TraditionalMountaineering Logo - representing the shared 
companionship of the Climb

Home | Information | Photos | Calendar | News | Seminars | Experiences | Questions | Updates | Books | Conditions | Links | Search

  Search this site!
Read more:

Master trail builder Jim Angell passed away at the end of February, 2005

Master trail builder Jim Angell passed away at the end of February. He was 76. Jim was President of Corplan, Inc. and provided trail design and construction expertise for more than twenty years for many state and federal land agencies in the U.S. Jim was an original Board member of the Access Fund, and provided more than a decade of service for the AF at climbing areas across the country. That work alone was significantly responsible for turning the tide in the early 1990's as land managers threatened to close area after area due to environmental impacts from climbing's exploding popularity.


For the first time, Professional Trail Builders Association awarded the 2005 Harvey Bell Award to one of its own members, Jim Angell of Corplan, Inc.

Jim described himself as one who “solves difficult problems with ease.” That is exactly what he did as both trail designer and builder. As a one-person company, he gracefully hung trails on steep mountain faces where few souls could even conceive a trail, then built them with volunteer crews, prison inmates, professional trail contractors, or any other available labor source. He was one of the first to design trails for virtually all uses, from rock climbing accesses to accessible trails, mountain bikes to horses to OHVs, from rugged mountains to manicured city parks. And he constantly sought—and often invented—ways to improve everything he tackled. Few trail designers have this much range.

Jim's ability to make the complex look easy comes from his background and personality. Highly intelligent and highly educated, he had an astounding collection of opera yet could kick back an (imported) beer with the rest of the dirt diggers. Earlier in his life, he taught ballroom dancing and worked as a mechanical engineer, optimizing the visual puzzle of cutting clothing parts from the parent material with minimal fabric waste. As a trail designer, he was a rare combination of practical engineer, theoretical engineer, visual artist and trail user. In his words, he “put himself in the user’s shoes” and designed trails to be fun for the designated use as well as sustainable. He had a talent for fitting trails into sites so well that, as both art and science, they feel natural and you can't imagine them being anyplace else. In construction and cost estimation, he had a talent for accurately finding the quantities of everything and for writing tight, complex specifications with no omissions or errors.

Growing out of his long interest in technical rock climbing, Jim did much of the work in his 20-some year trail career with the non-profit Access Fund, designing and building sustainable trails to popular rock climbing areas across the U.S. (Jack of many trades, he was also an early board member for the Access Fund.) Yet even though he was extremely good at impossible trails, he still stretched himself into design, consulting and construction of virtually all trail types for all types of agencies.

He also conducted trainings and workshops, including providing virtually all of the content (and much of the planning) for PTBA’s 2002 Trailbuilders Conference. In one memorable incident, PTBA sent Jim to the National Trails Symposium. On arrival, he discovered—surprise!—he was scheduled to deliver a presentation. He sat down with his laptop and portable printer, developed a presentation with handouts from scratch, then delivered it smoothly as if he had prepared it far in advance. That's how he was—always eager to apply his formidable mind to any trail problem.

We always thought that he was such a stubborn old goat that he'd live forever. However, in February 2005 at the age of 76, Jim passed away following a sudden illness one month before the award presentation. His son Jamie accepted the Harvey Bell Award on his behalf.

Anyone who ever had a chance to talk with Jim at any depth will never forget him—or his opinions hard and numerous as the rocks he loved. Those who don't know Jim but have experienced his trails will subtly note his talent for gracefully weaving a trail into virtually any site, for turning obstacles into features, and for crafting a direct, comfortable, yet aesthetic trail with no wasted effort.

Those of us who both knew him and continue to benefit from his trails, however, know how he and his trails are one.

Remembrance from Marion Hutchison, who worked with Jim on numerous trail projects in Oklahoma:
"Jim was critically opinionated and sometimes difficult to work with, but he knew what he was doing and he did it very well. But he was also a kind, generous and sensitive man. I remember him buying beers for more than thirty volunteers at the Old Plantation after a hard day of trail work in the Narrows and raising a cheer to their efforts. And, I remember walking back to the parking lot at Quartz to meet him for lunch after a difficult morning of brush clearing to find him in his pick-up listening to Mozart, eating smoked salmon, and drinking a Guinness. He was without question one-of-a-kind.

Thanks Jim, for everything that you did for us at the Refuge and Quartz. May your spirit live on along those trails and in the hearts of all of those who worked beside you."

Remembrance from Robert Speik, who bunked with Jim during an Access Fund Orientation at Estes Park, Colorado:
"Jim and I were assigned a room together, at the Access Fund Activist Summit a few years ago, possibly because we were about the same age. I found him full of humor, great stories and a love of life. He was also an engineer. He had his laptop and spent lots of his time showing me the complex design required to do sensitive trail building on steep slopes in climbing areas. Jim constructed the $100,000 'Misery Ridge Trail' at Smith Rock State Park, and for a time lived at Mt. Bachelor Village near Bend, my home town."

"At the end of the weeks Access Fund orientation, I was ready to go home and rest, but Jim was setting off in his truck/office to a new trail challenge several hundred mile away. I hope Jim passed along his expertise before he left us all. He certainly passed along his enthusiasm for constructing and maintaining challenging trails."

"All who knew Jim will dearly miss his spirit, fondness for climbers and great enthusiasm for the crags."




Read more . . .
  Notable Events
Jim Angell, master trail builder, dies at age 76
Fred Beckey, "Will Belay For Food!!!
Smith Rock "Spring Thing"
About Brad Washburn by Michael Chessler
Top of the world: Bend team set to scale Mt. Everest
Annapurna, a woman's place is on top
The search for Peter Starr 
Seven summits in twenty-four hours in Oregon Cascades 
Mountaineers mourn Ira Spring
Climbing Legends returning for another shot at Everest 
Fred Beckey, icon and living legend 
Galen and Barbara Rowell die in plane crash
Mike Bearzi spearheads donation of rescue cache to Smith Rock
Veteran alpinist Mike Bearzi dies while climbing in Tibet
Bend's Midge Cross with women's team on Everest!
Bend's Nancy Knoble climbs Aconcagua!
Goran Kropp killed while rock climbing in Washington

  About Alpine Mountaineering: 
  The Sport of Alpine Mountaineering
  Climbing Together
  Following the Leader 
  The Mountaineers' Rope
  Basic Responsibilities     Cuatro Responsabiliades Basicas de Quienes Salen al Campo
  The Ten Essential Systems         Los Diez Sistemas Esenciales



The Three Sisters and Broken Top
South Sister, Middle Sister, North Sister (the sinister sister) and Broken Top in the Three Sisters Wilderness near Bend, Oregon
Photo Copyright© 2004 - 2011 by Robert Speik. All Rights Reserved.