The Life and Times of Tex Bossier

Pat Ament Remembers Colorado Climbing Legend

Tex Bossier (left) and Kim Miller pal around on El Cap Tower during an ascent of The Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley in 1975. Photograph courtesy Kim Miller

American climbing pioneer Floyd “Tex” Allen Bossier, born in 1944, passed away on September 7, 2015 at Saint-Jorioz, France.

1961: First Ascent of Culp-Bossier Route

As a climber, Tex Bossier is best known for making the first ascent of the classic Culp-Bossier route (III 5.8) at age 16 with Bob Culp on the North Buttress of Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado in the summer of 1961.

The route ascends a steep alpine face with lots of moderate climbing and tricky routefinding. Culp, in his story Full Value, wrote that in 1961, “Tex’s enthusiasm proved so unshakeable that he soon became one of my favorite partners.” The mountain weather turned on the pair as a storm moved in that afternoon, but they climbed relentlessly, finishing the route in a typical Colorado thunderstorm.

Bossier’s 1960s Climbing Partners

Bossier displayed a zest for climbing as well as humor and humility that day, qualities which he carried on many more ascents over the years.  His climbing partners were a who’s who of 1960s climbing greats, including Layton Kor, Yvon Chouinard, Huntley Ingalls, Pat Ament, and Jim McCarthy.

Tex Climbed with Layton Kor

Bossier was one of Layton Kor’s regular partners in the early 1960s around Boulder, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

One of their best weeks was in 1963 when Kor and Bossier climbed several routes, including the first ascent of the Gray Pillar (III 5.10d), on the lower East Face of 14,265-foot Longs Peak. The last route they did was a continuation of The Diagonal (V 5.11b A0) which Kor had first climbed in 1959 with Ray Northcutt.

Kor reckoned they could straighten the line, aid climbing up a thin crack to Broadway, a large ledge, instead of traversing up right.

Big Drama on The Diagonal

The pair quickly climbed The Diagonal’s lower pitches, reaching the traverse in four hours. Then the rain began. Kor thought it was easier to continue up the new line rather than retreat so he headed up the bottoming crack. Rain, however, funneled down the face and the rope, soaking Bossier at his belay stance. He later recalled, “I was freaked out. Then it started getting cold, but we were committed.” Progress was slow as Kor aided upward and Bossier had “uncontrollable shivering and cramps on the belays.” He thought if they didn’t get off the climb that day that he probably wouldn’t survive.

Layton Kor Saves the Day

The rain turned to snow and fog shifted across the face. Bossier, however, had the right climbing partner. Layton Kor, one of the best climbers in the world at that time, continued hammering pitons. Bossier had his doubts though, thinking, “What’s gonna happen if we get stuck? Who is there to come and rescue us? There’s only one person in the whole of the United States who can get me off this climb—and I’m with him!” At one point an avalanche cascaded down the wall, knocking Kor out of his aiders, but he swarmed back up and the pair finished the route, the Diagonal Direct (V 5.9 A3),  soaked to the skin in a snowstorm.

More Adventures with Layton Kor

Layton Kor’s autobiography Beyond the Vertical relates more climbing adventures with Bossier, and Tex himself penned stories for the book about first ascents he shared with Kor at Rocky Mountain National Park and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in western Colorado. Layton Kor wrote, “Tex Bossier’s willingness to jump into the deep end on such epic adventures as the Diagonal Direct and Chasm View Wall, and come through smiling, was a lesson in fortitude and good spirits in the face of adversity.”

Tex Bossier Remembrance by Pat Ament

Colorado climber, musician, artist, and author Pat Ament shared a remembrance of that golden age of American rock climbing and of his friend and climbing partner, Tex Bossier.

“In the dark of the Sink, that little beer joint on the Hill in Boulder, we often gathered.

I was the youngest, but always there were Layton, Tex, Culp, Huntley Ingalls. Dylan's Just Like a Woman played on the juke box. I see Tex's face in the smoky, dirty atmosphere. We sat at heavy wooden picnic tables every inch of which were carved with names and phrases. There were stories to be told, adventures to recount, among the shadows in that black. Layton had to stoop to go through the doors into the Sink, and always with him were some one of us who tagged along, about to embark on a new adventure the following day, or to start the drive somewhere that evening.”

Ament and Bossier Climbed Around Boulder, Colorado

“In 1965 I hung by bare hands from Supremacy Crack. My belayer was Tex Bossier. He was one of our small, elite cadre of climbers around Boulder, and I talked him into going with me to Eldorado Canyon to try this new crack [David] Rearick had discovered. Neither of us had much experience with hand cracks, so it would be a learning experience. When I glanced down at him, he smiled with approval and said he was amazed anyone should want to try such an overhanging crack. I was just out of high school, and he was older and more mature. I relied on him for wisdom, and I'm sure his soundness in a good way counterbalanced my brashness. He had such a good spirit and was a pleasure to be around. By virtue of his presence I wanted to do well. Everyone liked Tex. He was Bob Culp's partner on any number of climbs, and he was Layton's partner at times. I did not make the crack that day, but Tex praised me that I got over halfway.”

Climbing in Eldorado Canyon with Ament

“One day Tex and I decided to climb in Eldorado. He was completely out of shape and had not done a climb in months. Yet he was in the mood and ready. I told him we could try the Northwest Corner (5.10) of The Bastille, and he did not hesitate to agree. I had a feeling I was going to take him up on something too hard, and sure enough at the crux move on the first pitch, as he followed, he moved too high, did not see the hold out to the right, and after a fall or two (seconding) made a really hard move that was certainly more difficult than the normal 5.9 move.

He was gung ho and laughed in his usual wry, disgusted sort of way. That was that, though. ‘Ament, you are getting too strong,’ he said, in his usual acknowledging way. This is something we all remember about Tex, that he knew who each of us was, that he noticed and cared. One pitch was enough. We rappelled and went somewhere easier.”

Tex Bossier was Generous and Patient

“We are going one by one, but with every breath of life to which we hold, as best we are able, and with every sense that lasts of those sacred times, we remember, muse, and feel fortunate to have been part of a time when all was new. Almost everything we climbed was a first ascent. I see in my mind various climbs with Tex, a very good soul. I don't know anyone who did not like him. While perhaps not the strongest climber, he was always willing to set off on an adventure, ready whether it be the smooth fortress of Hallett Peak, up into lightning with Culp and only a handful of old bent pitons, or with Kor and Jim McCarthy on a 2,000-foot wall on North Chasm View in the Black Canyon. He was one of us.

"Tex's recent death in France of cancer took him from us, though in body only and not in spirit. I hear that laugh of his, that amazement he always expressed whenever someone did something well. He was generous and was patient with my foolish words. Like Layton Kor, Tex will haunt the terrain of Longs Peak, the Black Canyon, and Eldorado Canyon. It is important that we remember such grand souls.”