Lars Holbek, age 51 passed away on March 13 at his home near Durango, Colo. with family and friends. Lars was born in San Francisco, Calif. on Oct 25, 1957, and grew up in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Lars was a pioneer in many ways. He was one of the most accomplished whitewater explorers of his time, producing “The Best Whitewater in California,” a guidebook that is to this day the standard guide to California rivers. He made many of the first whitewater descents of rivers worldwide in the ‘70s and ‘80s, opening up new horizons in whitewater rivers for generations of boaters who followed.
Lars was one of the first explorers of South American rivers in Peru and Chile, writing a guide book to Chilean rivers. In total, he had logged over 70 first descents worldwide. His interest in exploring wild places began in his teens when he started climbing big walls in the high Sierra of California.
He started a lifelong friendship with Nancy Wiley, after meeting on a paddling expedition in Peru in 1986, and it blossomed into love in 1999 as a partnership for life.
Lars was able to make his living through a passion for the outdoors, working in the paddling industry as a filmmaker (in front of and behind the camera), instructor, guidebook author, and much more. One of his most recent interests was working on the preservation of the desert tortoise in the Mojave Desert.
His appreciation for lessons learned in wilderness led to his interest in living a low-impact lifestyle, including building his own passive solar off-the-grid adobe house with Nancy, and his constant attention to tinkering with his vegetable-fueled vehicles.
Lars finally succumbed to a four-month battle with cancer and was supported in the process by a wealth of friends from around the world who were communicating with him until his passing. He will be dearly missed for his adventurous and indomitable spirit and his thoughtful sense of humor.
He is survived by his life partner, Nancy Wiley, of Durango, Colo.; his mother, Miriam Holbek, of Durango, Colo.; father, Erik Holbek, of Glen Ellen, Calif.; and brother, Suren Holbek, of Mt. Shasta, Calif.
If donations are desired, please direct them to some local causes he believed in: San Juan Citizens Alliance, Durango, Colo.; High Country News, Paonia, Colo.; La Plata Open Space Conservancy, Durango, Colo.
Celebrations of his life will be forthcoming in Durango, Colo. and Coloma, Calif.