Words from LT Jon Schermerhorn
On May 19th the world got a little darker. I was underway on a Guided Missile Destroyer somewhere in South East Asia and had just groggily made my way from my all night Tactical Action Officer watch station to my stateroom to check my email before heading to morning quarters. I had gotten about 6hrs sleep in the last 72, as is the daily reality in the U.S. Navy, and was not in the mood to read what sat in my inbox. The news of Mason’s death on El Capitan hit me like a brick to the face. Immediately, 25+ years of memories flooded my brain and the overload was unbearable. In the rush of a second, my whole world imploded and I was immobile in front of my computer, mentally breaking down, unable to function.
I don’t remember exactly when I met Mark, Mason and Michael. When you are good friends with people like that, you (at least I) don’t tend to worry about that sort of thing. I just know that I cannot remember a time when I did not know them. The adventures we had as kids were awesome. Somehow with Mason and I, they always seemed to involve climbing something, running, or riding a bike. There are a million stories to tell, like the time Mason and I ran from his house to the top of Big Mountain and back (completely on a whim, and starting from his house at 2:30 in the morning) with nothing but one powerbar each and a small water bottle, or again on a whim riding our bikes from my house in Columbia Falls completely around Flathead lake and back. We did stuff like that all the time. But climbing is where Mason found his niche. I started off climbing with him, first in the rag-tag wall I helped Mark and he build inside a small room in their house, then on to the limestone crags at Stone Hill on Koocanusa Reservoir. It was addictive and the more we did it, the more we wanted. After high school I went to college in Billings and my climbing slowed down. Slowed down, not stopped. I had discovered bouldering and the joys of climbing with only shoes and a chalk bag. Unencumbered by hundreds of pounds of gear, I scoured the Beartooth mountains, Yellowstone Park, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming for anything worth jumping up on and cranking out. To me, these boulder problems represented a complexity and a joy of accomplishment that I could not find in hanging off of a rock face hundreds or thousands of feet in the air. Not for Mason. He wanted and needed to be up there. The plethora of patience and edurance that were gifted to my friend were enormous. While I was celebrating the rush of sitting atop a twelve foot boulder in the middle of a park in Ft. Collins, Colorado thinking how sweet it was, Mason had honed his skills to the point he was attempting some significant big wall and ice climbing routes. I knew he had left us all in the dust.
In 1997 we lost Mark and Chris Foster to a fall on Rainbow Peak. I had the unfortunate luck of being in Polebridge at the time and drove to where the recovery efforts were going on. I arrived at the scene and stepped out of the car precisely when the Park Ranger informed the family that both were dead. It was a hard day to get through, and yet Mark’s death only spurred us onward in our obsession with climbing. From that day forth, I looked at life a little differently. Not in a way that freaked me out or made me crawl back into my shell. I think it dawned on me that you should do great things with your life while you are here. And I know that Mason definitely did too.
Whenever I was home, I would go up to his house in Eureka and hang out with he and Lynn. We would sit for hours and play guitar and sing or talk. I can’t explain it, but even just talking to the guy, you could feel the excitement of something great churning away in his soul. I could be in the worst mood ever, but after a few beers and some good conversation with Mason I would totally have a different outlook, AND he would have me convinced to go do something crazy and spontaneous. That is what I am going to miss most about my friend. I have been everywhere in the world and done a lot of things. I miss the adventure that Mason found in everyday life and the level he took things to. That was his gift to us all.
For All of Us
by Camus Key
This event marks a point in time where we can look around us and say, the world is
in a beautiful state. Our community is bound together with love and compassion. Our
parents raised a generation of children whose ability and desire to seek new heights leads us
on the ultimate adventure. The direction of this adventure however, is uncertain, because
the number of paths we can choose is boundless. Yet we go forward in all our different
directions, and in this process become entangled into a fabric of humanity and nature and
When we consider Mason and we consider Mark, we know how real theses threads of
life are, linking us all together, now and forever. Today represents an extremely strong bond
in our fabric that will continue to support us, and re-entangles us so that we go forward with
more fortitude. Thus they live on with us and help in all that we accomplish, big or small.
If they were here today their advice would be: dream as big as you can and go for it wholeheartedly. When we follow their lead without fear of the obstacles we will encounter, they live on with us.
Dreamin’ big with you,
Hangin’ with Mason was like takin’ down a shot of good tequila. It burns goin down, it wakes you up, it makes you cowboy up, it gives you a killer buzz and ready or not here’s another shot.
I always felt like I was seeing stars when I was in Mason’s presence, like I was standing on my head on some crazy mountain peak, seeing the world upside down. He was a mad one, one who I came to Montana to meet. He told me one night around a bonfire after the bars closed in Bigfork on a warm summer night in July that we were going to run up to Aeneas peak because it was a full moon and it was the perfect thing to do. I just shambled after him up the steep switchbacks at 3 am in his old mountaineer boots which he insisted I keep, all the while he shouted at me that every day is an opportunity to get stronger and build endurance and stamina and “HOW YA DOIN BACK THERE BOB!!” When we stood at the top and just stared at the huge yellow moon for a long time, he didn’t say anything, just smiled at me and nodded.
Rumblin down the Jewel Basin road in Big Red, he shouted over the engine noise that I need to quit my obsolete job of teaching English at the high school and join him in making some real money doing a real trade, that he would teach me everything he knows and we’ll go on mountain expeditions. “IT’S TIME TO STOP LYING TO YOURSELF BOB AND START LIVING!!” I just stared at this mountain man lunatic and all of the dust of the earth in his red truck, his calloused rock climbing hands, one steering the wheel, one handing me a cold Kokanee and I started seeing stars. All I could think then and still today was “He’s right, he’s right, he’s right – ahhhhhhh” But Mason was a one-of-a-kind and I knew I could not keep up with him.
For me he was one of the mad ones that Jack Kerouac wrote about, one who I would chase after because he was interesting as hell, one who was made to live, mad to talk, desirous of everything at the same time, one who never yawns or says a commonplace thing, but burns, burns, burns like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight and everybody goes ‘AWWWWWWWWW’ – that was Mason for me.
I can hear his contagious laugh in my head right now and I only wish that I could have more time with such a talented free spirit. He had a truly unique and courageous philosophy of life that I feel blessed to have witnessed.
By the way Mason was quite a head-turner and indeed he turned my wife Ansley’s head. I should have been green with envy when she talked about handsome, handsome, handsome Mason and I think she saw stars. But I could not help but just nod my head vigorously and agree with her and cherish any opportunity to daydream about being with Mason Robison.
Words from Mason Robison's climbing journal, Dec. 17 1994
I look at climbing and wonder why I am so fascinated with this sport.
Is it the challenge? The hard times or good times?
The goals I want to accomplish? The buds I hang with?
What is it about climbing that has me so hooked?
It's quite crazy that it is so important,
although without it, I'd be lost.
Or at least it seems that way.
I guess it's all of the above, and then some.
Anyone who has met Mason knows what a joy he was to be around. He had pure enthusiasm in most everything he did. This is a place to share stories, leave messages for his family, post his favorite songs, post pictures and more. We love Mason and will never forget the positive force that encompassed everything he stood for. He inspired us all to live life to the fullest, and always go for our wildest dreams, whatever those may be. We will carry your passion for life in our hearts forever Mason and will never forget the wonder that you are.