Our hearts are heavy upon learning that Doug Walker, former REI board member, avid outdoorsman and conservationist, died in an accident on Granite Mountain in Washington State.
With any spare time he had, Doug would head to the mountains. He was a long-time co-op member, and made enduring contributions as a member of REI’s board of directors, including serving as chairman for three years. He was a treasured friend and colleague of many at the co-op and inspired many others with his great passions for climbing, conservation and civic engagement.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends. Here are some thoughts from REI employees:
Vik Sahney, Divisional Vice President, Strategy and Sustainability
When I received the call, I was numb. I sat on a flight for the following six hours in a fog not thinking about it and tried my best to entertain my daughter. The next day, I cried and held my wife. Doug and I were scheduled to go ice climbing in Canada with Steve Swenson later this month.
I largely credit Doug Walker (along with Secretary Jewell and Steve Davis) with the shift in my life from a life on the road consulting to a life in a field of our passions (the outdoors) and for becoming connected to my community. He was a role model and mentor to me and many others. He encouraged me to serve, recommended me to others and helped me make the connections that opened new doors, including those that led me to REI and to The American Alpine Club.
At about age 65 and shortly after his hip replacement, I remember thinking, “Finally, I’ll get to out climb Doug at the gym.” Of course, that thought was short-lived as he thoroughly schooled me to fatigue while discussing the challenges of non-profits getting user day permits to take kids outside on our public lands!
His impact on others like me that he mentored was great, as was his impact on the outdoor community. He was a tireless advocate for conservation and outdoor recreation and a pragmatist who gave generously in every way conceivable. The outdoor community will miss his sage advice, strong voice and unwavering support greatly.
My condolences go out to his wife, Maggie, and daughter, Kina.
Thank you to Seattle Mountain Rescue and others for your service in the search and recovery operation.
May we all strive to live such a full and dedicated life.
Kara Stone, Flagships General Manager
Doug was a personal friend and mentor to me. He went out of his way in my first days in Seattle to welcome me to the city and the outdoor community, introduced me to many key people in Seattle, including one of my most beloved friends, Martinique Grigg, the former Executive Director of the Mountaineers. He is the main reason I am serving on the Board of Directors for The Mountaineers as the conservation chair. Like many people, I have never climbed better than when I was with Doug. He just knew how to empower and encourage people to see their potential and push to the next level. It was like a superpower. Also, he was a contributor to my fundraising for "climb for a cause" on Rainier this past year and was the first person to call me after my climb just to find out how it went.
I could say a lot more about him. I literally loved that man, like a lot. I may never be able climb a 5.10c again – he was that good!
John Hamlin, Chair, REI Board of Directors
Doug Walker was one of my all-time favorite people, and he made a massive impact on me and the co-op. He never stopped reminding all of us at REI that we got to sell products our members used on the best days of their lives—the ones they spent outdoors with the best people in their lives. I was lucky to spend several of my own "best days” with Doug—rock climbing in Tahquitz and the Seattle area (he floated and I floundered), climbing Red Mountain in snowshoes and then crampons (he sprinted and I slogged) and skiing near Stevens Pass (finally something where he seemed human). Doug had two speeds—asleep and running 100 miles an hour (and I never saw him asleep). He was determined to squeeze every ounce out of a day in the outdoors, and he did not believe in making trade-offs. He wanted to do it all.
He was a dirtbag climber AND a family man, a conservationist AND an entrepreneur, an extrovert AND a deep thinker, a Civil War expert AND a math genius, a Southerner AND a Seattleite, a 65-year-old man AND an 18-year-old kid. He never stopped talking. He never stopped smiling. He consistently downplayed the difficulty of any outdoor challenge and his own skill level. If Doug said in his southern drawl, “It’s a little bita runout up top,” I knew he was going to lead the last 50 feet with no prayer of placing protection. If he said, “It’s kinda sporty on the ridge,” I knew it meant there were sheer cliffs on both sides and ice in the middle. Whenever he said, “I’m no kinda great climber,” I knew he could outrun climbers a third of his age when he was in his sixties with a replacement hip.
Doug loved children because he never stopped being one. He saw the outdoors as a giant playground and wanted to share it with everyone. I am eternally thankful he shared it with me and encouraged me to do the same with my children. He also put his money where his mouth was and donated countless hours and much of his personal fortune to make it easier for inner city kids to get into the outdoors.
Doug would not have wanted to be mourned. He was too positive and enthusiastic for that. But I don’t think he would mind being honored, and I think the best way to honor Doug Walker is to take a kid hiking or climbing. If you really want to make Doug proud, ask some Civil War trivia and math puzzles along the way.
Feel free to share a memory or condolences in the comments below.