E. Jack Miller, a man who loved high mountains and deep fjords, passed away on March 1 in a hospital in Montrose, Colorado, of injuries suffered in an auto accident the week before. He was 83.
Miller taught climbing in Yosemite, led wilderness trips for Mountain Travel in Berkeley, California, and ran an adventure travel company, Andean Outfitters. He made numerous first ascents in South America but held a special love for the icy terrain of southern Chile. He first visited Patagonia in 1974 and climbed many of the region’s wildest ranges.
Miller was born on September 2, 1938, in Spokane, Washington, where he grew up. He took to rock climbing with great enthusiasm but little money. “When we climbed in Mexico, we would buy cheap rope in the markets, he said, “and were very careful not to fall.”
Having honed his climbing skills in the Cascades and the California Sierra, he joined the Yosemite Mountaineering School under Wayne Merry of the first El Cap climbing team. Miller proved a popular teacher, combining concern for his students with a wry sense of humor. He nearly convinced one client that in case of starvation, the man could eat the large buttons on his parka.
Miller’s published a number of articles about his trips, including “Sea-going Climbers in Southern Chile” and “Towers of Wind and Ice: The Cordillera de Sarmiento of Southern Chile” in the American Alpine Journal, and “Chile’s Uncharted Cordillera de Sarmiento,” National Geographic, 1994.
Over the years, Miller’s climbing partners included Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, and many others. Not all of them shared his enthusiasm for the windswept wilds of southern Chile. “We were rained on every day for forty days,” said journalist William Rodarmor, who joined Miller and his friend Peter Bruchhausen on an expedition out of Punta Arenas in 1974. “It was biblical.”
In 1979 Miller moved to a cabin he built on Hasting Mesa near Telluride. He continued to roam the local mountains with his dog Klondike, still planning one last trip to Patagonia.
A celebration of Jack Miller’s life will take place this spring on Hastings Mesa.