Reprinted from The Leader, Winter 2000, Vol. 16, No. 2
Jim Traverso, an international mountain and river guide and outdoor educator, died on Oct. 9, 1999 while leading a group of kayakers from the Boston area on the Sun Kosi River in Nepal. He was 44.
During 25 years in outdoor leadership, Traverso led more than 100 treks in Nepal, India and Tibet as well as countless kayak and mountaineering trips in New England and the American West. From 1981 to 1991, Mr. Traverso resided in Nepal as the director of Himalayan programs for Overseas Adventure Travel of Cambridge. He was a graduate of the NOLS fall semester in Rockies in 1975, and the NOLS mountain instructors course 1977.
As a guide, he was known for his humor, his immense knowledge of culture and geography, and his commitment to helping people of all ages and abilities to meet new challenges and grow personally through exploration.
Traverso was a leader in responsible tourism and conservation. He organized numerous clean-up efforts in popular trekking areas and trained Nepali guides to adopt sound environmental practices.
Judi Wineland of Thomson Adventures and founder of Overseas Adventure Travel of Cambridge said, "Jim defined and set the standards for eco-tourism in the early 1980s giving travelers a code of ethics and responsibility toward the people and lands they visited. He was both sensitive and intuitive, and much loved by his clients, colleagues and friends."
In 1985, Traverso completed the first ascent of the northeastern ridge of Kusum Kangru (21,700 feet). A portion of the climb has been named the "Traverso Traverse." He also climbed a new route on the south side of Nupla (22,300 feet), and ascended several other peaks over 6,000 meters (19,680 feet) in the Khumbu, the Mt. Everest region of Nepal.
Traverso was born in Clearwater, Fla., in 1955 and raised in Weymouth, Mass. He graduated from Weymouth North High School in 1973 as a National Merit Scholar, and attended Boston University. By the age of 17, he had climbed the 48 highest peaks in New Hampshire, all above 4,000 feet. He led youth groups with the YMCA Outreach Program in Malden from 1975-79, and worked for Outward Bound in Oregon and NOLS in Wyoming. He worked for Overseas Adventure Travel from 1981 to 1996, when he founded Vajra Travel.
In 1982, while in Nepal, Traverso and his former wife Maura Daly became foster parents to Ngodrup Sherpa, then 5 years old. In 1992, Ngodrup moved with Traverso to Cambridge, Mass. Ngodrup Sherpa graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School in 1996. He is currently a senior at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., where he is studying anthropology.
Traverso was active in the mountaineering and whitewater sections of the Appalachian Mountain Club in Boston. He was also active in political groups promoting non-violence and human rights, particularly Tibetan liberation.
Peter A. Klein
Peter A. Klein, 20, a 1996 graduate of the NOLS Rocky Mountain summer semester course (WSS '96), died suddenly on Jan. 7, 2000, in Rutland, Vt. The son of John and Helga Klein of South Londonderry, Vt., Peter was born in Bogota, Colombia. He graduated from Vermont Academy in Saxtons River, where he was co-captain of the equestrian team and school president in his senior year, and went on to attend the University of Colorado in Boulder. He was currently taking a break from his studies and working as a cook at the Stratton Mountain Resort.
Klein's many interests included polo, playing the guitar, snowboarding, and rock climbing. Perhaps one of his proudest achievements was his completion of the NOLS semester in the Wind Rivers, where he met the challenges of backpacking, boating, and climbing with his characteristic combination of determination and a ready smile.
A NOLS legend, Thelma Young, passed away Nov. 30, 1999. She was 69 years old. Thelma died at the Shepherd of the Valley Nursing home in Casper, Wyo. Thelma had undergone surgery on Sept 24 and had been a resident in the nursing home for convalescent care. Memorial services were held in Lander on Dec. 3 with a large gathering of family and friends.
Thelma worked for NOLS from 1965 to 1999. In the early years of the school, Thelma designed and sewed much of the gear and clothing that students took into the field. She invented equipment that is still very much in use today, including the well-known "Thelma Fly," a standard on many NOLS courses even today.
"Thelma was an innovator, who had the knack to understand an idea concerning equipment and bring it to reality," remembered Kevin McGowan, NOLS Rocky Mountain branch equipment manager.
She was probably known by more staff at NOLS than any other person, and was truly the matriarch of the NOLS family. Thelma's contributions went far beyond designing and repairing outdoor equipment, as she touched the lives of many.
"With the recent loss of Thelma and Paul (Petzoldt), we have experienced a milestone far more significant at NOLS than the passing of the millennium," noted John Gans, NOLS executive director. "Their contributions changed many lives and gave birth to this wonderful organization."
Jack Niggemyer, a NOLS instructor in the early days remembers that Thelma always had an eye out for the students and instructors: "I never really felt alone because I always knew Thelma was there, keeping an eye on me and making sure I stayed on a straight path. It seems like she was always buying us lunch, bringing us shirts or socks or some other necessity back from her few vacations, making us go to the doctor when we were sick or letting us throw our laundry in with all them mittens to help us save a few bucks."
And she kept right on working right until the day she got sick.
". . . I still have fun doing this, so why should I quit? This is one of the best times in my life . . . I'm always busy, always doing something," she said in a 1997 interview for The Leader.
Indeed, this is the way she will likely be remembered, always busy, always working and always creating.