Expert climber dies after plunge

Ice climber Jack Roberts

Nationally known ice climber Jack Roberts, of Boulder, died of a heart attack Sunday after falling 60 feet on the Bridal Veil Ice Falls east of Telluride.

San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters reported early Monday that the 58-year-old man died after plunging from the falls at about 12:20 p.m.

Roberts is known nationwide in the ice-climbing community as a guide, instructor and author, said Clint Cook, director of San Juan Mountain Guides.

“He was a super-experienced, top-notch climber for sure,” Cook said. “He’s been around the climbing community for years. He’s done all sorts of hard climbs. He’s been active as a guide, and was just here at the (Telluride) ice festival doing clinics.”

Masters said Roberts suffered what appeared to be a hip injury after the fall, but was stabilized by his climbing partner, whom he didn’t identify. Roberts died of an apparent cardiac arrest, however, before rescuers could reach him.

“It’s 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,” Masters said. “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.”

Eighteen San Miguel Search and Rescue Team members responded to the incident, and spent about 40 minutes trying to revive him with CPR. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

It took several hours to recover the body.

Cook said Roberts recently taught an ice-climbing course in Telluride. He has climbed just about everywhere, from Alaska to Argentina, and several locations in the Alps, according to his website, He was author of “Colorado Ice,” a 2005 book on popular ice-climbing locations around the state, and had climbed for more than 40 years.

Over the years, Roberts has had numerous articles and photographs published in national climbing journals and magazines.

In a March 2009 YouTube video about climbing Bridal Veil, Roberts talked about how difficult it can be.

“It offers the climber the opportunity to climb just about anywhere on its surface, and experience climbing in a very unique and special way that becomes more personal than if you’re on the rock,” he said.

Cook said the waterfall, which is 365 feet high, is considered one of the most challenging ice climbs in the nation.

Despite that, however, he said it’s not overly dangerous.

“Even when you do everything right, bad things can happen,” Cook said. “It’s kind of shocking, someone with that level of experience to have something like this happen. It’s a real tragedy to lose him.”


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