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  In Memoriam, Jim Ratz, 1952-2005


It is with great sadness that we are writing to inform you about the loss of Jim Ratz. Jim died last week in a climbing accident. Additional information can be found below. Our thoughts are with Jim's family and friends during this difficult time.

American Mountain Guides Association board director Philip James (Jim) Ratz, age 52, died in a climbing accident in Sinks Canyon May 4, 2005. A memorial service will be held Wednesday, May 11th at 2pm at the warming hut in Sinks Canyon, Lander, Wyoming. A reception will follow the memorial.

Jim was born June 14, 1952 in St. Louis, Missouri, and was raised in Kirkwood, Missouri. He attended Kirkwood High School, the University of Wyoming 1970-1971, and graduated from the University of Missouri in 1974 with a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology. Jim married Gladys Lantien Chu (from Albany, New York) on June 28, 1986. Jim and Lantien have two children, Willy (12) and Mei (16).

Jim filled his life with close friends and family.

He was a co-owner of Jackson Hole Mountain Guides (JHMG) and an avid climber. While he was passionate about preserving time with his family, Jim loved sunny afternoons climbing with his friends in Sinks Canyon where he made numerous first ascents. Jim's work and love for the mountains took him with frequency into the Tetons and Wind Rivers and occasionally to more distant peaks including Denali, Aconcagua, and Kilimanjaro.

Before JHMG, Jim was employed by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) as an instructor from 1973-1978, Alaska Director from 1979 -1983 and Executive Director from 1984-1995. Under Jim's leadership, NOLS grew in both size and scope; he opened the Patagonia, Southwest and Canada programs and published Soft Paths, the authoritative book on minimum impact backcountry travel. Jim was also instrumental in starting NOLS Leave No Trace, research and public policy programs, the program for local outdoor educators in Kenya, as well as scouting for NOLS India. Jim also led the way as NOLS established relationships with its graduates around the globe. Alumni reunions reconnected graduates and paved the way for development efforts to support the school’s scholarship and facility needs.

Near the end of Jim’s service to NOLS he joined then chief mountaineering instructor Phil Powers to lead a successful NOLS Denali Expedition, a trip on which their friendship and interest in working together grew. In 1999 Jim joined Powers and Rob and Kathryn Hess in purchasing Jackson Hole Mountain Guides. Jim was the obvious choice as president of the new corporation. Under his leadership the business grew, opening offices in Moab, Utah and Cody, Wyoming, in addition to its main offices in Jackson and Las Vegas. Along with his office responsibilities, Jim took clients into the mountains. Guides and clients were extremely fond of Jim as an employer, mountain guide and friend.

He served as a Director of the American Mountain Guides Association, beginning in 2000 and serving as the board’s Vice President since 2002

Jim was very active in civic leadership and involved in many organizations. He was instrumental in the Lander swimming club and teams. He devoted himself to the Lander Valley High School swim team, was Director of the Lander Swim Club Board, an official of USA Swimming, and on the Board of Review for Wyoming Swimming Inc. Other organizations he was involved with include: Chairman of Leave No Trace, Inc; Advisory Board of the World Wilderness Congress; Rotary International; American Alpine Club; Natural Resource Council; Association for Experiential Education; National Speleological Society; Advisory Board of the Rawlins District Bureau of Land Management; recipient of the first National Partnership Award from the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management; member of the Wilderness Working Group of the Society of American Foresters; Founder, NOLS 1994 Wilderness Risk Management Committee and Conference; Founder, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Symposium 1986; Founder NOLS Wilderness Education and Leadership Symposium 1985; and Co-founder NOLS Wilderness Research Colloquium; he was also an Eagle Scout.

While Jim dedicated his life to outdoor education and the preservation of wilderness, he was above all devoted to his wife and children.

Friends of the family have organized a memorial fund as a college fund or any other need for Jim and Lantien’s children, Mei and Willy. Donations, in lieu of flowers, may be sent to The Jim Ratz Memorial Fund at the Wyoming Employees Federal Credit Union in Lander, Wyoming.
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