California mountain climber Jim Bridwell, renowned in the outdoors community for scaling some of the world’s toughest mountains, died of hepatitis C virus (HCV) complications, according to his family. He was 73 years old, CBS Sacramento reports.
The legendary climber, who scaled Mount Everest as well as some of the biggest peaks in Yosemite National Park throughout his 40-year climbing career died of liver and kidney failure related to the virus. Bridwell, a hard-partying hippie since the 1960s, might have contracted the virus in the 1980s, after he got a tattoo from a headhunting tribe in Borneo, according to his wife, Peggy Bridwell.
According to stories from the California climbing community, Bridwell was idolized by some and considered reckless by others. He made nearly 100 first ascents in Yosemite as well as on peaks in Alaska and the Andes. In 1982, he was part of a group that trekked 300 miles around Mount Everest. Bridwell also helped establish Yosemite’s first search-and-rescue team, pioneered climbing rescue techniques and invented climbing gear.
“He was the kind of guy who brought out the best of you… but he was also a child of the ’60s, a hard-drinking guy, who took acid trips as part of his journey and smoked unfiltered Camels almost until the end of his life,” recalled fellow climber Dean Fidelman, 62. In addition to his wife, Bridwell is survived by the couple’s son, Layton.