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Stewart Green

Climber Jack Roberts Dies After Ice Climbing Fall in Colorado

By January 17, 2012

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While driving across Colorado today, I heard on the radio that an ice climber had died after a fall on Bridalveil Falls near Telluride in southwestern Colorado. This evening my friends Cliff Powers and Brian Shelton with Front Range Climbing Company called me and said that the climber was our friend, colleague, and fellow guide Jack Roberts. Jack, who owned Jack Roberts Climbing Adventures guide service, also ran a lot of climbing trips for Front Range Climbing in northern Colorado.

Jack Roberts, a 58-year-old climber living near Denver, Colorado, was simply a living legend. Jack was a great ice climber who had climbed frozen waterfalls and ice chutes and big mountains all over the world in his 41-year climbing career.

I have always respected Jack for his skill at climbing that frozen white stuff, but I think I respected Jack more for his superb rock climbing skills and all the great ascents he made, especially back in the 1970s. During that time, Jack, a southern California rock jock, made the second ascents of a bunch of hard Yosemite big walls--Mescalito, Cosmos, Tangerine Trip, The Shield, and Zodiac on El Capitan and Tis-sa-ack up the middle of Half Dome's Northwest Face.

On Sunday, January 15, Jack Roberts was climbing Bridalveil Falls, an almost400-foot-high (150-meters) Grade 5 ice route up one of Colorado's biggest waterfalls. Jack, in his guidebook Colorado Ice, which details most of the state's ice climbs, calls Bridalveil Falls, "A climb of legendary stature and beauty" and "A Colorado and indeed an American classic."

Jack was leading the second pitch, a long steep pitch up a pillar on the right side of the falls, when he fell 60 feet about 12:20 p.m. Jon Miller, his belayer and a guide for San Juan Outdoor School, called to two hikers below. They summoned the San Miguel County Search and Rescue group, who responded with 18 rescuers.

San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters said the location where Jack fell is"not easy to access. You have to traverse the canyon and a fair amount of ice to get there, and we had to access it all by snow machine. The fellow he was with did the best he could. (Roberts) was conscious for an hour or so, but his injuries were just too severe."

The Telluride Daily Planet reported on the accident: "...the victim, who had fallen to the end of his rope and hit the wall, had managed to place an ice screw in the route so his partner could lower him onto a shelf...As the SAR workers were taking Roberts off of the shelf onto which his partner had belayed him, he began experiencing shortness of breath and went into cardiac arrest. A paramedic treated Roberts unsuccessfully for 40 minutes, using an AED, CPR and cardiac medication."

Jack had a possible broken hip as well as internal injuries from the fall. The Telluride Daily Planet also reports that Emil Sante, San Miguel County Coroner and a member of the SAR team, "thinks internal bleeding may have played a role in his death."

Sante told the newspaper, "This had nothing to do with the ice conditions. This was a fall, and he wasn't the kind of guy who fell, so we're investigating how it happened. He said himself that he didn't know how he fell. We have a few ideas about what may have contributed to the fall and the speed of his death, but they're just hunches."

Jack Roberts resided in Boulder, Colorado. His wife Pam Roberts was traveling in Cuba this winter while Jack was spending much of the winter ice climbing in southwest Colorado.

Deepest condolences from both myself and all our guides at Front Range Climbing to Pam and the rest of Jack's family. We're going to miss Jack's infectious enthusiasm for climbing as well as his smile and Hawaiian shirts.

Photograph above: Jack Roberts was a skilled ice climber, alpinist, and rock climber. RIP Jack...we're going to miss you. Top Photograph Claudia Lopez Photography. Bottom Photograph courtesy Jack Roberts


January 17, 2012 at 3:30 am
(1) Michael Cook says:

Very bad luck. Deep condolences.

January 17, 2012 at 10:23 am
(2) Tim says:

Very sad news. My deepest condolences to all that where close to Jack.

January 17, 2012 at 11:44 am
(3) Coeur d'Alene Sara says:

So happy that we had the chance to see you again in Bozeman, Jack! Our condolenses to your family. This is what he loved doing, always a warm, calm smile on his face!

January 17, 2012 at 12:37 pm
(4) muriel sharp says:

Pam, we are so deeply sad and sorry for your loss, your mate of many many years. Our love and thoughts are with you

January 17, 2012 at 1:01 pm
(5) Ann says:

Jack had the courage to live, experience and share all life had to offer him, and so changed the world all around him.

January 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm
(6) Chris Pond says:

I worked with jack many years ago near Eldo, he took me climbing once and I never stopped. He had a huge heart and a bigger smile. Sorry to see you go.

January 17, 2012 at 6:53 pm
(7) CKM says:

I was fortunate to climb and learn from Jack in Ouray just a week ago. His skill, passion & experience were evident. I have a wonderful picture of us grinning ear to ear as the slush turned to fluffy Colorado flakes. Deepest condolences to his family.

January 18, 2012 at 4:10 pm
(8) Jill Lawrence says:

I am so sad to hear this news, deepest condolences.

January 18, 2012 at 8:56 pm
(9) Marcus Taylor says:

I had the opportunity to climb with Jack in the Khumbu during the winter of ’83-84. He was an inspirational partner to inhabit the roof of the world winter.

My sincere condolences to Pam and his family.

I will never forget him.



January 23, 2012 at 1:16 pm
(10) Kaveh Ashkeshi says:

Hi, This is a very sad news.

May God rest his soul in peace.

Best regards.

Kolakchal Mountaineering Group

Iran – Tehran – Kaveh Ashkeshi

January 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm
(11) Pat Craig says:

This is very sad news .I went all through school in Santa Monica CA with Jack ,he was a great friend and will be missed. We all talked about climbing but he did it. Rip old friend..Regards …Pat Craig

January 26, 2012 at 12:56 pm
(12) Thornton Paxton says:

Pam: I was shocked when my grandson, Thomas,told me your husband had been killed in a climbing fall. Jean and I send you our condolences in this loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to you and we hope to see you in the near future. We didn’t know of Jack’s prominence in the climbing arena. He has an awesome record. Hasta luego, Pam.

January 26, 2012 at 8:36 pm
(13) Ron Jones says:

Pam, Carol and my hearts go out to you. So sorry for Jack’s accident. Let us know if there is anything we can do for you. I remember Jack from your master’s party. Take care and know our prayers are with you everyday. Ron Jones

February 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm
(14) Janelle Ehrich says:

So sorry to hear of Jack’s death. We lost our son and his friend in an ice climbing accident as well. I am sure he was doing what he loved. It seems ice climbers and outdoor sports enthusiasts are never more happy than when they are out there experiencing their passion. My condolences go to his wife, friends, and family.

February 5, 2012 at 10:22 am
(15) Scott Earnest says:

I am so sorry to hear of this terrible loss. My very deepest condolences to Pam, and the rest of Jack’s family. Jack was a legend, and one of the best there was. The climbing community was blessed to have had an ambassador like Jack, his legacy will certainly live on.

May 4, 2012 at 4:40 am
(16) free word search maker says:

What an awful tragedy((( Such a respected person! My deep condolence…

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