Peak(s):  West Spanish Pk  -  13,626 feet
Date Posted:  06/28/2021
Date Climbed:   03/07/2020
Author:  Sbenfield
Additional Members:   bludwig
 In Memory of Bryan Ludwig   

In memory of Bryan Ludwig

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Bryan enjoying a Mt. Sneffels sunrise
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Mt Meeker, one of Bryan's favorites

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My friend Bryan passed away last week in a fall on 13er Pico Aislado. Bryan was the most wonderful person that I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing the mountains with. He was one of the best friends that I will ever have in my life. I can’t even count how many peaks we’ve hiked together.

I know many of us had the pleasure of meeting or interacting with him, but for those who haven’t, I hope this report shows you just how amazing he really was.

I met Bryan at the trailhead of Culebra Peak by random chance. I usually hiked alone, and only had 1 or 2 mountain friends before I met him. I remember there was a group of people in a circle chatting about mountains and I joined the group while eating my dinner. Everyone was complaining about how much snow there still was that season, except for Bryan. He was saying how much fun he had climbing La Plata Peak with snow even though it took him several tries. Bryan’s enthusiasm about the mountains was contagious, and you could hear it in his voice how much he loved these peaks. At the time, Bryan had a pretty useless vehicle so I offered to drive him to the 4wd trailhead. At the trailhead we decided to partner up along with Joel, who we also met at the trailhead, to Culebra’s summit.

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New friends on Culebra Pk

The entire summer, Bryan and I continued to hike together. During this time, we picked up so many friends along the way. This was all because of Bryan’s remarkable enthusiasm and infectious attitude about these mountains. He was the only person I knew who could start a hike with total strangers, and end the day with an entire group of lifelong friends. He was the ultimate uniter of people in these hills. I’ve never seen anything like it. On Handies Pk we hiked with Liza and Scott and on on Uncompahgre Peak we teamed up with Kyle W, Ryan, and Gintus for what turned out to be some truly unforgettable days in the San Juans.

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Picking up more friends on the way up Uncompaghre Pk
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Bryan, Kyle W, Ryan & Gintus on Redcloud Peak
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Bryan, Scott, Liza, & I on Handies Peak

Our Labor Day weekend in the Wilson group will always be on of my best memories. Bryan, Kyle F, and I started out that morning up El Diente Peak and then added Greg to our hiking group after Bryan found out that Greg was from his hometown of Rochester NY. Bryan and Greg hit it off immediately after talking about a French fry-chili dish served at some random restaurant in Rochester.

In the middle of the traverse to Mt Wilson, we met Courtney & Megan and Bryan added them to our hiking group for the day as well. Both Courtney and Megan carried an infinite supply of gummy bears with them that day. Bryan, realizing the importance of such a sugar source, quickly insisted that they join our group for the rest of the traverse.

The next day on Wilson Peak, Drew joined our team as well after meeting him in the parking lot. I was too tired to make it all the way to Wilson Peak so I stopped near the rock of ages saddle and took a nap. I was awakened later that morning by laughter of the whole group coming down from a successful summit. Bryan was telling all sorts of silly jokes and spreading his love of the hills to everyone within a 100 mile radius. From that weekend onwards, we were all friends for life.

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Bryan & I on Mt. Wilson
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Bryan, Drew, Courtney, Greg, & Megan on Wilson Peak

One of my favorite memories with Bryan was on an attempt to summit West Spanish Pk in March 2020. At the time, I was working oil and gas in TX, so I flew into the Springs the evening prior and Courtney, Megan, and I spent the night at Bryan’s apartment. We met Greg the following morning, and drove to the bottom of Cordova pass to hike West Spanish Pk. After getting Greg’s car stuck in the snow we eventually started our way on the hike. We postholed for hours, and by mid afternoon we turned around after making it just past the summer trailhead. At this point we pretended that reaching the summer trailhead was our goal all along. Mission accomplished!

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Bryan and I just past the summer trailhead.
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TEAM MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

From the point forward, we called ourselves “Team Mission Accomplished” for failing our objective successfully. That evening we all ate a disgusting amount of pizza in honor of our victory.

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Team Mission Accomplished was always a growing team, and that was all because of Bryan. Everyone who met Bryan in the mountains had a better experience because of him. In an attempt to recreate our West Spanish Peak experience, we opted for an attempt of Colony Baldy this March. This time, Will & Ana also joined the team. The postholing was again a nightmare, but our team of 7 put in a mega trench. This time we made the summit!

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Bryan was never shy about trying new things in the mountains. This year, he started to learn how to ski and spent a total of ~4 days at Loveland. He told me he was partially proficient in skiing blue runs, and was eager to ski a 13er. Therefore in May, Bryan and I decided to ski off of 13er Jacque Peak’s summit. This time Ross joined us, who we met on Gladstone Peak’s ridge the year prior. The three of us made a great team that day.

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Bryan with all his ski stuff on the way up Jacque Peak

While Bryan’s skiing technique certainly left something to be desired, he made it down and earned that red skier icon. He might be the worst skier on this website to ski from the summit of any peak, but his passion and stoke levels were unmatched!!

My last hike with Bryan was on Memorial Day this year in the Elk Range, just the 2 of us. I never would have thought this would be our last adventure together, but I’m so grateful for the time with him that day.

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Bryan, you really were the best ever mountain friend. We will miss you so much. I promise to carry your spirit with me in the mountains for the rest of my life.

Climb on Buddy

I've also included several more pictures of memorable times with Bryan

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Bryan drove his car into a river near St Mary's glacier and we spent the entire morning digging it out
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Every time we pushed the car out it would recoil and slam back into a big rock
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"Halloween 2020"
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A memorable fall day in the Gore Range with Bryan, Courtney, Nina, and myself
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Bryan very eager to head up Twin Pks in the Sangres this May
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Part of Team Mission Accomplished (Bryan, Drew, Courtney, Brandon & myself) on Bald Mtn this November.
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Bryan so happy to find snow in August on the way up Mt Powell



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
courtc43
User
Bryan will be greatly missed
06/28/2021 10:09
Thank you Steve for writing this! So many memories reading this. Bryan was a great hiking partner and friend and will be greatly missed.


Jorts
User
Love the last photo
06/28/2021 10:43
Great tribute. RIP Bryan.


Reg0928
User
Awesome
06/28/2021 11:05
This is an amazing tribute. Thanks, Steve. May Bryan's love of the hills live on through his friends and partners


kushrocks
User
Incredible!
06/28/2021 11:12
I know what its like to loose a friend in the mountains. This is a great tribute with awesome photos! Hope you are hanging in there.


Mtnman200
User
A great tribute
06/28/2021 14:13
I hope Bryan‘s family sees this.


blazintoes
User
Mister Rogers
06/28/2021 14:52
To die is human and anything human is mentionable. Anything mentionable is manageable.


mtngoatwithstyle
Thank you
06/29/2021 09:45
This is one of the most touching and beautiful memories we will all have of Bryan, even if we never met him. He will always have his spirit on the mountains, I hope we all continue to smile and share the passion, just like he did. Stay strong team, I know this must be really hard on all of you.


greenonion
User
Very Beautiful and Well Done
07/01/2021 11:22
I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for putting this together. Bryan had a heck of a friend in you. Very well done.


JChitwood
User
Great Job
07/03/2021 14:19
Awesome post thanks for putting it up. What a team you had. RIP Bryan you were an inspiration to many.


Skimo95
Well written Steve
07/04/2021 11:55
I‘m truly sorry for your loss and I‘m glad you have pictures to look back on and remember what a great guy Bryan was. I hope you continue crushing mountains in honor of him, may he Rest In Peace


nikonumber14
User
Rest in Peace
07/05/2021 11:08
Bryan sounds like a true companion. I'm sure his spirit will stay with you in the mountains Steve.


rruss
User
Thank you
07/15/2021 11:52
This is such a beautiful tribute Steve. Thanks for including me in it. That was the most memorable 4th of July ever. I feel so grateful I got to summit so many peaks that weekend with Bryan and that we were able to keep in touch on adventures since. I'm going to really miss seeing photos of you together on summits and getting messages from Bryan checking in on how my adventures are going. My heart goes out to you and Bryan's family, I'm so sorry you're going through this.



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