Dennis Toohig, a pioneer in the Glacier National Park climbing community, died Friday. he was 83 years old.
In 1979 Toohig of Columbia Falls published Going to the Sun, a magazine devoted to Glacier National Park, with articles about climbing in the park. Although the magazine was not a commercial success, it was through this magazine that Twohig became a noted climber, including J. Gordon Edwards, Rolf Larsen, Jim Kansler, and others who enjoyed climbing glacial peaks. I became friends with many climbers of
Edwards wrote the definitive guide to climbing in Glacier, often citing routes taken by Toohig in Edwards’ book A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park.
Under Twohig’s leadership and his wife Shirley, the aforementioned climbers founded the Glacier Mountaineering Society. It became his official institution in 1981, and its annual newsletter took on the magazine’s title, “Going-to-the-Sun.”
Shirley said on Friday that Denise hadn’t smoked in years and died of complications from lung cancer.
She recalled climbing the glacial Mount Gould decades ago when they first started climbing. At the top, they sat on rocks and billowed smoke.
“We said to ourselves, ‘I have to stop smoking and climbing,'” she recalls. “We quit smoking.”
Over the course of more than 50 years, the couple have climbed hundreds of mountains together and pioneered numerous routes to the summit of Glacier Park.
Dennis also developed a climbing class system. Classes I and II are the easiest and class V is the hardest.
In a 2017 interview, Twohig said one of his favorite routes is climbing Piegan Mountain in Glacier.
For most people, the Piegan is just walking through the rubble to reach the top.
But Twohig’s ascent was a much more difficult route, traversing cliffs, zipping under glaciers, and tackling Class V pitches just below the summit.
Twohig was a self-employed graphic designer, Shirley says. He designed many patches and pins for Glacier National Park.
The couple haven’t counted the climbs they’ve made over the years, but they’ve climbed all 10,000 feet, as well as every technical peak in the park.
He has also climbed numerous out-of-state climbs, including Devil’s Tower, Grand Teton, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Whitney.
“We were just mountaineering idiots,” joked Shirley.
In a 2017 interview, Dennis said climbing is ultimately about friendship, challenge and family.
“We know that climbing demands a lot, but it also has a lot to offer in return. Recreational, there is no healthier activity,” he said. “As a craft it requires control, finesse and technique. As a lifestyle it is an unrivaled adventure and challenge. Skills performed alone or with a select few companions in elaborate alpine alpine settings. , technology, technology and sound judgment converge to produce an overwhelming euphoria and elation that is difficult to replicate.”
Shirley said the family is planning a memorial service this summer. Hope to broadcast the ashes.