Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

A Pilot Mountain Legend: Lloyd Ramsey…

This is the second time in under a month that I have had to post about the loss of a North Carolina climber.  It’s definitely not getting easier, and I certainly don’t want to make this a habit.  This one really hits me hard because Lloyd Ramsey is someone whom I knew very well.  In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of times that I’ve climbed at Pilot Mountain and haven’t ran into him.  Lloyd was a staple figure at the park, and anyone who has climbed in the area with any amount of regularity would recognize him.   Not a lot is known about what happened on Monday evening – in fact, it’s been hypothesized that he may have even fallen while hiking out at the end of the day rather than while climbing.  But when he failed to check back in with the rangers per his usual m.o., they went out looking for him, and he was pronounced dead on the scene, at the base of the Three Bears Gully.   Lloyd and I had actually been talking and emailing back and forth in recent months quite a bit, as he was anxious to contribute to the guidebook work in any way that he could.  I had even written up a character piece on him that I was hoping to include, but he had always brushed it off that there were people that were “far more interesting to read about than him.”  That being said, I think now more than ever Lloyd deserves a page or two to shine in the upcoming guidebook.  I spent all day yesterday revising and extending the piece that I had already prepared.  The following is a rough draft of the latest version, and it seemed appropriate to share an excerpt on the blog… 

Lloyd Ramsey 1942-2012

“When I first informed Lloyd Ramsey that I wanted to do a profile on him for this guidebook, he was flabbergasted that anyone would want to read about him in a book, and hardly felt as though he deserved such an “elevated status” (his words).  Though some perhaps found his quirks and oddities less endearing than others, Lloyd was a good-hearted man that was a permanent fixture at Pilot for many years.  Those facts alone were enough to warrant his mention in this book, but now that he’s gone, I think including him is essential to preserve and honor his memory. 

Were the park staff ever to give out a perfect attendance award, it’s safe to assume that Lloyd would be the leading candidate.  Living only a few miles outside of the park, Lloyd spent the majority, if not all, of his free time on the mountain.  Though never employed by the state park system, Pilot Mountain was Lloyd’s home away from home, and his love for both climbing and this particular crag was evident to all who had the fortune of meeting him.  On weekdays he would show up promptly at 10 am to claim “his” parking place.  He would then spend his day in solitude, rope-soloing the popular moderate lines that get overloaded with traffic on the weekends.  On Saturdays and Sundays, Lloyd arrived much earlier, and was typically the first to hike in to the crag.  Weekends seemed to be more about socializing than actual climbing for Lloyd, as he would make his rounds from group to group, watching others climb and memorizing their exact beta.  He would file this information somewhere in his head, and then be ready to recall it again at a moment’s notice.  Most Pilot regulars were on a first name basis with him, and newbie climbers were usually very appreciative of his extensive and anecdotal knowledge of the cliff. 

 Lloyd also had the uncanny ability to know exactly when something exciting was going on, and he always wanted to be a part of it.  Although you never knew where and when he’d show up, it was a foregone conclusion that he was lurking somewhere on the mountain, just waiting to pop up, often at the most random of times.  One of my fondest memories of Lloyd was the very first time I got on Blind Prophet in the Amphitheater.  I was at the upper crux and kept taking repeated whippers.  All of a sudden I heard a voice coming from up top, on the other side of the Amphitheater.  It was Lloyd, “encouraging” me by shouting, “That’s why they call it 5.12!”  He then proceeded to give me an unrequested run-down of the crux beta of every person he’d ever seen on the route.  He asked me how tall I was, did a few calculations in his head, then with a worried look on his face shouts back, “Uh-oh, you’re in trouble!”  I admit that at the time his “advice” was not that well-received, but what Lloyd may have lacked in tactfulness, he more than made up for in sincerity.  No one cheered harder for me than Lloyd when I came back two weeks later and sent the route.

Lloyd doing what he loved…

Lloyd passed away at the base of the Three Bears Gully sometime on July 30, 2012.  Many of the details surrounding his death remain uncertain, but those who knew him can hopefully find solace in knowing that Lloyd’s final moments were spent doing what he loved best in the place he loved most.  I think it’s safe to say that Pilot Mountain will never be the same without Lloyd Ramsey.  No matter how much time goes by, I know I for one will probably always half-expect to see him popping out from behind a rock with his camera, or hear his unmistakable guffaw from farther down the trail.  But although in my heart I know that won’t happen again, I like to think that he now has a special bird’s eye view of everything happening on the mountain.  Rest in peace Lloyd Ramsey.”

I am also considering adding in some quotes from other climbers that interacted with Lloyd on a frequent basis.  If anyone has anything to add – whether it be a one-liner or a longer story, please submit it on here in the comments section, or email it to me privately.  For any interested, here is a link to an article in a Mt. Airy online newspaper.  Also, I will post a comment as soon as I find out about funeral arrangements, so keep checking back if you are interested in that information.


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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN