Look Past The Landing

Too many mothers have lost sons on the Flatirons. This morning we took our son to the accident site.

Friday, after my accident review, I was pretty p’d off with Andy.

Saturday, when I wrote about wanting to blame someone… it was because I spent the night before blaming Andy.

By Sunday, I was able to shift my focus to something useful. I asked…

How’d this happen?

Let’s start with that question.

The goes way back to something call the Turkey Problem.

The turkey is good every single day until just before Thanksgiving… then it gets chopped.

Most gamblers have something in common, early positive feedback with risk.

Andy had a lifetime of strongly positive feedback (aside from two knee surgeries, a broken ankle and waking up at the base of a tree with a separated shoulder). He saw his injuries as a cost of doing business and handled them with grace.

Andy was in fantastic shape, looked really good and enjoyed the outdoors. Andy’s life worked for Andy. I respected his right to live the way he wanted. In many ways, he was an ideal brother-in-law.

Like all of us, his attitude was influenced by feedback on his choices.

Lots of positive feedback.

A key difference between me and many around me… I’m OK with providing direct, negative feedback.

Something I tell my kids, people can get away with a lot of bad choices on snow. It’s a forgiving medium. I say this when we see people doing silly stuff in avalanche terrain. For all the wacky stuff we see… very few folks actually die.

Rock is much less forgiving and it’s RIGHT THERE in Boulder.

Walking out my door, I can see multiple accident sites by spinning my head 180-degrees. On foot, I can get to Andy’s accident site in half an hour.

My kids are going to have opportunity, and access, to the mountains.

So, as a parent, I need to look deeper.

I need to look to the root causes of faulty thinking.

What else does it take?


To kill yourself you need peers who think unacceptable risks are acceptable.

This summer Andy (briefly) fell out with my wife when I forced her to choose between: (a) allowing our daughter to ride technical mountain biking terrain with him, and (b) following my wishes.

My wife never told her favorite person in the world it was my decision behind the scene. I’d spent enough time with Andy to be very uncomfortable with his definition of reasonable, especially for a kid.

I am smiling right now thinking about kid-Andy.

The vision I have in my head… he’s on a Big Wheel, sending a huge ramp with a massive smile on his face.

Hair flowing behind him, full of joy.

It’s a good way to remember him.


I absolutely respected Andy’s ability to make his own choices. It was his risk evangelism that bothered me, to the point of stepping in.

Andy would be happy he didn’t take anyone with him. I know he truly didn’t see the risks he was taking as unreasonable.

Andy would want me to apologize to the college kids (who gave CPR to a dead man) and first responders (who cleaned up his bloody accident scene).

Andy didn’t think past his landing – a lesson I’ve been teaching my son since we started skiing extreme terrain.

A teaching I pass to you right now => Think Past Your Landing

14th out of 731 athletes on the segment that killed him. “Cat Food” is deeply missed. The day he died was his second fastest time up the Flatirons Freeway. The app on Andy’s broken phone tells us, “Take 2:31 off to earn the crown.” There are some games you don’t want to play.

This year, Andy decided to add climbing to his routine.

Eight weeks after setting his speed record on the Second Flatiron, he fell and died.

Locked down due to COVID, then driving past the Flatirons on the way to work… I understand why he wanted to climb.

Heck, I want to climb too! 🙂

But I don’t.

Tribe => I choose mine wisely. One of my kids is hysterically risk adverse – I love her for it and I need her in my life.

Turkey => I read about disasters constantly. 14er Disasters, SAR Biographies, Mountaineering Biographies (3rd link is a book that contains a story about a teenaged fatality on the Flatirons).

Same deal in finance and investing – I read about ruin. I write about ruin. I search for, and teach about, ruin!

I rarely watch video but, before each winter season, I watch clips of skiers being caught in avalanches. The goal is to scare myself and make a remote possibility seem more salient.

It’s a bit like watching Shark Week before a beach vacation.

These techniques work.

Like I said at the start, I reviewed the accident site.

Unfortunately, there’s not much to see up there. Andy climbed to a spot that was above his skill level and fell.

However, as a parent, there is a lot to consider.

How can we create an environment where our kids have the capacity to avoid needless death, while enjoying a life with meaning?

This morning, I started with my son.

At the base of Flatirons, I described Andy’s last climb (start to finish) and told him, “Andy did not need to die.”

Then we hiked up to the accident site while brainstorming factors that led to Andy’s death.

  • No partner
  • No rope
  • No traction
  • Unaware of conditions above him
  • Climbed past his bail out points
  • Lack of skill to down climb his route
  • Moving fast in consequential terrain

As we walked back down the trail, I planted a seed.

I’d really like you to join me at my 75th Birthday. We’ll hit the buffet then smash some bumps together.

We have so much left to do.

Give yourself a reason to look past the landing.

So much left to do.