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Hello Hello Hello
Dan Grandusky, "Clean Dan"
Memorial in Eldorado Canyon

by Aaron Wilcher
Front Range Aaron (FRA)

Scouring the hillsides and flatlands of the Gotham City of the mountain underworld, Boulderado, for the minutiae and noir of bouldering triumphs and defeats, Front Range Aaron seeks out the bold, the fear(feck)less, and the mediocre. Part reporting, part personal essay, FRA pulls hard copy each week in another turbulent episode set in the sporting wonderland. Interviews, rants, editorials, and the naked truth of journalism, FRA leaves no boulder unturned.

   On Sunday, November 21, 2004 several friends gathered to remember the longtime Eldorado Canyon climber and Boulder figure Dan Grandusky, known as "Clean Dan," by installing a memorial bench on Rattlesnake Gulch Trail in the canyon. There was an earlier memorial for Dan, attended by about sixty people, which was held in North Boulder several weeks ago. Original plans to have that service in Eldorado Canyon were canceled due to a fire. The event on Sunday was an informal and intimate event, with several of Dan's close friends trading stories and paying tribute. Grandusky passed away on August 21, 2004. He was 49 years old.
   Among those in attendance were climbing partners, friends, and business associates of Dan's and members of their families. Steve Lubliner, Dave Megerle, Tom Gibson, John Baldwin, Greg Cameron, Geoffrey Wheeler, Bob Seeger, Mike Brooks and Kevin Murphy, among others, gathered at the trail head and carried up tools and supplies to install a memorial bench in honor of Dan. Dennis Patterson, the park's Ranger, observed the installation. The bench now stands about a mile and a half up Rattlesnake Gulch Trail, next to the clearing that once supported the foundation of the Luxurious Crags Hotel, near where there is a placard that tells the story of the hotel's short history in the early 1900s.
   Dan was originally from Buffalo, and he attended the State University of New York there. He began climbing in the Gunks in upstate New York in the mid 1970s before moving to Boulder in 1977. In Boulder, he owned and operated Alpine Window Cleaning, a company that served Boulder and surrounding areas for fourteen years. Several of those in attendance at the memorial remembered Dan's role in getting others jobs and even helping them start their own window washing companies. Lubliner was Dan's partner for several years and went on to start his own business. Megerle was another who went on to start his own window washing company from his initial work with Dan. Wheeler's son, Arrian Wheeler, also worked with him and was his partner for a time.
   Dan--"brilliant," his friends kept saying of him--had a matching set of sixteen bookcases, with numerous climbing books and magazines to fill them, and a memory that suited such an appetite. But that wasn't his only literature of choice. "He could recite lines from James Joyce from memory from twenty or thirty years ago," said his longtime friend and business partner Steve Lubliner, who had organized the event. Others recalled how he could meet someone once in the store in Boulder and remember him at a nightclub in Denver a month later. Tom Gibson told of how Dan recalled details of otherwise forgotten conversations that took place fifteen years earlier.
   Legendary for his charisma, Dave Megerle remembered that, "Dan would go into the store and by the time he came out, he had asked out six or eight girls. What are you going to do, Dan?" He asked, almost as if his friend were there, listening. "He figured at least one of them would show up." A couple years younger than Dan, Mike Brooks recalled meeting Dan when he was seventeen. "He was inspiring. He knew everybody in town."
   That the stories everyone shared were so full of irony and sarcasm was a tribute to the man's love of laughter. Infamous for showing up late, John Baldwin said about him, "Dan could never sleep in." Infamous for his bad driving, and wrecking several cars, someone said, "Black ice was an excuse that came up a lot." Someone from whom no one wanted to get a call asking for help moving, which Dan did often, someone else remarked, "Dan was a minimalist." A passionate collector of books, magazines, and records, Steve commented, "Dan hated music and hated to read." Between friends, they remembered Dan's 1980s Eldorado Springs basement apartment, through which you could barely walk, with bookshelves, other intellectual curiosities, and mountains of outdoor gear blockading the small space.
   Others remembered him as an accomplished climber. Gibson, who began climbing with Dan in 1974 in the Gunks, recalled an early trip to Yosemite Valley with Dan the year after he met him. "He was just playing around back then," he said. "He made it up some 5.9s and 5.10s. But, within five years he was a solid 5.11 climber." Noting Dan's achievements in Eldorado Canyon, Baldwin cited Dan's nine free solo ascents of the Yellow Spur, which he said, "isn't really important. Dan just always loved to climb."
   Like many people who make such loyal and passionate friends, Dan also had his share of enemies, but those were not the focus of his friends' tribute. "He was a person that if you had only met him once, you would never forget him," Steve commented. Everyone agreed that Dan was a personality around Boulder, and not just as a distinguished member of the climbing community. Nearly everyone present had a story to relate about Dan as someone who made easy friends, who didn't cast judgment, and who gave what he had to those he had just met. He was quick to loan out his climbing gear, make dinner for his friends, and offer new acquaintances a place to stay.
   As a tribute to a man with as great of a sense of humor as a sense of friendship, several times during the meeting those in attendance erupted into a flurry of imitations. They shifted easily between a third person story about something Dan had done to a first person narration, using his classic lines they had grown to know so well over the years. The imitations don't translate well into text, but they illustrate a basic fact: Dan continues to live in the memories of his friends, the laughs they shared, fights they endured, and climbing trips they enjoyed.
   Before running to burst through a snowdrift created by a snowplow, Dan says, "I've never seen anybody plow snow like that before." Thinking about the end of the workday, Dan says, "Let's go to Vedauwoo. Let's just finish up this job and go to Vedauwoo." Making light of work, he says, "It's only window cleaning. Who else is going to make you rich?"
   As a Bald Eagle (or a Golden Eagle, we speculated) circled overhead for a brief moment, the group cast their gaze away from the northern slopes of the Canyon. But it took such a spectacle to do so. The small group, many of them climbers with more than thirty years experience, remembered their outings with Dan on the walls across the creek. Impassioned voices rang out, imagining something fantastic on the famous lines, or just indulging in the power of the mere names: "There it is! The Rincon Wall! The Yellow Spur! Shirt Tail Peak! Potato Chip! Born Under Punches!"
   The work putting in the bench done, the cement set in the soft earth as we talked and made tea on the camp stove. In one moving, tearful moment, as the sun shone down through passing clouds and the Redgarden wall lit up, Steve Lubliner raised his hand, inspiring everyone else to do so, and said for his friend, "You were once the king. You were once the king."


Aaron Wilcher
late November, 2004

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