Blog: In Memoriam

Drew Hardesty

Summer's eve,                                   

how can falling ice

have broken my

favorite walking stick?

Utah Avalanche Center forecaster Tom Kimbrough's tribute to colleague Seth Shaw who was killed in an ice fall in Alaska May 2000.  It was around Memorial Day.

An open letter to Barbara Rand, Robin Davenport and the friends and family of Kip Rand

Dear Mrs. Rand;

I never met your son, but I feel like I knew him all the same. I too was hired as an avalanche forecaster when I was 29 years old. This was long ago, but in some ways it feels like yesterday.  I can easily imagine his joy with his new job.  He must have been so in love with the world.  I can also imagine him on his long day in the mountains on March 8th.  A good friend in town, them sharing something good and lasting that really is the essence of life.  

The news of Kip's death must have been immediately crippling and I cannot imagine your grief.  He was not the first avalanche professional to die in the mountains nor, I am sure, will he be the last.  I have had my own scrapes and close calls with avalanches and represent the experience of the majority in our field.  We have a profession that involves risk and we need to spend time in the mountains and in the snow for credibility and legitimacy in providing the safety information to the public that is the avalanche forecast.  

I know that there is nothing I can do to mitigate or lessen your grief, but I want you to know a couple of things.  First, the type of incident involving his cornice fall can be viewed as an act of God.  No legitimate accident report could, in good conscience, find fault or contributing factors in leading up to the incident that day.  In the summer I work as a mountain rescue technician in Grand Teton National Park and I often hear people asking about the injured or the deceased.  "Were they in over their heads?  Were they taking too many risks?"  Most of the time, I attribute it to bad luck.  Rockfall, a minor slip on wet lichen, a moment's inattention. Kip's fall through a cornice that pulled 15' back from the edge fits well in this category. 

Secondly, I want you to know that Kip was involved in important work.  Avalanche forecasting saves lives.  A few dozen people die in avalanche-related accidents in North America each year.  And while it's difficult to quantify how many people make good decisions based upon the avalanche information they have, we know that people every day throughout the world value and hold in great esteem the avalanche forecast that they've come to rely upon each morning before they head into the mountains.  Please remember this.  

Lastly, I want to say that I am sorry for your loss - all of our losses, really; because after all, Kip was one of us.  


Drew Hardesty

Forecaster, Utah Avalanche Center


Kip Rand, the forecaster for the Wallowa Avalanche Center, was killed in the Wallowa Range of eastern Oregon on March 8th, 2016 while on a traverse of Sacajawea Peak, Hurwall Divide, and Chief Joseph Mountain.  It was relayed that he was out while on a day off.  I didn’t know that avalanche forecasters ever had days off especially when they’re in the mountains. 

You can find more information here.  http://www.wallowaavalanchecenter.org/kip-rand 

Thanks Drew for your commitment to the profession and your sincere concern for all of your colleagues and all of us out there in the backcountry.
Guy Evans
Sat, 3/26/2016
good stuff Drew...
Chris Cawley
Sat, 3/26/2016
Good words. True words. Healing words.
Peter Kaufman
Sat, 3/26/2016
<p>Thanks Drew, it is good for all of us to pause now and then and think of the ones we lost too early. &nbsp;The top of a powder run is a nice place to do it.</p>
Sun, 3/27/2016
Drew, Your letter is not only touching and thoughtful, but meaningful. An “act of God” makes sense to me. He had certainly reached a kind of pinnacle that day and his face, in Ben’s photos, was completely radiant. I will remember your words, “… that people every day throughout the world value and hold in great esteem the avalanche forecast that that they’ve come to rely upon…” Yes, Kip was one of you, and we’ll all get to meet again on the top of a mountain, in a more ethereal form. Amen!
Barbara Rand
Mon, 3/28/2016
Your words offer comforting information and healing. They made me think of Leonard Cohen's song, "Come Healing." Thanks.
John Woeste
Sun, 3/27/2016
Your words offer comforting information and healing. They made me think of Leonard Cohen's song, "Come Healing." Thanks.
John Woeste
Sun, 3/27/2016
I don't know any of you but if I were the mother of that child, I would be so grateful. So, thank you for a beautiful post. Nothing changes the outcome but kindness eases the pain. Thanks.
Maggie Laun
Sun, 3/27/2016
Well done Drew. I know if this was my family, your perspective and thoughtfulness would help to ease the grief and bring some understanding. RIP Kip
Eric Gustafson
Mon, 3/28/2016
Thank you for the kind words. Kip truly loved his job and sharing his knowledge with others. We all loved skiing with him. I miss his insight, passion and love.
Amy Busch
Mon, 3/28/2016