Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 12, 2007 - 06:07pm PT
Amy Skinner called me today to let me know of the death of one of Lander, Wyoming's climbing community , NOLS community, and just darned good people community. Peter Absolon was climbing with a friend and was apparently killed in a rockfall accident yesterday 8/12/07 in the Wind River Mountains near Lander. I know little more detail than this, and that his wife, Molly Absolon, and their young daughter Avery age 7, are facing today what I know each of us prays our families never have to. I'm sure more details will be forthcoming, but in the interim, anyone on this forum who knows Pete and or Molly --- I know Molly will appreciate your support, love and understanding from a community that knows what it is like to lose some of the best. THanks for your support.
Below is what Molly wrote last October when all of us in Lander were reeling over Todd Skinner's death. Molly is, herself, a climber, a mom of a young daughter, Avery, and now one of us who mourns the loss of a partner and could use the support of this community:
I'm supposed to be working, but I keep coming back to this forum again and again, amazed at the outpouring of love and support for Todd and his family. I don't know why I should be surprised, because like so many of the people who have written in, I too was encouraged by Todd as I struggled up easy climbs that were hard for me; I too watched him reach out to my young daughter and make her laugh; I too heard his funny stories and saw him light up an audience; I too was the recepient of his incredible hospitality and generosity; and I too saw him with his children. He was a motivator. He was kind and giving. He made people laugh.
I've also been over to Todd and Amy's house and seen the sadness his death has left behind. Todd was an incredible light in so many people's lives and for many of us, that is enough. But it is hard to think of Hannah, Sarah and Jake growing up without him around. It's hard to think of Amy raising those kids by herself.
A friend of my father's once said,"Life is short, and we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who walk the way with us. So be swift to love and make haste to be kind, and peace will be always with you."
I send those words out to all of us. It's how Todd lived, and how we too should move forward. It's how we can help Amy.
Rest in peace, Todd.
Pete became a NOLS instructor in '90 and has held a number of admin positions as well as extensive field work. He was, most recently, the Director of the NOLS Rocky Mountain Branch, the largest of the branch schools. I don't think he ever taught a BCS --- that would be Peter Chance.
Pete was an amazing person and brother. He lived life to the fullest and squeezed more out of 47 years than most could in ten life times. Molly and Avery -- we love you -- we will be there as soon as we can. Molly, the only thing Pete loved more than the rocks was you and Avery -- he was blessed to find his sole mate in you. We love you...
Pete is with his brother Fritz now probably looking for a good rock to climb in heaven ...no doubt!
Pete was always such fun to climb and hang out with, I will always treasure this past spring when we were working adjacent routes in Sinks Canyon. Every weekend, Pete would be there working, cursing, laughing, all of us having a great time. He was a wonderful keystone in our climbing community and he will be missed dearly. Molly and Avery, our prayers and thoughts are with you both. We will all miss Pete so much, what a great person! Adios Pete...
Wow - not sure how to digest it all. Never met a man like him. So full of life, so balanced and so kind to everyone. He had this remarkable ability to relate to everyone. I was blessed to have him as a supervisor for the past 2 1/2 years in which I am grateful that I told him were my BEST 2 1/2 years - all due to him!! His talents were beyond just being an amazing athelete - he was an amazing friend, boss, co-worker and just an amazing human. You will be so missed by everyone.
My thoughts are with Molly and Avery who were so blessed to have the most incredible husband and dad in the world.
Pete was doing a new route near Lander in Leg Lake Cirque. He had completed a lead and was anchored about 800 feet up the wall. His partner had just arrived at the belay. The rock was thrown or pushed off by a hiker from the summit plateau 300 feet above. The thrower looked over the edge, saw it hit Pete, then dialed 911. The rock hit the back of Pete’s helmet covered head. He must have died instantly. I don’t know much about the thrower: I think he is from Casper, a veteran of two tours in Iraq.
Pete’s body was flown out Sunday night by a Jenny Lake rescue team led by Renny Jackson.
Pete’s family requests that stories about Pete be added to this thread.
Services will be held in Lander Wyoming on Sunday, August 19: location to be determined.
I'm one of Molly's sisters- we are all so shocked and will miss Pete terribly. Thank you to all the Lander friends who have immediately stepped in to help Molly and Avery. This is such a horribly sad time, but it helps knowing that you all are there giving her the love and support she needs when we are still so far away. I look forward to thanking you in person soon.
It's also wonderful hearing in this forum how many lives Pete has touched.
Cornelia Armbrecht Brefka
I don't know how it can be. Pete was joy unfettered and will be truly missed by all. He was a happy man and loved by everyone who knew him. Molly, Avery, I'm so sorry. But please always know and remember how much he loved you and adored you both. I will miss Pete so very much, and in fact I was still grieving over the loss of him as my boss (when he went to the RM) - he really was the best boss ever. But, I'm thankful that I did have the opportunity to get to know Pete and his wonderful family. I'm a better person and my life is better for having known him.
I'm a friend of the Armbrechts, Ted's in particular. I met Pete a few times but mostly know him from Ted's stories about the adventures they had together. If you ever heard Ted talk about Pete, you would know that he was the big brother that Ted never had. What I gather from Ted's stories is that Pete was not only an excellent athlete and outdoorsman, but a genuinely great person in all respects. The real deal.
My heart goes out to Molly and Avery, the Armbrechts, and the Absolons.
My brother Brian called me last night when he received word of Pete's death and I'm still in shock. I worked at the RMB during the summer of 2001 and always loved crossing paths with Pete in the office. His mischievous grin and positive attitude never failed to brighten my day.
I will always remember the last mental picture I have of Pete when we crossed paths on the trail near the Killer Cave at the Sinks: big grin, eyes sparking, enjoying the gorgeous Wyoming summer afternoon. Even for those of us whose time with him was brief, his impact was no less significant.
Bless you Pete. My condolences to Molly, Avery, his family and many friends.
I've been working for NOLS since 2000 and had many positive experiences with Pete through the RM. I just came off a backcountry rock course this week and now remember talking with Pete during my briefing a month ago. He always had time for questions about routes or to give advice on a course to me, and he was genuinely interested in what had happened in my life in the last year since I'd seen him.
My only experience in the field with Pete was on an instructor's mountaineering seminar in the Winds that he led in 2001. He had such a positive energy and excitement for teaching and the backcountry that was infectious. I remember a mellow AI3, 4 pitch route in Indian Basin that September that I went up with Pete and Hampton, my first multipitch ice route. Pete led pitch one, then he and I sat at the belay as Hampton led pitch 2. Pete grinned and asked if I wanted to lead the next pitch, but I said I thought I'd wait for the next route. Once we'd both followed and were at the top of the second pitch he asked me again grinning if I wanted the next lead. Of course this time I said yeah and it was fine and fun and I felt Pete was psyched for me to be doing something new. That positive introduction to ice precipitated me getting completely hooked and spending the next five winters on Adirondack ice. I remember tenting with Steve Herlihy that same trip as well and what a great time in the mountains it was. I definitely send my support and thought out to Molly, Avery and Steve.
Reading the NOLS email late last night about Pete, I found myself unable to sleep thinking about him and the risks in the backcountry. I appreciated his honesty, respect for others and the mountains, and though I spent little time with him in the scheme of things I know I'll miss him. I'm headed in to Moran tomorrow and I'll be thinking about Pete as I'm on the route.
Linda and Tony Brooks were terribly saddened to hear of Pete's tragedy. We loved our visits with him as he related stories of our son, Charley Brooks. He was a man of tremendous compassion and will be missed by many. You have our deepest sympathy, Linda
You are so loved by so many people and always will be. I will remember your easy going nature, and love of life and enjoying the outdoors. Your goofy grin and when you jut your chin out, like Avery and Molly also do. You all are such a team, like triplets. You were always so patient with me when we were out climbing or teleing, even though I was not in Olympic shape like you are or not as skilled. You never let on if I was holding you up, consummate patience and I so appreciate the adventures you took me on. In fact i remembered last night while i was not sleeping that you took my on my first climb on the Gendarme at Seneca Rocks, may that fallen sentinel be a symbolic memorial to you.
You were also always so forgiving with my intense, opinionated family (therefore epic decisions while 15 of us try to decide what to do next)...somehow a calm anchor while the rest of us were flying around and it made our family trips better having you there. I loved the years of visits to Lander and rambling around Sinks or Wild Iris, and eating some of your elk and drinking beers at home. I also remember with a smile your love of watching football..."gotta watch the game" and i can see your smile and raised eyebrows, your 'over-excited kid' look. And you calling Molly 'Scooby'.
I had a dream this morning after waking up too early and then lying there trying to get some more sleep before i had to start my day. I was in a room with Molly and some others, and Molly was sitting on a couch. There might have been a child sitting next to her, but then when i looked again I saw you sitting next to Molly and nodding and smiling to the conversation. I said to everyone "Do you see what I see? Pete is sitting here with us by Molly on the couch!" They didn't seem to understand and I reached out to see if I could touch you, and I grasped your knee. I exclaimed, "See him, I am touching his knee." And you just kept on smiling... and then I woke up.
I am so sorry you had to go so soon Pete. I still can't quite believe it. I will miss you very much. Thanks for everything. Molly and Avery will be well cared for....you all have such good friends in Lander and across the country. And the family will also be there for them. I send my love to your family too.
I hope you are flying free and will look in on us sometime.
I am Pete's eldest sister. We share with you your sorrow.
We love Pete so very, very much. The love he has for his soulmate, Molly, and gem of child Avery was/is something that we loved to witness when they were all together. The pain of these three not being together and the pain of knowing we will not have him at future family gatherings is beyond words at this time.
He lived life to the fullest. I am happy to share that he advised our son, Chris Herber to take the NOLS Semester in Alaska course. Chris is sea kayaking in Prince William Sound as I write this and will learn this terrible news within the next 24 hours. Please hold our son in your hearts during this difficult time.
Pete's passion for his work is a baton that Chris seems to have taken up. Chris wrote "I am sure that this trip is the beginning to a wonderful passion that I will pursue and continue for the rest of my life."
Pete was an inspiration to us all and so many. He accomplished so much in his life. He was our rock.
May the spirit of the Wind River be with each of you as you mourn our loss.
Love & Peace,
Mary Therese Absolon
Sister to Peter Henry Absolon
like many people, i cannot quite grasp this horrible news. it's hard to believe that this could happen to a family so full of joy and incredible spirit. though my interactions with pete here in lander and with nols have been always been brief, i was always impressed with the genuine kindness and happiness that pete relayed to everyone he met. after having spent much time with avery this summer, i can see these incredible things in her as well. she is truly an amazing light... but how could she not be with such amazing parents.
while i cannot possibly fathom the pain of this loss molly, know that we are sending you all of the peaceful and healing energy we can find. please know that we are here to help in any way that we can. any day, any time, just let us know.
may peace be with you and all of this community in the days and weeks to come...
Dear Molly and Avery,
My heart goes out to you and the loss you are experiencing. I know that you are surrounded with as much love as possible during this and I send a heartfelt hug through the universe for you both. Please know that Pete was one of two amazing mentors I had at NOLS during my time there and I had nothing but tremendous respect for him. He was a man of integrity, honesty, humor, passion for life, and obvious love for his family. He will continue to be a role model for me in my day to day living and will remind me to live life to its fullest with all the passion I can muster.
My prayers are with you
Dear molly and avery
I’m thinking about you today. The only relief I find is knowing you are surrounded by that phenomenal community of friends that you and Pete have created.
What stands out for me in regards to Pete was his ability to look at the bright side of every situation, how to move forward. He was clear, strong and didn’t waffle about the important things in life. If you needed a straight answer you could always ask Pete and he would give it to you. When I conjure up his face it is smiling, arms in the air “right on”, Victory!” , even if it is just minature golf.
You will see Pete in Avery as she grows, talks, acts, moves…..there he will be and the background, the places we can’t see, his arms will be surrounding you, Molly, his very best friend and lover.
I'm looking at the photo letter you sent out this spring....thank you for sending it.
i'm going to try to come this weekend...all my love to you and avery.
may you find peace as you work through this tragedy.
Oh my God. How terrible. I didn't know Pete, but we sounds like a wonderful person. I was nearly hit by rockfall in a similar fashion at Lover's Leap, when somebody was letting their kid throw rocks off the top of the cliff above Corriguation Corner. Very heartfelt condolences to the friends and family.
hey there dear phil powers... thank you for sharing insight on this sad death... it does not make it better in the steps that lead to his death--but having a witness and knowing what happened, but it makes it better for the family, than never knowing...
dear molly, and to your sister, and young child, as i know see and know better, who you all are now... i will keep praying for all your husband's hope and dreams, to manifest in your life--even though he is gone--this way, at least part of him will live on as your future unfolds.... no one wants to leave "lose ends" behind in life, yet, as we have seen, sometimes there is no choice, in view of what suddenly happened......so very sorry for your loss, once again... god bless and much love to you all....
Pete and I became friends after 6th grade --- lots of camping and fun growing up. We took our first rock climbing class together at Carderock and the last time I climbed w him w at Senica Rocks a year or so before you were married. He was a great friend and a major part of my growing up ---- Lois and I will miss him alot.
Words are so inadequate... We knew Pete as a man who loved the mountains, loved NOLS, and--most of all--loved being with his family. I remember coming around the corner to Killer Cave a few years ago and seeing Pete working a route, asking for slack from his belayer, Molly. While the difficulty of the route alone is impressive, I was most impressed with you, Molly. You had your hands full with Avery (she had to potty, and you were trying to pull down her pants with one hand while belaying with the other) and with Pete ("slack! take! slack!"), but you stayed calm and effective. When I offered to help out, I felt like I ended up awkwardly getting in the way. I know Pete will watch over you and Avery as you watched over them. Our thoughts are with you.
I had the opportunity to first meet Pete during my NOLS PIC course in 2004. He came up to Sinks Canyon to work with me and a couple other students on cliff rescue skills. Pete was an amazing teacher. He simplified often complex systems to make them easily transfered into practice.
I remember at Molly's birthday party this past year when Avery collided with other kids and had a massive bloody nose. She was yelling make the bleeding stop. Peter, when he was told what happened, said in his fatherly and lovingly way "Bummer."
Peter was a wonderful, compassionate human being who will be sorely missed. Darci and I send our love to you Molly and Avery in this difficult time.
Molly and family, I just received a call with this sad news about Peter, and I found this website. I am so sorry and so sad for all that knew Pete. Though we have been many years out of touch, I often think of all of the Absolon family and the joy they brought to my life. My heart goes out to you, Avery, and the rest of the Absolon family. May the many good memories and good friends be there to confort you. Maggie Schmid Shelton
Molly, our deepest condolences, love and prayers to you and Avery... and to Pete's family and friends.
I didn't know Pete very well but he sure was well-respected in Lander and the surrounding region.
Not too many years ago, shortly after our first son was born ... and I knew Molly and Pete were expecting...I was in Safeway and met Pete for the first time. It was right after Avery's birth. I wasn't 100% sure it was Pete Absolon that I was approaching in the cereal aisle but I took a chance and introduced myself to him anyway in hopes of learning how Molly and baby were doing. He was elated and beaming as he updated this stranger on Avery and Molly. He was so proud and full of love for his and Molly's new baby girl. That was the only time I ever talked to Pete but it made an impression because of his obvious love for both of his girls.
Molly, please call on us for anything during this most difficult time. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Our love, Shelli and Jerry Johnson & boys
My heart is so heavy. I was driving from Charleston, WVa back to DC today and came through Seneca Rocks and past the road up to Spruce Knob. I thought of Molly and Pete, as I often do when I'm in that neck of the woods. Today was such a beautiful day and it reminded me of their wedding on the mountain. I couldn't stop thinking about how wonderful that day was and particularly how wonderful it was to meet so many of Molly & Pete's friends & family who made such a long trip to be there.
It was such a shock to get my sister Sallie's telephone call when I got home. This tragic news still hasn't sunk in yet.
My family joins me in sending you love and prayers,
Coming up with words is so difficult.....all of your friends are here for you, whenever you need us. The reality of this will take time to sink in, so please don't hesitate to lean on us, your friends, and your family for anything, anything at all. We are here for you.
My favorite memory of Pete is when I was hiking up the trail to Sinks with baby Ruby in a backpack on my back. I stopped to rest, and heard a very unnerving rattling sound. About 6 inches away from my right foot was a rattlesnake. I saw Pete up at the crag, and called his name. "Hey, Leeser!" he called with that fabulous smile on his face, "what's the matter?" I told him our precarious situation, and he came running down the trail with his long stick clip apparatus, scooped up the snake, and flung it down the hillside! My hero!
His kindness, his joy of life, his caring and consideration for everyone around him, and his deep, deep love for Molly and Avery were so inspirational. Truly the salt of the earth, someone we loved and will continue to love and celebrate through all of our wonderful memories. He lives forever in our hearts and minds.
I’m still trying to get a grip on all of this.
When I think of Pete and all that he did in his life, I think the most about Molly and Avery. I was always struck by how hard Pete climbed and yet how much time he devoted to his family. I remember walking down the trail from the crag on many occasions and chatting about life and family, and Pete asking when or if my wife and I would have kids. I never knew the answer, but loved hearing Pete talk about how being a dad was the greatest adventure he had undertaken. How it made his life so rich and full of excitement. How he was stronger and better because of it. His passion and joy at being a father made me question my own seemingly selfish and scared reasons to hold off on this adventure. I think about a long drive to Teton Valley, Idaho where I casually asked Pete how he and Molly met and I listened for three hours as he relived the story as though it had happened just yesterday. Pete had such pride and joy in being a husband and dad. I had the great fortune to work and play with Pete and to even be his belay slave at the end of long days in Sinks Canyon as he fired, one last time up Killer to set up the king swing for Avery. His excitement coming from the joy he knew she would soon be sharing through squeals of excitement and giggles as she twisted through space.
I remember Pete being so excited for me when I linked the first quarter of his ridiculously long and hard problem in his garage gym, and how he took the time, over and over to show me how to light the furnace during the winter months. I love warming up for an evening of climbing in the garage by bouncing on the trampoline with Avery, and spotting her on her beautifully decorated climb. We even named a hold “Avery’s Hold” because when she was younger, Pete would hold her up to it and she would swing around on it in the cave.
Pete was so full of excitement for life that I consistently checked my own reality when talking to him. He helped me to put things in perspective. To realize that it isn’t what one does in life, but whom you do it with, and how we enjoy that time with each other. I will miss Pete greatly, but will always appreciate and hold dear the time we spent together and the impact he had on my life.
Molly and Avery, you have my deepest sympathy in your loss. I hope that I can be here for you in any way you need. The Love you shared with Pete touched us all, and will continue to carry on in our lives.
I remember when I met you on my instructors' course in 2000; I thought, "this woman is amazing- strong and talented climber, accomplished writer, hard-core mountaineer, wonderful teacher- her husband must be a bad-ass!" ... The first time I met Pete was at your house after that course, and he was monkeying around on your climbing wall in the shed in the backyard. He exuded positive energy. He was my program supervisor on my first CL with Nols, and he was so calm and positive, so effortlessly great at what he did, the perfect mentor. I know there are countless instructors who feel the same way.
The comments and stories posted prove how well-loved Pete is. I am so sad for your loss and my heart and thoughts are with you and Avery. I'm glad that you're surrounded by people who love you.
Marco just called me....Unbelievable ! it just seems like yesterday when I was climbing on Masherbrum with Pete..
I've got this great picture of Pete in our living room just grinning surronded with all the kids in a pakastani village listening to his walk-man...you can see by the sparkle in his eye at how devoted he was to bringing joy into peoples lives...
That photo has always been an inspiration for me to be a better person...
I deeply send my condolences, my thoughts and prayers are with you.
I met him briefly, probably more than twenty years ago, at the Gendarme. He had just set everyone to whistling and muttering under their breath by soloing the Crack of Dawn. When people asked him about it, he just basically shrugged and smiled.
"Man, are you just stone crazy or what?"
I'm pleased to learn that he survived those days and grew up right.
I am so very sorry for your tragic loss. Please know that our love and prayers are with both of you, Pete and your families. It is inspiring to see the love, support and cherished memories of so many friends and family on these pages.
I will never forget the first time Becky and I met Pete, when the two of you took us climbing in Seneca Rocks. Pete (and you) were so patient, encouraging and enthusiastic as you taught us novices how to climb (even repelling in the lightning storm!).
I will also never forget the dream and sparkle in Pete's eyes (and your eyes) as we ate burgers and watched the sunset on your new property in Lander. Your love for one another, for Avery, and for your friends and family is infectious.
Pete was one of the original "Gendarme guys" here at Seneca, and will always have a place in our hearts. There's not much to say about someone who was so special and was a part of our lives for so long. We are deeply saddened.
Molly -- I feel so terribly heartbroken for your loss. Pete was such a great guy and I have so many fond memories of you from our J-school days... I still think of you every time I wear the Masherbrum T-shirt I got from Pete -- you guys so brightened up every setting you were in. My thoughts go out to you and Avery.
I am so terribly sorry for this horrible loss. Pete was such an inspiring person for me and so many others. I admire his honesty, compassion, earnestness, devotion to what he believed in, delight in the world, and unending joy in his life with Molly and Avery (aka Mol and Aves). Pete is a model of great character and I respect him immensely.
Liz is quite right to note that Pete will never be gone, as we who were fortunate enough to know him will carry his spirit with us.
I can't begin to fathom how terribly raw this is for you, Molly. My heart broke to hear you sob that you had lost your best friend and adventure buddy. I can't imagine how I can help ease your pain. I know I can't, but please lean on me, let me know how I can help now and in 6 months, cry with me, tell me stories about Pete, know that you and Avery are in my thoughts, and that I love you. Oh, and let me remind you how much delight Pete had in being your husband, and Avery's dad. He adored you both.
Molly and all your/ our climbing community throughout the West and really the world...
Oh Molly I send you a big hug and all the strength I can muster.
So many amazing memories of Pete, of working with him in both your early days at NOLS, ahem getting the rental van somewhat lost out near Black Velvet trying to find a short cut back to the highway. Of us working the first ROC together in the Little Sandy drainage, cruising terrain and scouting for top ropes. My most valued memories are of us working so close together at the RMB as the first program supervisors, sharing an office, sharing opinions, ideas, conversations, and the conviction that no matter the situation, Pete had my back and I would do the same for him.
I will be over this weekend, a quick trip to show my love and support, but the real test of friendship and support will be in the long run. And I will try to be there for you then as well, those long nights in November when you need a friend to talk to about life, sorrow, joy. Call me and I will be there, and you might just get a wild banging on your door some evening when you least expect it.
Molly, your marriage was an example to me, of how 2 people can love one another and support one another, exult in one another's successes and allow one another to go and to do, and to return to the center welcomed with joy.
Dear Molly and Avery,
I am so incredibly sorry about Pete. He was as caring and genuine a person as I've ever met, and I know that he was a wonderful husband and father. Pete always sought the best in life and his "things will work out well" attitude inspired the best in those of us fortunate enough to know him.
Even though I have not seen you guys in many years, other NOLS folks would update me on Lander happenings. I'd always hear about your family, or Pete's work at NOLS, or Pete's climbing. He was a constant--the same energetic Pete I'd always known. His presence will be greatly missed.
I cannot express my sadness in hearing about the loss of Pete. Jason and I were sitting outside tonight recounting memories we have of being with you both. When I picture Pete, I always see his big, warm smile. I have so many memories of great laughs, belays, beers, and heart-felt moments with Pete. Jason and I are so terribly sad for you and Avery. We are here for you, and love you both.
love, Allison and Jason and Casey
Molly and Avery my heart goes out to you as you grieve this tremendous loss. I can’t even fathom the heartache that you must be experiencing. Please know we are here for you and our prayers are with you and your family.
Pete was such an amazing man and mentor. I can’t stop thinking about his infectious smile. I have fond memories of our trip to Indian Creek when Avery as a toddler “toddled” around the base of the crag with her fingers wrapped around mine as we negotiated the crumpled terrain and Pete effortlessly cruised his way up an impossibly difficult route with Molly belaying and encouraging him. I often tell the tale of me asking Molly that day what the name of the strange plant was at my feet and Avery, barely two years old, responded with “Mormon Tea”. I was dumbfounded that as a toddler she was already identifying desert flora and fauna. But it quickly became apparent that she was a gifted young lady who had been blessed with truly amazing parents.
There were many winter nights where we spent climbing with John Abel, Camilla Barnes-Kelly and Pete working impossibly hard routes Pete had set in the garage gym. Although I could barely link the difficult moves Pete would encourage me and coach me through the intricate moves. Regardless of my awkward movement he believed in me, as a climber and as a budding instructor and later as a branch director. Often he was climbing while listening to “the game” as Avery and I practiced downward dog or jumped on the trampoline. I will forever cherish these memories.
Just last week, Ryan and I returned from the field and Pete invited us into his office to hear of our “field tales”. As always he took the time to catch up with old friends regardless of his busy schedule. It struck me what a true leader he was, caring, interested and passionate about his work. He truly was a role model and always has been, as a husband, father, climber and friend. Words cannot describe what an amazing person Pete was and the tremendous affect he had on those he touched. Molly and Avery, my thoughts and prayers are with you. Pete’s love and energy will truly shine through you two and all of us for years to come.
It was just over eight years ago that your words comforted me when I lost Christine. How I hope you find some comfort in all the loving words your friends are sharing now.
You and Pete were blessed to have each other. It is always beautiful to watch two people you love and respect so much, find each other. That love you experienced will forever be a part of you and Avery. Please know that the gift Pete gave to your lives will continue to grow. Though I miss him right now, I know he will never completely leave us.
I've been flooded with memories of Pete all day. I see him everywhere.
Gary Wilmot called Brooke and me today with the horrible news of Pete's death. We are so sad for your loss and our hearts ache imagining the pain and sorrow you are feeling on this day. Pete was a person who touched many lives and left a lasting legacy through his family, his passions, and the NOLS community.
Molly my memories of my time spent with you, as my CL on an OEC in 95, left a lasting and positive impact that I carry with me to this day. Avery is a lucky girl to have a mother as strong and capable as you to guide her through this challenging time.
Please know that you and Avery are always welcome in our home and hearts. Our thoughts and prayers are with you both.
I am so, so sorry to hear about Pete. Not 10 minutes of this day have gone by that I haven’t thought of you and grieved for what you must be going through. The news is shocking.
Molly, I look forward to seeing you soon to give you a big hug and let you know how much I love you and Avery. I have always been drawn to the two of you. I know that this will be a dark, dark period to get through. But I also know that you two have so much life to live and so much to offer the world and all of us. I—-like so many of these great people around you-—will be there for you through this and on into the future when the living of life will go on.
My sharpest memory of Pete—-who in my mind was such a fun-loving, down-to-earth all-around great guy—-was at your birthday/anniversary party two summers ago out on your land off Baldwin Creek. Pete stood up on a rock, as I recall, and asked the large crowd of friends to hush as he had something to say. He then shared with all of us how much he loved and cherished you and the many years you’ve spent together. He called you “the love of my life.” It was such a beautiful moment. He didn’t hesitate to share the depth of his love for you in front of a large gathering. I was moved to tears then as I am now.
Molly, I love you and love Avery. My heart is with you. I will see you soon.
Hello to Molly and Avery, and family and friends of Pete --
Chris and I got the news about Pete via email just a few hours ago, and the world still seems to be wobbling. Our hearts and prayers are with all of you.
Seems like most of our memories from my days in J-school in Berkeley involve you and Pete. I suppose that was because we were next-best-things to neighbors in El Cerrito. It's easy to picture Pete at potlucks or dinners in your little upstairs apartment, snitching all the scallops when your back was turned. And I remember all the Friday evenings we ended up at the Mexican restaurant in the nearby mall. Can't remember the name of the place. But I do remember that the guy who made the homemade tortillas really had to work to keep up with the number we ate. (But we needed them to soak up the beer!)
I also think of Pete almost every time I ride my old mountain bike -- new back in California 18 years ago, an old dinosaur (but still moving!) now. The couple times we rode in Wildcat Canyon with you guys (well, you two rode ahead, and Chris and I chugged along way way behind), Pete would wax enthusiastic, in the way only he could, about how much lighter and better our bikes were than yours. Lately I think "Not anymore, Pete!" every time I wrestle the bike down from its rack in the garage. Such a little thing, but it is always great to think about Pete. He was a rare one, one of the world's truly bone-deep positive and generous people. The planet is a better place because he was here.
Molly, I don't know your grief. Losing a son after a long illness is much different than losing a husband. But I want to be whatever support I can. And if Rosie can offer any kind of support to Avery, that is a bonus. We will be in touch, friend.
My mom called me today with the new of Pete's death. I am so very sorry for your loss. I got to know Pete a bit when I worked at the RMB Issue Room in '97 and '99 and always found him to be psyched, smiling, and accessible. I cannot allow myself to believe that spirits like his ever leave us. Reading Phil's update makes this all the more senseless.
I was just reading through some old NOLS course logs I found in a box after our move, and I came across Pete's name. It made me smile. What a thoughtful, kind, generous, alive, and good person. What integrity. What character. And Molly, with her intellect, passion, empathy, ability to communicate, and enthusiasm for life. Before I got married, I remember telling my soon-to-be-wife Karen that I hoped we would be like Pete and Molly. Pete and Molly.
I had not heard the news yet.
Jason Dittmer called me tonight. What a bittersweet call it was. How easy it is to fall into the old banter and trash talk when suddenly hearing from an old Lander friend—like no time has passed at all. But this call was different. Jason told me about Pete. I shared with him the news about Bobby—he had not heard. Pete. How could this happen to someone like Pete, I kept thinking. It’s a cliché to ask why. But why? Why Pete?
And Molly, my whole being bleeds for her.
It's easy to get caught up in the shoulda, woulda, coulda of it all, and after I hung up the phone with Jason, that’s exactly what I did. I should have made an effort to stop by Pete and Molly's house last time I was in Lander—I had meant to—but I wanted to make it home to Merna before dark. I would have told Pete about the support I felt from him as a young instructor back in the early nineties—about how much an encouraging word in Sinks or a smile in the RMB meant to me—if I'd only known he wouldn't be with us forever. I could have made the effort to write a note to Pete and Molly about how I looked up to their relationship as my own marriage was just beginning....
It’s warm here tonight and quiet as I write this and think about Pete and Molly. There is barely a breeze, but I can still smell the faint smell of the Pacific. I think I’m coming to realize that the most important thing to do right now is to reach out to those I love. I’d like to do that in the spirit of Pete's great generousness of self. His largeness of heart. His humility. And with that in mind, I think it’s wholly appropriate to want to hear Jason tell me all about Allison and Casey and Abe (and the new mutt). At any rate, we made plans to get together very soon…to just be together. Thank you, Pete.
It's pretentious of me to say that is what Pete would have wanted—for people to find in this tragedy a renewed love of life and a desire to reach out and care for one another, but (perhaps selfishly) that's the way I'm going to try to live my life tonight and tomorrow and hopefully every day thereafter. I'm going to call some old friends, tell people what they mean to me, and hug my wife.
I hope you feel how much love there is for you, Molly; you are in my thoughts and prayers. Hold Avery tight.
"Life is short, and we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who walk the way with us. So be swift to love and make haste to be kind, and peace will be always with you."
I can only imagine your sadness. Reading this thread brings back so many wonderful memories of times I spent with him. Pete has been an incredible influence on me and will continue to be even though he is gone. Time does not lessen the impact of a soul like Pete's. I am sad I wont get the opportunity to tell him how grateful I am.
Pete – you are a mentor for many of us. You are a mentor for me in so many ways. You were the “course leader” and I was the new instructor. You were a friend. You weren’t chatty, but you were present (unless there was a game on!) You were thoughtful and preferred to be funny. You liked to tease but you were not mean. You are one of the best climbers I knew – it rounded your life, never defined it. Climbing was always a pleasure to be had, never a vice or an escape. You were happy to push yourself and loved to push your partner to their best in kind of a competitive way, but really just friendly encouragement. You loved your family. You supported them and encouraged them, which made you three seem like a awesome team.
Pete, your tragic departure is incongruous. You were climbing, but it was not really a climbing accident. In the climbing world you knew your limits and boldly but carefully acted. I can only imagine your analysis of the account. Eyebrows raised, tight, kinda frowning mouth, and I am guessing not much to say, but a clear message would be had: live life well and love your friends.
You continue to teach. You always pushed your partners to be their best - again you push us forward, to try and learn and not to despair.
A world without Pete is a poorer one for us all. Today, I cried tears I never knew I had. Tears for the loss of a fine, fine, father, husband and dear friend. I don't think I can say any more that Molly hasn't already captured in her tribute to Todd. I will miss you, Pete, and try every day to live a little of my life in your memory.
It is wonderful to see all these stories and messages carrying similar themes and descriptions of Pete: his grin, his compassion, his joy in being outside and his deep love for and committment to Molly and Avery.
I will always remember him as someone who got things done, whether he was cooking a fabulous dinner or getting draws up on a climb. He could really focus on the moment. While on a climbing trip in the Caribbean, Pete was the only one of our group to see the endangered Cayman Brac Parrot, because he was the only one to get up daily at 5 am, jog 2+ miles with his binos and wander through the bird reserve - which he did about 9 days in a row. He came back crowing in triumph while we were all sitting around the breakfast table, nursing our coffee, so excited about his glimpse of this colorful bird.
My glimpses of Pete over the past three years have been of adventures of a different kind - seeing him biking a local Lander loop at high speeds by himself, or pedaling along with Avery on a shorter loop, or skate skiing with Molly. One day I was out walking at "the bus", near town and came across two sets of footprints: Pete's and Avery's, meandering along the paths. I could see them ahead on the ridge, and as I got closer I could overhear them talking about flowers.
Pete managed to blend so many things with such apparant ease, including high intensity work, serious outdoor pursuits and a rich and busy family life with Molly and Avery. They were such a tight, little family unit. My heart aches for Avery, who has lost such a great Dad and buddy, and for Molly, who has lost her best friend and life partner.
To Pete's family I send my sympathy and thoughts - you raised a wonderful son who became a person who had a big impact on our lives. To Molly's family I send the same- I know Pete will be sorely missed.
Molly and Avery - I love you.
Molly and Avery,
I am so saddened by the news of the loss of Pete. I am away from Lander for the week but will be returning this weekend. It is hard for me to express anything to you through my computer, but please know that I will be there to support you this weekend and all the other weeks and weekends to come. I have really enjoyed training with you Molly this summer and chasing you last weekend in our training triathlon. And this past year I have truly enjoyed becoming better friends with you. Please count on me to take Avery at a moments notice when you need it. I so much enjoy her spark and her desire to learn and teach her friends all that she has learned from you and Pete.
Toby and I love you very much.
Natalie and Toby
I just got an e-mail from Greg Collins about Pete's untimely passing. I remember Pete from his days as a climbing guide at Seneca Rocks in WV. What a gifted climber. Some of his routes at Seneca are still unrepeated. I know I wouldn't want to do them, too scary! One of the best climbers I every had the pleasure of knowing. It truely makes me sad when I see such a talented climber pass so early, but he was doing what he so obviously loved. My prayers go out to his wife and child. Rest in peace.
Molly and Avery...We are thinking about you two...and Petee...
We look forward to seeing you two and everyone this weekend...
Me and Sue are very sorry for your loss.
It was unbeliviable to grow up climbing with Pete...That Charlie Bronson look alike, high praise in the late 70's, free soloing the Nose at Carderock. Making the scary, knob high step look so casual...he kept us kids in line and focused on climbing... Free solos of PHD, The Sloth, The Dream, Merve's Nerve...together....
Sidewinder and Crack of Dawn at Seneca...all the obscure Potomac crags...
Then through Great fortune we were here, with you three in the western mountains and canyons...and your gym...He still kept us in line and focused...We even got to free climb Half Dome, listening to the World Series under the stars and the base jumpers...benighted on thank god ledge by the late October day...I was looking forward to much more life with Pete. I will try harder to keep myself in line, thanks Pete!
Peter Absolon, a hero, a friend and partner to me and many others... I miss him...g
Sadness spreads from Wyoming to Maine, and much farther as we try to grasp the world without Pete. Life doesn't seem quite right. Molly, you and Pete were an inspiration to me in my life and in my relationship with Mark. It's been many years since our paths have crossed, but we always want to hear how are the Absolons and we loved your annual letters. Avery glows as a beautiful reflection of yours and Pete's love. We feel so fortunate to have worked, partied and lived life having known Pete - he was a genuine great guy. Molly we are thinking of you and wish we could be closer to help. It is in Pete's memory that we will work to stay positive, face challenges and love the one's around us.
Quincy & Mark Van Winkle
Pete has been a constant presence for me in my years at NOLS whether it was at the RMB or in staffing. As everyone has mentioned here, he was an amazing supervisor - so supportive, so positive, so full of the right thing to say and a person I have always looked up to. I had the chance to babysit for Avery one summer and meet Molly. Instantly, I thought to myself, someday if I ever have kids I want to have a cute family just like these guys. Avery and I walked through the park and she pointed out all of the names of the flowers (at 4 y/o!). Needless to say, I was impressed with this young sparkplug and even more impressed by her parents. Molly and Avery, I do not know you all very well, yet I feel so much sadness in my heart for you right now. I also feel happiness and hope that you are and will be well taken care of by the amazing community in which we live. Kevin and I will be there on Sunday to show our love and support for you.
Steve, I can't imagine what it is that you must feel right now. It was just last week that we were laughing around the dinner table. Hang in there, my friend. We love you and look forward to seeing you this weekend. Love Kate and Kevin
Pete was so vivid to me from years of stories that had the quality of legends. I remember the aura of wonder that spread to Cambridge around his climb in the Himalayas. And what a vital, centered, loving partner he was for you and what an adoring father of dear Avery. I am so very sad for your loss, and so grateful for the memory of his extraordinarily beamy face and all the fun and happier woo woo times in Vermont last August.
with tears and sorrow and love,
Hi, I am Pete’s brother-in-law – married to Molly’s sister Ann. Many, many thanks to all who have posted such kind words to this forum and for keeping Molly and Avery in your thoughts and Prayers.
I didn’t know Pete as well as many of you, but nonetheless, his many attributes were not lost on me; kindness, steadiness, diplomacy, patience, clarity, a passion for nature and his part in it and of course a mischievous humor. My deepest and most lasting memory of Pete comes from our first meeting at a family wedding in Washington D.C. It was the end of the night and many were sitting around the dance floor watching the kids dance. I looked over to one little nook near the dance floor and there was Pete with Avery in his lap snuggled in close. I watched intently for many minutes as they were enveloped in a perfect stillness, a unity of heart – a sanctuary. I am certain all parents know of what I speak – I was not yet a father – but I could feel the peace and the unconditional love enveloping them. I am now a father of a 3 year old son and I know that peace and I have often remembered Pete in that moment, even before this unfathomable loss. For me, that was the core of Pete, a core and a unity into all his incredible skills and attributes.
This forum, the upcoming service and the hearts and minds of all who love Pete are not unlike that sanctuary – where we can hold him in that perfect stillness, that unity of heart to carry the gift of his life into our lives – there to stay alive…
Like many of us I find myself still in shock, disbelief, and unable to digest the loss of such an incredible person, Pete Absolon. Pete was a real “quality” person that I knew the moment I met him that I wanted to keep as a friend and more importantly close in my heart.
I can remember in the not so distant past when I was a seemingly reckless nols instructor going out to work a canyon course in S. Utah. I had the pleasure to work with Pete as my semester course liaison and Steve Herlihy, along with Paul K.. The time spent was incredible, it was the start of my friendship with Pete and cemented the bond I share with Steve. The support I got from Pete was amazing and inspiring. At the end of the course Pete took me aside and praised me for a job well done. His words meant more to me than he could know. I walked away feeling a little taller that day. That experience… that moment, I will always cherish, thanks Pete.
I will always remember and value the times spent with Pete in the canyon. Those times were always spent with a combination of childish banter, catching up with one another, talking about my life troubles, or just plain conversation. Pete always had words of encouragement and passion for the success of those around him.
I will also remember the life coaching Pete would give me walking up to Sinks or when I would stop in to see him at work. He was one to give me advice or his opinion no matter if I asked or not, just because he cared. I always listened and took his words to heart. I will continue to hear to those words, learn from them and grow. Becoming the better person Pete inspired me. Thanks, Pete.
Molly, and Avery I am sorry for your loss and my heart goes out to you. If there is anything I can do, please never hesitate to ask. Pete was a great, loving, incredible person that has touched many people in beautiful ways.
Steve, buddy, my friend,….hang in there. My heart is with you and if there is anything, anything, I can do, please you know it would be my pleasure. If you need someone to listen, I have two ears.
Molly and Avery,
Such awful news. I am so very sorry for the loss of so cherished a man, husband and father. You both should know that all of us are ready to help you - whatever you may need - now and in the future.
Love, Ed Schmults
Ever since Sunday afternoon when Missy called me with the news about Pete I have been struggling to find the right words to say to you. I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am for Pete and how much I have been thinking of you and Avery.
I was talking to Bobby's mother yesterday and I told her what had happened and she said, "oh dear, just like what happened to Bobby." The irony of the situation had not struck me until then - within a matter of weeks two friends caught in the wrong place at the wrong time both hit by a random rock thrown by a stranger,
In thinking of time that I spent with Pete over the years I remember the ski trips on Togwotee, the climbing days up at Sinks, our trip to West Yellowstone. But what really stands out for me are the times spent working construction together. All those days building the garage and climbing gym – I was so impressed by Pete's ability to think big. Remember the day we hung the trusses with your neighbor's front end loader? I vividly recall the spring of 1995 when Lander had that crazy windstorm and we all lost our roofs. Pete organized a workday where friends showed up and helped you guys re-roof your house. I thought it would be fun to help and also a good skill to learn so I came ready to work with no expectation of payback. Well, Pete fully expected to not only provide the food and beer and to thank everyone for their efforts but he planned to help us all with our own house projects in the future. Just a few months later Pete was at my house teaching me how to tape and mud drywall. After showing me how it worked he lent me all the perfect tools. Fast forward five years and I was re-roofing my own little house and Pete insisted on showing up to put in a day of work and he even lent me a scaffold that he had built – again, the perfect tool for the job. Pete taught me how to use a compound miter saw and his new table saw – never thinking I might not be able to handle it, just pointing out the safety features and letting me go.
Pete was a great believer in people always expecting the best. He was a great believer in you – in reference to climbing I remember being at Devil's Tower and you were nervous about leading a certain climb – I can't remember which one - when Pete asked you, "is the danger real or perceived?" You were quick to identify it as perceived and then went on your way to lead the climb. I was so impressed but Pete just smiled, he knew you could do it. I believe in you too Molly. This is such a difficult time for all of us and especially for you and I'm here for you as are so many good friends. Please reach out to us all for help as you discover you need it.
The matrix of human connections brings me to my knees again this morning. I've been gone from Lander for many years, but at one time I lived in Pete and Molly's house off North Second street while they were in Alaska. It was a summer where you absorb something subtle from sitting on their couches and working in their kitchen. I sat on their back deck at sunset and wondered how many mosquito bites everyone is taking in the Talketna's.
Later, when I needed to borrow power tools for some project and work in the driveway, Pete always said, "Whatever you need buddy." He came over to my house and did all the drywall work that I was terrible at, all the while talking about living in Berkeley while Molly was getting her degree in journalism...there were stories about Seneca Rocks...I was amazed that he would come over and plaster and sand drywall for nothing -- and tell great stories that made me feel like I was part of his life.
He even took me on a scouting trip with Greg Collins to the House Range in Utah, where we beat up the NOLS crew cab getting to the crags. He immediately jumped out in the evening hours and wanted to get on this hellish 5.11. The thing I always find most hilarious about Pete was that as the climbing got harder, his subsconcious would open up, and he would mutter from a deep well of ideas that made no sense to someone outside his head, but it seemed to focus him. The more he linked into "Gabriel Garcia's " magical realism", or Kerouac's "On the Road" the better he climbed!! I knew then that I was with someone really special.
After that he soloed the North Face of the Grand, reluctantly telling me in my office -- and I had to drag him into John Kanengieter's office to tell the story so someone else could share in his accomplishment. The point of this, is that he was too modest to proclaim something so significant. From everything I have read here, you have all experienced the endless giving Pete.
I hope to come around in the next life to be as good a person as Pete was.
Love to you Molly and Avery. I'm so sorry not to make it this weekend...but I am there in full spirit...Eric M
Pete was so loved. I echo what so many have said - no, not Pete - no. Pete was a mini solar system of positive energy, love, kindness, adventure, laughter, and friendship - how could someone so good be gone? I was thinking today that he didn't have one foe - he seemed to be able to find something good about everyone and every situtaion. And he was so grounded and sensible. More than once he brought me back to reality with a wry comment or joke or a "Do you think..?" Pete was an inspiration to me in so many ways. He always reminded me that life was for living.
I have so many wonderful memories of Pete and you three as a family. The serenity and grace and love was always all encompassing.
I love you Molly and am so so sad for you and for Avery and for your family. Andy and I will see you this weekend. We both feel such a strong need to say goodbye to Pete with so many who loved him and to see you and Avery.
Molly and Avery,
Take heart and be strong, for i know thats what Pete would want of you right now.He touched my life in a very personal way during my time at NOLS just as he touched so many others. Our hearts reach out to you during this sad time.
Tuggs & family.
I had just moved to Lander and was living in the Noble. I had taken a job at the school and fancied myself a climber. My first week there Molly and Pete invite me to go climbing in Sinks after work. We go to “warm up” on this climb. Pete puts up the draws, Molly pulls the rope and fires it and I go next. We spent the rest of the day there, me flailing and barely getting past the second bolt. Molly and Pete never complained, never looked at their watches. They empowered me and cheered me on till the sun went down and we had to go home.
Later in the month Pete approached me and asked me if I wanted to put in 300 bucks to be a part of his climbing gym. “where is it?” I asked “my Garage” he replied. Now let me get this straight, You want me to pay you 300 bucks to help you build a gym in your garage? Needless to say I accepted on the spot, not because I was wild about the idea or had lots of disposable cash, but because I wanted to be near Pete and Molly.
I used the gym once and would often tease Pete about my “membership” there. But to date it has been the most rewarding 300 bucks I have ever spent.
Pete became a dear friend and role model. Through his actions he showed me those attributes a good person possesses. Kindness, compassion, humor, selflessness and dedication to ones family and to ones core beliefs and passions. I continue to aspire to be the kind of husband, father and friend that Pete was.
Molly,I cannot begin to fathom the sadness that you and Avery must feel. I can only pledge mine and my families unconditional support and friendship. We are here if you need us; today, tomorrow or in the months and years ahead.
Our prayers, support and love are with you always.
This is Shaun Kelley. Don't climb much anymore, I'm now a bass player for an artist named Jalan Crossland when I'm not flying a desk.
I worked for NOLS in the early 90s and Pete and Molly were/are both friends that I hadn't seen in years. My not-too-trustworthy memory does seem to recall going caving with Pete in Jewel Cave as the only field experience I had with him. Don't ask me what he was doing in a *cave*, man. Maybe he was proctoring a semester, and it was their caving section. He, of course adapted beautifully, and was a very stylish caver in a very "climby" speleo environment.
The kicker for me is that Absolon family attended a show we gave in Lander in late July--at which I met Avery for the 1st time--I had hardly seen Pete or Molly in a decade. I am so grateful that I got to see Pete again.
I am just sucker-punch-blindsided by this. I am a dad of a little guy that is about Avery's age. What to say? What to do? The only answer I can imagine is to just be here for Molly and Avery.
Unfortunately I came to the knowledge of this horrific and tragic story from the thrower's side. I don't know the thrower, but I am six degrees separated from them so to speak and connected to you via the Internet. I don't quite understand it myself, but I felt compelled to speak about it.
After hearing this story through a network of friends and family, I needed to gather more information. And what I have learned is unimaginably tragic and deep heartfelt emotion.
Pete Absolon is an amazing individual for he was able to touch and improve upon many lives that he never encountered. That is the true nature of a person who is well respected and loved by not only his family and friends, but from strangers as well.
I can only offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends that he leaves behind.
And since I am somewhat removed, and an observer of these tragic events, I can say that the families of both sides are feeling the anguish of confusion and pain. I can only think of how the slightest of actions can affect so many. Pete apparently understood that for he helped to change the lives of numerous people through his simple and positive actions.
It was all I could do to get this thread started and couldn't write much at the time ---- and not know anyway to say the millions of things on my mind --- I remember so many things about each of you, and of you as a couple.
I hope, over the coming months, to smile and tell you these things in person, and I will be over there Thursday on.....
Hugs, love, and a commitment to be around over the long haul.
Dear Molly, I am so very, very stunned by this terrible news. I will be thinking of you and Avery not just this weekend as you mourn and celebrate Pete's vibrant life and deep love for you both, but in the weeks, months and years to come as you carry forward in your own strong and thoughtful way. Trina Peterson
I didn't really know Pete and after having read all this wonderful storiew I wish I had had a chance to know him better. I have always liked and admired you and I am truly sorry for your loss. My deepest sympathy.
Molly and Avery I am so sorry for your loss. I still have not come grips with the reality of Pete’s passing and am not sure if I ever will. Not only was Pete a wonderful, caring husband and father but a solid, stand up friend as well.
Beside his unwavering commitment to his family, Pete’s next love was climbing. As a climber of 30 years he left his mark on hard free, aid and ice routes in the Rocky Mountains, East Coast, Yosemite, Indian Creek, France, Nepal and Pakistan to name a few. Even at 47 he was still sending 5.13 sport routes in his beloved Sinks Canyon and was inspiration for the rest of us quadragenarians
I feel privileged to have shared a rope with Pete. He and I spent many days clipping bolts near Lander and climbing routes in the Wind Rivers. Just last month we put up a new route on War Bonnet in the Cirque of the Towers and as usual Pete on-sighted the licheny 5.11c crux.
One of my fondest memories of Pete is climbing Mt Hooker in the Winds. Pete somehow convinced me to try and climb the Original Route (free variation) in a day. The 15 mile approach to the route, encumbered with a big free climbing rack and food and supplies for several days, had my back in spasms by the time we set up our tent at the base of the wall. The next day it rained and while I recovered, Pete spent the entire day gleefully fly fishing in the nearby ponds and streams. The following day we swapped leads up the route and were able to top out just as it was getting dark. But earlier in the day,1000 feet of the deck, a short lived storm pounded us with high winds and hail. Trying to be a fast and light alpinist my rain gear consistent of a large plastic garbage bag. When Pete would tell the story he would say, “Ya Dave’s Hefty raingear was definitely lighter than my Gore-tex jacket, but hey I’ve got a family and we both know who was more comfortable.” Practical Pete!
As a consistent luker for the last two years on supertopo.com I have all too often read through posts written about members of our climbing collective that have passed on. In the last few years some of the pillars of the Lander climbing community have been taken from us or have been badly injured including Jim Ratz, Todd Skinner, Bobby Model and now Pete.
Most of you reading this post, whether you knew Pete or not, probably feel a sense of helplessness and the desire to do something. We can’t help it, by our chosen addiction (climbing) we are caring, creative people. But what can we do?
Pete really enjoyed meeting visiting climbers giving beta and finding common friends. He also remarked on numerous occasions that the people who we climb with are just as important to the overall experience as the climbing itself.
Right now our little climbing community has taken quite a hit and we need you climbers - your fresh energy and enthusiasm (I am in no way connected with the Chamber of Commerce or anything like that). So if you have been thinking about where to road trip during the end of the summer or this the fall, take trip into the Winds, or pull down on some of the fine sports routes in the Lander area. I know Molly, Avery and the rest of us would like you to experience the place Pete loved.
Molly, Avery and all of Pete's family,
Words cannot possible convey my sympathy for you during this most difficult time. I heard about it Sunday when we got back, and have been trying to come up with something meaningful to say to you, but feel so helpless. Pete was such a tremendous father and loving husband. I remember how lovely it was to see you all at the MAW just recently for Jalan's show and how happy your family was that night. I am sure there are so many memories for you that will bring a smile to your face over the years, and I just hope that you can always be grateful for the happiness that he brought and will continue to bring you. I pray for you to find the strength you need to get through this very sad time. I know that Pete will always be with you in spirit and he will be so proud of how you are handling everything.
I will be there on Sunday, and look forward to giving you a big hug.
My deepest sympathy,
I'm a childhood friend of Molly's who was one of the many lucky people who attended Pete & Molly's wedding on one of the most beautiful mountains in West Virginia on a beautiful, sunny day! The bride was radiant and lovely, the groom was the luckiest guy in the world and was smart enough to know it. It was a joyous & memorable event and I'm so glad I was there on a happy day of smiling, smiling, smiling! The photos of Molly & Pete sent with Christmas letters were full of smiling too!
Your loss fill me with sadness for you Molly and for Avery and for the Armbrecht and Absolon families and the NOLS family too.
Please know that you are in my prayers and that your friends in West Virginia love you, care about you and share in your grief.
My heart is in pieces for you. I am shocked at how cruel life's twists can be. I so admire your spirit and the sense of love I see enveloping your family. I hope we can go for a hike soon and talk about any and all.
I’m sitting here at work staring across the room at Pete’s empty office. The lights are off and the door is shut. An old picture of Pete is taped to the outside of the door. In the picture, he has that same big grin, and look of adventure in his eyes, that we’ve all come to know and love. It’s hard to come to the realization that such a wonderful, caring person is gone from our lives.
Molly and Avery, our deepest condolences to you. Rachael and I have thought of you often in the last few days. Know that we are here to help in any way we can.
I’ve known Pete on many levels over the years- a boss, a friend, a climbing partner, and a mentor at work. He excelled at all these things.
I’ll share one of my favorite stories about Pete. A few winters ago, we went to go do a climb in the Winds. The hike in was a few miles. The entire time, Pete was racing down the trail, rambling on about whatever it was that he was excited about (he was always excited about something). Meanwhile, I was half-running behind him, trying to keep up, and gasping for air. I was attempting to be a part of the conversation without letting Pete know that I was nowhere close to being in as good of shape as he was. When we got to the base of the climb, the ice curtain on the first pitch was about five feet short of touching. I banished all fear with two words, “Your lead.” Pete’s response- “Sweet.” A few pull-ups and delicate placements later and Pete had floated through the whole thing and was at the belay. After that, I experienced something that many people who have climbed with Pete have experienced- being scared out of my pants, following something that he had just lead with grace and confidence. He had an amazing ability to make incredibly difficult things look easy. We had a wonderful time in the mountains that day, just like so many other people have shared with Pete.
Molly and Avery I’m so sorry about this tragic loss. I’ve been thinking about Pete since I heard of the accident. I had many interactions with Pete, and they were all Inspiring. He helped coach me up a wicked nasty overhanging climb in Sinks, I don’t even remember the name of. It took me 30 minutes to hang dawg my way up. I was sore for a week. He was encouraging me, chatting and smiling the whole time. He was also instrumental in supporting and mentoring me on the TV Show Course. He knew exactly what to say and how to support and help me process. I haven’t thought of this for years but, I remember him dancing with Avery at Andy and Jackie’s Wedding in Dubois years ago. He was such a goofy dancer, I thought, but that was OK because he was so Cool! My prayers go out to everyone who knew Pete. Whit
I didn't really know Pete very well, but he was very well admired here in Lander. Shaun Kelley mentioned that the last time he saw Pete was at the Jalan Crossland concert a couple weeks ago. My mother-in-law, Billie Leafgreen, and I met up with several of our friends at the concert. Sure, the music was great, but my favorite part of the night was when Pete got up in front of everyone and danced the night away with his beautiful girls-Molly & Avery. It touched me so much that he would dance like he did - not caring that everyone was watching just them. I leaned over to Billie and said "I hope Jeff (my husband) will dance like that someday with our little girl" We don't have children right now, but Pete definately made an impression on me that night. I hope that Jeff can be a wonderful daddy to our kids like he was to Avery. Molly and Avery-our thoughts and prayers go out to you....
As I sit here in the office looking out over the waters of Moose Pond I find my words to you to be horribly inadequate. All our lives I’ve been so happy that our paths have crossed at different times: summer camp at Wyo, working at NOLS, daughters born at the same time and yet now you are in a place that I would do anything to take you away from. Did you know it was Candlelight Night last night and Award’s Night here with the Bats surviving untouched yet another summer? How can time continue to move forward when it seems like it should stop to honor you and Pete and the wonderful, all too short, time you had together.
Pete was always so kind to me during my time in Lander. He would never think of teasing me about setting up routes for me (climbs that I would struggle on) in his approach sneakers. That’s a gentleman. Stefan remembers hearty laughs with him over seemingly mundane topics, such as permitting and group size limits. What a glint Pete had in his eyes when he laughed.
Yet our paths have not crossed in many years and so I wonder: does Avery have that same glint in her eyes when she’s being sneaky? What other characteristics of Pete’s will you be able to say to her with a smile time after time, “You remind me of your father.”
To all of the Armbrechts - please know that the extended Winona & Wyonegonic Families are thinking of you.
My family grew up with Peter. He was a wonderful person and I always had faith and trust in his climbing ability. Even though I am afraid of heights with Peter holding the rope I was able to do Carter Rocks. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. He was truly loved.
Oh, wow, I'm still so shocked. . .this is a hard one to come to grips with. My heart goes out to you, Molly and Avery. Molly and Pete have been such an inspiration for Greg and me--the same age and continuing to get after it on the cliffs, ski hills, and in the mountains. And as a long time couple. I have so many memories of times with Pete, from the times we skied on Togwotee Pass (even one time when Pete fell at the top of Angle east and triggered this avalanche--that got him riled up) to the time he came by our house, so excited with the news of Avery's birth.
Pete was my liason on my semester in the rockies in the spring of 2001. He and Molly had just had Avery and almost every day that we climbed in Sinks, the whole Absolon gang was there. I remember playing with Avery while Pete and Molly climbed. I will never forget the time i Spent with that great family and i will be praying for you molly and avery. If anyone knows of any memorial fund or anything that will be established for Pete, Molly and Avery please e-mail me @ email@example.com. Having a young (10 month) son (Lander) myself, i can't imagine what this like for the absolon gang, but i know if there is a community that can lift that family up and help them through this, it is the NOLS/Lander community, Thank you Pete for all you did for me, my semester, my life, all you have done for NOLS and your family.....I hope one day i can be looked at by someone like i looked at you. So glad i got to see you after the 4th this year. Great guy...all i can say.
.....mountains looked like, i climbed up to the sun, and from the peak i got such a view....
I keep coming back here...
Thank you everyone for sharing your stories of Pete and Molly and Avery. When I got the news, I knew that there was going to be a huge hole in our family, but it's incredible to see how many other people Pete touched in his 47 years.
Thank you Steve, for being there with Pete.
Thank you also to the person who posted the picture of Pete climbing.
I continue to be in awe of the way the climbing community is taking care of my sister and niece- you all are amazing and I know you will keep Molly and Avery in your hearts in the coming months. Thank you.
I got this information from the American Alpine Club website-
The memorial service to celebrate Pete's life will be this Sunday, August 19th, at 3pm at CWC/Sinks Canyon Center (SCC) in Lander. The SCC is about five miles southwest of Lander on the road to Sinks Canyon (rt. 131). Look for parking signs. The National Outdoor Leadership School will supply shuttles from parking lots to the SCC.
Please bring a main dish, salad or dessert to share.
Pete’s daughter, Avery, has asked that there be lots of flowers at the service so bring some if you can.
Quotations (one or two sentences) and photographs from friends and family will be posted at the service and put into a book for Molly and Avery. They can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or brought to the celebration.
My condolences to Molly, Avery and Pete's extended family. This extended family includes not only relatives but also the NOLS and greater climbing communities. Too often, we don't recognize someone's influence until they're gone. The outpouring of grief and condolence seen here is but a fraction of the ache and loss felt by each person who knew Pete.
As a couple leading my climbing section at red rock, the Absolons were a model of instruction, patience and good humor. Their teamwork will not be forgotten. The standout from that trip was Pete's smile as recounted the day's climb. Pete had arrived at the belay with a case of the runs. When his students arrived, he instructed one to belay and the other to watch the rope and keep it out of the crack in which he had deposited the goods. As he belayed his students on the pitch above, wetness oozed through the belay device; a certain student had forgotten their job. I'm not sure what ever became of the rope or belay device; however, I do know what became of the students. They were treated with the utmost respect and never made to feel ashamed or embarrassed, even by the other students. This was a direct result of Pete's handling of the incident and illustrates Pete's ability to bring positivity to all those around him. (It's also a pretty funny story about a shitty rope.)the amazing man that we've lost.
I was lucky enough to have you and Pete as instructors for the winter section of my semester in the rockies in 1995. I remember really looking up to Pete for his understatedness and his genuine kindness. My heart goes out to you and your family.
Dearest, dearest Molly- Our hearts and thoughts are with you and will continue to be so for the hardest days, weeks, months and years to come. Roger and I can only remember the most wonderful smile in the world and the love that he had for you and for Avery. We will see you soon and will always be there for you.
Margaret, Roger, Creel, and Elsa
My daughter Wren, almost 6, and I are reading this post. She's trying to stop my tears, get me to go outside. But together we read such beautiful remembrances, and I say to her: We will try in our lives to be generous, to smile, care for others, live life with passion, love... for Pete. He will live in all of us.
Our hearts go out to you. We hope to be there Sunday.
Amy, Rick and Wren
I think I met you in Lander when I came to visit my aunt (Amy Skinner), but even if I didn't meet you, my heart goes out to you all. When I heard the news it left me heartbroken. My whole family is here for you and Avery. You all are constantly in my thoughts and prayers. Condolences to all family and friends.
The lower room of the SCC building will be a Memory Room, a place for friends and family to share and appreciate photos and stories of Pete.
Please come with photos to share, and PLEASE take time to write a few memories of beloved Pete. The photos and stories will be compiled into a book for Molly and Avery. The room will have paper, pens, and also an art corner for Pete's many young friends to draw pictures.
Providing DETAILS will be SO IMPORTANT to Molly and Avery as time marches on. We can help keep Pete's gift of friendship more vibrant through telling his family our stories. We all know that Pete was the best of the best, let's help his family understand what that means to us all.
If you need some prompts, how about:
Pete made me laugh when he....
I know of Pete's immense love of his family because he....
What I really appreciate about Pete is.....
What I treasure about my friendship with Pete is....
I shared a tent with Pete on my instructor course in the Winds. Pete talked a lot about Molly in the evenings after a long day when the sun went down and seemed smitten by her and a little surprised by his luck in winning her hand. We took it upon ourselves to mercilessly rib Pete about marrying so far above his station but he had a tin ear on that subject and just nodded sincerely, agreeing that he had indeed married up.
He graced our course with his skills on the rock (some uncanny touch that made no sense to those of us less gifted), a work ethic born out of his raw enthusiasm for the mountains, and a camaraderie that shone in his eyes. Pete had few airs, an authenticity, and a disarming way that made you feel at ease in his presence.
I’ll miss him. Sending my sympathy and thoughts to Molly, Avery and all the Absolons.
This news is stunning. It is still hard to fathom that Pete has left us. It is a loss for the Lander community, the NOLS community, the climbing community, as well as communities much broader than these three.
This is evident in the many people who have shared such kind words on the good hearted, funny, and enthusiastic individual Pete was. I admired Pete for many reasons. As others have articulated, he was a great believer in people – showing you how to do something and then leaving you room to try it out and make mistakes, supporting you all the while. This encouragement might be coaching on a difficult climb in Sinks Canyon or support in applying for a new job. I owe my current job to the encouragement Pete gave me to apply. His passion consistently stands out to me – whether he was giving you beta for skiing up at Togwotee or discussing the difference between “tax home” and “real home” – he had a fire in his eye. I will miss walking past his office and hearing the sneaky “hey buddy” that I could consistently rely on. Although we talked about going climbing, we never did, and I am certainly poorer for it.
He always signed his emails “pa”. While some might say it was his initials, I think it captures what he truly was – a mentor to many and a wonderful father to Avery. Beyond all the communities that Pete’s loss impacts, the most important loss is to Molly and Avery. My heart goes out to you both and we are all here to support you.
Like many of us, I can't stop thinking about Pete. Images and conversations of/ with him are burned in my memory. Just last week at our weekly Rocky Mountain manager's meeting he was regaling us about his trip to the Winds with Molly and Avery. His voice was full of excitement talking about old NOLS items they found, how strong Avery hiked, and being in the Winds. A few weeks back, he glowed as he shared stories of his recent short yet meaningful time with students and co-instructors in the field. He laughed, as he told us about a student who kept calling NOLS the "NOLS school" and how saying the National Outdoor Leadership School School must mean we do twice the work and make twice the impact.
Pete believed in NOLS. You just knew. Pete was that guy that whenever you mentioned his name, it was instinctually followed by "He's such a good guy." He brought great life to NOLS, an authenticity and an unmistakable love for life. You knew by the way he told stories and from the pictures on his wall, that he was a dedicated husband and father.
The man was a gem. The man could climb. I am sorry my time with Pete was short, and I am very grateful that there was time at all. He has left his mark not only on my life but many, many others. I will treasure the memories of Pete as much as I did the moments.
Molly and Avery, my sincerest condolences for your loss. We are all here to support you in any way that we can.
We are getting ready for our trip out to Lander for an event which we are finding is a gift of love from Pete. The gift we are talking about is the gift of friendship, love and respect he built over many years. The people who have touched our lives over the past few days have Pete's fingerprints on them. As we are touched, Pete touches each of us-leaving a "unique fingerprint". We look forward to meeting and talking with each person.
Words come hard at a time like this. I just got the news about 1 1/2 hours ago from a complete stranger that I caught a ride with from Bruce's Bridge. Shock, anger, disbelief. These feelings keep going through me.
One of my most recent memories of Pete is when he called me up asking me if I needed a climbing partner. It wasn't the first time we shared a rope, but it was a good time. Always a kind word. Always encouraging. We did a normal warm up routine: lead The Fish, TR the one next to it. And doing them back to back. Then it was on to his Sister Rey. At one point my crappy belaying pulled him off the crux. Not a harsh word to me, simply the truth when I said "oops not enough slack there" and he responded, "yep it was a little tight." Then he heartily gave me a belay on something 14 grades easier, offering encouragement and energy the whole time.
I was excited to hear of his getting the RM Branch Director job and told him so. I remember the sparkle in his eyes when he talked about solo stick clipping up Killer in order to hang a rope so Avery could take the big swing.
My condolences go out Molly, Avery, extended family, and friends.
Molly, Bob Vallevona called me this afternoon with the news. I am so very very sorry. I cannot imagine how much your heart must hurt right now.
You know, it was interesting that Bob should be the one to call because you and Pete always reminded me of Bob and Christine. Both of you so full of positive energy that you were always happy to share with others. People always gravitated to you because you shared that energy with everyone, without hesitation. Know that all of those people whose lives you've touched, as individuals and as a family, even peripherally, are sending you love now and wanting to help hold you up in whatever way we can. You are in my thoughts.
Love, Jen (Lowe)
Thank you all for these stories. I keep coming back to this site again and again. I've laughed and cried and cried some more. I'm so scared to think Avery won't remember Pete so please, please keep sending us your stories. You don't know how much this helps me and everyone who is hurting right now from losing someone we loved.
I am so, so sorry. I had late night and early morning calls Monday from Megan and then Drew in Bozeman and was starting to worry that there might be bad news, and then Mark Johnson came over yesterday and I learned what had happened. What a shock. Later in the day I spoke about it with Dan Dundon, who is also here in Seattle and had heard the news through the NOLS family.
I had spent all of three or four hours with Pete in person, and mostly knew him through friends like Drew and Gary W., Phil, Scott and Michelle, Andy and Molly. Through these folks I held Pete in high esteem for the integrity and joy of life he obviously modeled and transmitted to others. I am reminded of Jim Chisholm comments like "wringing the towel dry" and "sucking the marrow from the bones of life." What a great heart Pete willingly shared. And this forum is testament to what glue he was to the extended family of NOLS and Lander. A great loss and an inspiration to carry forward.
Like Neil I can only imagine the pain of this and hope that you feel held and loved by us all both close and far away.
I’ve been looking for words for days now. I haven’t found them yet and I’m not sure I will. Both you and Pete have been a huge part of my life at NOLS over the last 10 years and my heart is just so sad right now for all the people Pete has touched and especially for you, Molly and Avery.
Several days ago, I was paddling on a beautiful river in northern Canada with 5 other NOLS women. Allison Bergh, Kathy Brown and I were sitting on a gravel bar talking about Pete—reflecting on what a great supervisor and mentor Pete had been to all 3 of us…and just how meaningful it had been for us to have Pete in our lives as a coworker and more importantly as a friend. I will miss Pete’s presence in my life…. his laugh, smile and goodness.
It is hard to pick just one thing to write about. I’m overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for having spent the time that I did with Pete. Mentor, supervisor, coworker and friend—he was truly an inspiring man. His heart was bigger and more caring than I realized, his dedication to you and Avery utterly devotional, his passion for everything he did unmatchable and his uncanny ability to bring brightness to everyone he encountered, remarkable.
In the midst of all the memories that I have of Pete, the one consistent piece to them all—besides his smile and ease, was his ability to always make me feel like everything was going to be OK whether it was making a challenging parent phone call or facilitating a tough debrief I had ahead of me or something else personally important to me, I always felt like they were going to work out just fine as long as Pete was around. I will carry this part of Pete’s spirit with me.
Molly, I can’t possibly express to you how sad I am for what you and Avery have lost. There are no adequate words. My heart is weak from crying, sad for the world to lose such an inspiration and grateful for knowing him in the first place. If I can do anything for you or Avery, please don't hesitate to ask.....
I’ll be in Lander soon. With love ...betsy
I cannot possible give you any words that make this easier. I would do anything if I could….but there is nothing I can say to lessen the pain or ease the sadness. Though I would give just about anything to be able to do so…..I wish I could give you a hug but know that I am thinking about you and sending you as much good energy as I can muster! See you soon…betsy
I am so heartbroken for you and Avery! I have tried to write so many times but like so many others I couldn't find words that covered how I feel. But, I had to write when I just saw your post. Molly, I promise you that Avery will remember Pete! It is just that simple even though I know that it feels anything but certain to you right now. I could quote research and all that stuff but instead I just want you to believe me on this one until time can prove it to you. Avery will remember Pete because she is old enough. She will remember Pete because you and Pete are her parents and she has been surrounded with love since before she even came into this world and that love and connection will keep Pete and his memory with her forever. She will remember him because you two will forever be sharing the stories of your lives with Pete. And Molly, because of the impact Pete made on so many lives she will know the stories of Pete that came before she was even born as if she was there. She will remember Pete because of your love, the love of your family and friends and the fact that Pete and his love for you two and his love for life are facts that will be talked about, laughed about and cried about as long as we all live because of the deep impact he had on all of our lives. He will be with you forever Molly. Just as clearly as you know that right now know the same is true for Avery because she loves him and misses him for the exact same reasons but in that amazing way that only happens between little girls and their Dads.
Like most of you, everywhere I look I see Pete. And somehow with each of those memories a smile always comes over my face.
It was one of those perfect blue bird powder days on Teton Pass. Pete and I had been chasing Molly all day. In a last ditch effort to keep up with her, he tried to huck himself off the cornice only to crash and burn 10 feet from the top in a bottomless tree well. He looked down at Molly who was somehow already at the bottom waiting for us and then he looked back at me with a huge grin on his face and snow coming at our every orifice only to say “we make a good team.” That was Pete-always passionate abouthis life and his family.
All my love to you Molly, Avery and your families now and into the years ahead.
I am trying to convince my knee surgeon to let me fly to Lander this weekend but if I loose that fight please know that we Alaskans will be celebrating Pete’s life with all of you at 3 pm on Sunday in the shadow of the Alaska Range.
Like most people who know Pete, I am having a hard time believing that he is gone. Molly and Avery, I am so terribly sorry for you and cannot really express how sad I am.
Also for me,like many others who have already posted here, Pete was a great mentor. He debriefed my first NOLS course and my first CL. We shared a tent on the Instructors Mountaineering seminar in the Winds. After that summer, I went to climb at Devils Tower and Pete made a list of climbs that were the perfect next step for me. The next spring he lent me about three sets of cams and made another list for me for a trip to Indian creek. He always seemed to know what everyone was up to and how to get them to the next level. That was true about climbing, work, ...everything.
I have many fond memories of Pete, eating elk burgers in the winds, splitting a six pack after a debrief of a particularly rough course, watching Avery on the big swing at the killer cave. There is no way that Avery will ever forget him... no one that ever met him could. He was awesome and one of my heroes.
Molly, Avery, Steve, and everyone in Lander, my heart is with you and please let me know if there is anything I can do now or later to help you.
Molly: I’ve been staring at the screen for I don’t know how long looking at the words and feeling the thoughts of so many who love you and Avery and Pete. All of us looking for an anchor through cyberspace and actually finding each other here, in this space. There are so many amazing people gathering and gathering, in so many different ways, because of our love for the three of you. And you and Pete and Avery are the common bond.
As always, the three of you are bringing people together to share and live life fully and live in moments that matter. You are all that is best about laughing and seizing the day in a life worth living. You are so good at embracing others. Pete was the best at that, wasn’t he? Pete will always and forever be a role model for me of what it means to embody joy. Pure joy. For the love of living, of being around others, of making others shine and look their best and all the while having a great time doing it! I know of only a handful of others who can do the same. And for many years, before I got married, and before I became a dad, I looked to Pete as someone who knew how to do it right. Live the path that’s right for you and love your soul mate passionately. And then, when that little one comes along, love them in every way you know how until your heart breaks. Avery knows her dad intimately, and she will carry that intimacy within and with her for the rest of her life, and you will help her. No matter what happens now or in the future, there will always be a time when it truly was Molly, Pete, and Avery.
I love you and I miss you. I miss our talks about having the same opinionated opinions about certain things. I cherish the way-too- few letters we have written to each other since leaving Lander. I will always laugh at the thought of breaking into a national forest cabin after post-holing in waist deep snow in canyon country, rolling our backpacks in front of us as we plowed along. We will see you soon, and then, after this, we will see you again. You will see and spend joyful time with so many of the people who are writing to you. They will carry Pete forward. You will carry him forward. Avery will carry him always. I truly believe that. And the stories will continue.
This spring I hired the Absolons as “models” for a photo shoot featuring general camping gear. Everything went smoothly until I needed Pete to sit still in a camp chair. Sitting still outside was not one of Pete’s strong points, but he faked it well enough.
When I was a pretty new Instructor at NOLS and Pete was a new "Fast Tracked" Instructor we worked a fall hiking section of a semeter in the Winds together. In addition to a standard heavy pack Pete also carried a hunting license and a slingshot. On the trail he picked up stones of just the right size and density. Finally the quarry flushed out and the grouse lit on a branch hanging over the trail in front of us. Pete took careful aim and missed. He crept closer and missed again. Soon we were directly under the bird who refused to fly despite our abandonment of any pretense of stealth. When Pete ran out of perfect stones he picked up a larger rock and threw it. To his horror he hit the bird which flew off in a puff of feathers. Pete insisted on searching for the bird because he didn't want to leave a wounded animal. Because of Pete's sense of responsibility we searched much too long and arrived at our camp well after all of the students, unfortunately without a bird to cook.
Another of a surprising number of memories from that course is that Pete left for the field without doing something he had told Molly he would do. I don't remember now what it was. But I remember that every evening he would bemoan how much trouble he was going to be in with Molly and brainstorm ways to get a letter out to her with a re-ration that might appease her. I barely knew Molly then but I was pretty sure that Pete wasn't much worried about her being mad, he just wanted to talk about her.
It has been hard for me to rise above the weight of this loss, but today I watched Avery and her cousin Willow and 6 friends play hard all day. They moved from activity to activity without missing a moment of joy. And did I say they played very hard? Their joy was contagious. Then they all disapeared to the basement and the costume bin. After over an hour of planning they moved into the living room and called me in to watch their play. The show began with my son Gavin's warning that there was a lot of dark humor in the play. The influence of Avery's recent wonderful performances in MacBeth in both the community and the children's theater efforts quickly became apparent. Watching the children act out scenes centered on death was disturbing and perplexing to me. I felt very uncomfortable when they referenced the dead father character. But the chidren were not uncomfortable or hesitant or guarded. Avery stayed in character as a princess who was to be poisoned. Her eyes were clear and full of intent. Her movements with her long red boa were graceful and joyous. She spoke strongly and confidently. She had courage, and she gave me some.
Thank you Molly, for the gift of Avery today. Avery won't forget Pete. You won't let that happen and we will help you. Pete is part of Avery and always will be. She cannot forget what is part of her.
Molly and Avery I love you both! I miss you Pete, but I was glad to see glimpses of you in Avery today.
As the days go by and the reality sets in, I start to realize that I didn’t just lose a friend – I lost a mentor, a guide, a supporter, and a hero. I don’t put too many people up there with my own father however Pete was the one person I really wanted my dad to meet. I wanted my dad to meet the person that had finally taught me how to be a good leader, how to truly listen and not judge, how to find humor in stressful situations, how to be more analytical and less emotional, how to be involved however not micromanage. Pete could have chose to close that office door of his however, we could rely on Pete coming out on a daily basis asking, “what’s going on” or “how can I help”. He was right there with us, a part of us – he believed in us and we believed in him.
My years in the staffing office were some of the most stressful years however some of the more blessed. I feel like we were the lucky ones – we got Pete Absolon as a boss!! The best kept secret at NOLS (or maybe not so secret)!!! The one thing that gives me some peace in mind is – I know Pete knew we loved and appreciated him. The day we all got together to spontaneously buy him a rope and present him “ The best Boss in the World” award was a day I know meant a lot to him. Meant a lot to us.
Avery – every day he would come in and tell us cute funny stories about you. He would raise his voice to sound like you whenever he’d reenact funny things you would say – or cute comments you would make. I think part of the reason he worked so well with all the woman in our department was because he was taking notes on how to be a good father to you. He was so proud to be your father.
Molly – I remember telling Pete how impressed I was with you. How incredibly nice you are, how athletic you are. He then proceeded to talk about all the things your involved in and just how talented you really are. You could tell with every story – just how much in love he was with you. He was so proud to be your husband.
Pete will forever be an important person to me and I will take the lessons learned from him and hope to be a better person. Pete you meant the world to me –thanks for all the laughter, goofiness, and lessons in life. You will never be forgotten!!
My heart aches for my friends Molly and Avery and all of our Lander community. I wish I could be there to hold you, and hold up the people holding you, and chop onions and cook soup, and make it better - somehow.
Late last night I finally got an internet connection, after 4 days of moving and 12 hours of flying. George and I stayed up late reading every post here and cried. I've been crying for days. It is so difficult to be moving away from you instead of toward you. But I know that canceling our 7 book events this week is not what Pete and Molly would want us to do. So we soldier on, and go through the motions, and stay committed to our mission, drawing strength from the Presence that is, was and will always be Pete Absolon and his beautiful, amazing, and talented wife - whom I am lucky to call friend.
I knew Pete mostly as Avery's amazing daddy and Molly's obvious soulmate. We had passing conversations because he was always passing, usually at high speed on a bicycle,or skis, or running by our house. And I must admit, on more than one occasion, I admired Pete's ripped physique and thought "damn that Molly is a lucky girl!" I often marveled at how the two of you pulled it all off, the pursuit of your adventurous passions, physical fitness, your commitment to each other, the kid juggle - all of it done with complete grace and balance. That takes teamwork and you are an amazing team. And you always will be because it lives on forever in Avery. She is an amazing child who really understands things on a very deep level. She will not forget Pete. He is in the fabric of her being.
To help Avery keep those memories vivid long into her adult life and beyond to share her daddy with her own children someday, George and I would like to make a video of stories about him, as told by the people loved him.
We will come to Lander, as soon as we can, in 3-4 weeks when the shock and flurry of activity subsides, and there is time for people to gather their thoughts. I know Molly Hampton already asked and got the thumbs up from Molly A., so I thought I would post it here.
If anyone who doesn't live in Lander would like to send a video clip to be included, contact us at email@example.com, for the technical requirements and mailing instructions.
It is a small gesture Molly, but we hope it helps to ease your fears. We will record Avery's memories while they are still young and fresh, and she will always have a visual aide to infuse the deep and lasting memories in her heart. We will try to have it ready for her birthday.
The speech the kids memorized for MacBeth keeps playing in my head..."tommorrow...and tomorrow... and tommorrow... "
Pete was so proud that day. He was sitting next to me. He was beaming. We all were. That is how I will always remember him.
I’m a bit of a mess right now trying to figure out what life will look like without Peter Absolon. I miss him.
Pete - I’m a happier and better person for knowing you. Watching you live your life has helped me live a life that represents my values. I’ve watched you build a family. You integrate family, friends and living in a way that multiplies. You’ve helped us build a marriage. You are a stabilizing force in our house, for Gary probably even more than for me. At work I’ve learned from you to take new jobs and not kick myself for being in the learning process for awhile. I remind myself on a regular basis to “Be like Pete”- don’t react, don’t take anything personally, move ahead productively, assume good intentions on all sides. And you’re hilarious. For the life of me I still can’t understand your convoluted explanation for why we can bike despite the “no biking” signs on the forest service ski trails, and I love it, (even though I still think my explanation is better.) It’s been an honor being your friend. I love you. And Pete, it breaks my heart to think of the enormous pain that you would have knowing that you had to leave Molly and Avery.
Molly and Avery - I have heard Pete say so many times at NOLS briefings, “I have a wonderful daughter, so every day is filled with new things. Yesterday Aves …..” We all know the glint in his eyes when he talks about Avery. Twice I asked Pete what the best part of having a kid was, and his reply was the same both times: that it was seeing Molly glow after Avery was born. My heart aches for you. Honestly right now I feel like all the encouraging words I can imagine add up to a bunch of crap. But I also know that we live in a beautiful world, and both of you have a gift of seeing beauty, magic and joy. You are so loved. Pete will never be gone. Whenever I sat with Pete it was clear and understood that you two were part of him. He is part of you forever, and part of us too. I love you both and look forward to our fun adventures to come.
Molly, I just heard the news on WPR when I woke up this morning. I haven't seen you and Pete for a decade, but I remember sharing our winter instuctor's course and shredding great powder in the Bighorn Range, where I first got to know and care for you and Pete. And I remember a hilarious day skiing/boarding in horrible crust at Two Oceans Bowl where Mark Bergstrom just about convinced me that boarding indeed could be better than telemarking as we watched you two connect the dots in the impossible-to-telemark breakable crust. In spite of the conditons, you two were undetered, and the day was filled with laughter. I'm so sorry that Pete is gone.
Dear Molly, Avery, and so many friends from long ago,
I too was stricken when I learned of Pete's death, and have just now read through all these posts. Such sadness and comfort to read the stories, to catch glimpses of the Pete we all love.
Pete had such a fierce and playful love of life. Though we started our NOLS work at the same time, and I was older than him, I always looked up to Pete. I'm seeing here on this list that most of us felt that way about Pete. I'm not surprized.
The one course I worked with Pete and Molly was a caving section at Jewell Cave... Tom Haffnor was the CL. It got so cold everything froze solid... except the mustard. Boy, did we eat mustard as we hopped from foot to foot trying not to shiver too hard. I remember Pete had some long cockamaimie explanation for why the ketchup was a block of red ice, but the mustard didn't freeze... as he happily squirted it onto a piece of bread and chowed down. The rest of us were far less satisfied with the meal, but believed his story. He found that hilarious.
That's the thing about Pete. You just believe in him. And even when he's pulling your leg it's the right thing to do, because it really does help to laugh when it's so cold that even the students that HATE caving can't wait to get undergrond and warm up.
I visited Lander last year after way too long away, and as I sat chatting with folks I got a big slap on the back and one of those "hey Buddy!" greetings, and a strong hug. It was like I'd only been away thirty days and stepped off the bus at RMB.
Avery, your Dad was such a bright light in the world, and he made a huge difference in the lives of so many of us. And your Mom, well she's a bright star in her own right. Nonetheless, one of the biggest compliments I can offer you Molly is that you deserved Pete, just as he deserved you. Others have said it better, but you and Pete were an inspiration to many of us struggling to balance love for someone with love for a life in the mountains. You two showed it could be done.
What a blessing to have known Pete,
It is with a very heavy heart and after so many tears and crying yesterday that I keep trying to write this post. I have my son, Shane, here with me for a few days and that makes it all the more poignant. The lives and the way that Pete touched those lives will remain forever a testament to his greatness as a human being.
Pete was and will always be one of the great standup and standout people - the kind of person you want your children to hang with, the kind of person you would often be envious of, either yourself, or that you wanted to emulate his lifestyle.
And I haven't had a chance yet to read all the stories herein, but I plan on it. You see, sadly, somehow there is a Divine Hand in all of this. I can't tell you why, or how, or especially explain, like Bertrand Russell might ask: how in the heck could a God do this? I won't begin to take a side in that argument, or maintain even what kind of God it could be, because we are, after all, talking about Pete, and I can almost see his response to this right now, and then we'd both laugh! He might give me one of those looks, or simply say: Come on now, are you kidding?
I think he might add: "He didn't have anything to do with it, that was me!"
You see, I found out about this yesterday (Tuesday) in the Kind coffee shop in Estes Park. Just flipping through the paper. But there's more than that. I turned down two days of climbing - a guided day that I had a chance to do, and then turned down a personal day of climbing. Something just was a little fatigued, a little not right. I needed - strangely enough at my age - a rest day. But oddly enough, I turned down a great chance to do some personal climbing, which I don't have much of a chance to do and seldom turn down, if I have a day to go climbing. Well, okay, possible. It can happen. But the stranger element of it, was that I chose to sit and read the Rocky Mountain News, which frankly, I never read. It was truly as if there was the invisible hand of Pete over me, guiding me mine. And then I started to flip through the pages, just scanning the headlines. I wasn't looking for anything, and I had read a bit of another paper sitting nearby, and was pretty much finished reading. But something guided me on, so I continued to flip through the News until I saw a headline which caught my attention about a climber in Wyoming getting killed. And I still thought nothing about it until I read further.
I had never even for a remote second thought that it could be Pete. I think that was the shock of it, the complete and utter trauma of that discovery left me breathless. It was as if the Hulk had just hit me squarely in the solar plexus. I couldn't breath, I barely got up and almost ran from the coffee shop to the river out behind the coffee shop where I could let the tears first well up in my eyes, so that others would not see my loss. What I wanted to do, of course, was scream. Just scream that agonizing kind of scream when we first hear the news.
The uniqueness of how I learned of Pete's passing, though, will always be with me, and somehow or another, there was Pete's hand in all of this, his guiding hand to bring us all together perhaps. But certainly the diviness of his being, Pete's existence, that is, resonates through it all.
It's been a long time since I had been able to spend much time with Pete. But Molly I will say that I am so very fortunate that I was able to catch up with all of you last year in Lander and get, finally, to meet Avery. The very embodiment of you both.
And as you know, I will never forget those moments with Pete, or that time at Eldorado when we went off and did the Edge together and he was hinting the whole time at how mad you might be. He wasn't really supposed to be climbing that day, was he? But you let him go off anyway. You know, I am going to have to get to the bottom of that story, I just think I was happy to not see the fireworks afterwards...)::
I think I have some others to share as well...Pete was not only a great mentor to so many of us, but he was a great friend. I never saw him upset, well, not in any discernible way, that is. At least not while we were back at GW. You know, I think he did less Physics homework than anyone in the class and still came out with the highest or second highest test grades.
I'd ask him how he did and he would say, yeah, alright. "Well, did you pass?" I'd ask. "Yeah". "Well, what did you get" And this would be after barely studying for the test, and he'd say: "A 75 or 76" "Oh, so a C" "No", Pete would explain, "it was graded on a bell curve, and he threw out the highest score, so I got an A." I would just laugh.
That was Pete's style, everything was just so relaxed and natural for him.
He will always be such a brilliant human being for us all, and I will miss him dearly.
p.s. I am planning on coming up to Lander this weekend and did not know if there was anything going on Saturday evening at all. I will, of course, along with Russell Hunter, be there for the Sunday service
For Pete's memorial service, we are gathering photos. THese photos will be used either in a slide show or in the "Memory Room" that Missy White describes in her entry. They will also be compiled into a book for Molly and Avery.
If you have a good picture of Peter that you would like to share, you can post it to this site, and we can download it on this end.
If you've ever climbed at Sinks Canyon on a winter weekend, you know it has a distinctly different feel from other hard crags around the world. There is a very unpretentious and friendly feel, and Pete, Avery, and Molly have been an integral part of it all.
It always made the day better to see the Absolons at the crag. Molly, you three are an inspiration to us. As we look toward having our own family, your ability to live and play fully together make the most wonderful example to follow.
We join with all your friends in offering our support and love in this terrible time, and in all the times to come.
Jen, Bennett, and I share in the sadness and shock expressed here. I'm not sure that my words will adequately express my deep appreciation for knowing and working with Pete, nor my sincere condolences for Molly and Aves.
Easter brunches at Pete and Molly's (watching the kids in our community of friends run around looking for eggs that Pete had hidden), winter gatherings in the garage with the wood stove glowing, smiling and laughing in the rain (and flash flood) on Red Butte, and sharing office work/time/space for so many years. Pete was a good friend, a mentor to me in work and in parenting, and a guide of sorts for how to remain passionate in work and play and family. I never told him this and I regret not doing so.
I recall one summer gathering at Molly and Pete's property on Red Butte outside of Lander. (Pete would share pounds of elk that he had taken in the previous year's hunt and we'd share a potluck meal in the sun and rain.) I fondly recall Pete standing on something (a cooler, a rock, a chair?) and welcoming folks to the meal. He paused, smiled big, began crying and shared with us how much he loved his wife and how grateful he was for his daughter. It was their anniversary and Pete stood in front of his friends and his family crying and grinning. It was in this moment that I came to know Pete - passionate, committed, proud, humble, and unashamed to be filled with such love for Molly and Aves. I miss him, and will always remember him. I am very blessed to have known him and worked with him for a short number of years.
Molly - Bennett, Jen and I are here with arms, food, love and shelter. Know that you may call on us at any moment.
Well Im not sure how to say how I feel so I guess Ill just throw it out there. I just wrote about ten lines and erased all of them. Pete kept me so interested in how a man of his abilities can still be such an amazing husband and father. Its seems like everytime I ran into him he was helping someone, takin off to climb and/or just enjoying the company of Molly and Avery. Ah over the last year I got a sort of serious job and he loved to tease me about it..asking me how it felt and how I was adjusting...oh and how proud he was of me. He was so funny with his detailed explainations of how to start the furnace in his gym...and how nice he was when I almost blew it up! Big laughes one night in that gym with Avery and I drawing with crayons on the wall and coming back a year later to see Petes sparkle in his eye when we laughed about how those drawings are getting higher. One of the most memorable days with Pete was when I just got off workin a course and he came over with a big hug to tell me my Grandma just died...he took me into his office and closed the door(which I had never seen him do before) and he just gave me a big hug and motioned to the phone where my Aunt was waiting to talk with me. So as we sat and talked I just watched Pete cry and before you knew it were both crying and the rest is obvious. But Pete was the guy who kept everything in perspective(Gary too) for me and was always there....ready for anything. So Molly and Avery Im giving you the biggest hug right now and will see you soon.
The last time I saw Pete he was filling his tank up nice and fast in way to Sinks...explaining the amazing morning he just had with Avery and how shes growing so fast...he didnt mention much about climbing....
I have been walking around numb ever since I got the news. I just want you to know that our thoughts are with you. When I am not just dealing my thoughts turn to the 3 of you and all the good times we have had together.
If it wasn't for you and Pete I am not sure Mark and I ever would have had kids. I remember thinking, if they can do it and they seem to really love it and Avery is so wonderful maybe we can. Having the children has been the best thing we have ever done - Thank-you.
What I remember most about Pete is his unflailing enthusiasm and energy. His ability to be in the moment and the way his face would light up when he talked about Avery.
To the Ablsolon's, Herber's and SuperTopo Community:
I have had the distinct honor of knowing Pete's sister Mary, her husband Bill, their daughter Molly and their son Chris thru our son's high school wrestling program over the past 6 years at St Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights, MN.
Although I have not met Pete, his wife Molly and daughter Avery, I can rest assured they have been wonderful people if they are anything like the Herber's. My heart goes out to you all.
A loss is felt in so many directions and so deeply when someone is taken before the summit. I, like the other members of the St Thomas Academy Wrestling program and community will be sure to keep the family in our thoughts and prayers and ask God to give strength at this juncture in our climb.
I am an avid hunter, who greatly enjoys the mountains and I know that when that cool breeze falls upon me on my future adventures, I will pray that it is Peter protecting me from whatever encounter lies around the corner.
I can't tell you how sorry I am. I wish I could be there right now for you, but I know you are surrounded by friends and family. We are in Casper right now, but I will call you soon. Please know that you are constently in our thoughts. Gabriella sends a special hug to Avery, and as soon as she is ready, would like to have her over.
I didn't know Pete well, but occasionally we'd run into each other when picking the girls up from school, and chat while we waited for them to come on out. He always had a smile on his face. I remember how Avery's face lit up at the sight of her Daddy.
Molly, I hope you know that if there is ANYTHING you need - anything we can do, I'm here for you. ((((hugs))))
When I think of your family today, the recent TNC event at your place at Red Butte immediately comes to mind.
It was evening and the sun was sinking in the west as Susan and I walked up the two-track toward our car. It had been a nice gathering of folks interested in community and conservation and preserving much of what’s best about Lander’s beautiful foothills. Earlier, Pete had briefly welcomed the group in his typically self-effacing and heartfelt way. As time passed, the sunset relieved the heat and painted everything in warm colors.
But the image that strikes me now is what I saw as we were leaving. It was a small, brief observation, the kind of thing we see everyday and don’t think much about. Pete and Avery were down in the grass below the two-track. I could clearly hear them bantering back and forth, deep in some imagined game involving Avery’s exploration of the junipers and red rocks as they headed back to join you.
I could see Pete highlighted gold by the low sun. He wasn’t looking my way, he was squinting into the sun as he watched Avery scamper in her game. Pete was talking with Avery in that bemused, attentive tone parents use with young children they love. As you might guess, Avery was calling the shots (or trying to). Father and daughter were clearly on an adventure. And it was perfect.
If there is any truth to the notion that when we die we return in some way to the places and times we love most dearly in life, I suspect that sun-drenched, golden evening with you up ahead and Avery in tow, is one of many, many shared places that Pete will surely visit.
Molly and Avery,
over the last few days as the sadness seems to deepen so do the images and memories I have of Pete--he adored his Mol and Aves! What I loved and appreciated most about Pete was his unwavering nature. He had this incredible steadiness, didn't he? Always the one making things happen, planning and gathering the necessities for the activity... skiing, cooking, whatever... What strikes me most now is he gave with such apparent ease and from great abundance within himself. Never appearing to tire....he often wanted those he was with to be having a great time...he really got something from that. Pete had this amazing ability to size someone up...it's like he knew my ability better than I did and I always trusted that if Pete says I can do it than I must be able to. I remember sitting around the table this winter listening to his adventures hunting Elk...I loved listening to those stories not really so much for the stories but because I got to see the nature of Pete...his joy and excitement...I can still see his face all lit up...that twinkle....loved it! Here's to you Pete!
i miss him too....
so much love to you both...will be with you tomorrow...
Christina (one of the Armbrecht outlaws)
I remember running into Pete a lot at Sinks when we lived in Wyoming, we even shared a few belays and knew a few of the same people but I never got to know him that well. I can relate quite well to the joy of having kids at the crag with you and rigging the king swings in killer cave as we have done the same for our kids. My condolences to family and friends.
Dear Molly and Avery,
I am saddened to hear of Pete's loss, and wish for both you that he reamin ever present in your lives, as I am sure he will.
When Mark told me what had happened, I like other's found the news unbeliveable, and now I am still struggling for words. I have known you both since I joined NOLS in '93 and worked at the RM in '94. I have worked more closely with over the last few years on staffing issues. Pete's calm pragmatic approach has had a strong influence on me as a program supervisor. But it is Pete's sense of humour and generosity of spirit that I will carry with me. As well as the openess with which all three of you as a family have been expamles to our community.
Take Care our thought's are with you,
Steve and Linda Summers
13 years ago, Pete was one of my instructors for the climbing section of my NOLS Instructor course at Split Rock. I'd known him from around Lander some. But on that course, I really got to know and appreciate his fabulous sense of humor, his tremendous strength as a climber, and as an all-around great guy. We students all marvelled at his climbing feats and would say if Pete couldn't climb it in tennis shoes, we wouldn't be able to climb it at all. He was such a great teacher and person - I have no doubt he was a wonderful father and leader of the NOLS Rocky Mountain Branch and will be missed by many.
My thoughts are with you, Molly and Avery.
-Ericka (Houck) Englert
Everything that has been said about Pete in this thread covers so much of my experience working for and camping with Pete. It is so, so sad, and I feel uncomfortable at how I took his presence at NOLS for granted. He was an amazing individual and role model, and is sorely missed. I will just relate a story related to Pete’s superlative teaching skills.
Pete was the briefer on my second NOLS course in the Winds and he was also the liaison for our students. On the first day with the students, Pete led some kind of group initiative. During the class he paused to gather his thoughts, and I remember thinking that it was a remarkably long pause in front of a group. Bold, yet refreshingly acceptable. It was very effective for him in gathering his own thoughts, and then equally effective at gathering the students’ attention. Since then as a WMI Instructor I have regularly played with this idea, and often think of Pete. I have embarked on a music career as of recent, and I feel teaching and performing are closely related art forms. I frequently apply this same principle into the music I compose and play (which is not so easy on a 5-string banjo). Just a small way that Pete touched me.
My heart goes out to Molly, Avery and their family, and to Steve as well. I wish I could be there this weekend.
Dear Molly and Avery, and everyone who happens to read this,
Amidst the enormous sadness of the last few days I have thought of many, many wonderful memories of climbing, and hanging out with you and Pete, I almost don't know where to begin. But there is one memory that occurs as often as any other...
It was the summer of 1998, the summer that my mom died, and shortly after we had finished building the climbing gym in the Absolon's garage. I was worried about my dad being alone in California, so I invited him out to Wyoming. To give us something to do together I decided that we would re-roof my house. I mentioned this in passing to Pete, and suddenly his face took on this look of mission. "You helped me," he said, "so I'm gonna help you." He gave me a brief tutorial on how to organize a roofing party, and everything I would need to buy.
The next morning, deeply hungover, I awoke at 7 to the sound of Pete's truck in my driveway. While I frantically made and guzzled coffee, Pete unloaded ladders and sawhorses, and implements of destruction. Over the next four days Pete worked at least 10 hours a day, and ran the whole project. He allocated roofing tasks to all of the 20 or so gracious volunteers, and freed me up to be just another worker bee, working with my dad. I particularly remember one of the times that Molly came by, and was in the house, while Pete was on the roof. I remember she and Pete smiling at each other thru the new skylight that Pete had just framed in.
I never thanked Pete enough for that. I'm not sure that I ever could. I've always been proud of how the roof turned out, and particularly now it is beautiful to me. Pete and Molly became my dad's favorites of all my friends. I remember him telling me, as we drove to the airport for his flight back to California, what great parents he thought they would make...
I just thought of a memory I have that I wanted to share, because I don't think you were there. When the school had their "bike rodeo" for the kids this past spring, Suzanne and I brought the girls' bikes over, and stood on the "sidelines" to watch the kids ride their bikes. We were joined by George Grossman, and pretty soon here comes Pete around the building, riding Avery's bike. I remember a few of the kids near us noticed him and were laughing to see this grown man on a small girl's bicycle, but as he stood on the petals, sort of hunched over and stopped to hand the bike over to Avery, I thought he looked pretty darn cool! He stayed there with us while the kids all rode the courses, and when Avery was done with her bike, he rode off on it. A very loving, and cool dad!
Again, I'm so very sorry. You know how to get a hold of me if I can do anything....
I'm having such a difficult time coming up with words to express my feelings, which I'm sure is a common affliction right now. Molly, my thoughts are with you and Avery. I can't imagine your pain, yet I know it's deep. I know you're a strong woman and you've got a beautiful daughter and so many friends to help you.
Of course my thoughts are also with Pete. I really liked Pete and will miss him terribly. We've been in the same weekly meeting together now for a few years, and his presence is something I've always looked forward to. Thoughtful, inquisitive, smiling, laughing. He didn't shy away from difficult tasks or from asking important questions. He seemed so adept at balancing the fun hog life while also being the professional office boy/desk jockey. There was never any pretension. What you saw was what you got. He was very genuine and so easy to get along with.
Somewhere along the line, Pete got way into hunting. He was excited to hear my stories and he loved recounting his own. He would call me at work, presumably to ask a quick work related question and then the truth came out..."Sooo, did you get one?" 30 minutes later, after having recounted in great detail our missed opportunities and ultimate successes, we would both decide we should get back to work, but now with a smile for having once again shared in the years hunt.
Our hurt is in proportion to our love of Pete, and that's why it hurts so bad.
Molly and Avery, I am so sorry about your loss. I can't believe it. I started at NOLS around the same time as you and Pete. Even while Pete was a new instructor, I always thought of him as an "instructor's instructor." Molly, I recall your great smile and laughter in the odd NOLS office located on the third floor of the old Lander post office where we both worked, and I knew you and Pete were soulmates because he shared your amazing capacity for full engagement in life. My thoughts are with you.
A long time ago I brought Pete down to the Gendarme at Seneca Rocks to take my place at the climbing school. I know Pete never regretted the choice and neither did any of his students or people who worked with him. He was everything a guide should be and a great friend. Along with Howard Doyle's passing, this year has narrowed the circle of the old guard at Seneca. Cherish your friends, and the memories of those who are gone.
While I didn’t have the honour of working with Pete in the field, I remember long phone conversations with him where he spoke openly about the NOLS community he loved, I remember him at the crag in Sinks, I remember a “business lunch” which involved a quick run around the loop in Lander, I remember a coveted invitation to a session in his bouldering cave at home, and the energy and joy he couldn’t help sharing when his family was nearby, or in his thoughts.
It’s not a coincidence that many writing highlight what a great leader Pete was, and will be, for us, because his spirit is eternal in those he led. I will continue to try and get things done in his understated, engaging, style.
Avery, your dad is you and all that is around you.
I remember Pete back in the 80's at Seneca Rocks amazing climber and person somone to look up to. Once he and I hooked up at Stone Mountain N.C. The day before he had soloed a bunch of routes including Rainy Day Woman. We met at the bouldering slab Pete was climbing in the new fire rock shoes and I had EB's after a few minutes he ask if he could use my EBs. He made a few atempts then got realy frustrated that it wasn't going smoothly. Pete made it up but he wasn't satisfide until he could do all the problems under complet control which ever shoes he was using. I then belayed Pete on some of those runout 5.11s with their running belays which with Pete all I had to do was feed him the rope. While at Prescot College I was making my first trip to the Sears boulders Tom Cecil warned me of the searious nature of the climbing there telling me thats where Pete Absolon broke his ankle.
Margaret Creel just called me to tell me about Pete's death. I am overwhlemed with sadness. I am also flooded with warm memories of our fun times together in Berkeley. I just assumed that we would all meet up again in the next few years and I would see you and Pete and get to finally meet Avery. I wanted our families to meet when my kids were old enough to travel well. You were one of my first friends who was married and you were such a great example of how much fun being a couple could be. I loved being around both of you and watching you interact. Always positive, fun, funny... I have enjoyed your Holiday letters each year and watching your family blossom. This just seems so wrong. I am happy that you have the NOLS community and your friends close to you to help you through this. I am thinking of and sending my love to you and Avery and the Absolon and Armbrecht families. The world is better for Pete having been here. I wish you strength and peace. Love, Lynn
Molly and Avery,
I am so sorry to hear this news. It makes me so sad. Pete has been my role model as a parent ever since Avery was born and I was working with him at the RMB. At the time I could not see or imagine the kind of love he demonstrated for his family. It was not until Arya was born did I really understand. I have been watching and learning from his devotion the last 5 years. My heart aches for you.
When I came to Lander in 1989, Pete was the first NOLS instructor I went climbing with in Sinks for an afternoon. Ben Hammond had introduced us a few days earlier. Like everyone who met Pete, I immediately trusted him as climbing partner and came to care deeply for him as a friend. I have not met a more solid, dependable and positive person than Pete. Whether he was in the field with students or taking on a new leadership role at NOLS, I always knew things would be better with his firm but gentle hand at the helm. I will always remember Pete hanging on his new route cleaning and drilling on the "Wilds Wall" and I was 100 feet away working on my new route. Pete was so excited for his new route but so encouraging and excited about mine as well, always supportive and interested in others!
Pete stopped by my office in January and that was the last time I saw him. When I heard the tragic news, I thought about that day and pictured the perpetual smile, the kind eyes and warmth he always exuded.
Molly, I will see you this weekend and give you a hug, I know Laura and Hannah will keep coming over to visit Avery and being there for you and her.
I went to college in Washington with Pete and we’d run in the mornings with Pete’s old roommate, Ken. We were up pretty early for college kids; down to the Lincoln Memorial, up the stairs and around the back where the great views of the Potomac are. You can’t run there anymore. Then all along the mall to the Capitol, and back to GW, all before most folks were out of bed. We ran 3 or 4 days a week for a while.
Then there were days when Pete wouldn’t join us. He had other plans. I saw him leaving the dorm with a weird pair of shoes in his hands and asked where he was going. Pete had found a wall, just a few blocks from our dorm; a 20-foot high stone wall that supports the E street underpass from 20th street to 23rd street. Made of large stone and mortar construction, it was perfectly vertical and Pete was climbing it, with cars going by 6 feet behind him. He did this a few times a week for a while. I tried it once and couldn’t go anywhere, but he was building strength and working on technique. If you tried climbing that wall now in the middle of DC you’d cause quite a stir.
Pete took me out to Carderock one weekend, sometime after that. He set up the ropes and had me climb up 6 feet or so from the base, then he told me to let go. He inspired such confidence. That’s the first time I really noticed his gift to teach. I made it to the top, thanks to his patience and encouragement.
It’s been great to read the stories about Pete, and to learn about the man (great dad, husband, and leader at NOLS, outdoorsman, and great guy) he had become – they have somehow made this tragic loss just a little easier. A bunch of us who grew up with Pete have been talking and emailing over the past few days (look for post from his Rockville friends too) and recounting stories of how we met Pete, things we did together and the things we remember most about him.
Here is a bit about Pete’s life growing up. He came to Rockville -I guess this is a good place for a rock climber to be from ;) the summer after 6th grade. I knew him from the neighborhood, from school and through scouts. As a student, Pete was way ahead of the rest of us –very consistent with the many stories about his adult life; he was always patent and willing to help the rest of us when we got behind. The only major issue of friction Pete had with the rest of us (and we never got him to come around) was his love for the Dallas Cowboys and absolute dis respect for the Washington Redskins. His love for the outdoors, I think, started with scouting. The best story I can remember from this time is a 3 day trip Pete and I took for our Wilderness Survival merit badge (at that time he was not a NOLS expert mind you – he was a 13 year old kid) and the two of us spent a day and a half running after rabbits, imaging how good they would taste for dinner. We never caught them, and ended up eating crayfish and wild carrots and dirking creek water for the duration. Some time later – Pete and I took an introduction class on climbing at Carderock and you could see from that point on that he was hooked. After that class, Pete took almost everyone he knew climbing – and it sounds like this went on for the rest of his life. At some point, we out grew scouts and if anything his love for the outdoors just increased. I was talking with Pete’s great friend, Mark Brosnan yesterday – and we just could not even figure out how many times the we had gone camping over the years – I don’t know if it was every weekend from 9th grade on – but it was pretty close. The Appalachian Train, Shendoha & Old Rag, Harpers Ferry, Coctican Mountains, etc were some of our favorite spots. One memorable trip – (I hope that neither Avery nor my kids follow this example) we told our folks that we were going camping for a three day weekend. That weekend, Pete and I hitchhiked to visit his brother Fritz in Marietta OH (pretty big trip for 16 year olds) On that trip, I can remember being on the side of a road in West Virginia and not seeing a car pass us for more than 3 hours – when we finally caught a ride it was in the back of a truck hauling livestock – you will be happy to know that Pete had a great sense of humor even in that situation. During high school I can remember the Absolon house, and especially the kitchen table, and pool table in their basement as centers of our social life. When Pete went to college at George Washington, we stayed in touch. Pete’s climbing ability has far surpassed the rest of us, so our contact had more to do with catching up over a beer and talking about the future than on climbing. We all marveled at the trips he took – Joshua tree in Calf, Gunk’s in New York and of course, Seneca Rocks.
After college, I rented a room at the Absolon house (Pete was living at Seneca then) and stayed in touch with his doings via his brother John and Mom. A few years later – my then girlfriend (now wife) Lois, was renting a room at the Absolon house – and we would often see Pete when he would return home & catch up with us over a beer or two.
Over the years, we had kind of lost track – Christmas cards and an email here and there – and that makes me sad. Pete was one of those guys that you could see after a long absence – even years – and feel like you just picked up and never missed a beat. In reading the many stories people have posted – he grew up to be a great guy, and I really wish I had done a better job staying in touch. Years ago my dad told me that at the end – you will be able to count you number of true – life long friends on one hand – I’ve just lost one. I will see you in Lander this weekend.
One of the best I ever encountered in my six year dance with the NOLS Tent Group -- a community of great souls. You can give a "Nah, really?!" with such a straight face that I still don't know if you believed or really cared about some of the tangential whoo-ha you allowed me to spin, dropping by the RMB on a Lander afternoon. You, Willy C., Gary C., and yours truly, jawing about permit violations and inane rules near the map room. But you are a good listener. And weather its B.S. or the real deal how can you give the SAME LOOK when weaving a tale? Is that uber subtle mischievous twinkle a clue? Or how about the over-the-top double-take-styled zowie look? Is that a clue? I don't know. You are smart and a delight to share time with. I will forever smile thinking about you and watching you climb once or twice. And how you make Molly glow, that golden soul mate glow. Thank you for sharing such gifts. Also, thank you and Molly for sharing your kitchen and fridge, utensils and salt, so I could whip up a batch of margaritas and dress up silly at Halloween.
Again, peace hombre, and my love to you and yours,
Stefan J. Jackson (with Laura, Stefanie, and Jacqueline Ordway)
Maggie sent me the link to this photo, which I thought I would post. You guys can post photos in this forum by finding a photo of Pete on line somewhere, and then right clicking on it to get its properties. You copy and paste the URL into the post here, and then you put these tags on front and back, just don't leave the space between the g and the ] like I did here to show you: [img ]http://www.photo.jpg[/img ]
I only met Pete a few times back in the day at Seneca Rocks, but he was a very inspirational guy. I thought he looked like the quintessential "hardman", and I can distinctly remember to this day the look on his face, and the body position he affected, as he described to me in great detail how he attempted to climb Spock's Brain - one of those sandbag desperate Seneca 5.10's that today's plastic warrior can barely imagine let alone climb. He didn't make it that day, but you knew he'd be back soon. Pete was busy everywhere at Seneca, yet he was always available and approachable when I asked him for route recommendations and beta.
It's wonderful to see the great outpouring of love for Pete. He was obviously a very remarkable man, and you are blessed to have had him as a friend.
Man, Pete looks the same in this photo as he did twenty years ago!
Molly and Avery,
Hardly a moment has gone by since I learned of Pete’s passing on Sunday morning that he and you and Avery haven’t been in my thoughts. Reading all these kind words from your friends and family begins to sadden me further, but then slowly sadness fades away and inspiration takes over. It’s easy to get inspired because Pete was such a great guy.
While I never had the opportunity to climb with Pete or work a course with him we did share some mountain bike rides (remember riding Wolf Trail almost twenty years ago?) and some time on skis. Pete and I skied together at a wellness day at White Pine not too long ago and while everyone else was hucking off jumps Pete and I skied the trees eeking more and more turns as the trees got closer and closer together and we crashed through the branches. (What else can you do at White Pine to make it interesting eh?) Pete’s athleticism was awesome and seeing you and him skate skiing at Beaver Creek and tag teaming with Avery was great because you were living life to the fullest and as a family. You guys have always been so open friendly and welcoming and our community is so much better because of it.
Pete was awesome to have as a coworker here at the office. I so highly respected him because of his abilities and expertise, but mostly just because of the way he was. He was easy to be with, quick to laugh and joke and his ability to make connections with people was one of his greatest attributes. We’re all better for having known and loved Pete and when Daryl wrote about getting one of Pete’s trademark “hey buddy” greetings I swear I could hear Pete’s voice loud and clear along with the little chuckle that went with his greeting.
I can look out my office window and see the Leg Lake Cirque, which became a special place for me after Erin and I hiked to it last year. While it is now the scene of a great tragedy it also serves as a monument to all that was great about Pete and represents his incredible zest for life, his love for you, Avery and all his friends and family, his love of adventure and wildness, and the towering impact he had on everyone he met.
With all our love,
Drew, Lori, Erin, Kyle and Reid.
Dear Molly and Avery --
News of Pete's death has reached me visiting my dad. Words are hard to come by to express the sadness I feel or to offer what I most want to give you -- some small measure of comfort. I am thinking of you a lot. And thinking of an old photo I have of Pete, Gary Wilmot and John Kempf dressed in skirts, showing some sexy, if a bit hairy, leg on that briefing day long ago when you, Missy and I were leading the sister course (literally) to their mtneering course. I will try to find it for you. I hope to see you Sunday. I am sending you both lots of love and big hugs. Pete is already hugely missed.
All my love -
I just ran into Renee (Christina's friend, my wuz-wif) on the way home and she told me about Pete. I only spent a few short hours with you and Pete at Teddy & Christina's wedding and truly enjoyed meeting you both. My heart breaks for you and even though you may not remember me I just want you to know that I'm thinking about you.
My heart goes out to you all. I remember with love the wonderfull wedding of Peter and Molly on that windswept hillside in West Virginia. Pete's life force can never be extinguished. He will always be climbing...
I remember a 1999 instructor mountaineering seminar that Pete and Molly led in the winds. We were slammed by a brutal storm on a snow field up around Indian Pass. That evening, as the storm gathered force and our anxiety accumulated with the ice, I saw Pete outside our tent. There he was, hatless and with an impossibly soaked jacket, in a downpour of rain and ice. He was skiing down the snow field in his hiking boots and taking laps to do it over and over again. No one could believe this behavior -- we were trying to survive, after all! But a few of us rallied and went skiing with him. Soon we we felt joyful and at home in the wild world. Pete was an extraordinary and soft-spoken leader who always found a way to make those around him happy.
Later on that same trip, I and another instructor did an ice climb on Dinwoody Peak with Pete. Pete was leading vertical ice on the first bergschrung when the tip of his ice pick snapped. He hung there, on one tool, and examined the broken pick for a long, clinical moment. “Bummer,” he said. Then he flashed that smile and moved upwards without hesitation. I could not believe it. When we had climbed too far to descend, we were hit by a storm that dropped two feet of snow in just a few hours. We all became very cold. Pete became super focused. He took extra time to build and test the anchors, which at the time I found frustrating. Let’s just go! But he slowed down and kept things safe. At the top the wind was howling so much that we could not speak. We struggled to find a way off the mountain. But we made it to the pass again and descended down snow-covered boulders. We punched through the cloud line around 11 p.m. and saw the lights of Pinedale before us and also the headlamps of some in our group coming to find us. We met Molly first and it was clear that she had been worried as she hugged Pete. But there was no anger. I understood then that their marriage involved extraordinary levels of freedom, trust and growth.
My wife and I will be in Lander this weekend with our two small children. I want my wife to understand why I feel the way I do about Pete Absolon, and I want someday for my children to understand that as well. Molly and Avery, Pete will live on forever because he is in that class of extraordinary souls who inspire people to do difficult and wonderful things.
I'll bet I am not the only one transfixed by this forum. The airwaves and e-waves and phone-waves are buzzing from coast to coast and then some. Clearly Pete's life has powered and inspired so many; maybe it's a bit of comfort to see that he is still lighting up the world through all those who love him.
I forwarded links about Pete to friends who don't know Pete - I wanted them to meet your amazing man and understand that it is possible to love and live and work and marry and parent with full-on joy. I want them to see what a rich community such a life inspires. And, selfishly, I wanted them to understand why I am so sad and why my friend Molly needs all our hugs and tears and laughter. One friend wrote a long response that ended: "it would seem Pete's life provides a template for living well and big and pink and with courage and love and passion. I'm going to
try to learn from his example." Pete is still teaching...
To the family and friends of Pete especially Molly and Avery,
The tragic news of Pete’s death fills me with memories. I’d like to share a story about Pete and some thoughts on grieving.
Pete made quite an impression the first few days I worked with him in the field many years ago. I was working my first course, the PL was working her second course and due to the first course leader’s illness and crazy summer staffing Pete was the third CL to join us. He joined the adventure course at the second ration half way through the course. I remember vividly two meals Pete prepared with a few extra treats he brought. He whipped up burritos complete with canned beans and fresh veggies. Later he baked an apple coffee cake with real apples. Pete had a knack for providing little things at the right time that made a big difference. He delighted in being thoughtful.
I also would like to share some thoughts on grieving. I’ve found grieving can be a special time that among the sadness is joy, humor and love. Sixteen years ago, my mother died suddenly when I was twenty-one and through the grieving process memories flooded back and I appreciated being surrounded by the love of family and friends. Through the grieving process (which never ends) I found new ability to experience the joys and sorrows of life.
I hope you all can grieve well and let the feeling flow -- cry, laugh, scream, etc. Even consider skinny dipping. After laughing and crying for a couple hours at an outdoor memorial service for a friend, who died in a climbing accident in Yosemite, the group ran toward the Merced River. We experience a group skinny dip and the cold river water was refreshing and emotionally cleansing.
My life is far away from those Idaho Mountains where I first met Pete thirteen years ago but I remember many lessons including how little things at the right time can make a big difference. As I watch my 11 month old toddle about I am reminded of the miracle of life and love amongst family members. I’ll especially be thinking of you, Molly and Avery, as you grieve. I’ll be sending loving energy toward all of you gathered in Wyoming this weekend to remember Pete.
We were so distraught to hear the news of Pete on Sunday morning. Our family was traveling in Ecuador …. something I imagined that Pete, Molly and Avery would be doing at some point. We headed for home with lots of airplane time to think about Pete.
I first met Pete 20 years ago in Alaska. He traveled North to visit Molly. I remember first talking to him as he sat on the couch in the NOLS Alaska house. There were many impressions from that first meeting. The first of those was how interested he was in Molly…. he certainly seemed to hope that this Alaska visit would make an impression on Molly. Pete struck me as an individual who was both very low-keyed (sprawled on the couch) and yet very intense. He struck me as patient and yet driven. He struck me as the “common man” and yet such a rare one. Now 20 years later, I still have all of the same complex impressions of Pete.
At NOLS, we were very lucky that Pete joined our community in advancing our mission. He was a talented and dedicated member of our staff. I saw him work his way through various positions at NOLS, sometimes getting the next job and at other times not getting it. When he was turned down he was always graceful and always wondering how he could better himself. That philosophy led him to the position of directing our largest school. Where others saw problems, Pete saw opportunities. He was creative, patient and fun.
Even though he wasn’t born at the right time, I always thought that Pete was the guy that Norman Rockwell was painting. He was the All American Kid that grew up to be a model citizen of our world. I will still see his face in many a Rockwell painting.
At the end of the day I often found myself in the office after others had cleared out. It was very common to run into Pete at that time, as he was sneaking is a bit more work before heading home. At those times Pete would talk about Avery and Molly. He was always anxious to get home and see them. He would often ask me about adventures for kids when the kids would get older. He was truly very dedicated to family.
While Pete and all of us are visitors to the mountains, he was not a visitor to our organization and our community. He has forever changed NOLS and all of us affiliated with it, for the better. His lessons in patience, hard work, passion for the mountains and passion for our organization are all lessons we must carry forward.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you Molly, Avery, Pete’s family, Molly’s family, Steve, and this extended family/community.
It has been 10-15 years since I last spoke to Pete at Seneca Rocks. But I remember him as one of the most likeable, cordial, and upbeat people I have ever known. I knew Pete mostly in his early guide years when he worked for the Gendarme at Seneca. He possessed irrepressable optimism and great humor. I remember a time when Bob Berger and I visited him at his Seneca home after a mountain bike accident. Pete had gone head first over the handlebars on his way home on a back trail from the Gendarme. He was a mess--cut up all over his face and in a lot of pain. It did not dent Pete's positive attitude one iota. He was his usual cheery self. He thanked us for stopping by to see how he was, and he could not stop offering us suggestions on what to climb that day. We all will miss him.
Molly and dear friends-
I keep thinking today about Pete's broad smile and the way his laugh sounded in the halls of the RMB. We're sending our thoughts and hopes that you find moments of peace in the next few weeks earnestly across the heartland to the Lander folks we love so much.
For the past 20+ years I haven't seen much of Pete. Occasionnaly, I had the pleasure of seing him and Molly as they passed through Missoula on their way to a climb. When Molly and Robin (my wife) went to school in Berkeley in the late 1980s, I got to know him. I really don't have a note of some outing we went on (although there were many in those days). What I do want to share though is what Pete was like, or at least what I beleive he was like.
Pete was one of those people that brought kindness and a sense of warmth to the world. He was always offering encouragement to people. He had a mischovous smile and kid-like glint in his eye. He wasn't loud or self absorbed, yet he was tenacious and determined when he wanted something. One of his best qualities was that he rarely seemed to demand attention to himself, rather he wanted to know about you and what you were interested in. He had a gentle, fun soul and you wanted to be around him. He will be dearly missed.
OK, I haven't had the heart to read any of the current entires, I don't think I have the strength or tears yet to go there.
So, I'm going to talk about hunting on a climbing web site. I actually hunted before Pete. We were both working at the RMB and a friend, Larry Berger, offered to take me deer hunting when our local area offered doe tags. Well, I killed a doe and feeling like the great white woman hunter and things were good. I think Pete caught wind of my accomplishment, and more importantly of what was in my freezer. So of course the next year at the beginning of hunting season Pete has already researched all of the tags possible , gotten a gun a figured out the balistics of rifles.
OK, moving on......at some point in the fall, Pete, Gary C. and myself go antelope hunting. Totally clueless, armed with rifles and Pete at the wheel. A herd of antelop, we park hike around the hill, crawl to the top on our bellies, lie low, aim and Pete fires, he misses, I shoot, I actually shoot the rock which ricachades and hits Gary in the shoulder. We go home at the end of the day without killing but with spending a memorable day together.
so, the story goes on that Pete excels at hunting and kills on an average 3-6 animals a year. I have yet to kill an elk, although Pete has never done anything but encourage me to keep trying and offering to help me out. Pride got in the way and lately I never took him up on help.
so, to finish the story. Last fall I had a reduced price permit in the same area as Pete. I thought I'd figured it out and knew where the elk were at. I arrived on a beautiful fall afternoon ready to kill my elk. Hiking down the hill to Beaver Creek I saw a vehicle down the hill. I took a second look and realized I knew the vehicle. It was Petes green truck that none of us will ever forget. As I approached I realized he had killed a cow elk and was finishing the butchering and loading in the green truck. He told me how he had hiked and slept in and elk bedding area and then waken and followed them for several hour before he got a shot. A shot he took and made and therefore was taking home meat to his beautiful wife, Molly, and his new found love Avery, his daughter. Gary and I joked when Molly had Avery and Pete started being successful at hunting, that it was a male instinct to provide for family. I think for Pete it was that, it was the opportunity for a new challenge, and it was what Pete does....embraces everything in life with enthusiasm, excitement, optimism, and childish love.
Pete, you know how much I love you. Molly, I hope you know how much I love you. Avery, you have no idea how much our entire community loves you.
Sorry for the long words for those of you who made it this far. May the memories and love of Pete keep us all strong in this time of ultimate sadness and questioning why this stuff happens - Peace, Kathy
I have been thinking about Pete for the last three days.
I did not spend a lot of time with him, but whenever I was in Lander we got a chance to catch up, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company.
From the moment I met Pete he always made me feel at ease. He was the “in-town” supervisor for my first course as an instructor. I remember being nervous at the de-brief and Pete made me feel proud of my accomplishments and contributions. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work with him and to experience his positive energy.
I know that I am one of many people “out there” who had the good future to be in Pete’s presence at some point and to experience his enthusiasm and spirit for life.
I wish that all of you find peace and strength at this time in your lives.
I did not know Pete well, but he nevertheless had an impact on my life. Molly, I grew up in Charleston, WV, and my father and yours were acquaintances. When I wanted to enroll in a NOLS semester in 1998, your father suggested that my very nervous father contact Pete. Pete quelled my father's worries and was correct in suggesting that NOLS might be a pivotal experience for me. Post NOLS, I bounced between Lander and the New River Gorge for a few seasons. My NRG friends Gene and Maura Kistler would say often, "Did you meet Pete and Molly in Lander? They are amazing. You should look them up." A few summers ago, I finally had the good fortune to climb next to your sweet family at Wild Iris. I still remember Pete's infectious enthusiasm that day. He encouraged me to lead a route that intimidated me and seemed genuinely proud when I clipped the anchors. I also recall how dear he was with Avery. I left my shoes at the crag that afternoon; you kindly rescued them. When I stopped by your house to retrieve them, you were hosting a party. Pete invited me to stay and have a beer. I was in a hurry and declined, but I appreciated his easy hospitality and his welcoming spirit. The world has lost a great person. My heart aches for your family.
This is unbelievable, another great person and climber passes this year! Pete was just a super person to know, I can not remember him ever putting down anyone, or playing any games on people, just a very special person. His climbing ability was phenominal and his energy was unmatched by any one else I knew at Seneca. It is such an awful shame that some one dies from a rock thrown off of a cliff. The community has lost someone who would make a lot of peoples list of top ten climbers they ever shared a rope with. He would make mine. Molly I pray you are able to have peace as you grieve in these coming days. Your friend, Calvin.
Oh Molly and Avery, I am so sorry – my heart aches for you both and everyone connected to Pete and this tragedy. I too searched for words over the last few days – only to come up with tears.
When I heard of Pete’s death, I pulled out this great photo of you, Pete and Avery taken immediately after Avery was born. The delight and wonder in both of your eyes is so amazing. You both are simply alight, beaming despite your exhaustion.
I remember Pete during your whole labor, being completely engaged in whatever you were going through in the moment – he would look over and say – "she is amazing, she is so strong!" He loved you and Avery with every cell of his being and will continue to. His spirit lives on as is clear from every posting in this forum.
Avery, your daddy was sooo excited when you came into the world. Big tears of joy streamed down his face at the sight of you! Your dad is gonna miss you so, so much, but he’ll be watching over you and keeping you and your Mom safe.
We are all holding you in a circle of love for you to lean into.
We just read through every posting and are overwhelmed by the combination of sadness and joy expressed here. A common theme seems to be to seize the moment to appreciate the people around you.
After a long day of climbing at Seneca rocks in the mid-80’s, buddies from my NOLS semester and I sat the base of the Gendarme and made a decision to rap down and drink beer rather than doing one last pitch—up the Gendarme—at dusk. The pinnacle fell a few months later and we were sad we hadn’t seized the moment.
The thing Shannon and I immediately discussed upon hearing the news was a deep sadness for you, Molly and Avery. Seeing so many names of past, present, and future friends made us resolve to spend a bit more time on relationships.
All four of us started at NOLS in the same era, with many intertwining adventures along the way. We enjoyed working with Pete—at NOLS Rocky Mountain and in staffing. We always appreciated seeing him running the Tomato Loop in the OTHER direction, knowing it meant we wouldn’t have to get passed by him. We enjoyed sharing hunting stories—successful and otherwise.
A particularly memorable moment was Pete listening carefully and sharing comforting words after a particularly difficult stretch of courses and family tragedies a number of years ago. It was always clear he cared and how dedicated he was to family.
On Sunday, those of us in Alaska will be thinking of all of you, especially Molly and Avery.
I fondly remember Pete's remarks last month at The Nature Conservancy barbecue at Molly and Pete's land...they have been leaders in this area, helping to preserve the Lander front. Pete was so much himself: heartwarming, thoughtful and modest. I have been inspired this last six months by Molly and Pete's passion for conservation and their enthusiasm to encourage others to join. It was that same commitment and positive outlook on life that I found every day when working with Pete at NOLS. He was a joy to be around, always thinking about better solutions, always caring about the whole NOLS community.
My heart goes out to you, Molly and Avery..while I dearly miss a friend and colleague, I know you miss your life partner and dad, sorrow that I can only imagine. Please take the support you need from us, your community.
I did not have the good fortune of knowing Pete, but, as the mother of a climber, my heart goes out to Molly and Avery. I am heartened and touched by the outpouring of love and support from the climbing community to Pete’s family. Tears come easily while reading the entries on supertopo.com. Climbers, Molly and Avery need you now, and they will need you for years to come.
I am wondering if any thought has gone toward setting up a fund in memory of Pete, perhaps for Avery’s education. I have not seen any mention of this on the NOLS blog or on supertopo.com. Perhaps I missed it. Even a small fund, allowed to compound and reinvest over the next ten years, might prove helpful to Avery in her college years. This clearly non-climbing “accident,” which happened while climbing, strikes - perhaps irrationally - at the core of the fear parents of climbers feel. We love you, we support you and revel in the joy you experience in your life’s work, yet we worry about you. In honor of our climber, in memory of Pete, for the benefit of Avery, we would contribute to such a fund. And, climbers, I think you might find that some of your families would too.
I can still remember meeting Pete at Sinks Canyon, he was one of the first local climbers to welcome me into the community when I moved to Lander many years ago, very open and unpretentious. Since then, Pete has always been one of the regulars at the local crags. We shared many belays while working routes together and I always appreciated his enthusiasm and determination. More often than not, Pete would be there with Molly, and in more recent years, with their girl Avery. I saw them together a lot and it was obvious how much Pete cared for Molly and Avery.
I knew the trail to the Killer Cave was probably snake-free and safe if I saw Pete’s car was already at the trailhead.
Pete was also very active in the Wind Rivers, completing many first ascents and repeats of the classics. I think he wins the title hands down for most ascents of Black Elk. I have great memories of two trips into the Winds with Pete. On one, we climbed a new route in Moss Lake Cirque around 1999. I was impressed by how focused he became, as the route became more difficult and uncertain and the protection ran thin, he showed capabilities and confidence I had never before seen while climbing with him at Sinks. He really seemed to be in his element.
The last time I saw Pete was at the Gannett Grill, just about two weeks ago now. He had recently returned from a hiking trip with Molly into Leg Lake Cirque and was excited about the climbing potential there. We talked about some potential new routes and his enthusiasm and energy gripped me. He had a big smile on his face and seemed to be very happy. That is how I will remember Pete.
I just wanted to let you two know that Ellen, Bei and I have been thinking about you every day here in Laramie. Thank goodness for the great Lander community who I'm sure are surrounding you with all the help that they possibly can give. Maybe there is no better place in the world to have to go through something like this than Lander.
Again, thank you all for your thoughts, prayers and stories.
I woke up this morning feeling so hollow and sad. Avery is doing well. She is surrounded by a pack of friends who are taking care of her. She asks if it is okay for her to have Pete in her heart but not to be sad all the time. She's stronger than me. But I feel so sad to think of her growing up without her wonderful, amazing daddy. Pete would do things like take her out on the trail-a-bike on single track trails and teach her how to fall- she was three or four at the time. I remember being furious and saying we should stick to roads where falling wasn't an issue...But Avery didn't seem to mind. She learned to fall...
And I remember this father-daughter dance Pete and Avery did this spring at her dance recital. Pete, in his classic way got the music and then came home and practiced over and over. "My Girl" and "Ain't no Mountain High Enough" were etched into my mind as every evening after dinner he'd put them on and start dancing. Avery finally told Pete that she knew the dance and they didn't need to practice anymore. But it was so Pete... if he was going to get up in front of 700 people wearing a tuxedo with a candy-pink cumberbund and tie, he was damn well going to know the steps.
Pete, Pete, I miss you so. I don't know what I'm going to do without you. I had so many adventures and epics with him. He never got mad at me when I screamed and cussed at him while I struggled to follow him up a climb, though I do remember being frozen with fear on the traverse on the Normal Route of the Diamond-it was snowing and slippery and I was scared out of my mind-finally Pete yelled at me to just let go and swing across. Right. I guess I finally did something because we did get up the climb and then had a long night getting down, running out of batteries in our flashlight, fumbing in the dark to find the boulder we were camped under. Did I mention that it was actually fun? I loved spending time out in the mountains, the canyons, the ocean, anywhere...
There were lots of those adventures (epics)...and Pete was always the strong one, the unflappable one, the one who took all the weight, the one who believed in me, the one who didn't seem to love me less if I cried or yelled at him, the one who brought me coffee in bed, who fixed my bike, who broke trail, who packed the gear, and...well everything. Now I look ahead and it just feels so empty to think he's gone...
Just yesterday my sister and I tried to go on a bike ride and couldn't figure out how to work Pete's biking shoes and clipless petals. We rode (Ann one foot out of the clip and terrified of tipping over) first to one friend's and then to another to find someone who could at least release her from the bike. Thank you Jim for helping us get the shoe off and figure out how to unclip. It was kind of funny, but also made me realize just how much I need all of you all now.
Thank you all for posting. I cannot believe the voices from the past that are showing up here. Shannon Westerman! It's probably been 30 plus years since we've had any contact. Ross you are too kind in your memory of me greeting you after your late night epic in the Winds-or maybe I saved my anger(read fear and relief) for Pete until later! Jason, Sharon and John, Pete was kind of like Tom Sawyer wasn't he? Before we knew it we were whitewashing the fence for him and loving it. These stories are helping me immensely. I can laugh and cry. It's when I can't cry that the despair feels so deep.
All of you, thanks so much. I know Pete would be incredibly moved and probably embarrassed to read these posts...but he would also be thrilled to discover what his life meant to so many of us.
Dear Molly your family & friends
Your loss saddens me deeply. Though I have not climbed for many years Pete was one of the first I encountered back in Carderock, Md. Pete was always inspirational and pleasure to climb with and learn from. One day after work while bouldering at Carderock when I was still somewhat of an apprentice learning the craft. I was exploring some of the remote crags until it was well after dark. As I had had been making my way back to the parking lot and I ran into Pete on the trail. He told me our cars were the last two in the lot and he decided to come look for me to make sure I was all right. That gesture has stuck with me to this day and I have often performed the same gesture myself. Molly I still see both of your wonderful smiles and laughter on the porch of the Gendarme. I am grateful to have had Pete touch my life and so many others the way he did.
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family
For the last two summers we went car camping with Pete, Molly, and Avery before going on to our own annual family vacation in Wyoming. We went to Yellowstone last year and to the Black Hills this year. Our children are Hugh (5) and Callie (8), so with Avery in between Callie and Hugh it was nice for all of us; our children got along really well in their triangular relationship. And though Peggy and Molly knew each other well from childhood, Pete and I didn’t know each other, or each other’s spouses, very well. I really valued getting to know Pete outside of the distraction and noise that sometimes goes along with large family events—the place to properly get to know Pete was outdoors.
I really like the way Pete related to my son, Hugh. Hugh adored Pete instantly, and since everything is a weapon for Huey, from sticks to spaghetti, Pete’s crossbow and rifle experience added a lot to Pete’s credibility. Together, Pete and I could talk with Hugh about some of Hugh’s ridiculous gunplay, by talking about the real thing through Pete’s elk and deer hunting stories (experience that I simply do not have). The truth is that I was hoping someday Pete would be able to take Hugh hunting—Pete clearly brought a spiritual consciousness to this new activity of his. I looked to Pete to help us better understand male aggression and violence, and I think we learned a lot from Pete. Pete chose to relate to Huey as a sort of Winnie-the-Pooh/Christopher Robin equal, and he also curbed Huey’s unreasonable enthusiasms with a gentle but firm hand. I learned so much about fathering a very energetic young boy just being around Pete during those two brief car camping trips these last two years. Pete wasn’t trying to teach me, but he did a damn good job. My heart really aches for what Hugh has lost in losing Pete. We live at a time when victory and killing seem to be manhood’s only acknowledged prizes. Pete effortlessly demonstrated that it just isn’t so; Pete had another rarer, gentler way to the treasure.
On our last trip we all took a hike together. It could have degenerated into a festival of complaints and anger, from my children in particular, but it didn’t. Pete helped turn the walk to Harney Peak into an imaginative noble quest to vanquish the dragon, so there was no room for misery. If Pete tired of Huey’s persistent demand for attention, he didn’t really show it. For my part, I secretly, and not so secretly, enjoyed Pete’s pleasure in my son. I think Huey and I both are going to really miss Pete for a long time to come.
I think of Avery and of other girls I know who lost their fathers early in life. Here is a beautiful reflection from Caroline Langston, that was aired on NPR the day before yesterday (August 14). I offer it here with the thought that it might be of value or inspiration for someone else, as it was for me.
I got out of the Wind Rivers off of a course just last Wednesday. One of the first handful of people I saw was Pete. I remember him walking up to me and giving me a big hug and asking me how the course went. I was instantly reminded of what a caring person he was and how exited I was for him in his new job at NOLS RM. Then later that day I was sitting in his new office for the first time chatting with him, Evan Horn and Gary about rockfall in the Winds, a conversation that seems just downright eerie to me now. These memories of the last few times I talked to Pete are etched in my mind, as is his warm and mischevous smile. It is so inspriational to read all of these posts, to hear more about the kind of man that Pete was and how much that he loved you and Avery. I wish I had gotten to know him better. I do know that I will take the memory of him and how he lived his life and use it to inspire me to live mine to the fullest. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Avery, your families and Steve. I am truly, truly sorry for your loss.
I'm a nobody climber who while attending D&E College discovered Seneca Rocks. My memory of Peter is faint other than when he would approach me while up on the rocks. No telling where it would be North Peak, West Face, East Face, Broadway or Luncheon ledges He would talk to me just to see how I and my partner were doing. Offer up a bit of advice; show us a better way of rigging anchors or the like, we we’re just starting to tackle some of the multi-pitch routes at the time. Perhaps out scant rack and wayward look made us appear a bit noobish. He was always smiling and very helpful especially when he saw me going for my first 5.10…wearing my new Fire rock shoes. He is one I looked up to along with the others that made up the original Gendarme crew. I’m very sorry for your lose and my prayers and thoughts are with you and Avery.
Pete and I did our(NOLS)Instructor Course together in 1989 and then when he was a proctor of a semester course I had the pleasure of instructing with him for their rock climbing section. My overriding memory of Pete from both courses is of his laugh, his grace, his prowess on the rock and his passion for life. He was truly, a to the core, wonderful person. I count myself as fortunate to have spent time with Pete laughing, climbing and being outside. I have great memories of my time with Pete. My thoughts and my prayers go out to you, Molly and Avery.
Took me a few days to gather my thoughts and move, for a few minutes, beyond the emotional gut punch of Pete's tragic accident.
I met Pete in August of 1989. I was an instructor on his NOLS Instructor's course. Thankfully for me and luckily for Pete, I was not instructing the climbing section, just the backcountry teaching section.
Man did we laughed and cut up. Pete was so wired and every joke that John Hauf or I played on him got a huge reaction. Offering him a cup of coffee with a huge pinch of pepper in it, stealing his bootlaces, and who knows what else.
I believe the hardest thing for Pete was to have our 'teaching route' go into the Cirque of the Towers. Pete was so distracted having to sit and listen to class after class with the Cirque as the backdrop. How a person can hike while constantly looking upward was beyond me. He would turn and ask, "Are you kidding? You mean we have no ropes, no rack? Look at that route man!" Disbelief at how a NOLS course could forget essential gear.
I recall commenting about Pete, as I was working with him on various HQ office projects, that Pete was a prime example of when an educator/instructor needs to know when to get out of the way and let the student shine.
Pete shined, in so many ways, for so many people. It manifested in his eyes, his laugh, and his positive energy. For me, the light generated from his heart. Pete will always shine for me, and I am positive for many, many others. I am blessed to have had numerous opportunities to stand in Pete's shining light.
To the friend's and family of Pete,
I just found out about Pete's accident yesterday. Wow...I am speechless. I have read so many amazing words and they still seem not good enough.
There have been so many stories about Pete and climbing, so I thought I'd throw one out about boating. This was on a SSR white water course in the mid(?) '90's. Pete was the liaison for a Spring Semester. He joined us on the last 6 days on the river. The student group and the instructor team were all having their issues. My memory is probably a bit off but I seem to remember him having everything under control and happy by the first dinner. He was so there and in the moment. He barely said anything about our issues, he facilitated a game, stood back and gave us the crooked smile we all know so well. Problems solved.
By the end of the trip, he had become not only a fine kayaker but I also felt empowered to have spent time with such a quality human.
Keep smiling Pete!
Molly and Avery, I'll be there on Sunday to give you a hug.
As so many have shared, I found out this tragic news last Sunday -I knew not where to start and to write and come up with an ending seemed too painful so I have just been reading~
For Pete ~
I will always remember your gentle ways and wonderful smile - You were a good friend ~ back in the day when I was too terrified to climb, you encouraged me to come along and I marveled at your lust for life and was always in such awe. You are so missed ~ may you continue to find joy and peace - God Speed
I knew Pete from High School, although we really never hung out unitl years later when I returned from Peru in 1985.
One of my fodest memories of Pete was on one of his birthdays - when I asked him what he wanted to do - the only thing Pete could come up with was to run over to a local mall where they had just put up a new parking garage and he could practice some of his climbing moves - that was Pete...
I remember camping at the base of Seneca Rocks, Big Meadows, Dolly Sods, Carderock, Great Falls... - your love for life and the outdoors was infectious - so full of joy if you could be near/on a mountain!
Pete and I lost touch for many years and only in the last 6 or 7, had we managed to catch up via email - when I would ask how his work was going, he quickly responded by sharing how wonderful life was with Molly and Avery. It was very evident that he was so in love with you both!!
You are surrounded by so much love - Pete would have had it no other way and I am sure it is he, who is encouraging all of us to share these stories with you! My thoughts and prayers are with you and Avery, your family and friends~
What a heartrending loss this is to NOLS, Lander, and most of all to you and Avery and the rest of your family. The three of you have been in my thoughts nearly constantly these past few days. Cacky and I were visiting my family when Rich called on Monday to tell me the sad news.
A few years ago, I heard someone say that the value and richness of a life has nothing to do with the number of years it spans, and that seems so applicable to Pete. If ever anyone lived this life fully, it would be him.
All you have to do is skim a few of these entries to confirm that Pete did indeed gladden the hearts of so many with whom he walked. It’s incredible and moving to sit here and read all these stories.
I so love seeing the Absolons around town, even though months go by between real conversations. Seems like I bumped into Pete a half dozen times this summer on morning runs as he was walking into the branch and I was trotting up 5th street. Always—that great smile and a warm greeting.
You and Avery will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.
First, thank you to everyone who has shared their experience with Pete. What a legacy. I sit in the Minnesota airport, waiting to fly to Denver. Our family will meet up there and then make the trip to Lander tomorrow. THe flood of memories while reading your notes is soothing, sad, painful, awesome, all at the same time. I totally know the "little grin" you all talk of, I member being so crazy scared when he dragged me up a rock in Virginia ... questioning whether these ropes really worked ... and just trusting him with all my heart. Well, twenty plus years later, I sit in an airport, hearing him in my ear ..."Just Let Go" ... trust yourself ...ya right! I can't swing my leg above my head like u can Pete! You are crazy. But I did it. I remember the feeling and have never let it go. Thanks Pete! You taught me to let go...
So, there is a Memorial Fund set up (response to the Climbing Mom..
"Peter Absolon Memorial Fund" Contribution will be used to continue the tribute of adventure and exploration that Avery shared with her father, Pete" Thanks in advance... Mart
checks to Bank of the West
303 Main Street, Lander Wyoming 82520
I have a June '06 photo of Leg Lake cirque. It's a nice shot, tho' I won't post it here because I'm conflicted on the image...
In many ways Leg Lake will never be the same, but also it IS the same. The same beautiful place that drew Pete to climb and draws many of us into the Winds. The photo shows the cirque for what it is- a place of peaks, stunted trees, big walls, flowers, water, granite, snow, sunshine and a lot of and blue, blue sky.
I am a friend of Bill and Mary Absolon Herber from Minneapolis.
I did not have the pleasure of knowing Pete personally. After reading a number of the posts, I realize that Pete was a good man who touched the hearts and lives of many. He has left a personal legacy that most of us might only dream of creating.
My deepest sympathy goes to you, your daughter Avery, and your family. I know you have experienced a great loss. I hope that my thoughts, and the thoughts of all the others, help ease the pain for just a little while.
Dear Molly and Avery,
I am so sorry and sad to hear about your loss. My heart aches for the two of you.
My most recent memories of your family have been the times that I’ve randomly bumped into you out climbing. I remember running into you at Wild Iris. I think you had family and/or friends visiting from out of town, and you were out climbing for the day. I remember talking with my friend on the way back to Pinedale about how amazed I was by you and Pete. You seemed to be so in love and balancing life as newer parents so well. That was something, at the time, I thought was impossible.
The next summer I had found love myself. My new boyfriend (now husband), Solon, and I were on a road trip. We stopped by the RMB in Lander, and I’ll never forget seeing Pete’s smiling face. He was so warm and welcoming to me and the complete stranger with me. Immediately, Pete engaged us in conversation about life in Missoula, our trip, etc. The next thing I know Pete and Solon had made climbing plans to go up to Sinks Canyon after work. Sure enough Pete took Solon up to Sinks and they had a great afternoon climbing.
It’s unbelievable reading about how many lives Pete has touched!
Molly, I can’t even begin to imagine the loss that you and Avery are feeling. I don’t think there is anyway Avery will forget about her truly amazing Dad. I’m so glad that you have such an awesome community of friends in Lander to support you. Our thoughts are with you as we are sending love and strength from Missoula. Emily Yeomans
Our hearts are broken at this sad news. You and Pete were good friends and neighbors during my years in Lander for which I will always be grateful. I remember sportclimbing at Wild Iris, working together, comparing notes on house projects. It is impossible to imagine what you must be going through. We send all of our love and support to you and Avery and hope that you find solice in Pete's life and accomplishments--a life we all could only hope to live.
I was shocked to learn the tragic news about Pete. My family and I have been good friends with Pete and the Absolons since I first met Pete in Junior High School in Rockville, Maryland. Pete was a very special and amazing person. As has been mentioned numerous times I will not forget Pete's smile and grin! He was always so full of life and truely did live life to the fullest. He was was indeed a very fun, kind and positive person. I will always remember all the fun we had camping, climbing, hiking and scouting. It is quite clear from all the postings that Pete touched the lives of many people around the country in a very postive and inspiring way. I am greatful for having had the opportunity to be friends with Pete and will certainly never forget him.
Molly you probably don’t remember me, we met briefly a few years ago while you and Peter were on vacation in Long Beach Island, NJ. I am truly sorry to hear about Peter. My prayers are with you and Avery. Peter was a part of my adopted family and we have known each other since June 1974 when I started a co-op assignment at the National Weather Service. I was away from home, lonely and did not know anybody my age in Rockville Md. The Absolon’s treated me as if I were part of the family. Mary, Fritz and I were close in age and in college while John and Peter were not far behind in high school. Martha was the little sister.
I have nothing but happy memories of that time and Peter played a staring role. I have read many of the posting and several people make reference to his mischievous smile. I know it well….in fact, I was the victim of several of his pranks. In the fall of 1974 Dr. and Mrs.Absolon wanted to go away for the week. Mary and Fritz were off at college. A neighbor offered to take care of Martha. The Absolons asked if I would spend the week at the house to look after the house..and...John and Peter. Thinking…what could go wrong, I agreed. On the first day I came home from work, went to the kitchen sink to get a drink and proceeded to get hosed with a stream of water on my face and chest. The lovely children had tied a rubber band around the trigger of the hand sprayer, carefully aimed it to hit a 6' 1" person and then waited for me to come home. By the time I realized what had happened, the cherubs were on the floor laughing. On another evening I was exiting the shower getting ready for a date when Peter and John ran in and sprayed my legs with, what I thought was shaving cream. When I went back to the shower to rinse it off…all of the hair on my lower legs was missing. It was not shaving cream..but a foam hair removal called Nair.
I first saw Peter's love for the outdoors later the next year when, on a visit to the Absolons, Peter excitedly ran upstairs to his bedroom to retrieve his most recent purchase. It was a portable lightweight tent designed for hiking. He then proceeded to assemble it right there on the living room floor and climbed in.
My heart will be with all of you when you celebrate Peter's life this weekend. I wish I could be there. While I never had the honor of really knowing Peter as an adult, from what I am reading here, he developed into an incredibly fine man.
My best friend died in a similarly tragic climbing accident two years ago. The sudden loss seemed to cause time and space to stop. Life seemed so diminished without him. It seemed so unfair, really, to have lost such a wonderful, powerful and genuinely caring soul. It sounds as though Pete Absolon was indeed one of those forceful and sensitive men, as well.
After his death, I reevaluated my priorities and my life, in general. With such heavy grief and utter despair, I made a committment to myself to live more mindfully and with more clarity and purpose. I decided to do some things I had always wanted to do and never had because I had thought to myself, "I can always do it later" but I realized that is not always possible. I took the money I'd been saving for five years as a downpayment on a house and I enrolled in a NOLS semester. I took a Semester in the Rockies and was lucky enough to have met Pete who passed by with an inexplicably happy "hello" in the hallway at the RM. It was very brief. But, the experiences that I had at NOLS have changed my perspective on life as a whole. I can only imagine that Pete had a huge impact on much of the culture and the family at NOLS and, in turn, on my life. I feel my decision to take a semester course will be the highest return on an investment that I will ever have in my life.
For Pete's family and friends, and Molly in particular, I can only express my most sincere prayers on your behalf. Where do you go from here? What do you do now? I suppose you hold onto your friends and family and tell them how much they mean to you and you rely on that love to carry you through so many memories and so much heartache.
The stories of Pete's intensity and family- and friend-motivated intentions reminded me of a quote from "Peace Is Every Step" by Thich Nhat Hanh. It sounds like his life and your life together was very joyous and filled with peace. I pray that you have that peace now.
"Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand-new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others.
Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We don't have to travel far away to enjoy the blue sky. We don't have to leave our city or even our neighborhood to enjoy the eyes of a beautiful child. Even the air we breathe can be a source of joy.
We can smile, breathe, walk and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available. We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive. Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment...Peace and happiness are available in every moment. Peace is every step. We shall walk hand in hand."
I have not stopped thinking of you ever since Cornilia shared the tragic accident of Pete. I wish I could be beside you to hold you & comfort you.
Although we haven't talked in awhile I thought of you & Pete so much in July. John & I hiked to Crestted Butte from Aspen and our guide was a mutual acquaitance, Tim Shortell. I regret that I didn't call to let you know that you were on my mind. Being in the mountains will always remind me of you and Pete.
I pray that with each passing day your agonizing pain will soften and that beautiful memories of Pete will replace your paralyzing sadness.
All my love, Hillary Spizzirri McAtee
(Kent school friend & roommate
Reading these threads brings back so many memories. I met Pete over 30 something years ago, but have not been in contact for probably 8 years. The pictures show he hardly changed since we were kids. That mischievous grin and happy eyes. Such a passionate, loving, caring person. So full of life and love. So patient. So funny. So giving. It is wonderful to read he never changed.
I have so many memories of Pete. Hanging out with him and Mark and Brian. Playing pool in the basement of the Absolon’s home in Rockville. Laughing through Saturday Night Live episodes. Buying a quart of ice cream and driving around in the family convertible. I remember when Pete first took up climbing. He always loved the outdoors, and he was drawn to conquering those climbs at Carter Rock. I watched from below with admiration, and the occasional thought that he was a little crazy!
Pete went to college at GW in DC, climbing buildings in his spare time. He was going to major in engineering, but changed it to geology because he loved rock climbing. He went on to work at Seneca Rocks teaching and leading climbs for the Gendarme. He loved that place, and it was obvious the people there loved him. He used to remark that each morning, as he drove to the Gendarme, Seneca never looked the same. It was always more beautiful.
I remember meeting Molly and seeing how much Pete loved her. They shared a love of the outdoors in addition to each having such beautiful smiles and sparkling eyes. Their wedding on the mountain was lovely and full of love. Pete had married his soul mate, and it was beautiful. I was so happy to hear about the arrival of Avery. A child from Molly and Pete would definitely be a charm. The stories prove that to be so.
I am very sad that Pete is gone. I keep thinking I am done crying, but then my heart aches for Molly and Avery. So, I try to think of Pete ascending that big Seneca in the sky. Ripples of his love and generosity flowing out. Each of us taking what we have learned from knowing Pete and giving to others. He is still with us all. In our memories and our hearts.
I went for a hike this morning to a little summit called Mt Aire in the Wasatch in honor of Pete. I didn’t see anyone the whole way up, on the summit, or on the way down. I devoted my hike to thinking of all the big and small memories I have of Pete…the one that I keep seeing is one that showed me the wonderfully devoted husband and proud dad side of Pete, I think Hutch already described the same memory to you in a prior posting.
It was one of those warm, early-evenings when the light in Lander blasted across your slickrock bench. I listened to Pete tell his whole circle of friends how much he loved you and Avery and how important his family was to his being happy in the world. Hairs on my arm stood up… so devoted, loyal, loving, and personal -- a side of Pete I tucked away in my memory, the one I keep coming back to now.
I wanted to tell you Molly that your family has always inspired me to have a family of my own someday…seeing how it could be done with so much good energy and balance. I will remember how devoted Pete was to keeping his family together as a team, how devoted he was to the people at NOLS he connected with daily, how devoted he was to living his life in balance, getting outside, being in the mountains, and doing all of this as much as he could with you and Avery…what an inspiration.
The imprint Pete made during his lifetime will travel forward in the hearts of so many people. Molly, know that you won’t have to carry his memory forward alone, there will be so many of us to help you along the way.
I vividly remember Pete as my program supervisor on my first CL back in 1997. During our debriefing I remember how amazed I was at how well he understood what our course was like. He was so insightful and so interested to hear us tell our story. He was such a patient listener and so tactful and direct at giving feedback. And of course, he made us all laugh- even when we looked back at some of the difficult moments on the course. I remember walking away from that debriefing feeling so inspired to improve as an instructor,so excited to be alive, and so pumped to be part of such an amazing organization. Thanks Pete.
Amidst the deep sorrow I have been feeling these past several days as I have reflected on my memories of Pete, I have found so much inspiration in the stories and gratitude that have been shared. I am so moved by the positive impact that Pete has made on all of us. It has re-kindled my desire to keep living a life full of adventure, challenge, passion, and commitment to making a difference in the world. Once again, thanks Pete.
How fortunate we all are to have been influenced by Pete...
Many people have been commenting on his impressive role as a family man and climber... we knew him mostly as a colleague, and our memories of him stem from this. He was an example of genuine integrity and thoughtful support. He stood in that tricky position between upper administration and field instructors at NOLS, and balanced the two artfully. His communication was clear and simple. He wasn't afraid to say no, when it needed to be said. He was easy to admire and feel good about working with.
In March of 2002 I (Paul) worked a canyon course with Steve Hurlihy and Dave Bragg. Pete debriefed us. I remember Steve, obviously impressed, during the course telling us stories of climbing with Pete on the RM mountaineering seminar the previous fall, of Pete sending hard in his approach shoes and listening to a football game on his radio at belay stations ("Dallas, by 7!") Pete unflapped by hard climbing, calm in steep terrain. Pete's debrief at the diner in Richfield was simple, straightforward, graceful. Pete and Molly were just getting used to having Avery in their life - the loaner 5th wheel trailer that they brought to Richfield was as much of a new addition as the baby herself.
It is striking how his living style has inspired so many others to aspire to greater heights. Even in just reading all the notes posted, this is clear.
May we carry forward in positivity and gratitude.
Molly and Avery, and families, we wish you courage and strength.
Steve, our thoughts are with you as well - what a horror to live through.
How wonderful to often find you and Pete at the base of a climb in Sinks Canyon on a winters day through the years...to watch you grow your beautiful family.
How lucky to have found you this past June on a Sunday morning at the North Country.
And to get to spend a little time getting to know Avery as we read books with our young sons whilst trading time on the rock.
How very great to see you and Pete still cranking, still laughing, cajoling and extorting each other on to great heights and so much laughter.
How fun to feel the warmth and brilliant energy of your beautiful family unit.
We are sending our love to you and Avery to all of Pete's and your families.
Love Mattie, Rex, Alexander, & Lucas
I learned about Pete Monday night and found Terri’s posting soon after that. Each day since, I’ve returned to this thread hoping that other people’s words might help me find my own way to express my feelings and thoughts for you and Avery. It’s been a long while since I saw you and Pete last (Christine’s memorial?) and even that time and distance doesn’t seem to have softened the sadness or loss I’ve been feeling—the slightest echo of what you must be feeling.
Even though Pete and I began our work at NOLS at roughly the same time, we never worked in the field together, and I never got to know him well. What I remember about Pete from time I shared with him in-town or at the RMB before or after courses was this:
I remember the first time I met him my first thought was something like “This guy Pete, seems like a pretty nice guy; a little goofy maybe, but a nice guy.” I remember thinking that he always seemed to have a smile on his face and wondering what he was so darned happy about. Looking back, I think this was probably an optical illusion. I do remember him smiling a lot, but I also remember Pete being serious or curious or puzzled. I think he had a lightness of spirit and just a joy of being with people that could make it seem like he was smiling when he really wasn’t. I remember that his laugh would catch me a little off guard—surprising because I’d find myself laughing with him even if a moment before I wasn’t especially seeing the humor in the situation. I remember thinking that he was as comfortable in his own skin as anyone I’d ever known.
I didn’t know Pete as a dad, but it takes no effort for me to imagine that he was absolutely excellent at it. I’m so sad for Avery, but also really happy that as she grows up, she’ll be surrounded by people who loved and cared about Pete so deeply—in ways that are going to allow her to continue to get to know and discover new things about her dad for years to come.
Molly, I’m so sorry. Know that you, Avery, and all of Pete’s friends and family who have been suffering this week, you have been and will continue to be in my thoughts.
Pete’s service will begin as close to 3 pm as possible.
Please arrive with enough lead time to park, make a name tag, drop off food and walk to the service location
Drinks will be available prior to service; food will be served after the service
Music will begin as the eating winds down. As Michael Cheek succinctly said: Of course there's not enough time in a single weekend to celebrate a life as big and vibrant as Pete's, but we'll do our best.
You are welcome to stay and enjoy the camaraderie as long as you care to.
And please, please PLEASE take the time to visit the memory room and drop off photos and write your own tales on how Pete was an inspirational figure in your life. Our stories, rich with details of Pete’s adventurous spirit, compassion, intellect and humor will be a lasting legacy for Avery.
I was so sad to hear about your Dad's accident. I want you to know that even though I won't be at the North School next year I will still be your friend. If you ever need a buddy to read stories or just to hang out with you can always ask me.
We are so infinitely sad to hear of Pete's accident. We are far from Lander right but please tell Avery we will release some flowers for Pete into the Pacific as we remember him so that the ocean can carry part of his spirit, too.
We will think warm happy thoughts and smile through our tears.
It's hard to think of memories of Pete. Of course that's due to my immense sadness, but also due to the fact that I knew Pete primarily as part of a synergistic being known as Petenmolly, or alternately Mollynpete (admittedly, there were times I got dyslexic and they were Metenpolly.)
Pete and Molly were a dynamic duo of athleticism, hospitality, adventure, and community. I mean come on, who ELSE but Petenmolly would climb the Guide's Wall when Molly was 6 months pregnant?!?!
And then they became the terrific trio with the addition of Avery, and it was love at first sight for Pete. Pete made parenting look so easy. I guess it's because for him it WAS easy-- he was smitten with Avery every step of the way and he loved being a dad. Being a dad was a role tat allowed Pete to wrap together so many of his interests and talents: teaching, mentoring, love of the natural world, exploration, creativity, finding and creating joy.
I do though, have a few memories of Pete to share as highlights of his indomitable sense of humor.
Several years ago, a group of us Lander gals were getting together for a ladies evening. A coworker heard about this and dubbed it a "skirt party." We liked that, so in addition to good food and copious amounts of wine, we all wore skirts. A couple hours later, while we were having a marvelous time, the phone rang. It was the guys who were left behind, who had gathered at the house Mollynpete were renting. They were bored out of their minds and begged, 'please, couldn't we join you?' We caved in and said OK, but reminded them it was a skirt party, so they had to wear skirts if they wanted to be let in.
About 30 minutes later, apparently after Pete lead the charge into Molly's half of the closet, Pete and a group of guys showed up dressed in skirts. Pete thought it was hilarious that all these tough climbers were strutting around in Molly's clothes. I am not sure what Molly's opinion about that was (although she did comment that some of them looked better in the outfits than she did).
I hope someone has photos from that party to bring to the service.
A few of us found out a couple of Thanksgivings ago, while at the West Yellowstone ski camps, that Pete didn't quite have the knack for precise skate skiing. As we were being sorted for lesson groups by skating V2 alternate, the teaching staff watched Pete ski by and said, "We have no idea what on earth that skiing technique is. It's obviously effective because he's cruising, but we've never seen that before." Pete was put into the other group, and since we had all watched Harry Potter the night before, we teased him about having been sorted into the Slytherin lesson group. He just laughed his Pete cackle, cried out something about Lord Voldemort, and skied off at lightning speed doing what has come to be known as The VAbsolon.
On a more serious note, I so admire Pete's ability to be gracious with everyone, to be graceful in all actions, to be curious and full of wonder and appreciation, to be thoughtful, to be humble, to be generous, to be genuine.
Pete was a gem of a human, and I am grateful to have witnessed his love of life, of Molly, of Avery. I think we all stood a little taller, smiled a little longer, and loved a little better because we were influenced by Pete.
Gratitude to Molly and Avery and Pete for a shared evening of climbing, a good meal and great conversation a few short days before Pete was gone- I felt like an old friend, and we had just met that day!! Sigh.......Lisa E.- CA/AZ
Words to describe my sadness at the loss of my very good friend are slow to come. Your loss of father and partner is more than anyone should need to bear.
I have come to treasure my time with Pete more and more with the passing of the years. Each time I was with him there was some surprise, some new opinion, a different angle on something I took for granted. I always looked forward to hearing his view on a new topic.
The three of you have been a role model to our similarly constructed family. Michelle and I often note your adventures and say "hey, we should be out doing that too". You are so warm, so devoted, so welcoming, so fun to be with.
Avery, I think you know it already but you have an incredible pair of parents. You had the great luck not only to get two incredible people as a mom and dad but to get two incredible people who loved being with each other. With your dad gone your mom will be even more important in your life. Remember that you need to take care of her too.
I lost my father a long time ago. After his death I figured his influence in my life had come to an end. I was wrong though. It has been twenty years now but I still keep his memory close, wonder what advice he would give at difficult times and imagine what it would be like for him to be looking on in happy moments. He is never far away, even after a lot of years.
Avery and Molly, please know that you are part of our family, that you are welcome in our home and our life at any time. We want and expect that you will share your joys and sadnesses with us. I will miss my brother Pete but keeping you two close will help.
It is early in the morning and us Absolons spent the night in Denver before making our way to Lander. I can't sleep and just had to come to this blog site. The stories are comforting to know my brother's life - hearing the stories/experiences are the best and just bring smiles to our face. Thanks to everyone.
We all ate dinner last night together and toasted our dear brother/son/uncle Pete. Pete's nephew, Chris Herber, back from Alaska NOLS course is telling Alaska stories and about the great NOLS experience. Pete is smiling.
Our dear family friend and personal friend of Mom's, Frances Perry Finney, is with us. She said, "I had to be here." She said she would forgive Pete even though he was a Duke fan!
We are overwhelmed with this out pouring of support and thank you from our hearts for all you are doing for our families.
To those of you who have posted memories and encouraging words of love and humor on this site: thank you. Molly, later joined by her sister Ann, have pored over the entries at our house - sometimes several times a day, always before going to bed, always crying, always appreciative.
Molly is nothing short of terrified that Avery will forget Pete. Your efforts help to allay her fears - and who wouldn't want to. She is such a class act - swiftly switching from sweat drenched biking or running or riding clothes to a skimpy cocktail dress, freshly showered and beautiful. Pete openly loved her so. So do we.
Perhaps to protect my heart, I am choosing to focus on the funny side of Pete - like his incredulous and amused expression while crouching on the roadside by his and Molly's Prius on a return trip from our final trip to White Pine. A BUNNY had just taken a dinner platter sized chunk out of the car. We couldn't stop laughing.
Molly - you will always be our dear friend, and Avery - Emma and Zoe will always be your sisters. Forever.
I'm not a climber anymore, just a old climber with bad knees turned boater. I have had the gift to know Pete for all the years him and Molly lived in Lander and worked for NOLS. To know Pete was a gift. His smile warmed you, his grin made you wonder what was going on in his mind; something mischievous for sure. There was no kinder man.
One day, a few years ago, I went up to Sinks Canyon after work with a friend to climb Gunky, a beautiful 5.8 classic. There was Pete already on the climb, soloing up then down, with the grace of a artist. For Pete, probably some exercise or just the love of being on the rock.
There will be a void in all our hearts now without Pete; especially in Molly's and Avery's heart. We who knew him can find the joy of once knowing him and that he will be remembered in our hearts and minds forever.
Dear Molly and Avery,
I am so glad I saw you in Boulder a few weeks ago with Pete. I have some special feelings about the three of you that I hold close from your short visit. I never of course guessed that visit would come to mean so much.
I know Pete, Molly and Avery because my husband, Andrew, is a college friend of Molly’s. Pete and Molly long ago took Andrew and me for “a little hike” that turned out to be our first climbing experience in West Virginia. You were great teachers and motivators, turning that little hike into what I thought was quite a climb. Years later, in Wyoming, you two taught our three boys how to climb. Little Avery looked on happily as her mom and dad gave themselves to our boys.
As it happened, Andrew took the boys to Michigan a few weeks ago, so I was able to host Peter, Molly and Avery for a short night before Molly did the triathlon in Boulder. Because it was just the four of us, I got to see just what a great family the three of you have. Having all boys, it was a delight being around a little girl.
That Saturday evening, I was struck by how much fun both of you were having as parents to Avery. Pete clearly loved seeing Avery in her play as much as he loved climbing. He told me one story of Avery’s trying out for a play and not being chosen. As Pete told me, on the way home, he cried. Avery, of course, was fine.
What is so clear to me is that Pete will be missed in so many ways. What I saw in both of you in that visit is a lot of Pete. Molly, you are strong and capable and have so many talents; I know that Pete was with you riding up that hill during the triathlon just as he will be with you tomorrow and next year. He’ll be with you through Avery’s many accomplishments and her disappointments. I think I told you in Boulder how much of Pete I see in Avery already; her smile, her look. She’s determined and smart and will probably have much of Pete’s fearlessness.
With fond memories of Pete and lots of love and hugs,
Molly...Hi, trying to lift my heart up this morning, got to keep it shining towards those mountains, towards you and Avery and Pete. I feel sad and sorry, but all I need to do is think of your bright smile and Pete's sexy grin to remind me what happiness looks like, all the time, right now. Here are a few memories that continue to insprire me and make it hard not to keep looking back.
I first met Pete in July 1990 through your stories under the Thelma fly. Stories you told while you, Hodge, Wally, and I worked that course in the Bighorns. Who was this lucky man who inspired you to smile so big, who inspired you to tell us glowing stories about how he won your heart? I can still remember your road head fever, your fever to get out of the field and back to this man.
Pete was such a big part of my time at NOLS. Later that fall I worked with Pete in Nevada at Lehman caves. He was so patient, so goofy, so proficient, so fun. You instantly knew this was someone you could trust, someone you wanted to spend time with, someone who could show you how to rap into a cave off the front axle of the truck, someone who kept talking about Molly.
Then the winter came, and I got to camp and ski with both you and Pete in the Wyoming Range. Everyone was checking you two out, at least I was. Can you be married and have this much fun too? In any weather, during any face plant, Pete was so stalwart, funny, patient with you, "unflappable" as Phil noted.
Finally, there was the climbing. The climbing world is full of very accomplished, solid, experienced practitioners. Pete is all that and more, he was a model for how to teach climbing, how to included it in your life. He was a mentor to me. He could take three students up almost anything before lunch. He balanced confidence, strength, and almost unbridled enthusiasm with uncompromising attention to safety, restraint, and respect for the natural surroundings.
I am a lucky man to have had my time in Wyoming so full of Absolons. Thank you Pete for those indelible nuggets of life. I refer to them often now with two boys also wild for the mountains, for adventure. I trust that Avery's countless days in and outdoors with her dad will remain indelible too.
Heartfelt love to you Molly, Avery, Steve, and family,
I don't have any great stories to share, but after reading these postings I truly regret that. I knew Pete as a co-worker at NOLS, but from afar. I was in the finance department and we interacted occasionally in meetings and on various budget and financial issues. During those infrequent interactions my impressions of Pete were always positive and he was definitely someone that I wished to know better. He always seemed to have such integrity and I couldn't help but notice the respect that others had for him- he just seemed like such a joyful spirit.
Working at NOLS and living in Lander for so many years, I was also aware of the strong bond between the two and then the three of you. It was something you didn't have to witness up close- it was obvious even from a distance. As others have mentioned there has always been a glow of happiness and love that surrounds you all.
I am so very sorry about this tragedy and Pete's death and I send you much love and heart healing energy.
Very sad to learn of Pete's passing. I was the young instructor- Pete the seasoned climber that sat me down the night before my first lead with students in the Winds on my first mountaineering course in 1992. Without pretense, or reproach, he asked about my experience, my technique for rope management, my decision if the weather turned foul. He was deciding, could I trust him with students. He then so nicely laid out suggestions for the "what ifs". With tact and skill, he instructed me on improvements to my student management, offered a new way to rope up the students on the belay ledges, reviewed the rack I had choosen, pulling out a few pieces and adding some extras.
He was from then on, to be a mentor that I could trust and someone I turned to for friendship and advice. Later in the course, I pulled a rock loose on lead with students. It landed on my foot and broke my toe. Pete organized the evac, directed the students in building a litter. All the while, never judging me, saying this was a great learning experience for the group. They had the litter ready and someone suggested to test it. Instantly, the student in the litter fell to the ground, surrounded by pieces of sticks, backpack frame parts and webbing. A huge smile crossed Pete's face. "Okay, lets try again-this time with more webbing".
As I progressed in my training as an instructor, Pete was there for guidance, advice and humor. Offering his mountain skills with that innate sense of good judgment and decisive decision making. A foundation for how to instruct and lead a group was laid down on that course that lasted me for many years, and I hope was passed on to my students. Pete's impact was wide. His talents are now in all of us that spent time with him. May you cherish these memories, and continue to build new ones with those that love him.
My thoughts are with you on the day of celebration,
It is always hard to come back from an extended time in the wilderness and find out news of a friend and mentor's passing.
First it is shock, then it is sadness and the endless questioning of why and how come. I have great sorrow and understanding for Molly, Avery and all the friends and family that surrounded Pete's life.
My parents taught me a person can be judged by three things. There dedication to work, the joy for life and above all the love they give to their loved ones.
Pete was a hero and mentor of mine in all of these things. He would spend time with me coaching and giving advice on the struggles of work and life. He would listen and always work hard to find a solution. For eight years he has been a role model for me as a loving parent, climber and a true leader at his workplace.
Before I got on plane for Alaska I joked around with pete. He had a few quick remarks about Canadians and why I wasn't canoeing, skiing or playing hockey. I helped him with using a bear fence since he was going out in the field for a few days to fill a hole in staffing. After some more banter Pete looked at me and said a whole hearted thanks for working this summer and I responded with appreciation of the leadership he was going to bring to the RMB. I wished I could have said more....but you never realize how finite life is till someone we care and love for leaves.
I am sure wherever Pete is....he would want us to have joy, work hard in all our passions and ultimately love the people we care about.
On sunday I hope it can be a time for support, care and a celebration of a wonderful and loving father, friend and colleague.
My heart goes out to all those who have cared and loved Pete.
Once again I'm at the computer reading these posts. It's kind of an addiction I guess but it helps me. Thanks to everyone for the calls, the posts, the flowers, the fairies and special flowers for Avery, the food, the toilet paper, the recycling runs, everything....
And most of all thanks for the memories.
Scott Smalley, I remember that winter course we all worked. Do you recall that night you were in the kitchen qhinzee cooking while Pete, Greg C and I lounged in our bags throwing our bowls down the tube for seconds until you finally lost it and said something about not being our short-order cook? I can still picture Greg with the radio antenna on his teeth insisting it gave us better reception while we listened for a game or whatever it was we were trying to hear to keep us entertained.
And I have to smile when I think of those of you who talk about Pete's goofy haircuts, his dorky workout outfits, and the funny way he danced—he just didn't care what people thought about that kind of stuff, you know? He was so in his skin, so unaffected by what others thought of him, so focused that sometimes it drove me bonkers— most of the time it drove me to be better, to try harder, and to live each day to its fullest.
So now I am staring at this blank thing called the future wondering how to carry on his legacy and live it to its fullest without him. It's hard...I loved him more than I ever knew.
This posting is for you, just in case I don't get to share this information with you or you come back to read these postings some time in the future.
Your Dad was one of my best friends. He was one of the best guys I have ever known. I know that isn't news to you but I just wanted to let you know how I felt.
He and I worked and played together for over a decade. As another friend of ours put it, your dad was always willing to carry the heaviest pack or lead the hardest pitch and he was always psyched about whatever he was doing. He motivated us all to push ourselves and do our best. He showed us how to handle adversity with a smile on our faces and an open mind.
I watched him for years in challenging office jobs around NOLS. He had an amazing ability to smooth over conflicts while making people feel that their concerns had been heard. He took feedback remarkably well and managed people better than just about anyone I know.
I will never forget him. He gave me a lot. If you ever need a hand with anything just give me a call. I owe him.
While it is impossible for any one person to attempt to sum up the life of another, the input of hundreds of people brings together the complex pieces of the puzzle that is a life. This life: lived to its fullest, filled with love for Molly and Avery, joy for friends and an appreciation for anything physically challenging will be a presence so sorely missed.
Pete was with Andy and I shortly after we had met, and the night before we left for the field to work a course in the Canyons. Pete had decided that he needed to lay it on pretty thick when describing the virtues of his buddy Andy. “Listen to that guy,’ he said, “what other guy is going to know that amount of trivia about boxelder beetles-he knows a lot of stuff.” Well, with that ringing testimony I was sold.
Pete was also a pragmatist. Briefing my team at the RM in 1996, Pete decided that given we were pretty shy on soft backpacks, it was probably best that I provide good mentorship by carrying an external frame pack like the students. When I told this to Andy (noting that I had never carried an external frame backpack in my life, and really one hopes not to), you can imagine the raucous giggles that ensued. Andy assured me that I should definitely tell Pete that I would not be able to carry such a behemoth.
And as for an athlete like Pete cheerfully waiting for 5 month pregnant me to catch up with he and Andy whilst skating the loop road two winters ago-just further testimony to what a wonderful adventure companion and a great friend he was to both Andy and I.
I am so sorry for your loss. Sue and I have been trying to get our hearts and head around the sadness and unfathomable tragedy.
I have fond memories of Pete from the admissions office as well as the field. I am not a climber. But somehow, despite that fact, I found myself working a WMT with Pete back in ’92. By the end of the course, I could climb with confidence. Not only did I learn so much from him, but I had the privilege to work along side a generous and caring man. He was a joy to converse with. I was witness to the liter building exercise for Scott. There was only a week or so to go on the course. Once the students left on their small group expedition, Pete and I fished our hearts out. Any piece of water we came across, no matter the size, Pete would drop his pack, assemble his rod and fish away. His passion for all aspects of the outdoors was evident. Needless to say, we had fish every night for dinner.
The astonishing richness of Pete was beautiful. Everyone who crossed his path is a better person because of him. I read these entries and I am inspired by the man he was, his selfless nature, how he treated others and his love for life and his family. Pete has set a new height on the bar that I one day hope to aspire to.
If there ever was a community to deal with this tragedy and to provide support to you and your families, it's the NOLS/Lander community. May you and Avery find comfort and peace from those around you. I celebrate his life.
-Pete was a climber's climber. Anyone would have been happy to tie in to his rope. He instilled confidence in others and he made all his partners climb just a little better.
-Pete drove me crazy with his ability to climb hard--consistently--while never missing a beat with his family or his work.
--Pete was kind of a nerd. He could totally program a VCR. In fact, he ran his VCR like most guys aspire to run a Maserati.
--Speaking of the VCR, Pete sort of had it all. He'd be up at the crag having a great day and then he would go home to a completely unspoiled session watching the Cowboys. Not to mention that he got to go home to Molly, Avery and his own climbing gym.
--And about that gym? Raise your hand if you gave Pete $250 for the gym he built in his own garage? Can you say "Tom Sawyer with an MBA?"
--Oh, and back to that inane obsession with the Cowboys. He never wavered in his devotion to "America's team." Kind of nerdy in my opinion (then...I'm from Oklahoma).
--And what was up with that devotion--to EVERYTHING he believed in? He would talk conservation like the rest of us and then he and Molly would actually show up in a Prius. I'm pretty sure they had the first fluorescent light bulb I ever saw.
--Devotion is just a nice way of saying it. Pete was opinionated. In a debate about what to climb...Pete got his way (Molly may have been an exception). And if you were leading a pitch, Pete told you what you needed on your rack...and where to belay...and whether your pinky should be up or down. I learned he was always right so I listened.
--And then, on the climb itself, especially if it was in real mountains, Pete became even more of himself. Centered, focused...ON. Molly used the word that works best: unflappable. Pete was calm in the face of, well, anything. (Except when the Cowboys were down by 20. But even then he was still sure they'd win.)
The last time I climbed more than a short sport climb with Pete was a couple of years ago. Pete was down here for some meetings. I wanted to climb the Edge but he wanted to do Vertigo. He won. I was in a new job, wrestling with Jim Ratz's recent death and wasn't all that confident below the crux pitch. Pete led it beautifully. But what was more beautiful was how Pete made me feel capable, and then even beautiful, following him.
Molly and Avery, you are in my family's thoughts and prayers. Sadly I did not get to know Pete, but after reading many of the stories and descriptions posted, I feel like I do know him in some small way. And even in this way, Pete inspires me to be a better human being, a better father, a better husband, a better worker, a better inspiration to others, and on and on...and clearly this is what he has been doing with all the lives he has touched in so many ways over the years. That is how I plan to honor his memory...to follow his lead...in how he lived his life. I turn to the poet Mary Oliver when I need answers and solace...this quote seems to fit Pete..."the path to heaven doesn't lie down in flat miles. Its in the imagination with which you percieve this world, and the gestures with which you honor it." Clearly Pete is in Heaven...guiding us still. Tobey Ritz
I was lucky enough to have Pete as my leader on a rock-climbing course a few weeks ago. He led my hiking group the first day, and as I panted and struggled along, Pete told me about you, how you met, all your adventures, and your beautiful daughter, Avery, intermittently teaching me how to set my pace to my breath and stay away from the green lichen.
Later that day when Pete’s “short cut” left us a little directionally challenged, he would tell us to take a break, then run ahead to make sure we were heading the right way, drop his pack, run back, and alternate taking my pack and Zoe’s, the other girl in our group. A few hours after our ETA Zoe yelled ahead to Pete, “Pete, if we’re not there in half an hour we’re camping wherever we are!” Pete grinned that illustrious grin and said, “Ok.” Thirty minutes later we arrived at camp.
Everyone was so sad at the first ration when it was time for Pete to return home, but not Pete. As we were waiting for the horses to arrive I asked Pete if you would have a special meal waiting for him. He laughed. “This is the way it works,” he told me. “When I get back from being in the field Molly says, ‘You’ve been out playing in the field all week, it’s your turn to cook.’ And then when Molly gets back from the field she says, ‘I’ve been out working in the field all week, its your turn to cook.” He was so excited to see you two, he ran home (and I assume cooked you dinner!)
I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know Pete and through him both you and Avery. That trip changed me, my goals, and the way I want to live my life, and Pete was an integral part of it. I am so sorry for your loss. Please know that I am thinking of you and Avery constantly.
Dear Molly and Avery,
Working today was relatively futile as my thoughts race back and forth between the sadness I feel and the fond memories I have of Pete and the Absolon's. Jen, Katherine, Lauren, and I just spent three days camping in the Beartooths, a trip planned earlier to escape the smoke drifting in and out of Bozeman, but somehow all the more timely as a fitting way to remember Pete. I feel lucky to have known and climbed with Pete. The trip we did so many years ago on Denali remains one of my best climbing moments. In terms of physically pushing, I think our summit day may have been one of my best. It was a day I know we would not have attempted had we not be clicking. We worked really well together on that trip. We were their to succeed, but we never felt pressured to do something we were uncomfortable with. Despite the pounding headaches that had us doubled over,we had a great time up there.
The next big trip I did with Pete was skiing at the Sorcerer Hut in the spring of 2000. Molly, you were pregnant with Avery and Jen was pregnant with Katherine. How nice it was to reconnect and laugh about the changes we were all dealing with. I was always impressed with Pete's conviction to keep focused on his extracurriculars while adding the role of Dad. I remember thinking "yeah right, Pete. Just wait." Well looks like I was wrong. He managed to keep it all going. Apparently it just meant getting up a little earlier in the morning.
We are thinking of you both....
I first met Pete after finishing my NOLS Instructor Course. A fellow instructor and I aspired to do some climbing on a road trip and we were in need of a rope and rack. We naively thought we might be able to borrow one from the RMB equipment room.
Of course there are many reasons why NOLS wouldn't lend out technical climbing gear for a personal trip and as Assistant Branch Director at the time, Pete Absolon let us know why. We weren't suprised. But we were shocked when he offered us his own gear.
He drew a map to his house and told us his wife Molly (who had just been my instructor on a Women's Rock & Leadership Seminar) would show us in. We spent the next week practicing extreme "care of equipment", and doing a bit of climbing.
In that first meeting I was impressed both with Pete's professionalism and his human touch. Every subsequent meeting with him only reinforced that.
He was a great person and this is a tremendous loss. My heart goes out to eveyone touched by Pete's life - especially to you Molly and Avery.
As a "Cousin-in Law" I have had the honor of knowing Pete and also harboring a secret envy of his/your expeditions in the great outdoors. Pete always seemed to have a good grasp on his priorities in life - he loved doing what he did for a living, and also absolutely adored you and Avery.
I still feel like I have been punched in the stomach without warning and I hope this doesn't sound too trite, but when Blake is away I feel like she is still here with me. I may not be able to touch her or reach her by cell phone or other means, but she is still with me. With that said, Pete may not be there with you in a physical sense any longer, but his legacy will live on in you and Avery in the years to come. I know his presence will follow you through the years of your lives and continue to be with you as time goes by.
So, here is to Pete, a good man taken way before his time. As an old Irish blessing says,
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind always be at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
and rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
We have created a flickr group dedicated to celebrating Pete's life. On this site you can both share your photos, and download or make prints of photos that have been posted. There is currently only one photo on it, but after the memorial service we will post many of the photos from the memory room. I am hopeful that in the future this will be a good place to go when we just want to see his face again.
A couple of Sundays ago I came through Lander on my way into the Winds. With stores closed and in search of Potable Aqua, I stopped at the RMB Issue Room that morning and ran into Pete for the first time in several years. We had a great conversation and he spoke of his excitement at being the RMB Director, said how great things were going for you and talked some about the conservation easement on the Hansen property. His warmth and light were so palpable, I left feeling uplifted to have spent a few minutes with him. Even my nephews who mostly stood to the side during the conversation, commented as we walked out about what a nice guy he was. And of course, Pete wouldn't hear of my buying anything. Instead he set me up with drops and chased down a fly rod to loan to one of my nephews.
It's clear that Pete had this effect on most people. In years past he had this same effect on Li . . . Being different in Lander sometimes made me feel insecure just being outside my house. But Pete's friendly smile and look always made me feel I belonged, no matter where I saw him. Molly, lovely person that you are, I know you have many friends and family to go to when needed. But please know my home is yours if you ever come this way.
I had both you and Pete as instructors on a semester course in 1992. You and Missy White for canyons, and Pete just after for caving in the Black Hills. I have great memories of both of you, and you both had an influence on me. I remember you talking about Pete during much of the 30 days out. How much you missed him, how great he was. After some great days caving with him, I could see your point. He was always calm and positive. Very knowledgeable and just fun to be around. Really an amazing person. I have been away from NOLS since 95, and just started working in Vernal this spring for the river program. I feel very lucky to have become reacquainted with Pete over the last few months. He remembered the course because it was the one where Mark Roy (proctor) cracked a rib "caving" in the bus. That made me feel good, and after that he always called me by name, which he remembered without hesitation, and accompanied with a smile. He could really make a person feel good! That is something we can all aspire to.
You and Avery are in my thoughts.
Dear Molly & Avery,
Chris and I learned of Pete's death from a friend in Seattle who knew of our association with NOLS. While I didn't know Pete well, whenever I heard his name the first thing that popped into my mind was that he had the most engaging and wonderful smile. In reading this forum, it becomes obvious that this smile was a reflection of a life lived full of love, dedication and enthusiasm. To see the web of connections extending through time and space, with Pete at the center, is awe-inspiring. My heart aches for you and Avery as you adjust to life without Pete, but I also rejoice for you both that you loved and were loved so deeply.
Mabs (Curtis) Sanok
I didn't know this guy, but I sure do wish I had.
Just reading this thread has touched and inspired me, at times bringing tears to my eyes.
My deepest consolations to Pete's family and friends, but rest easy, knowing that so much of him obviously lives on in the innumberable lives he's touched. He makes a wonderful example to follow and attempt to emulate - a true hero of a man.
Eric has many memories of NOLS instructor seminars with Pete and Molly. Hopefully he'll get on here before we head Lander-way tomorrow morning. I have more memories of Molly, and that's a good thing since Molly, you are the one who will carry on. Molly, you are such a positive woman and an achiever. Spunky, facing your fears, loving your family, graceful but tough. While Pete brought this out in you, it comes from within and its source is in you.
I remember many conversations about nervousness about climbing, about writing, about careers, and about trying to mix and match love, job, climbing, skiing, doing it all. You can do it. You have done it, and done so and been a strong person in the Lander community. It hurts me so deep inside to think of you waking up in the morning and not seeing Pete there, how does one go on? But you will, with grace and ability and even happiness someday. You will make it and someday your smile will be real and strong and all you, and Pete will be in your heart every day.
I am heartbroken for you and Avery. I have voyeuristically followed this blog all week feeling helpless and unable to say anything that could in anyway ease your pain. To me - Pete will always be the, oh so very handsome, friendly and funny guy my totally cool cousin married on top of a mountain on a beautiful night.
I feel so cheesy mentioning this, but a few months ago I pulled an advertisement out of a magazine for lululemon athletica and taped it to the wall next to my bathroom mirror.
The copy, in pertinent part, reads as follows:
Want to make a fresh start in your life? Think about the end of your life. . . So think about your eulogy. What do you want people to say? Were you generous? Were you loving? Did you take the time to tell those you loved how much you cared? Did you take the time for your children? Did you take care of your health? Did you teach others to take care of their health? Did you take care of the planet? Did you laugh at yourself? Did you forgive? Did you forget? Did you inspire? Did you teach? Did you become involved in your community? Did you make a difference? And finally, did you wait for the end of your life to decide what your life should be about?
I have used these words (admittedly, I am taking life lessons from Madison Ave) as inspiration as I start my day. To me, the words describe an ideal, goals which someday I hope to meet, to some degree, however imperfectly. Obviously, Pete lived his life meeting all of the above ideals . . . perfectly.
Molly, you were so wise to marry that handsome man on top of the mountain and Avery is such a lucky girl to have him in her mind and heart to guide her throughout her life. I have no doubt that you both will carry the radiance of this beautiful man within and that his love will give you warmth and strength through the hard days and nights to come. Please know that I am sending you my love and prayers.
Dear Molly and Avery. I think Avery was just a baby when I last saw you all in Lander. When I heard about Pete I was instantly brought back to memories of when I lived in Lander and worked at the school with both of you. I always looked up to you both, whether it was the determination I saw in you with your work, or of course the great strength you both showed on the rock. For a new girl to the NOLS world and the world of climbing you and Pete demonstrated to me such profound joy, ability, and love for all that you did. I will always remember Pete fondly. And know that I am thinking of you and Avery.
I'm so sorry for you lost Molly and Avery. Also the whole family, you are all in my heart. I wish I where there with you.
I found a picture where Avery looks to her fathers eyes. The look is full of unreserved love and trust. I wish this picture gives stenght to Molly and everyone in sorrow and pain right now. And the memory of that moment, I wish it gives strenght to Avery.
The love that Pete gave to this world will stay here forever.
My deepest condolences on your loss. I met Pete as a seventeen-year old wilderness ranger in 1991 at Cliff Lake in the Popo Agie. I'd done my Wind River Mountaineering course the year before, and was always excited to run across a NOLS course while I was on the job. We actually came across Pete's course at Cliff Lake camped, ahem, about 20' off the water, and after asking around among the students found Pete fly-fishing at the inlet, looking very contented. One look at the USFS uniforms, and the look of contentment was replaced by a look of, "oh, sh*t." Needless to say, camp was moved immediately, and from what I heard, Jim Ratz had some choice words with Pete after the course.
I ran into Pete several times when I briefly lived in Lander in 2000; at the Noble, while waiting on him and his beautiful family at the short-lived Amoretti's, and around the RMC. To me he was one of the instructors who embodied what I always loved about NOLS; the strength, the hilarious good-humor, the pranks, and the benevolent charisma. Although I barely knew him, he recognized me quickly 9 years after our encounter at Cliff Lake, and was even quicker to remind me of the circumstances, and to share a good laugh at the memory. Again, my deepest condolences at this terrible loss of a husband, father, and friend. Pete Absolon has joined a pantheon of extraordinary NOLS people whose candles burned very brightly.
Dear Molly, Avery and family,
Our thoughts and prayers are with you. As you gather in Lander tomorrow to remember and celebrate Pete's life, the NOLS Alaska staff will join you across the miles. We'll be gathering at our most beautiful flower bed. We, too, will share with each other and send our love to you.
Don, Donna and all of NOLS Alaska
Dear Molly, Avery, family and friends,
I will be thinking of you all tomorrow, this has been a long week.
We enjoyed a nice gathering here, in Conway, of some 45 folks and 8 children runnning around having fun. The occasion was to celebrate Mary Jo Newbury and Mark Langston's leaving NOLS for pastures new after many years of excellent work for NOLS. As we sat at dinner we took a few moments to remember Pete and his contribution to NOLS as well as the family and friends he leaves behind.
I know there are folks who will be in Lander who would have been here, and there are many of us who wished we could be there. We will be there in spirit and in mind, if not in body.
There were many flowers on the tables tonight, Avery you were in my thought's. There are many beautiful people in the world and I know your Dad to be one of them.
Molly and Avery,
I first met Pete when he was guiding at Seneca Rocks for John Markwell. I was young then, but I still remember him being a great guy and an amazing climber. Pete could climb amazingly hard stuff and carry on a casual conversation like he was standing next to you. I also remember his favorite lunch of sardine, dorito sandwiches!
Pete taught my dad to climb. Since then, my dad has run an outdoors club at the high school where he teaches. My dad has since taken hundreds, if not thousands of students climbing. Just think of all the lives Pete has indirectly touched; all that he has contributed to the climbing community.
My thoughts and prayers are with you. Pete was a great man, he will be missed.
For the past week, I have shared many laughs and tears with the Teton Valley community as we have recounted memories of Pete. Just a couple of weeks ago, Liz Alva Rosa and I had an adventure up Teewinot. As we were hiking up the trail (that we later lost), we talked about a number of things. You and Pete came up in our conversation....we were talking about people that we know and love. We talked about you two - your kindness towards others, your support for those of us who can't climb like you two, your love for eachother. Molly, you and Pete - your marriage and your passion for life, for parenthood, for adventure, you've touched a lot of people and are truly an inspiration for many of us. I just wish that I had called you two that next week to tell you that you were in my thoughts.
I've got a few specific memories of Pete that jump to the front of my mind....
The first is from our wedding - just after my father in law had made a toast that turned me beet red (I'm not sure if you remember it, but he closed with 'There are two women here tonight that are now called Mother-in-law. I just want you to know, they'd like to be called grandma.') After that toast, Pete came up to me and Don and said that being a parent has been the best adventure that he has ever been on. He was beaming....and telling us, with that trademark Pete grin, that we shouldn't wait to long; that parenthood had not hindered his adventures in any way, but had just made them richer and made him more focused. I also remember the two of you, as well as the three of you, ripping it up on the dance floor that night.
The other Pete memory that jumps out for me right now is at the winter rendezvous, both last year and the year before. The addiction and love of hunting has infected Don as well. And while everyone else was talking about the latest and greatest in snow science, Don and Pete were in the corner telling hunting stories. And during Drew Leemon's presentation last year, I remember Abby finally scolding Pete and Don. We could all hear Pete's stories of hunting over Drew's presentation. Man, was he excited and passionate!
Molly, you have been an inspiration and a role model for me since I met you in 1999. I don't get to see you nearly as often as I would like. You and Avery are in my thoughts constantly. I will see you this afternoon, and hopefully more and more in the future years.
I remember Pete best against a backdrop of brilliant spring green, the kind of green that takes your breath away because it is so new. Backlit, his blond hair like an aura, that Cheshire cat grin (how is it possible to grin like that), as he hit a croquet ball in one of our Killer Croquet games. Always near Easter, Avery would show up in one of a Molly-hand-me-down adorable outfit. (Pete, are you sure that ball was on that side of the wicket just a second ago ????) Sound of laughter as the balls ended up in a ditch, or outside the barn in the snow. Or Pete as the master of ceremonies in a murder mystery game, Molly (hard to believe) as a vamp (Georgina, wasn't it?)
Like everyone else I am struggling to understand, struggling to wrap my mind around it all. And Molly and Avery, Seamus is fine, happy to be running around. My heart is with you both for the long run. Joan Hamre sends her love and support from Alaska. So do Steph and George from Michigan. Love, Lannie
Update from Lander –
Last evening there was quite a gathering out at the Absolon’s ranch, the ranch is about 10 miles out of town and is just a beautiful – and there must have been a hundred of the Absolon’s friends there. Walking down the dirt road it was completely apparent why Pete, Molly and Avery love it here in Wyoming.
It’s a very sad time – and there were a lot of tears, but there was a very real sense of joy too – joy for the chance we all had to know Pete. Watching people who did not know each other connect and learn a bit more about his life and his legacy was powerful.
Today is going to be a hard day, as we say goodbye to our friend. It is also a day to give thanks – thanks that he was here, thanks that he made such a positive impact on so many people, thanks that we knew him.
In talking on the blog this past week, and talking to Pete’s many pals last night – I have this feeling that he is looking down on us and saying what’s the big deal – come on – get on with things. He would tell us to do what ever we can to help Molly and Avery. He would tell us to take care of his mom & dad, sisters and John. He would tell his buddies at NOLS to keep the place strong and growing. He would tell the climbing world to keep pushing the envelope. He would tell us all to not do things half assed – to commit and do them really well. He would tell us to help each other out. And most of all, he would tell us to keep moving forward, no matter how hard it is.
Like probably everyone I'm still trying to deal with the senselessness and randomness of this accident.
From having known and worked with Pete, the things I most remember:
his smile--genuine and unpretentious
warm affection that touched everyone
when no one else would, "I'll do that"
on the rock a smooth and effortless ballet
light in his eyes and love in his voice when we spoke of his family
The time we spent last night at Pete, Molly and Avery's place near Red Butte was truly wonderful. Our children ran and played, friends and family hugged and laughed and cried and I was shaken by the absence of so many of our dear friends. I thought of how much Pete, Jim, Todd, Christine, and Amy have taught us during their lives and in our lives since they've left us. I was reminded, yet again, of the strength our community gives us. We have the power to laugh and despair together or alone, knowing that at any moment we can call on our closest companions or a friend who has been gone from our lives for years with the same outcome - support, love, joy.
I didn't know Pete well enough, but I have experienced his love through my friendships with Molly and Avery. It has been a wonderful thing to see this family grow over the years.
Molly - you, along with so many others, have cared for me and my children more than I could ever imagine possible over this past 10 months and my intention is to love you and support you however I can. We miss Todd everyday, as you miss Pete. What rich memories we have to share and celebrate! We'll celebrate Pete's life with you today and everyday.
We love you.
Amy, Hannah, Sarah and Jake Skinner
Hi Molly & Avery,
Sorry we couldn't be there with you today. We love you and are thinking about you. Sam and Alex love you and hope to see you soon.
It's very hard to make sense of all the thoughts that come to mind. My time with Pete was different from most in that we never had the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors together. This is a real bummer because I love the outdoors. Instead, as the brother-n-law over the past 10 years we spent time together enjoying holiday's with family. I can say Pete was a great family man. One story about Pete comes to mind. Our kids were enjoying a week together in a house at the beach. It was early morning and everyone was just waking up. The house was four stories tall with a walk out on the roof to see the view. Pete calmly tells me he found Avery climbing from the roof lookout onto the slick roof peak. I was like "What?" He said "yea, she climbed onto the roof peak." I couldn't tell if he was scared or proud. Either way he handled it well. He was very calm and did not Panic Avery. I'm sure this is one small sign of Avery's desire to seek great heights in life.
My wife (Martha) always enjoyed her time with her big brother. Words cannot describe how much she admired and loved him. As she works through this difficult time she is becoming more aware of the impact her brother had on so many. This stirs up both great joy and sadness. He will be missed very much and thought of always.
Pete was a huge part of the NOLS community. He's loss has put a hole in all our hearts. He will be missed. All of us in the community feel the loss. We must remember to nurture each other. Molly it will take a tremendous amount of courage for you to continue on. My thoughts are with you. Love, Liz Farmer
I am in awe of how Pete has touched so many people so very deeply. May their love forever be a source of support and reassurance to you and Avery. You are in my thoughts and in my heart.
Like so many others, I share great fondness and admiration for you and Pete. I feel so fortunate to have spent some precious moments with you just a few weeks ago. Wandering through City Park on my only night in Lander in ten years and there you were - proud parents watching your daughter perform Shakespeare on a warm, summer night. It was a perfect moment that I will always cherish. I feel privileged to be connected to your world and am comforted to know that during this dark time you are in the best care imaginable.
Our thoughts have been with you all week and today especially we wish we could have been there in person.
I remember a few years ago when Pete accepted his NOLS Employee award he described you both as the bookends that balanced his life. Though the book is thinner now I know you will continue to to celebrate Pete's life and cherish the stories and memories while creating more of your own.
Pete was one of my mentors as I was cutting my teeth as a climber at Seneca. He was always giving, always smiling, always very hard to keep up with. Our tribe has lost a leader. My heart-felt condolences to his family and the NOLS family.
I worked a section of a Fall Semester in the Rockies several years ago, and Pete was the liason for the group. The semester didn't have a proctor, so they got to know Pete pretty well. Even though they only saw him once a month or so, his impact was apparent. They called him "the Absolon", as if he were some kind of all-knowing deity, always watching from above. When they were trying to make a decision, they would ask each other "What would the Absolon do?" If one were thinking of being a troublemaker, they would opt not to, because they new the Absolon would find out somehow.
Avery and Molly, and all of us - the Absolon is still watching over, guiding our actions in ways that we may or may not realize. Our thoughts are with you Avery and Molly as you move on with having Pete in your lives in a different way.
I want to take a moment and thank you from the very bottom of my heart for the incredible outpouring of love and compassion you have shown our families this past week. We were all completely blown away. Yesterday's Memorial Service was absolutely incredible -- A tribute to a great man -- husband, father, brother, son, climber.
As Pete's little sister -- my heart is completely broken ...but because of all of you, not shattered. Thank you for taking care of Molly and Avery -- and thank you for taking care of our families. You have caught us in the midst of horrifying free fall, thanks.
I heard a lot of incredible things about Pete over the weekend -- but here's one I will never forget. A friend of Pete's once asked him how he could climb these crazy hard climbs ... and actually make them look easy. This friend kept asking Pete for details on what specifically he did, as if to find the perfect recipe for the perfect climb. This friend said, Pete paused, thought about the question for a minute and simply said, "I don't think about falling, I just think ..."UP!"
Well Pete, though full of tears, I'm thinking UP today ... because of you. Bye for now. Say hi to Fritzy!
I just wanted to write and thank everyone who was with us in body or spirit yesterday for Pete's memorial service, and most especially to the friends in Lander who made it happen. It was an absolutely beautiful tribute to Pete and I cherish the tears—and laughs—I shared with people, in person, in letters, or on this forum.
I sense that the forum is winding down and while I know it is probably time and that it has served us well, the end scares me. I will miss the connections and the stories we've shared here; it has helped keep Pete alive for me. But I also understand that we cannot keep doing this forever...that I need to start trying to take those baby steps toward figuring out my life without Pete.
I wish I could make sense of the senselessness of this all, the random act of throwing a rock that has left Avery and me struggling to find our bearings and come to terms with what comes next. Maybe I never will, but knowing that people also share the pain of losing a friend and colleague, knowing how many people recognized the gifts he gave to so many of us all help a little bit. I just wish I had told him more often how much joy he brought into my life.
Dear Molly and Avery,
We left Lander this morning after a very beautiful, emotional weekend. I was reminded once again, at the bbq on saturday night and the memorial yesterday, what an incredible community you live in. I wish we hadn't left so abruptly- that I had more time to talk with you, Molly, and gave you another great big squeeze.
You both are so beautiful and poised- smiling with so much life through your teary eyes. I know this time now, as the thread seems to be slowing down, and the weekend is over, must be very hard. Please know that celebrating Pete's life , loving him, having wonderful adventures- these things will continue. We will all make sure of that. We love you and believe in you.
love, Allison, Jason and Casey
I am so deeply sorry for your loss. I feel very far from Lander at this moment, and so wish I could have been there to celebrate Pete's life and to grieve with you yesterday. Please know that your family has been in my thoughts all week, and will continue to be. I am so grateful for the limited interactions I had with the two of you and with Pete over the last four years in and around Lander. Pete counseled me in my efforts to make a life and a career for myself at NOLS, and encouraged me as a cautious and tentative climber. He is one of the strong, gentle and vibrant souls that brought me to NOLS in the first place and that, ultimately, are the reason that I stay.
And simply co-existing with the three of you in this community has inspired in me the now strong belief that climbing and work and other passions in this life are not incompatible with nurturing a close and loving family. Believing in that, I think, has changed my life. Thank you for the inspiration.
I am struck still by the terror of this news and, like so many others, I am struggling to find words to express my sadness and the depth of sympathy I feel for you, now and in the weeks, months, years to come. Pete was an amazing individual who touched us all. I wish there was something more to say that would make a difference for you now... May you find strength and peace in the love you shared and the light that shone from his life.
I have not had the head space to read this tribute to Pete. I will wait for a night when all the lights are low, grab a glass of red wine and read on...but I wanted to at least join the crowd in sending Molly and Avery my love.
We had an amazing celebration of Pete's life here in Lander on Sunday. So many faces filled with grief yet at the sametime filled with the comfort of family and friends. I have attached below what I said during the memorial celebration.
Molly, thanks for walking to the falls today. It was exactly what I needed to clear my head. Avery, thanks for being Bravery Avery and going down the slide. You are awesome!
Family for Pete meant the Absolon and Armbrecht families and also the Lander family, the NOLS family, and many more communities to which Pete gave his talent, energy and enthusiasm.
Pete-n-Molly,like parallel tracks in fresh snow, Molly-n-Pete. Then, Pete-n-Molly evolved into Pete-n-Molly and Avery: the Threesome. My threesome has always held their threesome up as the role model. "How did they make it look so easy?" I would ask Scott. Well, the simple truth is that it wasn’t always easy. Yet, their relationship was based on deep mutual respect for each as individuals: Molly the fire, Pete the steady force that helped smooth the way. It was a balancing act: give, take, mine, yours, ours. You climb; I ride. You go; I come. Then, us together again; let’s go.
Avery was not just along for the ride but as an integral part of the adventure. Who would have guessed that a 3-month old would be hanging out at the cliff being passed around from friend–to-friend? Pete and Molly allowed us to become Avery’s uncles and aunts. They taught us how to be a family. They taught me that family time is sacred time not to be filled with life’s obligations but guarded as a time to share, learn and do.
I have written something for Molly about Pete the extra-ordinary family man. For me it’s the small things that defined Pete not his super-human athletic feats.
Family: a triangle
The angles: self, partner, father
The balancing act: self, partner, father
Molly dressed in miniskirt and low-cut shirt with visible cleavage (the first of her life) and a big, swollen belly. Pete: Molly is the most beautiful thing in the world. I just can’t take my eyes off her. Pete as lover.
Pete: How can you fall in love in an instant? Pete as day-old dad.
Molly’s not home. Conversation flows. Pete talks of sleeping on the couch with Avery nestled on his chest. Packing her up for her nightly sleep-inducing drive or push. Diapers. Breast feeding. The balancing act. Pete has transformed into a chatty guy filled with wonder of being Avery’s Dad. Pete as New Dad.
How did you spend your birthday with Molly away? Pete: It was amazing. Avery knew that it was my special day. Dressed in her fancy dress, party shoes and many hair accessories, Aves and I went out for a special dinner. My little girl was becoming my big girl. Pete as Prince.
Pete: Today we are gathered here to celebrate our 18th anniversary. I married the most amazing woman. She makes me happier then I can imagine. Pete flipping elk, passing the beer, bonfire, camper and coffee in bed. Later the most elegant Thanksgiving ever held in a 2-car garage. As we gave thanks, our community brought true meaning to this celebration. Pete as the guy that new how to throw a party by pulling together community.
Molly, I do not love you for who you are but for what I am when I am with you.
I suffer from a back injury. Pete stops by my house. I am with Magdalena—red-faced as I nurse in front of Pete. Pete sits down next to me. Stays with me. He offers encouragement, comfort. Pete as friend.
Pete calls from the Jersey shore. I’m in charge of dinner tonight. I need the chicken curry recipe. Yep the lemon’s the secrete. Pete calls from the backcountry. I’ve just got an elk. I am way far from any road. Actually, I don’t exactly know where I am. Can you get a message to Molly—I’m going to be really late for our dinner date? Pete as the consummate Provider.
Pete, Molly and Avery the triangle—paddling off in a canoe. Avery atop a little beach chair strapped onto the deck. Pete in the stern, Molly in the bow. Molly shouting orders. Pete calmly maneuvering down river. Pete keeping the triangle together.
Molly, He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest.
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong. (Funeral Blues, W. H. Auden)
Molly, we will help raise Avery and keep Pete’s memory alive and share more adventures. Ted get your skies out. Gary get the mountain bike ready. Scott no hiding your dancing shoes. Willy sharpen the skates. Gary get the climbing shoes re-soled. John it’s show time fairies and all. Mark pack up; we’re heading to the canyons. Ben grab the paddles, it’s boating time. We all are each other’s family.
A piece of us is missing with Pete not here, but we are so much more because of Pete and the way he treated us as family. Through the years we will mourn; we will celebrate; and we will share life’s journey just as Pete shared with us.
I have thought of you and Pete so much this past week, and cried many tears for you and your families as I have read the thoughts that people have shared here. Please know that I am holding you and Avery close to my heart.
I don’t remember exactly when I met you and Pete, you are both just there in my NOLS memory. I am so sad for your loss… and so glad that you are well-cared for as you find your way in these first weeks after Pete’s leaving. Although you are the one who has to travel this road one foot in front of the other, I know your community and family will continue to carry you through the days ahead.
It has been a long time since our paths have crossed, and somehow it feels recent that we were paddling together on the Main Salmon (that must have been back in 1995...) I carry a picture of you and Pete in my mind from that trip, smiling, vibrant, alive, and so close with each other. I am grateful for knowing you both.
I am sorry to miss sharing the celebration of Pete’s life with you and the NOLS community yesterday. My love to you and Avery,
The Memorial Service presented by the Lander community was beautiful. Thank you for your out pouring of support to those of us who came so far. We will miss Lander...we will miss Pete...
Special Eulogy Presented by Mary Absolon, Pete's sister.
On behalf of our parents, Mary and Karel Absolon and all the rest of the Absolons, we thank you.
We especially thank you for being present to Peter during his life in such a positive way and for
respecting him so highly as a professional. He loved you all and still does. He loved the work you do. He
loved the friends he had everywhere. He loved the family he married into. He loved the Lander area. He
dearly loved his wife. He enthusiastically loved his daughter. He had serenity in his life and we are all the
better for this because it is a whole lot more fun being with someone who is living out their passions!
So..how does one grasp what has happened here and what meaning this has to our lives?
So..how does one get one’s arms around what the loss within one family of not only one son, but two sons means?
Can this be true that we are going through this again? How can this be?
And my brother --- my dear, dear brother Pete. No, please make it not be true…
How does one take comfort at a time like this?
These and so many questions have tortured us over the past few days since learning of Pete’s death-
“Pete’s death” God I hate those words. They are painful to my heart.
But what we want is not what is to be and out of this we move forward
to a different serenity for each of us.
And so here we are gathered us Absolons to share with you-- our Pete.
The name Peter means Steadfast Rock and he did this every day of his life. _
Peter had an uncanny ability to just be able to get anything for him he wanted. He had that cute grin & positive disposition that made this easy. So as a child & with these innate personality characteristics, it was not surprising, Pete was THE KID who always seemed to weezle anything out of Mom -- from GI Joes and all the equipment, to Roy Rogers with all the horse gear, to the best camping gear. Pete, knew how to get things done– he was smoooooth even as child! ___
Long before Molly came into our lives, Pete was a wrestler – you see this was his early formative years. He was getting his body ready for those future climbs that were awaiting every muscle in his body-he had a great body.
Wrestlers are tough and that is what life is – tough – but those wrestlers learn to go into the ring one on one with their head held high – and then shake hands at the end of a match – and give um a smile. The wrestling ring trained Pete to be a gracious winner and loser.
Us Absolons are achievers. We were surrounded with this as we grew up. We knew that we were to be contributors to society, to work hard, get a good education, and be excellent!
My Dad would say, “whatever you do – do your best.”
You see - our role models were cave explorers in the Czech Republic, physicians with public institutions named after them in Minnesota & a medical history library in North Carolina named after my Dad, explorers of prehistoric relics. Why there is even a microscopic bug named – you got it – the Absolonie.
So you see, this is what our Pete carried away from home when he left to make his way in the world over 20 years ago. And he carried on this legacy so well as we all now know. _
Pete’s world changed when he met Mary Willoughby Armbrecht – our Molly.
One meaning of the name Molly is “Living Fragrance”.
Molly was truly THE fragrance that gave Pete a new life and he flourished with her in wonderful ways.
He shared this about her when they first met….. “I liked the way she moved on the rocks…”
It was not long that he accompanied her to Berkeley and even stopped in Minnesota on the way out so he could show her off!
Pete loves Molly. He adores Molly. He just loved being with her. He was smitten from the time they met – and we were so very, very happy for them!
Before we knew it they were living in Lander and making a life for themselves.
Pete was not perfect.
You know when two people are as down home in love as Pete and Molly are, it’s really hard to learn about any “issues”, but………… being the older sister I am, this happened one time unexpectedly and I learned of one!
I asked Molly, are there any nick names you call Pete?
She looked at Pete with her “Molly smile” and out came with-- “Piddles”!
Pete looked at her a bit stunned.
Then I quickly said, “I know where that comes from. He never puts the toilet seat up before peeing & I lived with that!”
We all laughed….
I have a feeling there were dry seats from that day on at the Absolon house __
Avery brought new smiles to Pete’s face. When she was born, he was so excited we thought he would relapse and need to be called Piddles again!
Pete knew how to be a Daddy. He taught Avery how to walk on the ceiling with help from Dad, use the “ropes” when climbing and guided her most recently in her acting career as a princess.
These life skills appropriately fit Avery whose name means- Noble and Strong.
Her foundation of who she will be as a person is sound and nothing will change that. Pete made sure of that while he was with us here.
Avery remember --- noble and strong _
Pete loved Wyoming and his life out here with Avery and Molly. Pete was our master of ceremonies during our big 2003 trip out west and relished showing us his life out here.
He wanted his family to love and enjoy what he was passionate about. To this end, Pete greeted us with two huge canoes roped to his truck roof. We had a fabulous canoe trip down the Snake River with him and Aves-we were in the front row seats of his home in Wyoming and he treated us like royalty. He showed us a great restaurant with exquisite food in Jackson – that only the locals knew about.
Before we knew it, we then were in Lander climbing on the wall in the garage that Pete made. We viewed their land with “red rock” , enjoyed Avery on her horse and just liked our time together being with them. This memory was capped off when Molly and Pete gave us a picture of Signal Mountain as a Christmas gift which we now have in our den. __
Pete loved sushi… when we were on Times Square in New York City after seeing an awesome production of the Lion King, he insisted we go to a sushi bar.
Pete knew his sushi! He ordered and we sat back enjoyed the evening with my dear brother, sister in law and niece. ___
Pete and Molly were married shortly after our son Chris was born – in 1988. Pete and Chris shared a lot in common with each other as Chris loves the outdoors, was a wrestler, is an Eagle scout.
Pete said for years, “godda come out and do a NOLS course, just godda do it..”
Then when our daughter Molly started with a outdoor rival competitor – Widji – that is Camp Widjiwagen in Northern Minnesota on the BWCA, Pete rassed us more!
Pete would kid us and say, “You’re going to “Widji” – doing things the “widji” way – so when are you coming to NOLS?”
Last October, this came together. Pete guided Chris’ choice with his #1 recommendation being the Semester in Alaska.
This was by the fate in our lives one of the last gifts from Pete given to our family. Chris says, “ Mom everyone knows Pete.”
Chris now knows NOLS and that is knowing the Pete – that is breathing Pete – that is sweating with Pete
– that is smiling with Pete – that is experiencing the passion of a lifetime with Pete -- as Pete’s spirit is
intertwined in this organization. WE thank you for givinf us the living gift of Pete through our son Chris.
Mom & Dad --- you have now lost a second son.
As Pete would say, it’s a “bummer”.
You have done a great job with each of us. Thank you. We will be here your whole life. ___
Avery – your Daddy is always at your side as he now is your invisible friend that sits on your shoulder.
He is with you and will keep you safe your whole life. We will share and talk about your Daddy when we
are together always.
We will look forward to getting together and having fun. We will ALWAYS be here for you all the days of your life in a special way. Please come to us – just come.
And by the way…when and if you need a stand in for your Dad, we have some great NOLS wanta bes waiting for you! ___
Remember early on in your marriage, Pete and Bill came back from the store…..and brought us “twin
gifts” -- that little “I love you” stand. Just like this stand represents, his arms were always there you.
We love you very much.
We miss him so much -- as do you.
Your 19 wonderful years of marriage together are living gift-you are blessed.
You enjoyed wonderful trips…..conversation---intimacy
We are so happy that Pete had it all as your spouse. Thank you, thank you for freely giving this to Pete. __
Our lives will move on.
We look forward to this new path with its ups and downs; know we are there for you always with our
arms open just as Pete’s always will be. _
So …..as Pete would say ……..…
I too am an old friend of Pete's from the Seneca days. The news of Pete's death was a blow to something deep inside of me. As a young aspiring climber in the early eighties I looked up to Pete as a mentor. His climbing abilities were always impressive and his attitude about climbing was filled with humility. He was the epitome of competence and always encouraging of those around him. Pete of all climbers of the day represented the true spirit of Seneca. He was a real hard man, pushing new routes, repeating classics as well as others new lines, but always respecting the traditions of Seneca. But above all he was a great person.
I am sure there are many people from those days who feel the same way I do and do not know of this tragedy. Many have left climbing and may not keep up with it anymore. Life takes us all in different directions and it is tough to keep up with old friends.
With all of that said (and I could say a lot more about Pete as you all know) I would like to try and organize a Seneca memorial of some sort for Pete. Maybe this fall a gathering at The Gendarme to say farewell to Pete Absolon, who is a true Seneca legend, would be a small thing to do in memory of a great person. If anyone out there has contact with Seneca and New River climbers from that era please contact them and hopefully we can make this happen.
My condolences to Molly, Avery, and all of Pete's family and many friends. My thoughts are with you.
All day on Sunday I thought about you and Avery. I sat in church and prayed that your day would be sunny, warm and a light breezy might touch you as you were surrounded by all your friends and family. The reasons for what happened are not ours to disern but the blessing of the life you have had are
beautiful. I am so very sorry for you and Avery. I so remember your wedding many years ago and meeting Pete. What a delightful person! The memories of our childhood tell us we are invincible yet the powers beyond us mold us into different characters as we mature. The waves and ebbs in our life will reveal one day what we have been molded into and that invincibility will give way to our character. Please know that you are in my prayers and that I am thinking of you and Avery. I will write to you soon. Kim
I am Pete's father in law. Calvert, my wife, and our whole family are devastated. We have just returned from several days with Molly and Avery. We can't begin to describe the outpouring of support from the climbing, NOLS, and friends communities that we witnessed last week. Others will and have and we thank them.
I pass on a poem that was read at a family gathering and a song that was read at the incredible public ceremony.
A Japanese Poem, Author ?
One tree another tree
each standing alone & erect.
The wind and air tell
their distances apart.
But beneath the cover of earth
their roots reach out.
And through depths that cannot be
The roots of the trees intertwine.
MY OLD BROWN EARTH
(a song by Pete Seeger)
To my old brown earth
And to my old blue sky,
I'll now give these last few molecules of " I ".
And you who sing
And you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry.
Guard well our human chain,
Watch well you keep it strong,
As long as sun will shine.
And this our home,
Keep pure and sweet and green.
For now, I'm yours
And you are also mine.
My old brown earth,
For now I'm yours
And you are also mine.
So many years have passed since the days when we first learned to climb together. I can remember the two of us as young climbers with EMS and IME in North Conway or cheering on-top of Seneca rocks like kids that the Americans had just beaten the Russians in Hockey. Remember when we shared a “space blanket” until dawn so that we could safety descend through the boulder field? I always knew you would explore your dreams. The thoughts, prayers and wishes that are with you and your family make it clear you were living your dream.
Pete, you are a great person. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
I would like to thank everyone who contributed to helping us get through this past week. Airport pickups, hotel reservations, opening your homes, your hugs, your stories, etc. We thanked many of you in person, but I know there are so many more who were working behind the scenes and I want to thank you as well!
It was wonderful to finally put faces with the names I've heard for such a long time. You are a wonderful community.
The service was incredible- the slides, the words, the amazing feeling of being seated in a circle around all those flowers that Avery wanted for her dad, and having all of you surrounding us. I have never experienced anything like that before.
It's hard missing Pete and now being so far from Molly and Avery.
Now that I am home the reality of this enormous hole in our family is beginning to sink in.
Keep holding Molly and Avery in your hearts. Take care of Steve too.
Molly, I wanted to write down my story I told you about Pete on Sunday for you and Avery.
One day, when Pete was still working at NOLS HQ, he poked his head in the Tremblay conference room where Debra East and I often ate our lunch, and said,
Why, you two should be sitting at either end of this long table...and there should be candles and napkins and silver!...and I could be your butler, with a white cloth over my forearm!! ...and then he left. But the story line continued over the weeks and Debra and conspired to bring in the candles and white cloth...And then he stopped one day and said, I'm getting a tuxedo! I'm the escort for Avery at her recital in Riverton! Me, in a tuxedo...with Avery! How wonderful! Ah we said, recognizing The perfect opportunity...we'd love to see you in your tuxedo and we'll bring the candles and napkins and you can play our butler!
Well, though we never did act out the final scene of elegant lunch in the Tremblay conference room –the tuxedo rental had its guidelines–we all delighted in the play acting. And that was a part of the essences of Pete–the delight, the joy, and the creative act.
I'd also like to share a poem that's kept me company over the years:
There is a brokenness
Out of which comes the unbroken,
A shatterdness out
Of which blooms the unshatterable,
There is a sorrow
Beyond all grief which leads to joy
And a fragility
Out of whose depths emerges strength.
There is a hollow space
Too vast for words
Through which we pass with each loss,
Out of darkness
We are sanctioned into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound
Whose serrated edges cut the heart
As we break open
To the place inside which is unbreakable
While learning to sing.
All my love to you and to Avery and your families and your horses and cats and all of your friends,
I learned about Pete's accident this past Friday pm and just could'nt believe it! A couple days passed before it truely sunk in that Pete was gone. Molly, it seems like yesterday that you and Pete were living life in Seneca, it's hard to think that 20 yrs. have gone by, but after reading the stories and seeing the pictures I realize that Pete had not changed a bit. Still grabbing life by the horns and directing it where he wanted to go. Following are a few memories of mine of Pete.
I remember when one cold and windy winter day Pete and I were climbing at Seneca. Pete led a rt. on the east face then while chasing the sun we ended up at the Face of a Thousand Pitons.(Molly you met up with us at this point) It was my lead but Pete said the only thing he wanted to do there was Agony, well I was not about to stick my cold hands in an off width so I picked the arete on the left of the face. Mongoose was born. Thanks for the courage Pete.
I remember when Pete and Greg Smith did Banana Peels, 12b R. Hard and poorly protected, few if any takers since the 1st acsent. They took it by the horns. Both Pete and Greg are gone now, passing within 12 mons. of each other.
I remember when Pete and I wrapped a canoe around a rock on the North Fork one rainy day.
I remember when I waded the North Fork one cold day to meet Pete and Tony Barnes on the North peak. As we were getting ready to call it a day Pete told me he had drove his car up the pipe line and was parked on the trail at the top I called BS but sure enough there it was (That famous Absolon smile). I'll bet that hasn't been done since.
I remember when Markwell found a bag of pot in the Gendarme and although it was not his, Pete took the blame to cover for his friend. John fired him on the spot but hired him back inside of an hour. John is no dummy, he knew a bright star when he saw one.
I remember when I was younger, life was simple and more of my friends were alive. Don't wait to call up an old friend.
Pete ole buddy, I'm so sorry I didn't keep in touch.
Peter was my next door neighbor in the Madison dorm at GW when I was a junior and he was a senior. We became very good friends. He was a great friend, a great cook and a wonderful, warm person. He taught me to climb. I loved him and his warm, kind family. I have been out of touch with Peter for over 20 years. I saw this blurb in the New York Times about his accident and was absolutely dumbfounded and sick with shock and sadness. All of my memories of my time with him came flooding back. I have found some photos from that time and would be happy to send them on to his family and Molly if someone would send me addresses. I feel very cut off as I have no connection any longer to the GW community. It just makes me so, so sad, for his parents and siblings and his wife and daughter. I have loved seeing the pictures on this site. I remember his talking about his brother Fritz and how after Fritz died Peter took on some of his personality traits. The one I remember was that he started following basketball. He taught me to follow basketball. Am I right in thinking that his brother was a climber as well and that is where Peter got his passion for climbing? I am not sure, but I loved reading that Peter has now passed on his passion to his nephew.
I remember when he visited my family in a suburb of Philadelphia he had no car. I said "how are you going to get here?" He said "hitchike, I'll be there around dinner time" and sure enough - around dinner time he called from a store about half a mile away. I was amazed at the ease with which he handled life. I also learned to change a tire because of Peter. In an indirect way. I wanted to visit him in West Virginia and my Dad said that I wasn't allowed to drive that far alone. I told him that that was sexist since he would let my brother do it. So he thought a minute and said that I was probably right. So, he said, "if you can prove that you can change a tire on your own I will let you take the car." So that is the one time in my life that I have changed a tire all on my own.
I remember at Seneca Rocks going out for dinner to a Diner with Peter and his climbing buddies. They all ordered milk shakes, so I did the same. It was the worst tasting milk shake ever - it was beer!
Years after my time at GW I was at a new friend's house in Boston. While at her house I saw a photo on her mantle of a happy couple on their wedding day. I looked at it again and said "Hey, that is my old boyfriend, Peter Absolon!!" She told me that he had married her cousin and they couldn't be happier together. I was delighted to see that picture and hear that news.
And I was just so sick to get this most recent news. My heart goes out to Peter's parents, siblings, Molly and little Avery. I am sure that she is a beautiful little girl.
I taught a Kindermusik class that Avery was enrolled in as one of my most regular and faithful students for two years. And one of the most regular and faithful parents who came to "sharing time" at the end of class was Pete--right in there clapping, dancing, and singing with the kids. He always had a smile and a greeting for everyone. I knew Avery as a bright, creative little girl and I know her loving father had so much to do with that. What a devoted dad!
Pete Absolon was one of my best friends. In recent years we’d fallen out of contact for no particular reason. I want to share some of my memories with this community who all loved this unusually bright light called Pete. We learned a lot together, about each other, about happiness and sadness, poverty and wealth. We were smart guys that did some very stupid and immature things, but we kept learning. It was all about fun and becoming better climbers and better teachers.
I’ve always heard that - in times of grief – memories come “flooding” back. Not for me, my mind isn’t working that way now. The memories are trickling in from what seems like a life time ago and this is annoying to my work-a-holic, goal oriented nature: I wanted to post something to supertopo days ago, but the memories keep coming at a slow, somewhat constant pace. Small glimpses of Pete…, and Molly…. I feel the need to say more than a few words…
Pete and I first met at Carderock, Maryland. We were teenagers and both loved to boulder… He had EB rock shoes, and I didn’t. I had clunky RD’s, things that worked okay but weren’t sensitive. EB’s with leather sewn on the sides to make the canvas uppers last longer were really cool. There was a point in time when one couldn’t buy EB’s because they were in short supply in the US. I remember Pete and I driving in great anticipation to Hudson “Bay” Outfitters as the store was named then and picking up a couple pairs of coveted EB’s, feeling lucky and pysched that maybe I’d be able to climb a little bit better. I thought all the good climbers wore EB’s. Pet might have bought two pairs, I can’t remember just yet…
Pete and I took trips to Seneca Rocks, WVa in our teenage years and early twenties. We car camped on Roy Gap Road with the other weekend warriors from the DC and Pittsburg areas. We perused the little red guidebook for routes that we thought we might be able to do. We spent evenings marveling at the climbing equipment in the Gendarme, dreaming that the Hexes, Stoppers, Webbing and Ropes hanging behind the counter were like jewels or precious metals, planning ways to scrape together money for our next planned purchase to “complete” our racks. We debated whether using Friends instead of hexes was cheating; Friends had just come out and were easier to place, hence less skill needed. We had trouble opening our beer bottles because our forearms and hands were so used from the day’s efforts.
After my first year in college, I came back to Carderock in hopes of finding Pete. John Gregory informed me that Pete and Mike (Perlis) were working for John Markwell teaching climbing at Seneca. I was in awe… That just sounded like the best job in the world… I approached Pete; “you gotta get me a job there.” He put in a good word, but I also knew I wasn’t a strong climber at the time. The next summer, with the help of Bill Heronimus (sp?), I climbed up a climb on the south end of Seneca and lowered two non-climbers who had climbed most of the way up the first pitch of a 5.6. John hired me for $25 a week; that was 1981.
Pete and I taught climbing at Seneca throughout the ‘80’s. We had courses wired: each student got 2 over the shoulder slings, 2 regular ‘biners, 1 locking ‘biner, a figure eight, and a helmet. Typically, we had three students per class for three days. We carried light racks of 6-8 nuts, and climbed everything in tennis shoes, usually with packs on. We’d buy our lunch from Buck Harper’s general store, usually a small can of baked beans with a pull top lid, some peanuts, a package of crackers with cheese and maybe some M&M’s. We’d fill up our water bottles at the spring on Roy Gap Road, just down from the Southern Pillar. In the evenings, we partied hard too with the students. I remember one day after of fun night of drinking, John Markwell, climbing school director asking, “how’s Pete today?” Pete sang out happy as can be, right next to his new class, “Great, I’m still drunk.” He was full of boyish fun. To this day, I don’t know if he was kidding or not, probably not... We’d always tease the students, but never with any malice. He’d ask as I headed off with a new class, “so are you guys going to do Death of a Novice or Bodybag first?” I’d do the same thing to him next time around.
We worked with many other good people: Mike Perlis, Chris “Moose” Gunther, Tony Barnes, Mike Cote, John Govi, Tom Cecil and Daniel Miller, all solid teachers. I remember Tony’s first summer. I thought we were fairly well seasoned by then and also thought Tony was ready for his first course. We had not really reviewed in detail how to teach a beginning course, nor, do I recall if Tony shadowed a course (mistakes 1 & 2). I think I had covered it in general but did go over things in detail. On this occasion, I said something about providing students with a little history on climbing. We let Tony demonstrate belaying techniques. He proceeded to demonstrate a technique called “dynamic” belaying, where by the belayer feeds a few more yards or rope out as the climber falls to “gradually” slow the falling climber down. This was a technique that was used prior to WWII when we didn’t have nylon ropes that stretched. Pete and I both looked at each other with eyes the size of oranges. I was outraged – mainly at myself but also at Tony, though this was not Tony’s fault, it was mine. Pete thought it was just funny. With a few beers in us afterward, we discussed the incident. We began applying a basic pattern of “tell them what you’re going to do, tell them what you’re doing, tell them what you’ve done” to many, if not all, aspects of the climbing courses.
Life at Seneca changed over the years. However, there were three basic activities: teaching rock climbing, going climbing, and talking about climbing in the Gendarme or on the front porch. Usually, talking about climbing involved listening to pontifications of John Markwell and hundreds of other climbers that came to Seneca to climb for a week, month or every weekend; beer was mandatory. Just like the tides, we’d tire of the conversations and be re-invigorated. Some of my fondest memories of Pete are on that front porch, discussing climbs, listening, nodding, smiling, laughing, and drinking beer. Pete would have been dressed in an old tee shirt, tan Patagonia “stand up shorts” with holes in them, red or blue socks with running shoes. One leg would cross the other just above his knee, and he’d be stretching back muscles or the like. I’d call him Pete “Gabsolon” because he loved to “gab” about climbing so much.
Pete loved to goad people into going climbing after teaching, no matter how hard a day you’d had. “Ah, come on, mannnnnn,” his voice rising in pitch as he said it. We’d go climb a few pitches. It was not unrealistic to get back down after dark. His ego played a part in this. One weekend evening, when we were walking back just after dark, the conversation on the front porch of the Gendarme died as we walked past; we’d been noticed by the people there As Pete and I got to the school building, he said in a low voice, “I love getting down this late.” I think what he was conveying to the people on the porch was something like, “I love climbing so much, I’m just getting down from climbing now, I get to be here every day but you only get to be here on weekends, so why aren’t you climbing all you can?” He loved to demonstrate his love of climbing, not to show people how good he was but to show them that he just loved climbing and loved pushing himself to climb hard. He also loved to push others and loved to see them succeed. One summer evening, he asked as I cracked open a beer, “what have you done to deserve your beer today?” I had run up the South Peak after teaching, so it was okay for me to have that beer, but there were plenty of days when it wouldn’t have been okay.
Pete got into soloing at one point. There was a book that came out about Henry Barber, and that provided a lot of inspiration and insight to Pete. Like Henry in his signature white hat, Pete began wearing a yellow bicycle cap and soloing. One day he ran back down to the shop about night fall, and I asked him what he did. He rattled off about 20 climbs. He’d done this all after teaching until 5 PM. On another occasion, Pete soloed Castor and Pollux, two classic Seneca test pieces. Upon reaching Broadway ledge, a climber approached Pete and said, “I hate people like you!” The meaning was clear, there was no way that person had a hope of reaching the climbing confidence and competence that Pete had. It was all envy and no malice. Pete told me about it later and said “I love it when people say stuff like that.” Really, there wasn’t any higher compliment to Pete.
Pete and I, along with the rest of the instructors, lived in different houses in West Virginia. Every Spring, it seemed we had to worry about where we were going to live. There were times when we slept on the concrete of the climbing school or climbing shop floor and went for early morning swims in the Potomac, washing with Doctor Bronners Biodegradable soap; it had a label that preached at you. The water was cold… I also remember early attempts at cooking. Mike Perlis cooked a huge bag of noodles that filled a three gallon pot. This was for Mac and Cheese for three people. We didn’t have any “Tuperware” to save the food in, so it was a waste and a topic of discussion for years to come. It’s funny now only in that it’s a memory I feel compelled to record because Pete was part of that. Our cooking got better over the years, particularly when Molly moved in. Those houses we lived in were always places people came because Pete invited them, and that was always fun because it was something to look forward to.
At one point, during the “Pre-Molly Era,” Pete and I began driving north to Petersburg to go to the Nautilus Gym there and take aerobics. We had multiple objectives: exercise, meet young, beautiful women, and beat the boredom of living in rural West Virginia. This can also be referred to the “Young, and really, Really dumb Era.” After a good work out and not approaching any of the young, beautiful women, we would shower and get in the car for the 45 minute drive home. Then, we’d buy a six pack of beer for the ride and start back. I don’t remember how it began, but we started playing a game of nerves and adrenaline called “England.” What we’d do is turn off the lights, get in the left hand lane where oncoming traffic could strike you, and drive the 55 mph road as long as our nerves could hold out. One person would “look close” for deer and one person would “look long” for car headlights. There were never any close calls playing that game, but it’s pretty much the stupidest thing we could have been doing. We were in search of adrenaline. Young and dumb, live and learn, don’t try this at home kids…
Pete and I climbed all over the US in the 80’s. In 1983 or 1984, I was at Prescott College and Pete was spending the winter out west. He was introduced to the Black Velvet Canyon at Red Rocks, and called me at school to come up. After a series of missed phone calls in which Pete had left me the wrong number to call, we finally connected. I drove my old Datsun 710 green station wagon the 5 or 6 hours up to Vegas and met Pete for Spring Break. We then took that same old car on the 4 wheel drive road out to Black Velvet. “Yeah,” Pete said, “bad weather around here, it just get’s really windy…” We climbed a lot there. Once we spent the night on top of the chimneys of Epinephrine. This was our first “wall” climb, having hauled up sleeping and cooking gear. We watched the red, green and gold lights of lost Vegas turn on as dusk settled. It was magical. In the morning, based on advice from local climbers, we bundled all our sleeping gear and cooking gear in our haul sack Pete threw it off the cliff. We watched it sail down and hit the valley floor, a few items popping out on impact. As I recall, the total damage was minimal; Pete’s Seva (sp?) stove was dented but still worked thereafter. The upper pitches of the climb were beautiful. Walking off the top, we noticed an old broken bottle of Black Velvet Whisky near the summit. We didn’t pick up the pieces, feeling that it was somehow symbolic. There are many areas I loved to climb, but Red Rocks was in the top five on the list every time. I’m certain that Pete felt that way too for at least part of the 80’s and early 90’s though I’m sure too that Pete found other areas to climb that were just as thrilling.
A few years later, I came back to climb Epinephrine again with a different partner, the same way, sleeping on the ledge atop the chimneys. The “bad” weather of desert wind turned into an “end of the world thunderstorm.” Miserable night, the cliff running like a waterfall, I told my friend what Pete had said about the weather and we laughed about the silly situations we had put ourselves in; we could have checked the weather forecast, but it only get’s “windy” in Vegas.
On our first trip to Yosemite, I picked Pete up in Rockville, Maryland. We were sitting in the old datsun at a traffic light. Suddenly, horns were honking and breaks were squealing. Two cars had just wrecked in front of us. One of the cars had taken out the pole that held up a traffic light, and the traffic light came bouncing aggressively toward my car. Pete was yelling noooo! The light stopped short by 15 feet or so. I was so clueless. I asked why were you yelling no, that light wasn’t going to hurt us? “Because,” Pete explained in a relieved voice, “the traffic light could have wrecked the car and then we wouldn’t have been able to get to Yosemite.”
In September of 85, we climbed the Salathe Wall. This was truly our first Wall climb; we sort of knew what we were doing, but not really. We were there with a group of friends. I have several very distinct memories of that climb. We were constantly hearing a new Dire Straits song, that’s the way you do it (on the MTV). Having never climbed a Yosemite wall, we kept singing the refrain as we learned new techniques: “that ain’t workin’, that’s the way you do it.” Repeated noises drifted up from the valley floor too. The green dragons (open air, multi-car tour buses) that snaked along the road said things that were mostly mumbled except for the words “the Salathe” and “baby giant sequoia.” We also heard lots of sirens one day, and found out afterward that a tree had fallen on a newlywed couple, killing them. I remember as we exchanged looks, “scary” Pete said but you could tell his compassion was more than the single word.
For the actual climb, our plan was to climb the first ten pitches of the “Free Blast” and then rap back down, fixing lines and spend the night on the ground, then set off with our haul sack. We set off, climbing well on the crack and face pitches. We ran into problems on two separate 5.7 pitches. They were greasy, awkward, scary, bombay chimneys. Pete and I were both cursing… Tired, but feeling strong, we made it to the top of the free blast and traversed over and down to the heart ledge and started fixing lines down. At one point, we rapped down to a ledge that was about 30 feet long and 5 feet wide. It was a long way off the deck. Neither of us realized it at the time, but we hadn’t anchored ourselves in. We set up the next rap and continued down. At some point afterward, Pete realized this mental mistake and pointed it out. I was dumbfounded. I don’t mind walking around on top of cliffs without an anchor. I do mind walking around on top and not realizing we weren’t clipped in to anything. We were tired, live and learn…
We were so tired in fact that we had doubts about the climb, not the actual climbing, but the hauling of water, sleeping bags, etc was going to be exhausting. “Man, this is going to be a lot of work!” Just like the two kids on the old Life cereal commercial who said, “hey, let’s get Mikey,” we said together, “let’s get Gene!” Gene Kistler was part of our friendly group of climbers that had come to the Valley. He joined our team on the spur of the moment. The route had many more challenges, running into people ahead of us, them running out of water and us not wanting to risk sharing our limited water, Europeans catching us and passing us, but none was more memorable then just one or two pitches below the top. I led through a pitch which put us on a narrow ledge above the headwall. We were so close to the top and I was jubilant. Gene came up next. That left Pete to release the haul sacks so Gene and I could haul them up. Pete began jugging a 9mm rope, an old blue rope I think. Gene and I were happily talking and a nice breeze was blowing. At some point, we realized that Pete was yelling at us. The head wall is a slightly overhanging pitch, so Pete was below us, hanging from a 9 mm rope, spinning around with 3000+ feet of air below him, not touching any rock, and now he was yelling at us. Eventually it became clear that the haul rope and 9mm rope were wrapped around each other. Thus, as Gene and I hauled the bags up, the haul rope had the potential to cut through the 9mm jug rope. We stopped hauling. Pete came up saying, “that is the scariest thing I’ve ever done!” Glad that he was okay, but without thinking much, I said, “yeah, I know what you mean.” Pete turned, madder than I’d ever seen him and said, “no, you don’t know.” We got over it, but we also debated this from time to time. Live and learn.
There are many other things that come to mind about Pete. He came to Prescott to climb. One day bouldering behind Sears, he fell and landed badly, his ankle swollen. He didn’t go to the doctor, I think because he didn’t have any insurance. He eventually found out he’d broken his talus (sp?) bone. He still hadn’t gotten it repaired. Months later in the Gendarme, I remember him telling John Markwell and myself, sobbing, that he thought he’d never be able to run again. He eventually got it fixed and within a short time of the surgery took a hot tub and got the incision infected. Live and learn.
Pete was my best man at our wedding. Tonia and I were married in Zion canyon, on the valley floor near the river. As our minister Susan Armor was conducting the wedding, a very large stink bug was crawling painfully slow inches in front of Pete’s shoes toward my shoes. Pete elbowed me and motioned at the bug. I think I cracked a smile, but this was supposed to be a solemn moment, so I suppressed it. Pete whispered under his breath, “step on it.” I felt like a little school boy, trying to suppress my laughter that could not be suppressed. Always teasing, always after fun….
After I had stopped working at Seneca, and Pete and Molly were married, we had intermittent visits: Pete and Molly coming to see us in Salt Lake City. They’d come through on their way to somewhere else. They’d stay a night and then fly out. We’d see them at Alta for their family vacations too. At the time, Pete was just learning to ski, so he didn’t want me to ski with him, thought he’d be a bother.
One of the last times I saw Pete was when he and Molly returned from a trek in the Himalaya. They gave us a beautiful rug with lions on it. That was about 10 years ago. After that, I moved on to Helena for 5 years, and then to Pueblo. We had a few phone conversations and discussed getting together, but never did. I was busy trying to climb a corporate ladder; I had stopped climbing rocks. I might have to start again… Pete would like that.
Pete, your death has created a big hole. You are dearly missed.
Molly and Avery, my heart aches with your lose and the difficult road ahead. I’ll be in touch soon.
Hello Peter. I always called you Peter. Your stage name turned out to be Pete. What's in a name anyway. It is the person that everyone remember's and that is what lives on and never dies. As your brother we had a great time growing up and doing a lot of things together. People always looked at us as twins with our similar physiques and mannerisms. I am going to miss your prescence here in the physical but in time we will reunite. I have admired your passion for rock climbing and the things you accomplished from that passion and dedication. Your passion lives on, but on a different plane of existence. Guide over Molly and Avery in these apparent sad times as they go through an adjustment phase. We will never forget your 47 years of dedication to the human experience.
When I first met Pete I was a new Transpo\Evac Driver. He was involved in many of the Evacs I went on. I decided he was terrible at giving directions to places and he decided i had what he called NOLSY radar despite his directions! We had many a laugh over my "Pete adventures". During the regular school year I drove the North Second Street bus route and saw him many times in his way to work. He always had a smile, wave and\or a positive word for me. I had the privilege of being his driver for his short stint as a sub-instructor on a course a few weeks ago and we gabbed all the way to Trail Lake!
Pete (and you too Molly),have had a very positive impact on my life and I will always be thankful for that. Its hard to imagine life without Pete in it, so I won't. He may not be here in person but he will always live in our hearts.
Please know that my Love, tears and Prayers are with everyone.
I am another of Molly's sisters and I wanted to add my heartfelt thanks to the amazing outpouring of love and support for Molly and Avery and, by extension, for all of us in her family. There was something so comforting in being in Lander for these past ten days, even with the sadness and loss. Now that I'm home I just feel the loss of all that Pete brought to Molly, to Avery, to our family, and to me. Though I'm resolved to do everything I can to carry his spirit on: to remember on my own how to use an avalanche beeper without his reminder, to get good enough to keep up with Molly on backcountry skies without depending on Pete to remind her to choose something that I can do, to know the things in the wilderness I always counted on Pete to know, that doesn't make the hole any easier to bear...
And I wanted to share this poem by Rilke....
It's possible I am pushing through solid rock
in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through;
and no space: everything is close to my face,
and everything close to my face is stone.
I don't have much knowledge yet in grief -
so this darkness makes me feel small.
You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me,
and my great grief cry will happen to you.
I am Molly's cousin Blake and I also wanted to Thank everyone in the Lander community for their love and support of Molly and Avery and everything that has been done to help them. I know with friends like all of you Molly and Avery are going to make it through this difficult time. The memorial service was the most beautiful tribute to Pete-words can not even describe how wonderful it was. I am also having a hard time being at home and away from all who have shared the wonderful stories of Molly, Pete and Avery. I will also share a poem read at the family gathering:
"Death is nothing at all... I have only slipped away into the next room....I am I, and you are you...whatever we were to each other,that we are still. Call me by my old familiar name,speak to me in the easy way you always used. Put no difference into your tone;wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effect, without the ghost of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was; there is absolutely unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near just around the corner... All is well"
Canon Henry Scott Holland(1847-1918)
Molly and Avery we are thinking and praying for you both- and your entire community.
Love to you all
I asked Avery if she wanted to create some kind of ritual to say goodnight to Pete each day. She immediately had us light a candle and walk out onto the porch where we had a moment of silence. She prayed, her hands folded and talked silently to Pete in a way that only children—who live in a world where magic and heaven are as real as the earth and sky—can. I, the struggling agnostic, used the time to just think of Pete. After a moment Avery said, okay and blew out the candle. We went inside and looked at an old picture of Pete to share a story before going to bed. It's our new evening ritual. So if some night you find yourself thinking of Pete, light a candle and join us—wherever you may be— in wishing him goodnight.
Avery and I are leaving for Finland for two weeks tomorrow. I am sorry I haven't returned calls or emails. The phone is hard for me right now. But hearing your messages has been very important, so the fact that I don't call back has little to do with the power of the love you have sent to Avery and to me. I feel it and it helps. Thank you.
If the Seneca gang ends up pulling together a gathering this fall, please let me know. I'd like to try to come.
I am a friend of the Armbrechts from WV originally - now in Oregon 22 years. Molly, I am writing just to add my few drops to the stream of compassion and condolence that is flowing here. I am not surprised that you have surrounded yourself in your life with such a strong community of warm, caring and adventurous friends. You and Pete have clearly touched many lives. I remember meeting Pete and talking with you both a decade or more ago in WV about NOLS and playing outside and life in the west. We have lost some dear friends to accidents such as this and it is terribly painful and confusing. I can only imagine how horrible it is when the person you have lost is your chosen life partner and co-parent.
I am grateful that Pete appears to have had a rich, adventurous life full of meaning and depth (or height, as the case may be), partnership with you, and the gift of a child. I'm sorry it was cut so short, and I am so sorry for how much you and Avery must miss him and for the enormous loss you now carry.
Should you need a getaway, we would be honored to welcome you both in Oregon. We have rocks to play on, rivers to run, beaches and mountains to explore, and kids to lead us there. I hope your family time in Finland helps you begin healing.
Lori Maddox and David, Carson (10) and Tyee (6) Atkin
Molly and Avery,
It was with great sadness I read the news of Pete. Our paths crossed occasionally in the lobby of the Noble or the editorial office in old Post Office, but we never worked together. Our NOLS careers overlapped in the early 90's. Besides his friendly smile and sense of humor, I will always remember the "solid guy" reputation his coworkers conveyed in the informal conversations us NOLS instructors have at dinner time in the feild.
Our prayers go out to you, Avery, and your families for strength and courage during these difficult times.
Peace to you all,
Craig Stebbins, Stepahnie Jones, and Josephine(2yrs)
castebbins "at" seanet.com
We were so saddened to hear the tragic news last week and I have been struggling to come up with some wonderful words to share with you, though I know that I don't have them. All I can share with you and your family is this- For nearly twenty years now I have been blessed to consider myself a part of the NOLS family no matter where I find myself in the world. From working my first course with Molly, to the many visits I made to Lander during my wandering years, and now as a dad and a husband returning to Lander to visit friends, I have always looked forward to seeing Pete and Molly. Seeing your wonderful smiles, your warm welcoming back into the fold of the Lander community no matter how long I had been gone always helped me feel a part of a larger family. Within our NOLS community I have always felt their were certain people who represent our collective heart and our collective spirit....These people represent the best of who we are and to me have always represented a guide for my growth as a teacher, a friend, a father, a husband, and a good person on this earth. Pete and Molly have always been at the heart of the NOLS family for me. Each of you have help shape my life to be that much better. Pete and Molly, I have always admired you both so much and looked up to you as friends, mentors, and a wonderful inspiration for living a great life.
Sending you all our love, thoughts, and prayers,
Wally, Val, Katherine, and Charlotte Long
I have been reading through this forum almost daily. It has been a source of laughs and cries for me, a source of fond memories of Pete and painful reminders that he is gone. I have tried to write in several times but I haven't yet found the words before I find the delete button or tears cloud my vision. I never got to know Pete as well as I would have liked and never spent enough days climbing with him either. I did consider Pete a friend and also a role model, a mentor and an inspiration. I feel lucky to have known Pete, I am a better person as a result. I, for one, am not worried about forgetting about Pete, he has made an indelible mark on my life. I first met Pete when he was my instructor on a NOLS course in 1993. I was instantly drawn to Pete's energetic personality. Even though he was the instructor and I was a student he always made me feel like a valued expedition member. While I was constantly in a learning role around Pete he always treated me more like a peer and an equal than just another NOLS student. That was a gift Pete had to make everyone around him feel valued and appreciated. After I returned to NOLS, I was fortunate enough to get to know Pete in a different capacity. He was a supervisor, a friend and a climbing/boating/skiing partner. Boating? We had heard lots of stories about Pete climbing, skiing, biking, hiking, and even hunting so I thought I would share a story about Pete the boater. Kayaker to be specific. I had some pretty enjoyable runs with Pete. One weekend up in Cody on the South Fork of the Shoshone stands out. Pete was a natural but he was also a novice. He was a natural novice whose potential was only curtailed by the time he was willing to devote to paddling versus all of the other loves in his life. I'll never forget the wild eyed look as he charged through a challenging rapid, or the grin turning into a huge smile after a successful combat roll. Pete pushed himself at everything he did, but he was always calculated, he never took unreasonable risks, he was always aware what his number one priority was in life. And that Priority was to always return home and share his day with the loves of his life, Molly and Avery. I always respected Pete for that. His utter devotion to his wife and family, into making his and Molly's relationship strong. He was and will remain a relationship role model for me. It seems so unfair for a man whose priority was to always return home to be killed by a thrown rock. For Pete to be doing everything right. I suppose we can take a small amount of condolence from the fact that Pete was having an amazing day in the mountains, climbing, doing something he loved with a good friend and that the end for Pete was sudden and painless. Life isn't fair. Molly and Avery I don't even know where to begin in offering you two my condolences. I know that Pete meant infinitely more to the two of you. I hope my memories and fondness of Pete will help ease the loss you feel and will continue to feel on the long road ahead. We can only hope that time will ease the pain to a dull ache. That each day will get a little easier and when you think of Pete is can always be with a smile. He was a great man. Trevor
It's morning in Minnesota. Our son was to have returned from his Alaska NOLS course this morning, but came back to be with us in Lander. Then our wonderful idea was to drive our son, Chris, back to Denver via Lander so he and Pete could visit and talk about what proved to be the experience of a lifetime in Alaska.
So, I'm going to light a candle tonite and still share about Alaska.
We love you Pete. May you be with us always as we pick up the pieces little by little each day. We miss you so....
I'll always remember Pete as someone willing and eager to give good advice and support to climbers of lesser ability. His presence was a positive contribution to my visits to Seneca Rocks. My thoughts are with you and your daughter.
I'm in Finland with my sister Sally. I'm torn about being here—my first thought was to escape Lander and the ghosts for a while to try to come to terms with my new life, but now I feel so very far away from all the people who knew and loved Pete that it is very hard to be away. I recognize most people have finished posting here, but I have come back again to try to help me cope. Thank you all for your memories. I just wish with all my heart that we could bring him back...
Molly and Avery- continued thoughts and prayers for you both- When asked if I knew Pete shortly after his accident, I was both pleased and honored to say , yes- even though it was only once- I love being able to say it- yes, because I was able to personally experience one time a glimpse of what others got to experience over more time as evidenced by so many thoughtful heartfelt posts. Sad because with all my NOLS connections, it won't be more often. but I do hope to cross paths with you and Avery again-
Be well, Molly, as you figure out just what that means to you now....
so sad. can't possibly understand something like this. in the end all we have to show for our lives is those we loved and those who loved us so pete clearly lived well.
as a climber he was always "just around the corner" in my early days. moving way too fast and elegantly to be spotted in the wild. i would always know that he was living in a sphere that i could admire, fantasize about, but never travel in.
i admire him for following his bliss in life. we most acutely feel the loss of those who have truly lived.
First, my condolences to Pete's family during this difficult time.
I am a cousin of Pete's mother living in Boulder, CO. Since I've seen such an outpouring of support for the family, for everyone's information, I'm copying the following article which appeared in yesterday's Boulder paper. It gives an update of the investigation into Pete's accident.
By Bob Moen
Cheyenne, Wyo. No criminal charges will be filed against a man who threw a bowling ball-sized rock over a cliff, hitting and killing another man climbing below, a prosecutor said Friday.
Fremont County Attorney Ed Newell said a number of factors went into his diecion not to file criminal charges, including the fact that drugs and alcohol were not involved. Newell has refused to identify the man who threw the rock, saying only that he recently returned from military service in Iraq.
Pete Absolon, 47, died instantly when he was struck by the rock Aug. 11 while climbing the Leg Lake Cirque in the Wind River Mountains near Lander, 220 miles northwest of Cheyenne. Absolon was the Rocky Mountain regional director of the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander.
Newell said Absolon's widow has the option of pursuing a civil case.
The man, who had no prior record, was hinking with several others on top the cliff when he threw the rock weighing about 15 to 20 pounds over the ledge and down a sheer rock wall, Newell said.
"He had no idea that there was anybody below," Newell said.
The man then leaned over and saw the rock hit Absolon, immediately calling his friends for help and running to the bottom of the cliff to check on Absolon, Newell said.
"He could have easily walked away, and it would have been assumed that the rock had simply fallen due to natural causes," Newell said.
In making his decision not to file charges, Newell cited the man's remorse and said he took responsibility and cooperated with investigators.
Still, Newell said throwing the rock over the ledge without checking to see if anyone was below was "crmininally negligent or reckless."
"Mr. Absolon died needlessly, leaving a wife and young daughter to live their lives without his love and support," Newell said. "We all need to understand that a moment's carelessness can kill."
I took a long walk up the Middle Fork trail this morning and was overcome with sadness over Pete's loss and pain over Molly and Avery's insurmountable grief. It was warm, but there was a hint of fall in the trees and sky. With a view of Lizard Heads peak in the distance, I looked down and saw elk tracks, really BIG elk tracks. And, it made me even sadder to think that Avery would not get the chance to go hunting with her dad. And then, I actually caught myself smiling because I remembered that Avery had gotten to go hunting with Pete. There was the time in fall 2001 when Pete and I found a herd of elk in a big meadow by Dickinson Park and, being tired and unprepared, never got a shot off. Pete told me later that week that he drove back there the next day with Avery, left her in the truck, ran to the meadow to see if the elk were there, and then, freaking out about leaving Avery, ran back to the truck. I'm not sure if he ever told Molly about that one, but Avery was just fine. Then, the next year when the 3 musketeers (Pete, Gary, and I) failed on our antelope hunting expedition, I guess Pete decided Avery would be a better hunting partner. They drove up by Atlantic City, Avery proudly riding along according to Pete, spotted an antelope, killed it and returned home to show Molly. So, there you go Aves. You are indeed the experienced hunter of a very proud dad!
I am very sad to have missed out on the privilege of knowing Pete, and I have never met you, either. But I just wanted to add my words of sincere sympathy to all of those written and spoken before.
Even though you may feel every one of the miles between you and that amazing community of friends and family that you are a part of, please know that you are right there in their thoughts and hearts. Their memories of Pete, and their love for him and you will always be there to share and take comfort in, no matter where you go in your life, long after the postings here have stopped.
I want you to know that I have taken a lot of inspiration from what I have learned here of Pete, and the life that he shared with you and Avery. Please know that from this, even a stranger can be inspired to re-examine his life and remember to live every day with passion and energy.
I wish for you peace and healing, more and more each day.
dear molly, lander is still here and we are all still with you, even across oceans. the memories and stories of pete, and the sadness of his loss, are still here as well. he is not forgotten. we send you all of the love and peace and hope we can find between lander and finland...
Everyday I read these posts, it is amazing to see the outpouring of love from the people that Pete encountered throughout his rich life. I lit a candle tonight for Pete, I like the idea of that ritual.
Tomorrow our season at NOLS SW starts. It feels strange to be so far away from Lander, and to start our season without Pete. That might sound strange but Pete was an integral part of my first year down here. Frequently I would call him for advice and he always took the time to coach me through hard decisions or just listen to my ideas. He was always excited to chat and help me problem solve even if he was super busy. I loved that when I called he would say "Hey buddy". I can hear it now, "Hey buddy" in the silly way he would say it. I know as our fall season moves into full swing Pete will be with me. Although when I am stuck and need advice I wont be able to call him, I will still be able to say "What would Pete do?". And I know he will be there in spirit helping me along.
At the memorial I was hanging out with Aves and we were looking for some items she had miss placed, it seemed that when we would find one thing she would discover something else was missing. She looked to the sky and said "Oh Daddy, you're playing tricks on me!" I had to hold back my tears because it was simultaneously very sad and beautiful that Avery and all of us now have to redefine how we have Pete in our lives. Beautiful because he will always be with us in our own special way and at the memorial it was apparent that Bravery Avery had her Dad by her side, looking over her, always with her.
It is amazing to read this blog and see the evidence that Pete continues to inspire and motivate people even after his death. What an incredibly powerful example he has set for us all. Tell Avery that our family will light candles for Pete too. We will look forward to hugging you both when the Seneca Rocks gathering happens. We will be in touch.
All our love,
Maura, Gene, Philip and Kate
I can relate somewhat to your feeling of being far away from those who knew and loved Pete, but also know and love you!
The attempt is to live in the present, to try and calm the mind, the thoughts....the struggle. To do things that help ground me to the present, i play with amos for kids are most often living in the present moment, i do yoga and sit for that grounds me further, i focus on the breath, feel the sun...
Nurture yourself in all ways possible, walk, look around you, enjoy nature, maybe there you will feel closer to Pete and others...
Journal and see if writing will help clear the mind.
take good care of yourself, be gentle, cry when you need to
much love and blessings to you!
I have been waiting to post a message here. Waiting for the right words or understandings or moments or insights... Needless to say, those have not come and I am still in shock that this has happened. I think about you daily, Molly, and you as well, Avery.
Arya can tell you from her 4-year old brain that Pete died, and that sometimes Dad's die because Pete was Avery's dad. In some ways I think it makes more sense to her. Life just is. Some of it is hard, most of it is great!
I am so grateful that I knew Pete as a friend, parent, co-worker, climbing partner... I know that the community will be okay without Pete, but different. Molly and Avery, I know that you will be okay without Pete, but different. I am sad that this is the reality. I send you my love and support.
Glad to see you are still checking in on this forum. I have been thinking about you a ton, at quiet moments taken out of my day, at wild busy moments taking the rope up there, and many more.
I hope you know that the Teton Valley crew is with you, around you and behind you. We'll come get you this winter and surround you with love, laughter, and fresh powder as much as we can.
I have a photo of me and Pete, bouldering in the Little Sandy drainage, in front of me on my desk.
So many funny memories of him, of you and Pete and me... driving home from Rob/ Kathryn's wedding at Jackson Lake Lodge, of Pete calmly talking me through how to break into my truck after I locked my keys in it, then shattering the wing window with the 2 butter knives- remember that one!And a few of us waiting for Pete giggling at the bottom of some ski run up on Togwotee Pass.
Love to you and Avery- see you when you come home to the Greater Yellowstone.
Here are a few things that thinking of Pete have inspired me to do since I left Lander last week.
• Called a couple of old friends that I had not talked to in years just to say hello and get re connected (how I regretted not doing that w Pete )
• Took a day off of a busy work schedule to take my kid on a hike she had been after me to take her on for more than a year (we had a blast)
• Out of the blue, helped some younger members of my company with some work – ala Pete.
He had an impact on so many of us – I guess the best way forward for us is to figure out how to incorporate some of what made him a great person into what we do each day
thanks to everyone who has written and continue to write on this blog -- especially those who have provided updates -- I find myself almost addicted to this forum ... coming back nightly to close out the day. ... Molly, I hope you and Bravery Avery are able to find some times of joy in Finland ... I know Pete is so joyful you are there with Sally to share her wonderful day. Candles are lit in NJ ... Love always ... Martha (Absolon) Delehanty
For those who might be in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area on Saturday, November 10, 2007...there will be a Catholic Mass said for Pete at Our Lady of Grace Church 5071 Eden Avenue Edina, Minnesota 5:15 pm. You are invited.
This special Mass is being offered by my husband, Bill Herber's Family.
I come to this thread at least twice a day. From the first word I heard of Pete's passing, my mind swirls back into him, and I imagine what life is like for Molly and Avery.
I really want Finland to take them to a place where their hearts get to breathe for a moment. From my distant perspective, I can't imagine a more fortutious bit of travel on the heels of something so hard.
Maybe I shouldn't have written in again, but I just wanted to let you know Molly, that I am also lighting candles at night for Pete, you and Avery. For some reason, everytime I strike the match I think of two things...first -- I remember Steve Madsen getting really mad at me for some 'transpo' violation and then, I think of that day in the Absoraka's when we all sipped tea from the little stainless steel thermos before skiing off the ridge and down into all those damn snowmobile tracks. The view of the Tetons was what everyone who lives in Wyoming would expect -- fantastic. My feet were cold as heck, no one fell, and we all celebrated another weekend of backcountry skiing in the big empty. As I recall Pete was my 'spotting' partner along with Johnny K. in case I got buried. I can't imagine a better pair of people to have on the other end of avalanche trancievers than those two.
I am so glad people are still checking this site because it was so helpful for me to come to it today and hear from people... I have these moments where I feel like I've been punched in the stomach and I cannot breath when I realize Pete is gone forever. I am just so scared and lonely and Avery is both a great source of strength and work. She is happy and having fun and I need to be strong for her. But I also need to be weak and grieve.
Why don't they release the name of the rock thrower? Does anyone else think that is strange? I have been so angry by the subtle implication that Pete was engaged in a risky activity and that his death was just one of the inherent risks of that choice. Even the juxtaposition of articles in last week's Casper Star Tribune ("Rock thrower won't face charges" next to "Risk Takers") seem to reinforce this subliminal message that Pete was a risk taker and that this rock thrower was just a young guy doing what young guys do... oh and we should all feel okay about it because he did the right thing by admitting he threw the rock, and because did two tours of duty in Iraq. I appreciate that he did the right thing, but I think he should be held accountable for his actions nonetheless. Or am I acting like the deranged widow (which I am) and simply being irrational? What would have happened if someone was siting his or her rifle and shot and killed someone, even if he or she did not face charges, wouldn't the name be in the papers? Don't people throwing rocks look first? I know Pete did.
I am ranting now. It is raining and cold but beautiful here. I miss you all. Thanks for those of you who continue to post. I feel the connection....
It is good to be able to "talk" to you now. I have come back to this site at least once a day since the memorial service. That service was amazing. I am glad you are with family in Finland. I will be thinking of you when you return home to Lander. I cannot imagine your exhaustion, and yet, you are still so articulate with expressing your emotions. I think that will help you and Avery a lot as you grapple with this over the years.
I have called several old friends from Berkeley and from other past lives of mine just to say hi. I even called some friends locally whom we always say we will get together with. We have made plans to get together, finally. I have hugged my family a little harder and longer and more frequently everyday.
I have thought about you frequently and I hope you find peace as you mourn the loss of Pete. I can only say how sorry I am. It seems so random and senseless. I have thought about the thrower and how stupid it/he was. I do not know why they would not release his name. I am not sure it would help make the act any less unimaginable or easier to cope with. It is harder that this was at the hands of someone else and not an accident or mishap. I cannot believe how one stupid act has changed so many lives forever. If only...
My heart breaks for you and Avery.
My love goes out to you.
We miss you so much here. I'm really sad today. I spent the better part of last night looking at the slide show from the memorial over and over again. I love looking at Pete's eyes and seeing your smile.
Is there a phone number that I could call you in Findland? If so, send me the number and the best time to call you. I don't want to be a pest or a way too needy friend. My email is .
I keep listening to the music from the slide show or looking at pictures of Pete around our house (I'm not sure I can look at the slide show right now...) or trying to come up with ways of helping you and Avery even though that is mostly just to help me feel like I'm doing something productive and not just drifting through the days, feeling so sad and alone. I can't even think who to call... (virginia woolf: "but one only woke people if one knew what one wanted to say to them. and she wanted to say not one thing, but everything...").
sending you both lots of love and thanks to everyone who keeps posting here, I too keep coming back to it in search of comfort.
I was cleaning up my office a few minutes ago and found your letter and picture collage from this spring. I was so happy to find it as last week as I searched for it I feared I had thrown it away. It is now on the wall next to my computer where I am looking over you and Avery and of course Pete. My favorite picture is the one of Pete with his hands raised next to Avery in what looks like a cheer for some kid at the playground. I am simultaneously very sad when I look at the pictures of you all and also grateful for the times that I shared with the two and then the three of you.
I was mad too the other day when I read the article about the rock thrower. Why indeed? Although a name won't change things it somehow feels like it might add a layer of reality to the situation which I think would help in the grieving. Molly it is absolutely ok for you to be and to feel any way you do right now. I am here to help in any way I can and am anxious for your return to Wyoming as you take your next steps. Reach out to all of us and know that even if you don't reach out we will reach in.
Lander is missing you and Avery. We think about you all the time.
Like so many people, I keep coming back to this site. It makes me feel a little closer to you and Avery and a little closer to Pete. From reading your postings, it sounds like it gives you some solace too.
You have been such a dear friend over the years. Your family has taught me a great deal. You all have been my role models for friendship, for climbing, for working and for parenting. I kept watching you and Pete and Avery to try and learn some of the secrets you all seemed to have found out about how to do all these things so well.
I hope some enjoyable moments have come your way on your trip to Findland.
I'm in the midst of trying to learn my new job at WMI and be productive. I just got my blood drawn to see if I have the West Nile. I'll know in a couple of days. I just had my exit interview with Bruce this morning. I'm trying to help Jacki keep from going nuts over Malaika's incessant nursing. In the midst of this I keep you all in my heart.
I, too, check this site daily and somehow get a strange 'fix' of comfort from it. I'm back in East Lansing, a place that still feels strange to me. But I'm taking a lesson from you and Pete - I need to more actively create my new community here, to be more generous and thoughtful (as the one man at the service also pledged.)
One the drive from Lander to Salt Lake, Diane and I called and talked to Hillary and Virginia. In Salt Lake, I spent a few hours with Susie. And then, after I got back to Michigan, Tom Post called to ask about Pete's memorial service. Your Kent family is rallying around you from afar and we're hatching our Molly Plans.
We're all here for you. We're all thinking of you. Near or far - doesn't matter. We're thinking of you and Avery.
I too end up here each day to somehow help me feel closer to you, closer to Pete and to all of the incredible people his life has touched.
I downloaded the beautiful black and white photo of you, Pete and Avery for everyone here in Alaska last night. We were all laughing/crying and ultimately fighting about whether or not Pete would want us to light a candle for him each day or if he would rather us shoot a gun itnot he air(Willy Peabody of course!)Pete is certainly laughing at us.
hey there dear molly and the rest of pete and molly's family...
say, i just got this gut feeling to come here today, and i read of your hurt from the rock-throwers name not being released... and the risk-taker stuff...
say, perhaps this may help some--dont know:
i have been listening to radio stations off and on in the evening... as i have no tv..etc... and it seem that there are folks out there that have had injustices and somehow--by SHEER gut and determination, they have pushed onward to contacing some kind of media that can help them, and let them tell their story... and in this way--shed TRUTH on who their loved one was, and that their name not be slandered... and, they have in this way, by talking on various talk shows (credible ones) about questions as to "why this, or that".... (course, one must ask and seek around and find credible talk shows to visit on) and, if you can even publish a book, with donation, or some other funds, and try the self publish way, you will have more to show of the credibilty of your husbands's work----or SAY, PERHAPS if you can even get folks from the work that he did, to come and talk with you, and stand by you...
or, if you are not yet up, to it, pray please pray for strength... the main thing is to get this OUT INTO THE OPEN, and not let it be forgotten.... folks should be accountable for their actions... rock climbing is by now a long established profession and past time---no one should be ignorant of what dangers can befall another, uder a cliff...whether that person is a climber, or even a walker--just below...
it is very hard, i really do know... but now is the time to pursue, but with a CALM heart, there is a way---you must find it, and i will be praying for you...
i have really seen folks, reach many others, and at least this may in turn shine more light on who the thrower was, and perhaps this will led to stricker laws, to save others...
you may power in your hands and in your heart that only YOU posess... write or call newspaper, magazines, radios, sponsors, or who and whatever you can think of.... famouse folks, perhaps, that may come to bat for you?....
maybe even famouse folks you dont know, that respect rock climging... i'm just taking shots in the dark here...
i willl keep praying for you and your family, love so much, neebee--just an ol' mom and grandma that has seen a lot of unjust things in the lives of my friends....
hey there molly... say, as to the city of landers... is this where you and pete lived, or were from?
is there anyway that the there is someone... or could you send out for sponsors or donations, as to someone making a huge memorial site, some kind of buiding, statue, etc... or anything dedicated to victims of such crimes... and also, towards his work--- and towards those that die needeless to purposeful-rock-throwing....
in this way, media attentions could be drawn to the dedications and you could push this very serious cause each year, and make it grow? ....
could there be some way to do this... this would help keep this in the news and keep folks to be warned that this wrong...
oh, well... just trying to think of someway to help you... will keep praying... one day, something will fall into place...
god bless, once again... ask the good lord to hold your hand and be the glory and the lifter of your head.... and to encompass you children... love neebee... who is very sad for your loss....
Once again I find myself here at this site, missing you and Avery, missing Pete and just feeling so sad. I keep listening to Calling All Angels from the slideshow... and then I cry some more.
I like reading what people have written again, especially now that I've met so many of them and can see their faces as I read. I'm so glad that people keep writing and sharing their stories. You and Pete have both touched so many people's lives, which sounds a little hokey, but clearly it's true.
I love you-
Cornelia (Molly's older sister)
thanks for the contact. Since I can't access my email here, this is a way for me to maintain some connection with Pete and my community, and I miss you all.
It is interesting to be around Avery. Pete is still very present for her in a way that can be tricky for me. She is happy and easy in her adventures right now. I'm much sadder, slower, heavier in my heart and it's raining and cold... So sometimes her joy can help me and at other times it is hard for me... Those times when I need to be sad and cry.
Dear Molly and Avery,
It has been almost a week since I left you two. I miss you both very much and think about you constantly. Christina and I lit a candle for Pete the other night and we both cried. I am glad you have Avery. Those days I spent with you two were sad and wonderful. I wish I could give you both a big hug. I hope to see you sometime soon.
I am finally getting around to posting what I read at Pete's memorial. It has been hard for me to come back to this site. I miss him very much.
I am honored to be able to stand up in front of so many who loved Pete and tell you what he meant to our family and me.
Somebody asked me today what Pete was like as a brother in law. All I can say is he was great. He was like taking all of the qualities I would want in a best friend and making him family.
Yesterday, our families had the chance to gather and talk about Pete. In a moment of silence, with my eyes closed, I saw Pete's face and it comforted me. And being in this canyon today among these rock walls, surrounded by friends and family, I know Pete is with us. I look forward to seeing Pete in Avery as she grows from a little girl into a young woman. And the next time Molly and I venture out on a ski, Pete will be with us.
I had many firsts with Pete. I would guess there are several here today that could say the same thing. For me, these included my first lead climb, my first backcountry ski, and my first big summit climb. What struck me most about these firsts was Pete's ability to give so much of himself freely and with such joy. I sensed that Pete not only enjoyed the adventure, but also the opportunity to share the time with me.
Pete always seemed to be willing to give so much, whether it was the gear somebody needed, or the right sequence for the climb, or even making sure he brought the keg for the family ski vacation. Pete had this quiet ability to know what was needed in a situation, often before any of us did.
Over these last few days while sharing stories and memories of Pete, I have learned something about myself. I have learned that I can practice thoughtfulness and generosity, which came so easily to Pete, and does not come easily to me. This is what Pete has left to me in his dying.
To you Molly and little Aves, I know that there are lots of firsts to come, many that you never counted on doing without Pete. I will be there with Avery and you for some of these firsts and I know that many of your friends and family here today will be there for others. We will provide you with all of the love and support we have.
And finally to you Pete, your work is not done. Fall is approaching and I know you have not forgotten the importance of Sundays. Maybe you can use some of your newfound pull in getting our Cowboys back to the Super Bowl!
I love you.
hey there all... say, i lost my post, so this may go twice, or not ... not sure...
say, there, crock... say, thanks for posting this link for everyone, and for molly....
say, as to the statement of this young man:
"You just wish there was something you could do to help them," said Aaron Rodolph, his eyes red and his voice cracking. "And you know in your heart there is nothing you can do."
PERHAPS he would be the the one to start looking into and finding a way to make a building, or monument dedicated to Pete, and these folks that have DIED needlessly in these ways... it would then be seen statewide, to keep a light always shining in the eyes of the public, so that this warning will live on...
as folks can forgive, and need to forgive, so thus, the good book ALSO says:
bring forth FRUIT with your repentance, and if this young man is truly sorry, it would be an equal deed to do all he can in his power--which would NULLIFY his "nothing you can do" and turn it into something that MAY help safe other lives, by informing the neglegent tendencies of man/woman/kids as to being responsible for their actions.... like: no man is an island.... actions connected, by the waves they stir, moving from one body, to another....
only the future will tell, if Pete's lost live can help others have a better chance than he did---it could be done....
will this young man that caused his death, dare to try to help his widow... perhaps would he even dare to try to help with a college fund for the kids left behind...
dear lord, as we pray, a sincere repentance, could bring this fruit... only time will tell, and molly will be the one to see...
god bless all... i did not mean any harm to anyone saying all this... but some kind of seeds need to be sown, from this sorrow...
***if the young man involved does take to read this--please understand--this kind of memorial MUST be done, with all glory and honor going to the INNOCENT and the loved ones lives to be spot-lighted... not the one that needs to help, from a damage caused... (said in kindness)...
*also, perhaps you could set aside time to go and travel to national parks, schools, colleges, etc, and do public service to speak on this issue, and carelessnes, etc--this, too, may help save lives... god bless, if you should endeavor to do this, as it fits the situation, as to widom....
I knew Pete as a friend, mentor, supervisor, and climbing partner up in Sinks Canyon. His energy was inspirational; his grin and wry sense of humor always cheered me. I remember Pete often showing Avery off at work, or taking her up to Sinks and setting up the rope swing. Watching him with her made me long to be a father. A group of folks would rendezvous up in Sinks in the afternoon, and we'd take turns spending time with Avery while Pete climbed or belayed. She seemed so comfortable up there, hanging out with the friends of her father and relishing the opportunity to take a pendulum on the rope swing.
I first met Pete when he was the assistant director of the RM. He welcomed me into NOLS, and into the climbing program. I remember talking to him at length after my first mountaineering course; he was so psyched for me. Then I got my first chance to climb with him and was amazed watching how fluidly he ran up the rock. And how happy he was doing it. He was in his element. I climbed better with a Pete belay. Somehow his energy rubbed off on his climbing partners, and helped them climb better and enjoy it more.
At one point, when Pete was in the staffing office, NOLS started doing criminal background checks. There was uh..."something" on my record that we had to discuss. The nature of the "something" was somewhat humiliating, yet nonetheless it was easy to talk to Pete about it. Of course, every now and again, Pete would tease me about it in an entirely appropriate way that made both of us laugh. He was like that...you could share yourself, both the proud moments and maybe the not-so-proud moments, with Pete and it just felt good. He cared very much for the people in his community.
The service for Pete was incredibly beautiful and terribly hard. It was tremendous seeing so many people come together to remember a great human. Thank you for organizing the service, everyone.
I'll miss Pete. He was a "staple" in my life--one of those people you count on to be there, that I saw infrequently but looked forward to seeing every time. I'm so sorry he's gone, but I'm so glad he lived an amazing life. He deserved it.
Molly and Avery, I think of you at least ten times every day. My heart is broken for you. If there is anything that I can ever do please let Jess and I know.
I learned this news the night before leaving for our own trip to Scandinavia - Norway - and posted a fast note just to get some of the disbelief out. Now I've had two weeks to process and I have more thoughts, Molly. You and Pete were two people who I looked up to for years, first when I was the kid working at the climbing shop and then when I was a seasonal employee at NOLS. You probably don't remember me, and that's fine with me. But please know that you made an impression.
In June 1997, I sat and ate lunch at the Noble with Pete and some of the other RMB summer staffers. We talked about - duh - climbing. Climbing in Sinks Canyon. Climbing in the Winds. And finally, climbing in the Tetons. He talked vividly about The Grand, describing in detail both the Exum and Owen-Spaulding routes. He gave flawless beta, down to advising extra caution while climbing the icy chimney where Alan Bard died just days later. I sat in rapt attention, listening to this man who so clearly loved mountains. Ten years later, I realize that the thrill of sharing the mountains with others meant as much to him as experiencing them himself.
I read the interview with the rock thrower. I'm sick to my stomach. That man will have to live for the rest of his life with the knowledge that one stupid impulse took Pete from you and Avery. I cannot imagine his suffering any more than I can imagine yours, Molly.
You have spoken of your fear that Avery will forget Pete. Impossible. None of us will.
know no other way of getting in touch right now....
know that i think of you so many times every day i can't count them...
you are being held and loved by so many and right now by me....
From AP today
Veteran remorseful for throwing rock that killed climber
Originally published 02:01 p.m., August 29, 2007
Updated 02:01 p.m., August 29, 2007
CASPER, Wyo. — Tears in his eyes, an Iraq war veteran recounted for the first time publicly the desperate remorse he felt after tossing a large rock off a cliff that killed a climber below.
“I’d do anything to change it,” 23-year-old Luke Rodolph said Tuesday.
On Aug. 11, Rodolph was sitting on the rim of a canyon with three others when he picked up a 15- to 20-pound rock the size of a bowling ball and looked over the edge. He said he didn’t see anyone below.
“I picked up a rock and threw it off,” he said. “Looked over just a little further to watch it fall, see where it was going to hit, you know, kinda leaned out further than what I was comfortable with normally, and watched it hit Pete Absolon.”
There was no time for a warning, Rodolph said. He said he didn’t see Absolon, 47, until the rock struck him in the head.
The group called 911 on a cell phone, then rushed down to Leg Lake Basin. Steve Hirlihy, a National Outdoor Leadership School instructor, had been climbing with Absolon, the school’s Rocky Mountain director, and asked Rodolph and his group what had happened.
“Luke looked him dead in the eye and said, ‘I threw it,’” said his brother, Aaron Rodolph, who was with him. “I’ll never forget, as long as I live, that Steve looked Luke dead back in the eyes and said, ‘I forgive you for that’.”
Absolon, who had a wife and daughter, had been climbing with Hirlihy along a new route up the cliff face of Leg Lake Cirque in the Wind River Mountains near Lander.
“It’s unbearable for them to have to go through this. It’s my fault,” Luke Rodolph said.
He stayed with Hirlihy and Absolon’s body in the basin overnight while the rest of the group went back to their campsite.
“Steve and I just talked for a while, sat around the campfire,” Rodolph said. “I told him I’d go into town with him and talk with the sheriff and give him a statement, and whatever happens, happens.”
The morning after Absolon’s death, Rodolph and Hirlihy hiked out of the area to Lander. Later that day, Rodolph spoke with Fremont County Attorney Ed Newell and an investigator before returning to his home in Casper.
Absolon’s body was recovered the same day.
Eleven days later, Newell announced that Rodolph would not be charged. He cited several factors in his decision, including the fact that Rodolph took responsibility for his actions, was extremely remorseful, didn’t intend to cause harm, had no criminal history and served in Iraq.
In an e-mail to the Casper Star-Tribune, Absolon’s widow, Molly, said she didn’t have a comment on Newell’s decision not to charge Rodolph.
Gary Wilmot, an instructor at the National Outdoor Leadership School, said that while he feels compassion for Rodolph, throwing a rock from a cliff is irresponsible.
“We recognize that he is hurting, but we are also working on filling a big void in our community and a family here in Lander,” Wilmot said.
When I told my son about Pete's death he got pretty angry and said how bad this was. I pointed out that "WE trundle rocks sometimes" and his quick response was "Yeah, but we make absolutely positively sure that nobody is on or under the cliff, every single time. No exceptions." He's 12.
I think Luke Rodolph ought to make a documentary to post on Youtube that says exactly what he did, that it was reckless behavior, and what the horrible consequences were. Maybe that will temper some kid's judgment some day and save an innocent victim.
I don't care how many tours he did in Iraq. I expect a veteran to be calm, cool and collected and not to do stupid stuff like this.
I'd also like to thank the guy for finally going public and actually apologizing. But don't expect to get invited to dinner or anything.
Dear Molly and Avery, we visited Lander for the first time this August. Our daughter is attending the first class at Wyoming Catholic College. Because the students were taking a 21 day trek through the Wind River Mountains led by NOLS, we stopped at NOLS on August 7th to get a first hand look at things. Though Pete was with some visitors from an outside agency, he came up to us, introduced himself and gave us a guided tour. He listened to our questions and took the time to answer every one. At the end of our visit we asked what role he played at NOLs and we were amazed that someone in his capacity would take the time that he did with us. He then told us about his daughter, Avery. We are deeply saddened by your loss. Please be assured of our prayers for you and Avery and the NOLS community. Wallace and Katy Boever
Molly and Avery, I keep coming back to this thread over and over and it's taken me this long to write someting, to write anything. Still I can't find the words to write what I really want to say to both of you, and to Pete, so I'll just have to tell a story for now, another story of a trip into the mountains with Pete. Our objective was the South Buttress Right on Mt. Moran in the Tetons. We started by paddling a decrepit inflatable kayak across Leigh Lake that leaked and listed badly to one side. In what must have been a comical scene we arrived at the mouth of Leigh Canyon, two thirty-something men and a bunch of climbing and camping gear sitting in an inflatable boat really meant for one person, up to their waists in water. Pete just chuckled, it didn't seem to matter at all to him that the thing might not get us back across the lake, we were already where the climbing was, we could worry about getting back later.
The next day was classic Pete, early start, brisk pace on the approach, Pete brimming with energy. Of course he offered me the lead when we got to the crux pitch but ultimately it was Pete on the 5.11a tips lieback, oozing water, tenuous smears on polished rock, and only a couple small TCU's for pro. And of course he made it look easy. I was pretty psyched that I only fell once following. Pete's only critique of the route was it wasn't long enough.
We did manage to paddle back across the lake in that stupid inflatable kayak and got stormed out of the mountains the next day but before we got back to Lander we'd climbed a few routes on Blacktail Butte and some other crags, there was just never enough climbing in a weekend for Pete.
Pete, rest easy my friend, we will take good care of Molly and Aves. We miss you.
Molly and Avery, We are here for you now and will be here for you in the days ahead. don't hesitate to lean on us, we need you too.
peace, love and strength to you all, you are in my thoughts constantly. Michael
hey there all... just a small note, as to roxjox post-- this is a very kind and humble thing that one could and should choose to do for a family... in the good book, it is mentioned as well...
i must share, but just as bit, as i seek to be polite to all... but i did get a note in my email from a friend of the man involved, politley mentioning that i may have posted to harshly, as to the "restitution" --as if i did not believe the young man had sorrows, too...
i am sorry if he felt that i had judged him--i did not mean it to sound that way, as no one can-or-should judge the inner heart of a man--BUT:
i did judge rightly, that a repentative heart, DOES find a way to bring forth GOOD fruit, as to making a change in the wrong that was done... this is only true and just before god and man...
i did reply as kind as possible--i still feel that it is proper, though, when one does face their actions with sincere sorrows, to REACH OUT to help "pave the way" for others in the future by doing something to "seed" some kind of "good to come" from the wrong... (this does not mean they have to contact the sad family, etc, as this may not be proper, etc....but i mean it as to helping others NOT make these mistakes..)
if it appeared that i "threw a rock" on an innocent party below me, i do appologize and i will not speak more on this issue--BUT:
i do still STAND by my words, as i have seen healed lives come out of helping the future of others to take better courses.... and wisdom, does bring forth fruits to TEACH others of good ways to walk in... that is why we teach our children to take care in their dicisions, etc... how else will folks learn...
and lastly, i too, do forgive the young man, AS he wondered if if was able... forgiveness is very special to god...as the good lord has forgiven me, when i gave my heart to him...
bringing forth good fruit, by repententive-sorrows, is never wrong... i truly will pray that someday, that there will some kind of proper, good, teaching-memorial to keep this in the eyes of others--this is too dangerous and wrong to be ignored...
other good issues in life, regarded teaching preventative safty, concerning all kinds of sports, situations, etc, all becuase someone cared to reach out....
Like so many I have returned to this forum repeatedly but keep not finding the words to express myself.
So hard to accept the facts of this accident.
I remember one winter as a newer instructor working a winter course with Pete and Molly. It was a delight to observe their married teamwork and a fun trip. Another time on a personal trip with Pete in the Tetons in winter we had just climbed Teewinot and were hiking across a plateau heading towards Mt. Owen. The wind was just cranking. Pete the veteran, I and another climber psyched to be included. From time to time I was asking Pete questions about my upcoming trip to Denali's West Rib. We came to a committing, critical rappel. I kept waiting for more experienced Pete to say something as we went about rigging it. Eventually I wondered aloud about the high winds, we discussed it, and we all agreed to bail. It ended up blowing 100 miles an hour that night. What I most remember about this was even though Pete had more experience and was in an unspoken sense the "leader" of the excursion, he waited for one of us to open the weather discussion. At the end of the trip, I asked Pete if he had any Denali advice. "Just keep climbing and making decisions like this weekend and you'll do fine on the West Rib" was his confidence inspiring answer.
Over subsequent outings both personal and professional I valued Pete as a leader, skilled outdoorsman, and example of how to conduct oneself with integrity and good humor.
What a terrible loss of a fine man.
I am thankful for my experiences with Pete.
Molly I wish you strength.
I wanted to let you know that I sent an email to you yesterday via Sally’s email address. I am thinking about you, Avery and Pete all of the time. I am filled with such sadness for all of you and your families, but particularly for you, my very dear friend. I wish that I were there in Finland to give you a big, long hug, but I’m not, so please know that I am sending you all of my love, prayers and hugs. I too keep coming back to this forum, and am glad it is able to provide some small comfort during such a sad time. We said a prayer for you, Avery and Pete in our church in Boulder on Sunday – I cried for all of you.
I wanted to say to any reporters reading these posts that this forum has provided and continues to provide a place where friends and family can grieve, remember and comfort one another for the loss of a wonderful human being. And while this is an open forum, I think it is important to be respectful of the purpose of this forum and to not publish any of the comments in this forum unless you obtain the consent of Molly, her family or Pete’s family. Enough said.
Molly, all my love and prayers are with you, Avery, Pete and your families.
Seneca crew - a bunch of us are heading to Seneca on October 11th and will stay through the weekend. This is the only time I/we have to make the trip. If anyone else is going to be there that weekend and wants to toast a few to our mentor Pete you’ll find us on the Front Porch.
Wow. Molly, we've never met but please know that I feel awful about Pete. Pete gave me a chance when I was just a kid, the punk who hung around at the Gendarme pestering all of the 'hardmen' to please go climbing. He was the guy who said "let's go!". We were never the best of friends, but I had, and still have a deep respect and admiration for him. What an unfathomable loss. I am so so sad. When I got the news, it felt like a punch to the gut. My Deepest Sympathy goes out to you and Avery. Sincerly, Eric Mix
I’m sure we passed like ships in the night. Here are some snapshots from “back in the day” for you….most are Seneca-centric.
I see Pete, one bright summer morning, drinking from a puddle near the Southern Pillar. Incredulous, I am informed that this spring is O.K…. Thereafter I referred to it as Pete’s spring. Gene would give me sh#t about this as we filled our nalgenes at the spring… accusing me of hero worship……in retrospect, may be so.
Mike Cote coasts into the Gendarme one hot afternoon and drops his pack with a resounding thump. “New route”, he says. “Where?”….”to the right of Terminal Velocity”….”Pete led it”….”how was it?” “a death route…small wires…not a chance if you blow it”
A cold morning, we descend into the Reflector Oven at the Rag. There is a skiff of snow on the ledges. Wide awake after the hideous hike and the morning bake, I am astonished to see someone on Krakon. It is Pete…..he’s in the alcove below the technical crux. He boulders up to the crack, down climbs, boulders up, down climbs….he is berating himself. He boulders up again and, reaching high, sticks a cam in the crack. Instantly, he flashes through to a friction stance 15’ higher…..I mean flash….. I mean in seconds…..just a blur of arms and legs. Later in the day, we pass……”2 ½ friend man, place it and your in there”. I remember being flattered from beta I would probably never use.
What is so rare as day in June…. On the east face of the South Peak, it is 3:00, the sun has crossed the fin….the rock is shaded but still warm. The sky is so blue, the valley is so green. We are working on some idea that there might be a line above Castor. I am slumped on a rock in a small cloud of weed, chalk, and garlic. Uncle Ed appears to be standing on nothing, well above the gear, as usual, “watch me” my gaze pans across Broadway as I look up….and, here comes Pete. He is slinging trees, marching forward, leading his clients to wherever. He pauses at my position, looks up at Ed, looks back at me, we smile, his that curious half-smile… and we say nothing. Nothing needs to be said.
I never knew Pete as a father, husband, Nols persona etc.. We all knew him as a climber whose physical and psychological skills were in a class that contained a very few people.
It should be some consolation to you, Molly, that chance killed Pete. IT would be truly unbelievable if poor judgment was the culprit.
The collective memories of the Seneca dogs, if focused, would almost generate a holographic image.
For those who are following the writings on this blog, you know that Pete's nephew, Chris Herber, attended the NOLS Semester in Alaska course this past summer. It was a highlight in his life. Pete chose the course and Pete was instrumental in chosing the instructors - it was fantastic! Chris wants more.....
Our sadness is not being able to talk with Pete about this life experience on our way to the University of Denver from Minneapolis as we were thinking that a Lander stop would be in order for some Uncle-Nephew sharing.
You will not be suprised to learn that Chris will be leaving for Mount Rainier next week for a mountaineering trek. He tells me he is trying to figure out a name for the expedition....stay tuned....& I have a feeling Pete theme will be a guiding light.