Jack Roberts and the Fall


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Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Feb 23, 2013 - 12:07pm PT
Thanks for sharing your heartfelt account of Jack's last climb.

What strikes me again is how,in a few seconds, a climbing outing can change from a joyous lark to a stark tragedy. We pay a huge price in grief for this passion of ours.



Ice climber
Feb 23, 2013 - 02:27pm PT
Rick, pretty concise assessment! I always appreciate your words and care!

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Feb 23, 2013 - 02:32pm PT
Jon... thank you for sharing.


Social climber
Feb 23, 2013 - 04:02pm PT
Thanks for the story, well written, clear, heartbreaking to read.

No heart attack apparently, nothing like that. What's left is the unanswerable: why he fell.

Which is what people asked of Bachar. He had such confidence, experience, strength, such a mastery over the medium.

I was left wondering if Bachar's mistake was that he forgot that he was still playing a game with a chance of the unexpected.

And that such an unexpected occurrence could be with one's own body, not the medium. Cough, cramp, failing to notice some fracture line because one's eyesight is not so great, one's senses not so alert?

Any one of the ways in which a 50-plus body is not so trustworthy. Aging shifts the odds, and not in your favor. Recalculating this side of the equation is really difficult.

Who knows. Maybe I'm full of it, projecting, out of place. If so, sorry. Just mulling over an idea. I'm working on recalibrating these same odds myself.

Really, really sorry this had to happen to you. Thanks for writing your account.

Pam, all the best,

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 23, 2013 - 04:03pm PT
Part two is now up..

The Last Lesson.


Feb 23, 2013 - 04:50pm PT
After reading both parts I'm assuming, yes just assuming, that he may have just had a temporary loss of consciousness, which caused the him to fall off.

We'll ultimately never fully know except that somehow Jack fell off.

When he said “Jon, I’m going to die.” that's kind of cryptic to me.

I've been on scene with one guy once who had blood running out of ears and grabbing me asking if he was going to die now.

I told him he only has a badly sprained ankle and don't worry.

He lived because SAR med-evaced him pretty damn fast and got him to the hospital in time.

It was pretty damn intense though.

I've seen a lot of folks not making it because their injuries we're far to sustained.

The only way I've understood the whole shebang is if you don't make it "your number is up".

It sounds cold and detached but after many years of seeing both sides (survival and not survival) that's all I can say.

Thanks for writing the the two parts, they were very interesting and enlightening to what you went through and your thoughts.


Social climber
Feb 23, 2013 - 05:20pm PT
Just to make it clear, I wrote part one and Dane posted it on his blog. Dane wrote part 2 from his experience. He graciously allowed me to read it first before he posted it up.

The hard part of any accident is figuring out why it happened. Jack couldn't tell me and we will never know. He tried to remember, but he just didn't seem to know.

Dane took our conversations about the accident and his own thoughts to write his analysis and give his thoughts. Hopefully it will help us think about our own climbing and help us avoid our own accidents in the future.


Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 23, 2013 - 06:06pm PT
It all seems kinda funny now in restrospect.
I asked and Jack never gave me a good reason he stepped into space on Curtain Call. He did how ever what to know, "how in hell did I go so far!". Implying my likely inattentive belay. As I rolled my eyes, coughed up a bs and ignored his sh#t :) But one screw each in a set of double ropes gives you a LOOOOTTTTTTTTT of stretch when you are 100' out :) It turned into a standing joke between us, "he never dropped his tools, only forgot them".

No one more aware than us we'd hit 60 this year. Or how the life we've had has aged us.

It was all good for a laugh over coffee in Chamonix the next winter.

I was actually surprised that Jack started using umbilicals. That was new for Jack and not something I ever thought he would do. We both admired style...because it does matter.

I've been using umbilicals back to the days of bamboo Zeros and Terrodactyls. Because I have no intention of ever falling off on an ice climb. Fook style at that point.

Better to blame me than actually put a lot of thought into how to prevent it from happening again? As I mentioned we have both climbed in the same manner for as long as I can remember. I still do...or may be, did. I am rethinking all that as I am packing now for a week out ice climbing starting tomorrow.

And as Craig just emailed me, "I know he is with me on every pitch I
climb. Especially when I'm running it out..."


Social climber
State of decay
Feb 23, 2013 - 06:48pm PT
Though I hadn't really seen him in years, I remember Jack from Tahquitz days, about a million years ago now.
I have a lump in my throat that won't go away.
Too many times over the last several years I am reminded of the ephemeral nature of life. That twinkle in the eye, that Jack had in abundance, I shall never forget.
That could not have been easy to write,as works of love and remembrance never are.

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills, CA
Feb 23, 2013 - 06:56pm PT
My condolences to you and all who knew Jack.
Sounds like a great lifetime was spent in the mountains for Jack.

At least his final moments were in the mountains with his best.

Godspeed Jack.

Social climber
Feb 23, 2013 - 07:15pm PT
Curious - Last time I saw Jack he was standing outside my office at McGuckin Hardware looking at outdoor thermometers with his ice tools hooked over his shoulder. I asked him what he had them in there for and he said he was working on a better attachment point for them.

I did not know him as well as many here and my heart goes out to you for your terrible loss. Thank you for posting up the details and your feelings. They are greatly appreciated.


Trad climber
Living Outside the Statist Quo
Feb 23, 2013 - 10:12pm PT
Thanks, hell of a thing this life.

On the shoreline of this sad tale was

He felt like she was his greatest accomplishment in life.

May I be so blessed to be remembered with these words.



Ice climber
Feb 24, 2013 - 12:53am PT
But sometimes a bitter pill to swallow, knowing how much more we had together, and how much more we both wanted. I would sell my soul for one more hour together........

Feb 24, 2013 - 09:13am PT
You will,see each other again and believe me he was thinking only of you in his final moments.

You don't need to sell your soul you need to,carry on living until you meet again.
Beatrix Kiddo

Mountain climber
Feb 24, 2013 - 12:05pm PT
Thank you for the post. Jack was certainly a badass. I'm sure that was hard to write but I hope it brings some relief to you. I didn't hear that he passed in your arms until I read your story. Incredibe.

Ice climber
Feb 24, 2013 - 12:10pm PT
Thanks Will and WTF....it's always easier once morning comes, and I'm not drinking tequila! :-)

Ice climber
Feb 24, 2013 - 12:15pm PT
Thought I'd post up what I wrote for the Telluride paper, and what I read at his memorial. Not sure I'd done that already, so sorry if this is a repeat!

Jack Roberts
How does one condense twenty five years of life with someone into a short article? Much has been written about Jack’s amazing exploits in the mountains. He had a remarkable climbing career that spanned over forty one years. But when I think about Jack, my husband, best friend, and soulmate, I will forever feel the warmth of his kind smile, and see the twinkle in his beautiful eyes.
I first met Jack when I was working at Neptune Mountaineering. He had just moved to Colorado from California, and of course his first stop was to Neptune’s. Like any girl, I was immediately taken by his easy smile, and his intensely sparkling blue/green eyes. He moved into my best friend’s house (the infamous “Alpine House”), and although I saw him frequently that winter, he seemed shy, and kept to himself. I knew nothing about him other than he liked to climb, and he worked at a group home for autistic adults. Finally one spring day I suggested we go climbing together, and so we did. By the end of that day he had asked me to dinner, and to a certain extent that date has gone on for the past twenty five years.
Our schedules allowed us to climb frequently together in those days, and we became fast partners. Our first long trip was that June when we spent a month together in Tuolomne Meadows, and by the end of that trip we sensed that we might be in this for the long run. The following summer we spent four months travelling and climbing in the western U.S. and Canada. On the east ridge of Bugaboo Spire we got caught in a bad storm, and by the end of that arduous retreat I knew that this was a man I could trust with my life. I also knew that I probably was not destined to become the “alpine Betty” he hoped I might become. While I suppose I am gnarlier than some, I was beginning to realize that my ambitions as a climber were going to stay rooted in sunny rock climbs, the occasional single-pitch ice climb, and a big mountain here and there.
After four years, he finally asked me to marry him, and so in September 1989 we took the plunge. Our honeymoon was a six-month climbing trip to England to visit his extended family (his parents were both from Manchester), on to Spain, France, and then Joshua Tree. We lived the typical dirt-bag existence, and it seemed glorious. To be married to a remarkably handsome man (in my opinion!), living a life of adventure and passion, was beyond a dream come true.
And so the years passed. We bought a house. I became a high school Spanish teacher, Jack became a guide. We had a series of Golden Retrievers that completed our family unit. Suddenly it seemed we were middle-aged, and we were contemplating how Jack would celebrate his sixtieth birthday this coming May. We both truly felt that our most precious and remarkable achievement was our marriage.
Jack was so much more than a climber. He loved to cook, and truly enjoyed being a house-husband when I was busy during the school year. He has an amazing collection of ridiculously expensive fountain pens. He had beautiful penmanship, and could do calligraphy. He loved to write and draw, and frequently had an inkblot on one of his fingers. I have every note he ever wrote to me, which fill a large drawer. His feet were a mess. He loved Golden Retrievers, especially our current one, Pisco. He was a collector of many things, and our small house is bursting at the seams with his books, gear, photos, and trinkets from various trips around the world. He loved to buy me stuffed animals, especially penguins, but I’m pretty sure he bought them for himself. He would deny this completely. He had an insatiable drive to travel, and enjoyed the cultural component of trips easily as much as the climbing parts. He was curious and sensitive. He loved being with women because he found their conversation more interesting than that of men. He was an incurable flirt as well. He was well-read, and was a wealth of information when it came to climbing history. He was a gentleman and a hopeless romantic. Most of all, Jack loved me completely and madly, and never let me forget that. So I know that I am fortunate to have shared such a rich and wonderful life with the man of my dreams. It’s just that I am going to miss him so much.

Feb 24, 2013 - 12:41pm PT
I would just like to thank Jon for posting these articles. I cannot imagine how hard it was for you Jon, but it was brave and no doubt spiritually cleansing for you. I had not really know the circumstances of Jacks death until Pam and I met over the Christmas break and then the grief started all over again as I understood the pain he went through upon his death. I can only be thankful that a good friend was with him when he died.
I recall the shock of the call I received from San Miguel EMT Santos informing me of Jacks accident and death. I could not believe it and my first thought was of Pam in Cuba and trying to find her. I called her mother, Carol and brother Richard. They were of such help, such steady nerves and gentle love, no panic only calmness but also shock at the news. I could not have made it through without the love and support of my husband, Ski, and children. My mother, I guess blessedly, has dementia and it did not fully register with her that she had lost her son to a tragic accident , much the same way she had lost her husband and our father in 1975 to electrocution.
Jack was a unique soul, loving, giving and humble, but had a very dark and dry sense of humor, something that as brother and sister can only share. The many moments we shared over the years will be missed as will his friendship and love. Many people have wondered at the cause of his death, there is no history of major health problems on either side of our families, so I believe that as Pam mentioned that he had a coughing fit and lost his grip/balance. Tragic. He was going to come out to us in Idaho after the Bozeman Ice festival, but the time would have been too short for such a long drive and the weather was getting ugly so Ski and I insisted that he go home to Pam and we would see him when he had more time. Three weeks later he was gone. A moment in time lost.
I was looking through my Mothers old photo albums and have seen another side of Jack through his childhood pictures. Many of those have his smile upon his face and others with that smile looking down on his younger sister. My childhood guardian, the man who walked me down the aisle in my Fathers place and the brother that tried to guide me spiritually will be
will always be in my heart and so terribly missed. Again thank you Jon for being so brave.

Chris Roberts Legerski

July 4, 2010 Custer, South Dakota
July 4, 2010 Custer, South Dakota
Credit: bldrjacsis

Ice climber
Feb 25, 2013 - 05:35pm PT

Trad climber
Feb 25, 2013 - 09:33pm PT

condolences to Jack's family... what a sudden and sad loss. Thanks for posting the story behind the story.
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