A pioneer of climbing in the Sawtooths and a figure known just as well for his charisma and kindness as for his mountaineering accomplishment, Louis Stur exemplifies the overwhelming purity of a relationship one can have with nature. Originally from Hungary, Stur’s infatuation with nature began at the tender age of 14, flying gliders over remote regions such as the Great Rift Valley of Kenya. From there, he continued his mountaineering exploits through Africa, Patagonia, New Zealand, China, Tibet, Nepal, and the Alps, leaving a legacy of kindness throughout his adventures.
Stur remained relatively nomadic until the winter of 1951. Intending to attend the University of Nebraska via scholarship in the fall of 1952, Stur found himself working as a night clerk in a hotel in Sun Valley. However, after witnessing the beauty of the Sawtooths, Stur chose to reside in Sun Valley for the remaining 38 years of his life, working his way up to the director of the Sun Valley Hotels and developing the art of climbing in the Sawtooths after decades of relative dormancy preceding his arrival.
From here, while simultaneously known throughout his community as the ambassador of Sun Valley, Stur epitomized the exploration of a true mountaineer, traversing numerous new routes and winter ascents, ensuring his legacy of exploration. Having recorded first ascents on Heyburn, Warbonnet, Rotten Monolith, Silicon Tower, Hyndman, and Devil’s Bedstead, amongst several others, Louis Stur was amongst the true pioneers of mountaineering in the Sawtooths.
However, his significance to the region transverses his climbing prowess. Louis Stur was passionate about the Sawtooths and loved those who climbed amongst them. Stur did not believe he was climbing on top of the mountains, nor was he enthralled by the achievements he made. Instead, Stur wanted to exist amongst the mountaintops, finding solace within the Sawtooths. Stur’s life did not abstain from adversity, exemplified by the tragic passing of his newlywed wife. However, demonstrating the true mountaineer he was, Mount Heyburn provided Stur with his required solitude, later mounting a plaque in her memory and tossing his wedding ring into Redfish Lake, vowing never to remarry. This spot on Mount Heyburn became one of his favorites, visiting on copious occasions to honor the legacy of his late wife. However, Stur found passions in other ventures, pursuing interests in accordion, piano, and travel, endeavors that ensure he was constantly fulfilled in Sun Valley and beyond.
In 1989, Louis Stur passed away doing what he loved most. Climbing alone on Mount Ebert, the story of his fall will remain a mystery. However, his accomplishments and legacies can never be questioned. A man of adventure, charisma, and an innate love of nature, his name carries tremendous value in the Sawtooths and beyond. A sentiment stated by a close friend of Stur’s in Ketchum’s “Wood River Journal” confirms the adventures and achievements by stating, “You’ve got a man who in 65 years of living had done more and touched more people than most could have done in 150 years.”
As shown through the remarkable adventures of Stur and the countless people he touched, he will never be forgotten. Along with the local Sawtooth Mountain Guides, who cite Stur as a significant source of inspiration, there are current movements to name a local peak in his honor and a yearly celebratory climb up Mount Heyburn to commemorate his birthday, demonstrating his lasting effects on the region. Louis Stur loved life, and he continues to inspire to this day.
Cameron Dickie is the 2022 Historic Specialist at the Stanley Museum.