Climbing community mourns loss of former Aspen guide
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – The climbing community mourned the loss of former Aspen resident Heidi Kloos on Friday, after her body was found Thursday, buried beneath the debris of a large avalanche near Baldy Peak in southwest Colorado.
Kloos, 41, a former mountaineering and rock climbing guide with Aspen Expeditions, was scouting out possible ice climbs in a remote spot, southeast of Ridgway, when the snow broke loose from high above, according to friend Todd Rutledge, co-owner of Ophir-based Mountain Trip, where Kloos worked as a guide.
Friends reported Kloos, a Ridgway resident, missing after she failed to come home from the outing Tuesday. A volunteer search team found her backpack and dog Wednesday, according to Dominic Mattivi, Ouray County sheriff.
The team returned to the scene Thursday and, with the help of search dogs, found her body under about 10 feet of snow.
An autopsy was scheduled Friday.
The climbing blogosphere was quickly filled with remembrances of Kloos, whom friends described as a phenomenal athlete with a gift for helping others excel on climbing and mountaineering expeditions.
“I don’t know how many routes I started that she finished,” Rutledge said.
“Very talented, athletic, focused, smart, dedicated, determined … it just goes on and on,” said Bob Sloezen, an Aspen Highlands ski patroller and guide with Aspen Expeditions who, with Kloos, climbed 23,495-foot Pumori in the Himalayas in 2000. The expedition was part of a “Connecting the Classrooms” program sponsored by a gear retailer that provided educational lessons about Nepal and the expedition to students via the Internet.
“She was really quite an inspiration for a lot of women to start climbing,” Sloezen added.
Aspenite Cherie Silvera, an outdoor filmmaker who got to know Kloos through the climbing community, said her friend had a knack for helping people challenge themselves.
“I’m a pretty crappy climber, but I’m a good friend, so she humored me,” Silvera said. “That’s one of the qualities she had – she liked to drag her friends into the mountains and make us do hard stuff.”
“She was so strong and so positive. She had the ability to develop deep relationships with clients,” Rutledge said. “We got more rave reviews about Heidi than any other guide.”
Kloos grew up in Old Snowmass before her family moved out of the valley. She graduated from high school in Hotchkiss, Silvera said.
She joined Aspen Expeditions as a guide in 1997 and led climbs of area fourteeners as well as in the Himalaya. For Mountain Trip, her work included guiding trips on Denali in Alaska and Aconcagua in Argentina.
“She was awesome – strong, kind, loving caring. She was just a wonderful friend and wonderful guide,” said Paulina Vander Noordaa of Aspen Expeditions. “Definitely, she was our foremost female guide.”
Kloos had already done an ice climb with a companion earlier this winter in the area she was scouting on Tuesday, according to Rutledge. She had returned to look for other potential pitches, but wasn’t on a slope she would have pegged as dangerous, he said.
In fact, Kloos was, at heart, a cautious backcountry skier who used to joke that she wasn’t much fun on ski outings, Rutledge said.
“She had more than a healthy respect for slope,” he said.
The slide came down on a north-facing aspect, though the anticipated danger would have been on south-facing slopes, according to Rutledge.
“She never saw it coming, I would guess,” he said.
A memorial gathering is planned today at 1 p.m. in Ridgway, he said.
A memorial fund in Kloos’ name has been set up with the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program. The fund will help disabled athletes participate in a program she helped organize, in which they fly into Denali National Park and camp, ski and climb in the Alaska Range. Donations can be made to: Telluride Adaptive Sports Program, for The Heidi Kloos Memorial Fund; P.O. Box 2254; Telluride, CO 81435. Donations can also be made via an online donation form at http://www.tellurideadaptivesports.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.