Crestone Peak Tragedy

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Crestone Peak Tragedy

Postby captainp » Sat Sep 01, 2012 6:20 am

Hi Everyone,

I am the climber who was with Chris Gray on Tuesday, August 28 when he fell on Crestone Peak. I have met with his family and shared his final day with them, and I would like to relay it now to the climbing community that he derived so much joy from being a part of.
After sharing some emails through the 14ers website, we met up and drove down to the Crestones Monday evening and hiked up to the old 4wd trailhead to camp for the night. At 5:00 am we began our climb, and by 6:30 am we were near the Humboldt/Crestone Peak saddle enjoying a spectacular sunrise with the Crestone group bathed in alpenglow.
Those of you who have met Chris probably have noticed that he's a bit on the quiet and reserved side, but with the beautiful morning and exciting scrambling on the ridge run over to Bear's Playground he was positively giddy talking about how much fun he was having.
By 9:00 am we were at 13,800' on the North Buttress of Crestone Peak. We were both climbing well at that point as we negotiated a mix of class 3 and some low class 4 terrain. I had just passed up a sloping ramp as we traversed above a steep section of the buttress and I turned to Chris to offer a suggestion as to where to ascend to gain the ramp and make the traverse. He moved confidently onto the ramp and began the traverse. At that point I turned to continue upward and immediately heard a gasp. I turned back to see Chris falling backward off the ramp and down the steep gully below us. He hit the mountain several times before falling out of site over a vertical area.
Needless to say, I was very shaken as I carefully downclimbed class 4 & 5 terrain to get to Chris. When I reached him after about 200', it was clear that he had not survived the fall. After several minutes with him, I covered him with his jacket and parka, and continued down, using the rest of his gear as markers placed conspicuously to assist in locating him. When I got down to a ridgeline at 13,200', I was able to get a cell signal and contact the authorities.
First and foremost, I want reiterate the great sorrow I and my family feel for Chris and his family and their tremendous loss in this tragedy. The strength of Chris' wife Taylor in the midst of this incredibly difficult time has been truly inspirational. Thank you Taylor.
Also, my sincerest thanks to the Custer County Search and Rescue folks as well as the other assisting agencies. They had a hasty team on the mountain within a couple of hours, and were professional and respectful in every way as they went about the difficult job of getting Chris down the mountain and back to his family.
This was the first climb I had the opportunity to do with Chris, but his passion for the high peaks was immediately apparent. It was clear he loved the challenges that climbing in the Colorado mountains offered him, as well as the peace and inner strength he could find there. As his wife Taylor said to me, we lost Chris far too early in his life, but when our time comes, may we all be fortunate enough to be doing something we love in a place we love to be.
I wish I could have done more for you, Chris, but I am grateful to have met you and to have been with you sharing that beautiful morning on the mountain.

Peace be with you Chris.

Paul Fotinos
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Re: Crestone Peak Tragedy

Postby susanjoypaul » Sat Sep 01, 2012 6:26 am

Thank you for posting. I can't begin to imagine what you've been through, but I share your respect and admiration for Chris' wife Taylor, and the rescue team that recovered the body.

May you find peace in the coming weeks.
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Re: Crestone Peak Tragedy

Postby Johnson » Sat Sep 01, 2012 6:39 am

Paul, thank you for sharing. All the best to you as you process this terrible accident.
In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. - Psalm 95:4

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Re: Crestone Peak Tragedy

Postby axbauer » Sat Sep 01, 2012 8:11 am

Beautiful Paul. Thank you for sharing what you shared with me with this beautiful community. I consider you one of my angels.

Anyone would be honored to hike with this man in the future.

May you also find peace.
Last edited by axbauer on Sat Sep 01, 2012 12:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Crestone Peak Tragedy

Postby Hunter » Sat Sep 01, 2012 8:38 am

With every loss I read about I am affected in some way. We were up there the past two days and this tragedy weighed heavy on my heart while hiking. Although I never knew Chris I feel some kind of connection sharing the same passion for hiking and having been up there. While I know there is nothing I can say or do to ease the pain Taylor and his family are going through, know my hearts and prayers are with you. Paul, through time I hope you can somehow work through this and are able to return to your passion for hiking. My heart goes out to all of you.
My sincerest apologies,

May we all continue to be respectful to both Chris' family and to Paul.
Last edited by Hunter on Sat Sep 01, 2012 8:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Crestone Peak Tragedy

Postby tehchad » Sat Sep 01, 2012 8:41 am

It's a solemn reminder that our lives, anywhere, are still very fragile.

Thank you for sharing Paul.

[-o< Surround the family and Taylor and please bring peace. Amen.
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Re: Crestone Peak Tragedy

Postby IHikeLikeAGirl » Sat Sep 01, 2012 9:32 am

I can't imagine how difficult that was to write...recounting Chris' final morning and moments, but thank you.

Sorry for what you had to witness and so sorry for his wife, family, and friends for their tremendous loss.

Glad you were with him to enjoy that gorgeous sunrise....
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Re: Crestone Peak Tragedy

Postby rking007 » Sat Sep 01, 2012 11:25 am


Thank you for sharing. It must help to talk about it a little and just know that your sharing has in some way helped us all process a little bit more. I admit though that your story is more simple than I want it to be. It just can't be that it happened so, for lack of a better term, simply. But that's just the reality that it happens that way sometimes and it forces me to consider my own mortality and that's why I don't want it to be so 'simple'. Thank you for another reminder this week and last that life is so much beautiful and that I should find contentment and beauty in everything that I do before I leave this place and travel on the next. Prayers to you in this time. Prayers for rest while you sleep and continued prayers for healing to all friends and families.
- Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.
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Re: Crestone Peak Tragedy

Postby mtgirl » Sat Sep 01, 2012 2:16 pm

My thoughts are with you, Paul. I hope you can come to peace with this terrible tragedy in the near future. You've witnessed an event that none of us would ever want to witness - and you've come thru it with amazing strength. That says a lot about your character.
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Re: Crestone Peak Tragedy

Postby SpringsHiker » Sat Sep 01, 2012 3:23 pm

Wow. +1 to all that has been shared. It sounds like there were two mountaineers with great character and one was sadly lost. RIP
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Re: Crestone Peak Tragedy

Postby pvnisher » Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:37 pm

These types of accidents are hard to deal with because there is no "well, I would certainly never make that mistake", or "clearly here is where it went wrong" detail to try to point out. We like to try to think that we can learn from others' mistakes and somehow be safer, but that isn't always the case. Certainly doesn't appear to be here.

Even on relatively easy ground accidents can and do happen. It is a great loss, particularly to his friends and family, and to the greater community, as well.

Rest in Peace, Chris.
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Re: Crestone Peak Tragedy

Postby Hungry Jack » Wed Sep 05, 2012 4:49 am

Good Lord, what a terrible thing to go through. I wish you peace and safe climbing in the years that come.

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