In Memoriam: Leon (Pete) Sinclair



Pete was a member of the faculty from 1971 – 1998

Pete was part of a legendary rescue on the North Face of the Grand Teton in 1977.  In 2014 the documentary film The Grand Rescue detailed this dangerous adventure.


from the film’s website:

Sinclair, a skilled, experienced chief of mountain rescue at Grand Teton National Park in the 1960’s, had a long mountaineering history, including the first ascent of the West Rib of Denali in 1959. Quiet, and with a philosophical manner, Pete was not easily ruffled. His democratic leadership confirmed the wisdom that allowed his mates to do what each did best during the rescue. Sinclair went on to earn a Ph.D. in English literature, and started his teaching career at the University of Wyoming . A few years later, at the beckoning of Willy Unsoeld, he joined the faculty at Evergreen State College in Olympia , Washington where he remained for three decades until retirement. A lover of stories, he has written widely, including the 1993 book, We Aspired: The Last Innocent Americans. The book was short listed in 1994 for the prestigious Boardman-Tasker Prize at the International Festival of Mountaineering Literature in London. Chapter 10 of We Aspired, entitled “At the Height,” remains today the best description of the 1967 north face rescue.



In Memoriam: Leon (Pete) Sinclair

5 Responses

  1. Pete was a man of many intelligences. I found his writing to be quite wonderful. After several years of having offices on the same hall, he told me he had visited Paris. He knew I had lived there and taken students there and he asked, “Why didn’t you tell me it was so amazing?”

    Susan Fiksdal December 1, 2015 at 8:36 pm #
  2. Pete, Susan Aurand and I once taught a Core Program that involved writing, painting and photography. It was over 25 years ago but I’m still in touch with some of the students from that program, and when we’re together we still talk about Pete.

    I was a neophyte but Pete was a seasoned veteran, and he was willing to share his wisdom about effective teaching strategies whenever we had lunch together. He was a great raconteur, thanks to the incredible life he had led prior to coming to Evergreen.

    While he was a great storyteller, he was (by his own admission) a terrible lecturer . . . except, that is, when he was performing beat poetry. On one particularly memorable spring day, he spoke (haltingly) about the poetry of the beats. Then, as a finishing touch to his lecture, he read Gregory’s Corso’s poem “Bomb.” The word ‘read’ hardly does justice to what we witnessed that day. He gave an absolutely electrifying performance, full of sound and fury, and signifying one helluva lot! Everyone in the Lecture Hall was completely stunned, and then rose to give him a standing ovation. Tonight, I’m still clapping.

    Bob Haft December 1, 2015 at 10:24 pm #
  3. Perhaps foremost among my many fond memories of Pete were of the faculty (and MES student) Spring Break dorry trip down the Grand Canyon in 1996, the year of the “big release”. Three events come to mind: 1) Pete talking about how much he loved Connie – how she is the sweetest person he ever knew, 2) his reading most every night of some book he was writing, and 3) advice he gave me on negotiating narrow, rocky ledges – “take tiny steps, Judy!” I am so thankful for that trip – which was my first opportunity to get to know Pete (and Connie). He also talked about his attachment to his kids – and their attachment to Jackson WY. I learned what a gentle family man Pete was!

    Judy Cushing December 2, 2015 at 12:56 pm #
  4. Once
    I taught with Pete and Steve Herman in a program called Explorations.
    I did a journal workshop once a week. Steve never came.Pete always did. After a few weeks Pete asked to talk with me after class.
    He said that the journal work was really weird. I asked why and he said that while writing whatever came to him as I instructed he found himself wondering about what happened to a student he had many years ago. He wrote his questions to the student and when he got home there was a message from this same student, not heard from in years, saying they would stop by later that day. Pete worried that anyone he mentioned in his Journal might come to visit him.
    I tried to explain that they already had, in his journal. He laughed and said “that’s good, Marilyn but really weird.”

    Marilyn Frasca December 3, 2015 at 2:02 pm #
  1. In Memoriam: My Brother Pete | HUMANITY HIKER - December 10, 2015

    […] Pete passed away, after a long bout with Alzheimer’s, on November 28, 11:15 PST. He was a faculty member of Evergreen State College for much of his life, where they have posted their own In Memoriam for Pete. […]