Justin Tyler Griffin, a Bozeman, Montana, architectural designer-builder and an accomplished mountaineer, died Saturday, Nov. 14, following a climbing accident on Tawoche Mountain in the Nepalese Himalayas. He was 35 years old.
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Griffin was in Nepal to help finish the construction of the Khumbu Climbing Center, a school for local Sherpa guides who assist mountaineers in the Himalayas. The school is supported by the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation, which is based in Bozeman.
Griffin was born in Nashville, Tennessee. He spent his early years in Louisville, Kentucky, until the family moved to Bowling Green. He was by all accounts a talented athlete, holding Kentucky State High School titles in both cross country running and track and field (specifically the mile run). Griffin was awarded a running scholarship to the College of Charleston in Charlestown, South Carolina, where he graduated in 2002.
Griffin and Skiy Detray, a professional search and rescue operator and paramedic who lives in California, completed a first ascent on Tawoche's challenging north face last week, traveling a route previously unrecorded by any other mountaineers ever. The climb took six days, after which the men descended the less technical southeast face of the mountain. Griffin fell to his death just before completing the descent.
Joe Wagner, who lives in Bozeman, accompanied both men at the school and on Tawoche, helping them set up a base camp at the mountain. Wagner said the north face route first put up by Griffin and Detray is "very difficult and technical."
Griffin's wife, Laura Love-Griffin, is originally from St. Louis, Missouri. They met in 2003 in Pinedale, Wyoming, while she was working for the National Outdoor Leadership School. Skeptical of the good looking adventurer, Love says after Griffin asked her to come meet his dog, Joe, "then I figured he was okay." They married on June 13, 2009, in Bozeman.
The two recently purchased Tri-H Stables in Bozeman. Love-Griffin runs Love Sporthorses out of the facility; Griffin had his own design-build company called Griffin Creations. He won the 2014 "Beautification Award in the Innovative Infill Category" for Lockhorn Cider House at 21 South Wallace Avenue. In 2013, Griffin won the "Beautification Award in the Remarkable Remodel Category" for the Heidmann / Smith residence at 549 East Mendenhall Street. In 2010, he also won the "Historic Preservation Award" for his work on 418 North Bozeman Avenue.
Besides his wife and daughter, Alice Maple Griffin, one year old, Griffin is survived by his parents, Bill and Mary Ann Griffin of Danville, Kentucky; his sister and brother-in-law, Lane and Chris Valiante of Driggs, Idaho; his niece, Cora Valiante; his parents-in-law, Sarah and Andrew S. Love, Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri; his grandparents Joann and Paul Robinson of Bowling Green, Kentucky; and his grandmother Grace Lowe of Smiths Grove, Kentucky.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, Nov. 21, at the 1915 Barn, 4062 Johnson Road, in Bozeman. Friends may arrive at 3 p.m.; the service is at 4p.m. There will also be a memorial service held in Kentucky this spring. Griffin's body was cremated.
A website honoring Griffin is at lovejustingriffin.wordpress.com, where donations can be made to a fund established in his memory.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Nov. 20, 2015