Passing of Lee Hansche

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Catherine Holland

May 23, 2024, 12:33:48 PMMay 23
It is with profound sadness that I share the heartbreaking news of the passing of Lee Hansche, a cherished member of our community, who tragically lost his life at the age of 46 on Tuesday to an accident at a climbing gym. Lee was a local legend in the rock climbing world and a passionate bird enthusiast.
Lee's impact on the climbing community is vast. From the numerous routes he established, cleaned, and maintained, to the invaluable information he provided through Mountain Project descriptions and Gunks Apps, to guiding and running the Vertical Dreams gym in Manchester, to the thousands whom he reached through the "First Ascent" podcast, where he shared his expertise and infectious enthusiasm for our New England cliffs: Lee's legacy is etched into the very fabric of New Hampshire rock climbing.

Beyond his love for climbing, though, Lee was a great lover of birds. A self-described "birdnerd," Lee had an extraordinary ability to merge his two passions seamlessly, to remind rock climbers that they share the vertical world with our winged friends. He continually identified and educated those around him about the birds he so dearly loved. His keen eye and deep knowledge of avian life enriched the climbing experience for many.

Countless memories shared since his passing underscore just how profoundly his love of birds permeated the climbing community. Whether pointing out a scarlet tanager perched atop the canopy, listening for the call of a winter wren or whip-poor-will after a long day on the rock, or marveling at the broadwings and ravens soaring over Rumney, Lee's presence sparked an appreciation of the wild diversity of our crags. When I first started climbing in New Hampshire over a decade ago, it was Lee who helped rekindle my passion for birds by pointing out the resident Rumney peregrines.

Lee was a deeply kind, patient, and joyous person. His smile instantly made you feel welcomed and part of the community, and his enthusiasm for climbing and birding was contagious. While the tangible impact of his work in climbing is evident, the influence of his passion for birds is harder to quantify, but no less significant. He started countless individuals on their birding journeys - helping to diversify and expand our local community.

In his honor, I will continue to share my love for birds within the climbing community, always remembering Lee and the profound inspiration he provided when I do.

Catherine Holland

Christian Martin

May 23, 2024, 1:50:21 PMMay 23

Thanks to Catherine Holland for sharing the sad news about Lee Hansche’s passing.  I’ve partnered with many NH rock climbers over the years to access Peregrine Falcon nests to put ID bands on chicks and collect unhatched eggs for contaminant analysis.  Lee was exceptional in how he combined his interest in birds and birding with his unrestrained gusto for climbing.  Lee and I did 6 climbs together over the years, at Holts Ledge in Lyme, at Russell Crag in Woodstock, and at Rumney Rocks.  In addition to the climbs themselves, he was a leader and strong advocate for establishing limited seasonal route closures to safeguard falcon nests with the goal of having birds and climbers share the cliffs in a sustainable way.  He will be greatly missed!     

- Chris


Chris Martin
Senior Biologist, NH Audubon

84 Silk Farm Road, Concord, NH 03301
603/224-9909, ext. 317 (office)
603/226-0902 (fax)

New Hampshire Audubon - Protecting New Hampshire's natural environment for wildlife and for people.

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