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Fallen hiker was an experienced climber

Veronica Whitney
Special to the DailyJiri Brazdil, 29, was an avid climber.
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Jiri Brazdil hiked and climbed with an ease that would have made mountain goats jealous. The 29-year-old Czech native was so comfortable in the mountains that he climbed barefoot most of the time, even over snow, friends said. One time, “Jura” Brazdil, an avid scaler of fourteeners who lived in Avon for the past four years, climbed – without ropes – the traverse between North and South Maroon Bells, one of the most technical routes among Colorado’s 53 peaks that tower over 14,000 feet.”He did it, but he said he wouldn’t do it again,” said Sharka Jajko as she remembered her friend on Tuesday. “He was an incredible climber and one of the most cautious people I know.”But as in many of life’s unfair turns, Brazdil didn’t succumb to the toughest climb. He lost his life after a fall Saturday while hiking in the Grand Traverse, which forks off the Bighorn Creek trail near East Vail.Freak slipBrazdil was hiking with his wife of two months, Valisa Higman, and Ed Chipman, his boss and friend. He was standing on a rock waiting for the others when it gave way, sending him over a cliff and down 150 feet.

“It was a freak accident. No mistakes were made by him or anybody,” Higman, 24, said Tuesday. “We were hiking down the trail, it was raining and snowing some. He climbed down a short, easy cliff. He was at the bottom standing on a big rock when he shifted his weight and the rock tipped backwards. “He fell a couple feet over a plateau, but then he bounced over a cliff and then rolled down over a boulder-filled area,” Higman said. “We heard him scream for help and we made it down to him very quickly.” Her husband, when they reached, was conscious and pretty lucid, she said. “Ed went down for help. A while after (Ed) left, I started screaming for help. Two hunters helped me, Tom and Ben, and a hiker, Carl, and his dog,” Higman said. “There were visible head injuries and he couldn’t feel his arms and legs.”While they waited for help as it got darker, Higman talked to her husband and held his head with her hand. “He was lucid for a couple hours, but he slowly stopped talking,” she said. “By the time the paramedics got there, he wasn’t moving and they couldn’t find a pulse.” In the end, Higman was by her husband’s side when he died.”He was an experienced mountaineer,” she said. “He had climbed for 18 years. We’ve done climbs 100 times harder.”

A National Guard helicopter also tried to rescue Brazdil Saturday evening, but he died before rescue workers could reach him, Higman said. Chipman, who has also climbed and hiked dozens of times with Brazdil, called the accident “a freak slip.””We were moving well on our way down, we were about five miles from the trailhead,” Chipman said. “Weather was moving in so we decided to turn around.”On Sunday, a horseback team from Spraddle Creek Ranch helped Vail Mountain Rescue reach Brazdil’s body. By the time rescue workers found the body on Sunday, there was a foot of snow on the ground, said Bob Armour, who coordinated the recovery for Vail Mountain Rescue.”From what I understand, it was a freak accident, bad luck,” Armour said.’A special aura’ Brazdil, a wood-cabinet maker, came to the valley from the Czech Republic four years ago. He had inherited one half of a house in his country, so he decided to come to the United States to work and pay for the other half.



“But he loved the mountains and stayed,” said Higman, who met Brazdil in Alaska in July 2003. “Jura had a very unique connection to the world around him. He embraced every moment and never lost side of what was important to him.” “He appreciated the freedom we tend to take for granted,” Chipman added. “He was a very special human being. He was always happy. He brought out the best in everybody. He had a special aura. “Here’s a guy I worked with 10 hours a day and here I was in the weekends with him, too,” Chipman said. Higman said she would like to thank Vail Mountain Rescue, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and paramedics for their help. Brazdil’s exact cause of death will be more clear after an autopsy is conducted today, said Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis.Remembering JuraFriends will be gathering at 6 p.m. today to remember Jiri “Jura” Brazdil at 19 West Lake Creek Road, Edwards. For more information call Ed Chipman at (970) 926-2855.Staff writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 454 or vwhitney@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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