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Outdoor Hall of Fame gains Bonneys

January 15, 2019

Jackson Hole adventurers, climbers and authors Orrin and Lorraine Bonney are soon to be posthumously enshrined into the esteemed Wyoming Outdoor Hall of Fame.

The Bonneys, who were seasonal valley residents, wrote as many as 19 guidebooks, including the “Guide to the Wyoming Mountains and Wilderness Areas,” a text that Pinedale resident and former newspaper publisher Ric Samulski described as seminal for its day.

“Before there was Thomas Turiano, before there was Joe Kelsey, before there was Finis Mitchell, there was Orrin and Lorraine Bonney,” Samulski said. “For many of us in the late ’60s and early ’70s, their book ‘Guide to Wyoming Mountains and Wilderness Areas’ showed us the way to Wyoming’s peaks and wild areas.

“It showed us the trailheads,” he said, “it showed us the climbing routes, and it showed us the intricacies and the secret spots.”

Samulski’s wife, Rosemary, spearheaded the Bonneys’ nomination. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department sent out word Monday that the couple would, in fact, be posthumously added to the Hall of Fame, which the state agency created in 2004. Other 2019 inductees include grizzly bear researcher Mark Haroldson, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National park research scientist Glenn Cole (posthumous) and John Scott (posthumous), a University of Wyoming professor and wildlife conservation proponent.

Orrin Bonney died in 1979 and Lorraine in 2016.

Longtime family friend Adrienne Ward recalled that Lorraine kept working on some of the guidebooks that Orrin started, even after his death. After Ward moved to the valley in 1991, she frequently was on Lorraine’s heels in Yellowstone while she tried to conquer all the park’s trails in preparation for a guidebook that she never published.

“When she was in a good mood, she would say that she was doing it because she wanted to share the mountains,” Ward said of her pal. “When she was in a bad mood, she would say, ‘Well, Orrin started the project, and I have to finish it.’”

One text of Orrin Bonney’s that Lorraine completed after his death was “The Grand Controversy,” which argued that a party led by James Stevenson and Nathaniel Langford was the first to summit the Grand Teton — not the climbers led by Billy Owen and Frank Spalding, who are recognized as the first ascenders via a Wyoming Legislature resolution. The debate the couple resurrected, in some minds, lives on.

“Who knows?” Samulski said. “Only the mountain gods know who climbed the Grand first.”

The Bonneys, he said, were wilderness advocates, and their works helped delineate areas that were best suited for inclusion upon passage of the Wilderness Act and Wyoming Wilderness Act. The couple, who wintered in Texas, founded the Sierra Club’s Lone Star chapter, which still awards the Orrin Bonney Award to its largest donor.

Orrin Bonney was a gifted climber, notching first ascents of the Wind River Range’s War Bonnet, Pingora, Lizard Head and Titcomb Needles, according to the Hall of Fame nomination. In 1983, the Federal Board of Geographic Names declared the Continental Divide pass connecting Titcomb Valley and Dinwoody Valley to be “Bonney Pass.”

“We are thrilled that the Bonneys are being recognized,” Samulski said. “A lot of old-timers in Jackson knew them and respected them for their work.”

Game and Fish is holding an induction ceremony March 22 at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased on Game and Fish’s online store.

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