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Sven Olof (Olle) Swartling (Devil's Lake guidebook author)
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By alpinejason
From Eau Claire
Jun 17, 2014

One of the original pioneers developing routes at Devil's Lake and author of the Climber's Guide to Devil's Lake guidebook, Olle Swartling passed away on June 14.

Olle continued climbing at the Lake until his deteriorating health prevented him. His passing is a great loss to the Devil's Lake climbing community.

The Chicago Mountaineering Club is encouraging those that remember Olle to share memories and photos to be collected into a special tribute publication to be presented to his surviving wife, Sue. Contact me for more information.


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By roger fritz from rockford, IL
From Rockford, IL
Jun 19, 2014
Wichita Mountains, Sunshine Wall

A few years ago, My wife and daughters decided to avoid the Devils Lake summer crowd and heat by trekking into a remote cliff in the forest. I took a compass bearing and headed to the location. I spied the top side of the cliff expecting to have the place to ourselves.
As we got closer, we saw webbing set up for anchors at the tops of most of the climbs. At first I was bummed until we met the climbers.
They were as surprised to see us as we were them. It was Olof, Sue and about 4 or 5 of their friends. They were absolutely delightful. My youngest daughter still recalls that day as one of her most memorable days sharing anchors, climbs but mostly the great conversation with those folks.
The youthful spirit that all of those folks had was a total joy to experience. Their encouragement they offered us and the deep rooted friendships they had with each eachother was awesome to experience. They were all up there in their years and some of them were sending 5.8 routes.
This day was one of this "Magical days" at the crag. The reason we should all be climbing... To build stronger relationships.
I am grateful that my trek crossed Olof's path that day.



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By Woodchuck ATC
Jun 19, 2014
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008

WE all owe a great thanks to his efforts to get us a guidebook in the late 70's as DL outgrew the F' system of the old Hoofers guide back then....a wonderful man,,dedicated to 'his' park and one of his favorite places to be.


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By alpinejason
From Eau Claire
Jun 20, 2014

Roger, thanks for sharing the story. He always preferred climbing in some of the obscure areas. He was still making me look bad on some of the 5.10s around the park in the latter years!

Both he and Sue (Sue especially) knew beta for nearly every climb around the lake. It was pretty unfathomable really I guess that's a lifetime of climbing around DL talking.


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By alpinejason
From Eau Claire
Jun 20, 2014

Sven Olof Swartling "Olle"

February 4, 1932 - June 14, 2014

Olle was born February 4, 1932 in Linköping, Sweden. After completing his mandatory year in the Swedish army he signed up for an additional year of service. With his second year bonus he and a few friends traveled to Winnipeg, Canada in 1954. In March 1955 he moved to Chicago, Illinois at the invitation of his mother's cousin. The cousin was a bricklayer and Olle learned his trade from him.

When he was taking his first wife back to Sweden for a visit he was asked his draft number. He hadn't been aware that Permanent Residents were required to sign up for the draft. He was drafted. Paul and Joe Stettner recommended him for the Cold Weather and Mountain School at Fort Greely near Fairbanks, Alaska. The marriage didn't survive the army. He was honorably discharged October 1960 and became a US citizen July 21, 1964. In 1977 he married Susan Cochran.

Shortly after his arrival in the US he joined the Chicago Mountaineering Club (CMC). The club became an important part of his life. He served as Rope Leader until 2011, and held the offices of President, Outing Chairman and Director. He was also a member of Iowa Mountaineers and served as a Rope Leader for seven of their Peruvian Expeditions. In 1964 he taught climbing and rescue techniques at four Wisconsin parks where climbing hazards existed.

Olle loved the mountain where he spent a month each summer despite the high demand for his bricklaying skills. He liked to explore areas that were not well known and/or rarely visited. Many of these were in the Interior Ranges of Canada; he also climbed in Alaska, Montana, Washington, Wyoming and Peru. Back packing trips with some climbing were done above the Arctic Circle in Norway and Sweden. He always had his large square Bronica camera around his neck. In 1966 he climbed Denali; it was a good time to be there - only one other party was on the mountain. One of his more memorable trips was in 1988 when he and six others flew to a valley northeast of Arctic Village, Alaska. They walked north, over the Brooks Range (climbed Mt. Michelson on the way) then crossed the North Slope to Barter Island (about 150 miles). Crossing the strait between the mainland and the island on a make-shift raft was rather interesting.

Olle rock climbed at Devil's Lake, the Mississippi Palisades in Illinois and Seneca Rock in West Virginia. However, most of the climbing was done at Devil's Lake where he could be found almost every weekend from March through October. In the winter he enjoyed cross-country skiing locally and downhill skiing in Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and Europe.

In the 1950s, CMC published climbing route information in their club Newsletter. It was consolidated and printed in 1965 as a preliminary guidebook. Olle was one of many who provided information. He continued to explore new areas, mapping them and writing route descriptions. That led to publication of "Climber's Guide to Devil's Lake" by University of Wisconsin Press. The first edition, published in 1979, was co-edited with William (Bill) Widule. It included information from the CMC records, the Hoofers guidebook, and new information gathered by Olle and Bill. He was sole editor for the second edition published in 1995. It included new climbs in established areas and new areas east and west of an old quarry on land that the DNR had recently purchased. Olle and Peter Mayer co-edited the third edition published in 2008. It included new climbs in established areas and new areas in Steinke Basin. Pete photographed most of the climbing areas, marked selected routes and listed GPS coordinates.

In 1996 Olle retired. When his wife retired they looked for a home near Devil's Lake and moved from Chicago to Middleton, Wisconsin in 1997.

In December 2012, a brain tumor was found and operated on; it was a metastasis from the colon. This was followed by radiation, chemotherapy and additional surgeries. On June 7, 2014 Olle was admitted to UW Hospital. With the help of Agrace Hospice Olle moved home, then to their facility in Fitchburg where he died peacefully at 8:00am on June 14, 2014. His wife was with him.

He is survived by his wife Susan (Cochran); his sister Britt Björnberg; three nieces, Katarina Björnberg (Bengt Nilsson), Margareta Wass (Morgan), and Helena Bylin (Lars); and eight grandnieces/nephews, Nana Björnberg, Filip Björnberg, Lisa Björnberg, Henrik Wass, Magnus Wass (Evelina Bodin, son Olle), Hannah Wass (Jesper Hallqvist), Amanda Bylin, and Felix Bylin.

In lieu of flowers please make donations to your favorite charity or Agrace Hospice; 5395 E. Cheryl Parkway, Madison, WI 53711 or agrace.org/donate.


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By jon jugenheimer
From Madison
Jun 20, 2014
hi

Thanks for sharing Jason. I never knew all those details about his climbing cv. He really got after it, and sounds like his climbing life was quite an adventure.


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By Woodchuck ATC
Jun 23, 2014
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008

All my years in the Iowa Mountaineers and trips with them,,I never knew he was part of the program...should have known that John Ebert would have spent time with him somehow....very nice bio,,,thanks for the print of it here.


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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Jun 23, 2014
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogstick Ridge link-up.  Photo by Myriam Bouchard

As an active Devil's lake climber from 1961--1965, I have often thought of myself and my friends from that time as part of the prehistory of Devil's Lake. The climbs we did sometimes disappeared and reappeared with new names, and in other cases retained their original names but lost the associations connected with those names.

Of course, others were there long before us. Most climbed there for a while and moved on to other areas and other accomplishments. Some, like John Gill and Jim Erickson, gained national recognition. Others, like Pete Cleveland (who didn't move away) never really got the level of recognition their climbing richly deserved.

Olle was there for it all, from the days before what I thought of as prehistory to the present. Along with Dave Slinger and Pete Cleveland, he was a true citizen of Devil's Lake, not just a visitor. Olle's work on the guidebook, his friendliness, his willingness to share his knowledge, made him not just a citizen, but an ambassador. Anyone who spent any time at the Lake eventually encountered him and benefited from his encylopedic knowledge.

Rest in peace Ollie. It's going to be mighty hard to fill your shoes.


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