Remembering a Utah legend who lost his life in the backcountry

Jan 21, 2022, 6:00 PM | Updated: 7:47 pm

SALT LAKE COUNTY — Utah’s climbing community is remembering a legend among them who tragically lost his life in the backcountry of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

The body of Merrill Bitter, 68, was found early Thursday morning in Grizzly Gulch.

He had gone skiing in the backcountry on Wednesday, but never returned home.

Bitter was considered to be one of the premier rock and ice climbers in Utah, with articles and pictures appearing in climbing books and magazines over the years.

“I think we are all pretty much in shock,” Shingo Ohkawa, a friend of Bitter’s, said.

Ohkawa is one of the co-owners of IME Utah, a hardcore climbing shop in Salt Lake County. It’s also where Bitter worked for the past 22 years.

“You have to understand that he started climbing at a time when it wasn’t as widespread. There were no indoor climbing facilities and it was very obscure,” Ohkawa said.

Paul Harvey, another owner of IME, said Friday was a very sad day.

“It’s losing a dear friend and a figure in the community — one you could trust. Implicitly honest,” he said.

Climber Bob Gray said Bitter helped him nearly 20 years ago, when he was a poor college student, find $15 climbing shoes.

On Friday, Gray showed up at IME with $120. He said he wanted to return the favor for someone else who may need help buying their first entry level climbing shoes.

“I thought I would give $120 for these guys to decide who the next person that needs a pair of climbing shoes. I will buy them in honor of Merill Bitter,” he said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Matt Rascon, KSL TV

Pleasant Grove tattoo artist used work to help others before her murder

A mother who police say was shot and killed by her son in Pleasant Grove Thursday night, used her artwork as a tattoo artist to help others heal from past trauma.
22 hours ago
USA Climbing competition in SLC on May 21st, 2022...
Alex Cabrero, KSL TV

World’s best climbers in SLC for competition

It's the perfect time for Salt Lake to be at the forefront of the sport’s popularity.
22 hours ago
(Davis County Sheriff's Office)...
Merri Moeller, KSL TV

Murder suspect wished he’d used sharper knife in stabbings, court docs say

A man in custody after stabbing two women including a woman he’d met on Tinder made some chilling statements about the attacks to police, court documents show.
22 hours ago
The scene of the South Jordan paraglider accident....
Michael Houck, KSL TV

Man flown to hospital in South Jordan skydiving accident

One man is in critical condition due to a skydiving accident on Saturday afternoon according to officials.
22 hours ago
SLCPD confiscated an air soft gun after reports of the suspect pointing a rifle at people. (Photo: ...
Michael Houck, KSK TV

Salt Lake City officers respond to person pointing rifle at people

Salt Lake City police responded to multiple calls of a person pointing a rifle at people Friday night, only to find it was an airsoft gun.
22 hours ago
Two men dead, three hospitalized after a North Ogden pursuit (Credit - North Ogden Police)...
Michael Houck, KSL TV

Two dead, three hospitalized after a North Ogden pursuit

Two men are dead after fleeing from a traffic stop and crashing into a tree in North Ogden Saturday morning, according to North Ogden police.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Make Money Online Easily...

4 Ways that You Can Make Money Online Easily in Just a Few Clicks

Here are 4 ways that you can make money online easily in no time at all! Some are as simple as just a few clicks away.
tips to winterize your home...
Bonneville Digital SLC

Tips to Winterize Your Home | The Top 5 Ways You Can Prepare for the Cold Utah Winter Ahead

Before the snow hits, here are the top 5 tips to winterize your home to prepare for the cold Utah winter this year.
Remembering a Utah legend who lost his life in the backcountry