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James Barry Corbet - 1936-2004 (Corbet's Couloir, JH)

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
I found this in a rather unexpected place, http://lwn.net/Articles/115901/

I wasn't aware of a lot of this stuff, and as Paul Harvey would say, "now you know the rest of the story."

James Barry Corbet 1936 - 2004
James Barry Corbet, your editor's father, passed away on December 18, 2004. To say that he will be greatly missed is an understatement; he lived a life which was full in the extreme, and he touched the lives of a great many others. This is a sad time.

Barry grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. He attended Dartmouth College, but never completed his degree; instead, he moved to Wyoming to pursue his great loves of that time: skiing and mountaineering. He married Mary French, and was father to three children: Jonathan, Jennifer, and Michael.

He was in the group which performed the first ascent of the Southwest Rib of Denali. He was a member of the 1963 American Everest expedition, where he helped place the highest camp on the West Ridge ascent and lost one of his best friends to an avalanche; he also helped to film the whole exercise. With John Evans, he made the first ascent of Mount Tyree in Antarctica. If certain accounts are to be believed, he participated in an expedition to plant surveillance hardware in the Himalayas to monitor China's nuclear missile tests.

Barry also worked as a ski instructor in Jackson Hole; the infamous ski run Corbet's Couloir was named after him. He started the Jackson Hole Mountain Guides, and a mountaineering store as well. He joined Roger Brown's Summit Films, and the two of them created a classic series of ski movies, including the seminal Ski the Outer Limits.

Much of this came to an end in 1968. While filming a ski event in Aspen, his helicopter crashed, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Many people would have responded to such an event with depression and surrender; Barry Corbet was never one of those people, however. He built a new life for himself in a new house in the Colorado mountains. He continued making films, traveled around the country, and, increasingly, began to write. He learned to kayak, to the point of being able to roll up even without the vital hip muscles normally required for that maneuver. He spent three weeks rafting down the Grand Canyon, got dumped into the Colorado River when his raft flipped in Lava Falls, and swam his way out. He went to Korea to watch his daughter compete in the Olympics.

Disability was another mountain to climb. Barry accepted that challenge without hesitation, despite his full knowledge that he would have to climb for the rest of his life and still never catch sight of the summit. He wanted to show the world how far he could get. As time went on, however, he left this phase (which he called "supercrip") behind and turned his attention to helping others cope with disability. He traveled across the U.S., talking to spinal cord injury victims and learning how they had rebuilt their lives; the result was a book called Options, a concentrated distillation of experience with spinal cord injury. The message from Options was clear: it is possible to live a good life with disability.

Other books and films followed, along with a long period as the editor of New Mobility magazine. He feared no topics; his article on life with ventilators attracted much attention, but the annual issue on sex and disability was often the most controversial. Consider this classic quote from the Associated press:

"Barry Corbet and Larry Flynt have at least three things in common. Both use wheelchairs. Both are in the magazine business. And both have been accused of peddling filth."

New Mobility has put up a collection of Barry's articles which is worth a read.

Barry's end came sooner than he had expected, but far later than anybody would have predicted after his injury in 1968. He ended his life as he lived it: in his own house, surrounded by family and dear friends, and on his own terms. In a letter sent to people he loved, he wrote:

I've had love overflowing, impassioned careers, a life of adventure and everything I've ever wanted. Nothing missed and no regrets.

Barry's accomplishments in his life are amazing. But what your editor remembers most is a loving father who insisted that his children be prepared and willing to follow their dreams, wherever they may lead them, and despite any obstacles that may appear in the way. He was an example of what life can be when it is truly lived without compromise. There is a huge empty space where Barry Corbet used to be, but the memories live on in the minds of the many people whose lives he touched.

A web site is being created at BarryCorbet.com for stories and photos.
post #2 of 3
Wow, interesting. Sounds like we lost a legend.
post #3 of 3
Thanks for Posting this vinn. It's nice to know the back story. Seems like a great run was named after a great man.
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