Congratulations and Thanks, Dewi!!
At this time we want congratulate Dewi Butler, and thank him for the incredible thirty years he has been working for ECHO. In this business most guide careers are about as long as NFL football careers. Not that river guides get hurt like football players, but guiding is a young person’s game. Sleeping on the ground for months, working 16-hour days, spending too much time in the sun and scrambling for winter work – it all takes its toll. No matter how much they love it, guides wear out. After a few great years they tend to get married, become teachers, go to graduate school, buy a house and otherwise enter what we call “the other world.” (not the real world. The other world). Not Dewi. He is a true outdoorsman, and made of oak.
Dewi was born in the small town of Llanberis (pronounced “shamberis”) in Wales. He went through college there, and taught mathematics and physical education for a while. He also started mountain climbing, a sport that brought him to the US in 1975. He fell in love with Yosemite and California weather, and returned to the US with a green card in 1978. He settled in Santa Cruz, California, but spent as much time as possible climbing in Yosemite. He also learned how to row a raft.
In 1980 ECHO we grossly underestimated how busy we were going to be, and found ourselves desperately short of guides. We sent the word out to the outdoor community, and an old guide recommended someone he knew to be good. We hired him sight-unseen. That someone then said he had a friend. We said “bring him!” That was Dewi, which makes him the least vetted person we ever hired. Boy, were we lucky!
In the thirty years that Dewi has been with us he has guided on 17 of the 19 rivers we have run trips on. He has worked as a guide and lead guide, and has managed our operations in Oregon and Idaho. He first balanced his river guiding with working on ski patrol at Park City, where he rose to the position of Director of Snow Safety, and was supervising 135 ski patrollers. These two jobs still gave him two months every spring and two months every fall to climb. And climb he did, in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. He eventually phased out of ski patrol, and works as a property manager (his own and other people’s), bar tender and caterer. He still guides for ECHO on the Middle Fork, and he still climbs four months a year. Last spring he climbed on the Greek island of Kalymnos.
Dewi is also the only guide we have heard of who has flipped a raft without getting wet. It was at Clavey Falls on the Tuolumne. Dewi’s raft went into the hole and got spun around several times, throwing everyone out but him. The raft then surfed over near the left wall, and began to flip. Dewi calmly stepped onto a small shelf on the wall, waited for the raft to land upside down, than stepped back onto the boat’s floor. The raft slipped out of the hole and he grabbed the people who had been thrown out and pulled them onto the floor with him. People watching from the other side of the river thought he had either levitated or walked on water but what he did was almost as fantastic. When asked how he had the presence of mind to do what he did, he said “Well, I just didn’t want to get me bum wet.”
ECHO co-owner Dick Linford says “We have had many outstanding guides over the years, but of all of them, Dewi would be my first choice when choosing an all-time, all star ECHO crew. He is great on the water and great in camp. He can fix anything on the river, and he makes good decisions. If I have questions about anything in ECHO, I ask Dewi.” Co-owner Joe Daly says “I have climbed Mount Shasta with Dewi, and rafted with him on high water and low water and in hot sun and pounding rain. He is always fun, and you can count on him when it matters most.”
Dewi is also the only guide we know who can recite poetry in Welsh. It takes a lot of gin to get him to do it, but Welsh is a lovely language when Dewi speaks it.
Congratulations, Dewi! Here’s to keeping your bum dry, to Welsh poetry, and to another thirty years!