In 2006 on a climbing expedition to China, Andy Tyson and his team found themselves on the wrong side of a raging river 80 miles from their objective. Not trusting their driver who insisted the team needed to ford the river, Andy’s expedition mates convinced him to get behind the wheel. They didn’t pick Andy for his driving skills, but because they believed there was no better person to overcome any problem or a challenge regardless of what that problem or challenge might be. And Andy proved them right. He found a bridge upstream.
Andrew David Tyson, 46, died in a small plane crash Friday, April 10, 2015 in the Frank Church Wilderness in central Idaho. He’d flown into the site with a team from Creative Energies, a renewable energy company that he co-founded in 2001, to begin work on a solar and hydroelectric system for a remote ranch. Two other Creative Energies employees, Rusty Cheney and AJ Linnell, and the pilot, John Short, were also killed.
Born October 15, 1968 to Henrietta and David Tyson of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, Andy loved the outdoors from an early age. His father, a mathematics teacher at Mercersburg Academy where Andy attended high school, remembers his son climbing everything he could. In high school, Andy joined the outing club and began boating, climbing and hiking. He continued to pursue these interests during college at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where he graduated in 1991 with a degree in geology and physical education — studies that allowed him to spend time in the great outdoors that he so loved. While in college, he worked summers in a kite shop in Ocean City, Maryland, which led to his first international experiences: a stint at a kite shop in Australia and as a crew member on a sailboat that traveled across the Atlantic from Ft Lauderdale, FL to Portugal.
Upon his return from that sailing trip Andy came West to attend an instructors course with the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander, Wyoming, in 1992 and began leading climbing, mountaineering, sailing, hiking and caving courses in the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, British Columbia, India and Patagonia. During his time at NOLS, Andy met his beloved wife, Molly Loomis Tyson, who became his partner in adventure. The pair left their home and dog, Kali, in Teton Valley, Idaho, to travel the world, climbing, boating, skiing, exploring, and writing about their experiences.
Andy’s friends remember him as a talented athlete, an accomplished mountaineer and an all-around outdoorsman who excelled at everything he tried. But his adventures were about more than technical accomplishments. He found inspiration and motivation in the people he met on his journeys, and, in return, the people he met were inspired and motivated by him.
Andy believed in challenging himself. As he said in a TedX talk he gave in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, in 2014, “Succeeding on a problem is rewarding but finite. We should try another problem and build on the experience. … Unless we challenge ourselves, we go nowhere.”
In addition to working for NOLS, Andy spent 25 years guiding and teaching for organizations like Exum Mountain Guides, Alpine Ascents International, where he worked as AAI’s Expedition Manager, and Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions leading people to the top of peaks such as Mt. Vinson, Cho Oyu and Aconcagua. Recent personal expeditions included a trip to the Genyen Massif in China, where he and Molly completed first ascents of several peaks, and to Myanmar, in 2013, when he led an American-Burmese team that did the first ascent of Gamlang Razi, possibly Southeast Asia’s highest peak. Exploratory expeditions were Andy and Molly’s passion and their search for remote ranges took them to places like Oman, Kyrgyzstan, the Arctic, India, Tibet and many, many others. In 2014, he was poised to guide on Everest and was among first on scene with rescue and recovery efforts when a massive avalanche struck in the Khumbu Icefall. He is the author of two how-to books on climbing and mountaineering: Climbing Self Rescue (with Molly Loomis) and Glacier Mountaineering (with Mike Clelland).
At Creative Energies, the company he helped start, Andy strove to find innovative ways to help build a sustainable energy future for our world. In supporting this vision, he served on the board of directors for the Charture Institute for 8 year; the Idaho Clean Energy Association, and he was the chairman of the Solar Task Force for the Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance, providing recommendations to the Governor on solar. He also was a long time member of Teton Valley Recycling, volunteered for a stint as training manager for Teton County Search and Rescue and a long time participant in the Jackson Eco-Fair. Under Andy’s lead, Creative Energies was a founding member of Tetons for Tomorrow. He also helped start Teton Valley Chance and most recently was a board member for Tetons For Tomorrow . Andy volunteered teaching climbers in Myanmar and most recently, Nepalese, at the Khumbu Climbing School.
Andy was known for his physical strength, stamina, grit and determination, but more importantly to his friends and family, he was loved for his kindness, curiosity, energy and willingness to try whatever was thrown at him. He could jump off the couch and run 20 plus miles through the mountains, sail across the ocean, float a single track, make a difficult climb look easy, fly a kite, ski a steep couloir, longboard twisty roads, packraft through rapids and build or fix just about anything. Yet, he carried himself with humility and relished in others’ successes. He made the people he touched better people. He was a rare mix of intelligence, kindness, mischief and playfulness. He loved his family, community and dog tremendously and often spoke of how lucky he was to live in such a place amongst such people.
Andy is survived by his wife, Molly, his parents, David and Henrietta, his sister, Laura Ransom (wife of Tom Ransom), and a large circle of friends who considered him family.