In the last post I mentioned the “Sharks,” three energetic senior citizens who reside in California and share a love of the outdoors. Over five decades they’ve done a lot of mountain climbing together in the U.S. West, Alaska, and overseas. It’s an impressive collection of accomplished guys who have maintained their friendships and I’d like to give them a little more “press.”
By way of background, in the 1970’s I met one of the Sharks, Hank Skade, through a childhood friend who also left our college town of Berea, Ohio for Princeton & San Francisco. Then, through Hank, sometime ago I met the other Sharks…I am so fortunate to have connected with them, known them for more than a decade, and hiked with them on several Sierra Nevada mountains in addition to Mt. Morrison (Mt. Sill, Mt. Lyell, Mt. Conness) including a summit of Mt. Dana.
The Sharks met at the University of Oregon roughly 50 years ago and have been climbing together ever since. They initially took the name “Eat Sharks and climb mountains,” a phrase they found in a summit log book way back when. Over the years that handle was shortened to simply the “Sharks,” and that’s how they refer to themselves now, proudly.
For most of its history, the Sharks were a quartet and defined a “Shark summit” as one in which at least 3 Sharks participated. Using this definition, the Sharks have summited 6 of the Seven Summits; only Everest is undone but there is some sense the window for them to get on top of it is closing. Everyone is getting older, plus the commercialization of Everest base camp and summit attempts has served to lessen the Sharks’ interest.
The Sharks are: Les Dewitt, Hank Skade, and Bob Wyler. (As mentioned in the prior entry, the 4th Shark, Ron Silviera, was taken by cancer last year.)
Les Dewitt has been deeply involved with non-profit ventures for the past 25 years, especially those focused on education programs for underserved middle school students. He has also become a committed advocate for policies that mitigate the proliferation of nuclear weapons, concentrating on connecting the corporate sector to that issue, and founding the Fund for Peace Initiatives. Les is a native of Kalamazoo, MI and a 51 year resident of Atherton, CA. He has a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA and had a 30 year
career in sales and investments prior to turning to non-profit work full time. Les is an avid open water swimmer and a former member of the Dolphin Club and the Explorers Club. He has served on many local non-profit Boards and has spent over 15 years in youth athletic coaching. He an his wife Lezlie have parented three young adults. By the way, Les has scaled 5 of the Seven Summits and 13 of California’s 14 14,000′ summits.
Hank Skade is an entrepreneur in real estate, founder and owner of Tiburon Ventures, and co-founder and former CEO of Haiku Vineyards. He has more than 30 years experience in real estate investment and development. Hank has entitled and developed land in the Coachella Valley of Southern California, the wine country of Northern California, and in the “Silicon Forest” corridor of Portland, Oregon.
In addition, Hank has a long history of involvement with environmental organizations
including San Francisco Bay Keeper (Board of Directors), the Denali Education Center in Alaska (Board of Trustees), the Headlands Institute in Golden Gate National Park, the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, the American Alpine Club, and the Explorers Club.
Hank received his B.S. from the University of Oregon, where he also did graduate work in Environmental Studies. He received his J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School and served on its Board of Visitors for two decades. (The Law School’s alumni magazine published another tribute to the Sharks with many interesting details here.) In addition to mountain climbing, Hank’s interests include cycling, wines, photography, and helping his daughter, a high school senior, navigate the college selection process.
Bob Wyler, a resident of Southern California before and after his student days at Oregon is an authentic waterman and raconteur. He’s surfed his entire life and continues that from his home just steps from the Pacific’s shore in Manhattan Beach and over the winter in Baja California. He open water swims of course and was a world champion paddle board racer. Early in his career Bob was a ski “bum,” assiduously following his father’s advice to continue that profession as long as possible. Since retiring from his roles as high school social studies teacher and career counsellor, he’s mostly given up hang gliding in favor of golfing, which takes at least 3 mornings a week. Bob participates in or volunteers for several historic athletic contests in his hometown; his commitment to equal opportunity has had a large impact on the Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race, a 32 mile race from Catalina Island to Manhattan Beach that is said to be the premier and most historical paddleboard race in the world. Readers shouldn’t be surprised that a local paper reported that Bob is “an all-around fun connoisseur” who’d “rather have the time than the money.” He’s also grandfather of 2!
As mentioned I feel very fortunate to have crossed paths with the 4 Sharks, each a unique personality with his own interesting life path. What is incrementally impressive is how, in planning or while on the mountain, they’re able to blend their different egos and problem solving approaches while holding the team’s welfare and mission paramount. This is of course important while off-trail route-finding and, especially, when dangling on the side of a mountain. Most impressively, despite the challenges of their activities and goals, they all appreciate, enjoy, and celebrate the journey.