Continuing with the story of Tobin Sorenson from the previous post. I met Tobin in 1978 when he was at the pinnacle of his climbing career. Several things impressed me immediately. He rarely talked about his climbing unless asked. He had a look in his brilliant blue eyes that spoke of passion, focus, and commitment. His soft voice only thinly covered his grit, determination, and the strength of his character. We both attended the same college in Southern California. He was the son of a minister, and was deeply committed to his faith and relationship with his God.
Tobin was known for long run-outs, bold soloing and courage at a time before they became popular. He also pioneered the ‘Dyno’ move, becoming airborne to the next hold. He was a bold climber because he was, at his core, a bold person. Boldness is what it takes to become a friend of God. Forget what you have seen or heard about church and organized religion, for these often have little to say about the intimacy with God that characterized Tobin Sorenson’s life. It takes great courage give up control over your living and to pursue a deep relationship with God. Like Tobin, like me, and like so many others, you can leave your emptiness and go for it. God will meet you there.
Sorenson died in a fall during a solo attempt on Mount Alberta’s North Face in October of 1980. Bruce Adams recounted in his obituary for Sorenson in Climbing Magazine, “Tobin understood the risks he took might bring death at a young age. The thought often robbed him of sleep. However, he believed, as he told me, that God had created him to climb mountains, and thus he would climb to the best of his ability. He saw that his talent did not belong to himself but rather to God who entrusted him with it.”
In early 1981, the American Alpine Journal published an obituary about Tobin. Here are a few excerpts:
“Tobin Sorenson was as much a deeply pious man as a brilliant climber —passionately committed to both.”
“He could lead 5.12 in Yosemite; he was superb on technical ice; and in short order he became a first-class alpinist.”
“Despite these achievements Tobin comported himself modestly as a climber. He was invariably cheerful. He was selfless and giving. At such times his faith seemed like a strong moral force.”
“Though one can only speculate, it is possible that his faith was intertwined with his attitude towards climbing. Objectively Tobin was a high-risk climber. Far from reckless or dangerous, he understood the state of the art today and the risky conditions under which the limits of the impossible can be pushed back. With his death we have a twofold loss: one of the best all-round climbers of the youngest generation and a climber of rare unworldliness and nobility of character.”
It was the adventure of daily intimacy with his God, not merely his climbing, that made Tobin Sorenson a legend.