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Brian William Soong (BrianWS)

Original Post
ChrisHau · · Hanover, NH · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 355

Hello all,

Brian William Soong lost his battle with cancer on September 28th at the age of 34. You guys on here might know him as BrianWS.

I knew him as a friend and mentor who deigned to take a cocky young climber under his wing. I remember going on my first trips to the New together with him, nervously trying to make a good impression as I pawed my way up my first outdoor climbs. He was at the belay when I climbed my first trad routes, so scared that I emptied my entire chalk bag directly into his eyes. We climbed together in Mexico and out west, but he never got to show me Taiwan or Tahoe or China. When I climbed my first 5.14 he was already fighting his disease, but he called me straightaway, bursting at the seams with pride, just like any big brother would. 

And it wasn't just me who was fortunate enough to have received his support and friendship. This forum is full of his advice and experience. He could get old-man crotchety, but in the end, he always wanted to help someone out. He gave without question, friendly to a fault. I mean that - while his partners would be tapping their toes impatiently at Ray's campground at the New, eager to get started for the day, Brian would still be talking to Ray and Dren and playing with Milo, and everyone would end up at the crag at the stroke of noon. I have a hundred stories like that. He was kind to a level that was foreign to us more cynical folk.

He was a consummate climber. There was always enough light for one more pitch, usually a lichen-encrusted, rusty-bolted, zero-starred sandbag from the early nineties. We were consistently benighted during our single pitch sport days, and he consistently never had his headlamp. The doctors told him that he'd have to stop climbing two years ago. Instead, he slapped a protective cover over his chemo port and proceeded to reclimb the 5.12s that he had done prior to to his diagnosis. We had our last trip to the New on my birthday, two months ago. We had a wonderful time, but he was annoyed that he couldn't redo Puppy Chow.

He was a brilliant photographer. Take a moment to see his contributions to this site. He would lug his overstuffed pack to the crag, somehow forgetting his harness and his shoes, but he would always have his DSLR. He'd crouch in the middle of the approach trail to take pictures of the rock, the insects, the flora of his beloved New River Gorge. He appreciated those kinds of things, whereas I usually saw rock as something to pull hard on. He showed me that there's more to being a climber than just that. 

And in his last hours, when most would be sleeping, he was climbing. He was making people laugh. He was being goofy and dirty and totally not PC. He was being Brian.

He is survived by the strongest person I know, his wife Helene, who once sent Jesus and Tequila in his borrowed shoes. She is taking donations for the New River Alliance of Climbers, so that some of those rusty old bolts that Brian fretted about can get replaced. I know he would love to give back to the place that he loved so much.

I'll miss you dude, but you're still going to be with me on every climb. Thank you for everything. 

Your brother,


NRAC donations

Venmo: Helene-Nguyen-2
Checks: Helene Nguyen

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 964

My condolences on your personal loss, but this is also a loss for our little community.

Would you add his user name to your title? I think many more people knew Brianws, the fellow who climbed anyway, than just your smaller circle.

That whole thread with the port touched me, and others also.

Again, my deepest sympathies to his friends and family and I'm grateful for my tiny piece of friendship with a nice man I'll never meet.

Best, Helen

Brendan N · · Salt Lake City, Utah · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 375

Sorry to hear it, he was a positive force on the forum. 

Pnelson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 446

I ran into Brian a bit at the crag and at the campground.  I didn't make the connection with BrianWS on here, but his contributions to the routes db were excellent.  RIP, friend.  You'll be missed here at the New.

slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,107

man, i am really bummed to hear this.

Jason Halladay · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Oct 2005 · Points: 12,518

I didn't know Brian but your eulogy made my eyes tear up. I'm very to sorry to hear of his passing at such a young age. It's clear he was a wonderful, positive person to know. Condolences.  

Chris Whisenhunt · · Fayetteville, WV · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 955

I climbed with you guys a few times at the New. Always had fun....was just going through my emails with him from last year. So upsetting to hear about this.

Climb on Brian. 

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,729

I heard about this from Ray and Dren, owners of Ray's campground in Hico WV.  They had nothing but great things to say about Brian and how kind he was to their family and everyone around him.  My condolences to his family and everyone that knew him.  

DylanJK · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 331

Christian-Thanks for posting.

Brian taught me a lot - not just about climbing but more importantly that you can indeed light your farts. He also thought it was so gross (yet so cool) when he noticed that my dog's shit had worms.  Hundreds of tiny white squigglies and he's taking close up photos of it.  

He once flew out and met me in Red Rocks.  We had an amazing trip but I almost ended it early by spiking him hard when he fell from the 1st bolt of some enduro 4 bolt climb. I spiked him so hard I immediately cringed once his knees slammed the wall.  I apologized profusely and would not have blamed him if he didn't want to rope up with me anymore (probably what I would've done).  As he is limping away all he could do is reassure me, "no problem, don't worry about it" and asked me what I'd like to climb next.  A day or two later he gunned me up leavitation 29, still limping.      

Brian - you will forever be missed.


Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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