Leidal was fun-loving man of steel, friends say
Avalanche deaths of Leidal, five others, is hard blow to extreme sport community
By Chris Woodall
"Mountain" is a word that went with everything Geoff "Lumpy" Leidal loved.
A hard-stroking, original mountain biker, Leidal, 31, threw himself onto mountains in winter to snowboard or ski the back country, motivating everyone who knew him to push themselves to the utmost.
Ultimately it was a mountain's wrath that killed Leidal and five others when a Kokanee Glacier Park avalanche in the Selkirk Mountains swept over them during the Jan. 2 weekend.
As well as Leidal, dead are Pat von Blumen, 32; Scott Bradley, 32; Dr. Rob Driscoll, 36; Lise Nicola; and Pat's girlfriend Mary Cowan.
Driscoll's wife, Dr. Carrie Fitzsimons, survived the fateful last day of skiing after a week's holiday because she remained in the hut they were staying at.
Leidal is survived by brothers James and Dougal who both live in Pemberton, and his parents Gordon and Carlene who have a home in Whistler.
A Pemberton resident, Lumpy was a carpenter by trade who was about to start work on a personal project in Owl Ridge.
But whether it was work or play, Leidal gave it his all, say his close friends and acquaintances.
For every time they spoke of his intensity, his drive to excel, or get the most of whatever outdoor experience Lumpy was doing, they also spoke of a sense of humour and goodwill that would soon have anyone near him smiling.
"He was getting ready to build a 5,000-square-foot house in Owl Ridge," says Geoff Breckner, who's one of several in a tight-knit group who've known Leidal since Deep Cove high school days in 1980.
"I saw the architect's drawings and it was going to be wild: all curves with every room having a southern exposure. I was psyched to see him start to build it."
Lumpy was also on the verge of going into business with Breckner, adding a river kayaking operation to Breckner's High Line Cycles business in Pemberton.
"He's been riding for me the last few years, since I opened in 1994," Breckner says.
Before that, Leidal had earned three Canadian cross-country mountain biking championships during the mid- to late-1980s.
Breckner figures he smoked his mountain bike up and down more trails with Leidal than with anyone. "I'm just so bummed out I won't be able to ride with him any more."
Remembering Leidal's wide-open sense of humour, Breckner recalls a video Lumpy made while interviewing other mountain bike racers, called Bum TV. "It was the weirdest, off-the-wall thing you've ever seen!" Breckner says.
Lumpy Leidal got his nickname in one of two ways, maybe both, say his closest buddies.
The first story is that as a child, his hyperactive ways caused him to bang his head, giving him ever-present lumps.
The second, more colourful version, says that Leidal took his nickname from "Lumpy Gravy," a song by his fave musician, Frank Zappa.
"We were at a live Frank Zappa concert one time when Lumpy threw his mom's underwear on stage, then Frank put it on his head!" remembers Brent Martin, a product designer for Mantra Optical Ideology of Vancouver, who's also known Leidal since high school.
Martin lost three friends in the avalanche: von Blumen and Bradley as well as Leidal.
"This was a trip I was supposed to be on, too," Martin says of the annual Christmas week trek to a mountain ski hut.
"Scott wasn't as experienced a skier as the rest, but he was a natural athlete," Martin says of Bradley. "All those guys came from the same mould: all bro's. Scott was like a 'little Lumpy'.
"We lost some good people. It's a real family of friends who were connected to a lot of people," Martin says.
"Lumpy knew how to live large, fast and to the max," Martin says. "He was living on the edge, but having a gas.
"One thing about the Lump, any time when he was in a group, well, as soon as you hear the word 'Lumpy' it puts a smile on your face," Martin says.
Leidal's endurance is a repeated theme when talking to his pals.
"He was a lump of steel. Lump could party all night before a bike race, and still hammer the guys the next day," Martin recalls.
"He taught me how to mountain bike ride and we duked it out on the Cheakamus Challenge," Martin says. "If he got lost, that's the only way I'd win.
Leidal challenged his riding mates to go as hard as him. "We went on rides other people would think were crazy," Martin says.
That drive also went for snow sports.
"Every time we went out telemark skiing, we had to push our bodies to the max. If we weren't totally flagged it wasn't worth it," Martin says.
Another of the Deep Cove gang is Dick Cox, now national sales manager with Kona Mountain Bikes in Vancouver.
"Oh yeah, he's one of the original mountain bikers," Cox says. "When we started riding in Grade 10 or 11, there were no mountain bikes, but we'd go on one-speed cruisers, riding from Deep Cove to U.B.C., experimenting in the bushes," Cox recalls.
"He was one of the first Canadians to get a professional riding contract and was the first pro rider for Rocky Mountain bikes," Cox says, Leidal going to the U.S. at one point to hang with the pros there and be challenged by their expertise.
"He was also one of the first snowboarders," Cox says, remembering a high school shops project in 1981 to create a laminated snowboard. "I remember being in the basement shaving snowboards. They didn't have any bindings, but had a rope tied to the front. We would hike up Mount Seymour to ride down and be chased off by the park rangers."
Lumpy made an impression on people wherever he went.
"He's a great guy, about the most happy-go-lucky guy you've ever met," says Bob Roll, a mountain bike racer with Litespeed Bicycle Co., in Durango, Colo., who has ridden with and against Leidal since first meeting him in ’92.
"He was good for your morale," Roll says. "He really motivated you to do your best. I raced my ass off to get around Lumpy. You could never keep Lumpy down.
"I'm totally freaked out," Roll says of Leidal's passing.
"It's a pretty terrible thing, but it's pretty much what he lived for — being in the backcountry was something he wanted to do," Roll says.
"Regardless of your experience, a lot of people die in avalanches but the backcountry beckons," Roll says. "Wild people like Lumpy couldn't stay at a desk job. He was one of those people who can't help but want to get out."
Another Stateside friend is once and future Whistlerite Grant Lamont who, as Lamont says, "was just out doing Lumpy things" in the backcountry of Steamboat, Colo., when Pique Newsmagazine talked to him about Leidal.
"They broke the mould with him," Lamont says. "He was a funny little twisted soul, as I like to put it."
Lamont first met Leidal during a mountain bike race in Whistler back in '87.
"The first time I raced against him, he went past me on a sprint with a couple of miles to the finish, but he had his head down and went the wrong way," Lamont says. Leidal eventually finished the race, trying to rocket along the Valley Trail to make up for lost time.
"He put more into his 31 years than most people put in three life times," Lamont says. "He touched a lot of people here."