Thoughts from our president

The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (WVHC) has received a contribution from the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh (ECP) in the memory of former ECP club members George Bogel and Robert Broughton. I did some research before responding to thank ECP for the contribution.

The transmittal letter from ECP stated that Bob Broughton was involved in the early days of The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. In fact on page 5 of, “Fighting to Protect the Highlands: The First Forty Years of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy”, I found that both Bob and his wife Sue were involved. Quoting from an article in the September 1977 edition of “The Highlands Voice” it’s mentioned that Bob and Sue Broughton of the Pittsburgh Climbers attended the first meeting, in the spring of 1965, of the people who would eventually become the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

Further on page 7, it states that at another meeting in January 1967 it was decided to organize and become a permanent on-going organization to act as a watchdog for the wilderness areas of West Virginia and to be an activist organization rather than to just try to coordinate activities of other outdoor groups. At the meeting they adopted the Constitution and Bylaws, and accepted the name proposed for the new organization by Bob Broughton: “The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy”.

Bob Broughton in an article in the January-February 1967 issue of “The Social Climber”, the newspaper of the Pittsburgh Climbers stated:


The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy was formed on January 21, 1967 at a meeting at Blackwater Falls State Park, attended by representatives of a large number of organizations interested in the fate of the Highlands region. The agreed statement of purpose was the preservation and conservation of the natural, scenic, and historic areas of significance within the highland region.


Further on pages 206 and 209 of the history of WVHC, Bob Broughton is again mentioned. He was opposed to the Forest Service’s use of eminent domain to acquire farms for the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area.

The history section of the ECP website I found the following tribute to George and Bob:

“In the summer of 1977, 14 members of the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh (ECP) went to the Himalayas to climb Nanga Parbat, at 26,660 feet, the ninth highest peak in the world.   It was the first American attempt on the mountain and the difficult Diamir Face was the route selected.  After a grueling two week approach on foot, an additional two weeks was spent establishing Base Camp, Camps I and II, plus an intermediate “Depot” camp on a small rock ledge in the middle of the face at 18,000 feet.

As the advance party prepared for a push to Camp III, George Bogel, expedition climbing leader, and Bob Broughton left Base Camp after descending with another member of the team who had been injured by a rockfall.  After a long day of climbing, they were forced to bivouac at the “Depot” hoping to join the advance team the following day.   That opportunity never came.  During the evening a massive rockfall occurred, killing both climbers and scattering most of the expedition’s food and fuel supplies.

Climbers have been killed before while attempting difficult summits, but this particular accident was especially tragic because of who these climbers were.

Bob was relatively new to the Club but not to mountaineering having spent nearly 20 years in the sport.  He was a respected professor of law at Duquesne University and a driving force behind the Environmental Law movement.  Thus, it seemed fitting to establish, in accordance with his family’s wishes, a memorial fund for Bob which would benefit the Environmental Law Library at Duquesne.

George was a longtime member of the ECP and was proficient in many of the “Earth Sports” long before it became the “in” thing to do.  As a rock climber he pioneered new routes, including the classic West Pole at Seneca Rocks, and led the first accent up the face of Angel Falls – the world’s highest – in the jungles of Venezuela.  As one of the first Big-Water kayakers in the Pittsburgh area, he was known for his solos of the New River and for the first and only decent of the Gauley in a two-man raft.  He built a hang-glider from a kit and without benefit of instruction, crashed on his maiden voyage and broke his arm (without much ado).  His accomplishments go on and on, not just in mountaineering but as a caver, scuba diver, skydiver and engineer – his profession.

Most of all, he was my friend and I loved him.  I was his partner in that raft on the Gauley and in innumerable other escapades of dubious value to any but ourselves.   I helped to drag his lifeless body off Nanga Parbat, cursing him for leaving me with so much left to do together.

I didn’t have exclusive rights to his friendship.  George wasn’t that way; he loved and was loved by many.  Those of you who never knew him have missed much and those of us who did have established a memorial fund in his name to be used for environmental purposes.  It is our way of sharing our feelings about him with all of you.  Please feel free to participate in some way, by making a donation or offering suggestions, for use of the funds.

Help us to keep his memory alive.

Bruce McClellan”


I enjoyed the research highlighting Robert’s involvement in the founding of WVHC and continued activities.


Larry Thomas