Courtesy Jacobs Family)

Clark knew how to have a good time, and to get the people around him to smile. His charm was legendary. Just the name Kurt Vonnegut or the sound of any old blues will bring a thousand conversations to mind. Clark knew everyone and everyone knew Clark. Seemingly everyone liked Clark and wanted to be around him. His friends were the most eclectic roll call of any group I think I’ve ever known: Hollywood celebrities, academics, artists, dirtbags, you name it.

Not that there is any danger of him being nominated for sainthood. Some aspects of responsibility made him run for the exits. He was infamous for being cheap. An acquaintance of his once asked me, “Does that guy even own a wallet?” At the same time, if you had nothing and he was flush, he would share whatever he had: a job, money, food, booze.

Clark had the complete set of climbing skills, was at ease at the crags or in the mountains. His background ran the range from time on YOSAR dealing with the grimmest aspects of accidents to endless days of anchor and bolt replacement and other stewardship at home in Idyllwild, Southern California. He was comfortable on all kinds of terrain. One of my favorite memories of Clark is getting up in the morning in Idyllwild, having breakfast in town, and heading up to Humber Park. We walked up to the base of Tahquitz Rock and had a great time climbing The Vampire: laughing, yelling, and telling really bad jokes, with no one else at the crag. Hiked back down to the car, drove into town for beers and lunch, drove back up to Humber Park and hiked up to Suicide, where we did Valhalla and Insomnia. It was the Idyllwild Hat trick. That day was pure joy and just one of many. Clark climbed for more than 40 years. He was known for his estimated 500 soloes of the famous hard 5.9 Flower of High Rank at Suicide.

Clark was an extremely talented carpenter and the consummate guide, his profession for many years. His longest stint was with Bob Gaines’s outfit, Vertical Adventures. He had the ability to put anyone’s mind at ease and just climb. The first time my wife, Tonatzin, met Clark, we were climbing at Joshua Tree. I was one pitch up and out of sight. The initial moves were on a traverse and kind of sketchy. Clark strolled out of the desert, introduced himself and proceeded to talk her through the moves with his usual banter. She told me later, “Clark is amazing. When he was talking to me, I wasn’t nervous. I knew I could do this.” This was Clark’s magic. When you were with him, anything was possible.

Clark Jacobs. (Photo: Lisa Fry)

CJ was an exceptional climber, guide, human being and friend. He was the best partner in crime. He used to laugh at the fact that when I was talking to anyone about him, I would frequently refer to Clark as my first wife.

He had so many interests: he was an avid reader who finished a book in a night and wanted to discuss it the next day, and a great cook. As one friend, Calista Carradine, said at his memorial, “He made every meal seem like a king’s feast.”

He was thoughtful toward others: His friend Frank Bentwood said, “He always gave me great gifts, and they were the right gifts. He was very genuine. He’d always take care of you.” Frank said they often talked every day or every other day. “I really enjoyed his wisdom, and I really miss that cooking. I really miss him.” Others mentioned that Clark never forgot a birthday or holiday, would always send cards in the mail.

Eric Judson, son of Clark’s deceased friend Howard “Kojak” Judson, a climbing partner of Clark’s since 1971, said, “My dad really cherished Clark. He was very kind and thoughtful. He listened to what you said. … He remains a strong part of our family.”

Living with someone for months at a time in a two-person tent in Camp 4 or the back of a van on a job site in Sacramento or some tiny cramped space, you get to know who they really are. Clark was the man I would trust with any part of my life. He was the person you wanted with you, going through whatever life was throwing at you, and on any adventure.

Clark was Dutch-Indonesian, born in the Netherlands; in 1957 his family moved to Pasadena, California. In later life he fought a rare blood cancer for many years, but covid finally brought him to his end. He is survived by his brother, Jimmy Jacobs.

—Bob Bolton


You can read the full tribute to Climbers We Lost in 2021 here.

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