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A Climber We Lost: Brian Bermingham

Each January we post a farewell tribute to those members of our community lost in the year just past. Some of the people you may have heard of, some not. All are part of our community and contributed to climbing.


You can read the full tribute to Climbers We Lost in 2022 here.

Brian Bermingham, 74, January 10

Brian Bermingham, AKA the Mouse from Merced, was a Yosemite climber. In 1961, when Bermingham was 13, his family moved to Merced, CA, a short drive away from Yosemite’s gates. Thus sparked a lifelong love of the land, climbing, and culture of Yosemite.

As an active climber through the 1970s and 1980s, Bermingham was often a resident of Camp 4, climbing Half Dome and El Capitan, among other major formations, and immersing himself in the community. He left Yosemite for some time, pursuing a career and starting a family, but returned to the Valley for the last 15 years of his life.

“He was surrendering to the thing that made him feel like a human being,” said friend and longtime Yosemite local, Dean Fidelman. “Climbing made him feel a part of something. Coming back and reconnecting with people made him still feel like a part of climbing.”

Bermingham in Yosemite in the late 1970s. (Photo: Jim Shirley, courtesy of the Brian Bermingmham Collection / Facebook)

Bermingham and Fidelman connected in his later years, when Bermingham returned to the Valley to relive the majesty and mystique he’d known as a younger man. At that point in his life, Bermingham had health complications that kept him from climbing, but he stayed a part of the community and was an active player in the Yosemite Facelift, an annual parkwide event, organized by the Yosemite Climbing Association, that unifies subsects of climbers under the common goal of cleaning up litter in the park. Bermingham felt that the Facelift was a great way to connect with all generations of climbers and to give back to the community and the land he loved. In a Facebook post from 2021, Bermingham wrote: “On the second day of Facelift my true love gave to me two pounds of paving stone and a bagful of assorted microlitter. Yosemite Facelift rocks.”

Beyond his love for climbing, Bermingham was a photographer, artist, reader, writer, and intellectual. Fidelman said that whenever they were hanging out, Bermingham was making photographs, adding that he was an inquisitive person, always reading and able to have a discourse about obscure topics outside of climbing, including art and politics.

“He wasn’t a linear guy,” Fidelman said. “When I started climbing and Brian started climbing you started at the bottom and went to the top. It’s not that way anymore. You can start at the top, you can start at the middle, you can start anywhere you want and finish anywhere you want. That’s what life is kind of about. I think a lot of climbers live their life that way. It’s conceptual, you have all of these experiences and all of these lifetimes within this linear thing.”

Bermingham passed away on January 10, 2022, after years of health complications. He is survived by his daughter and two step-sons. One of his step-sons, Scott Ruffalo, wrote on Facebook: “Thank you Brian Bermingham for loving my mother. She thought the world of you, because you were a good man with a kind and loving heart.”

Two months before his passing, Bermingham posted on Facebook a poem that he’d penned:

life passages

 

from somewhere beyond the event horizon

to a world of hurt

across an ocean of doubt

bordering the vastness of the plains of despair

to the banks of a river of travail

pay the boatman his due

for escorting you to a new life

let it not be another world of hurt

but free of doubt and despair

and much, if any, travail

You can read the full tribute to Climbers We Lost in 2022 here.

—Bennett Slavsky