Tough Truth of the Game We Play

RIP Steve Gladbach

RIP Steve Gladbach


It’s always the part we try to ignore. It’s always the part that we try to pretend it won’t happen to you and your friends. Time and time again though, it happens. Death is a part of life. It will happen to everyone but when a friends life is taken in the mountains, it’s different. It goes deeper then that, way deeper. They were playing the game you play constantly. So why them? In many cases when it was a good friend, you formed a bond with them. Not the sort of bond of a normal friendship in today’s society but one that’s sort of a “marriage” bond if you should say. You probably went through many hair rising situations where you are really trusting your life to that person and vice versa. You made life defining choices as a team. You either both make it out or don’t. When the type of situation happens where you both are scared shitless for a long time, then a lifetime friendship and connection is made. It’s a type of bond I’ve never experienced outside of climbing because the friends you might have outside of climbing, you probably wouldn’t be able to trust your life with in a true stressful situation. Sounds harsh, but true for the most part.

As weird as it may sound, it’s a deep friendship, that lasts. When someone like that passes, a piece of you seems to go with them.

When that’s taken away, you feel sort of lost and devastated.

The chase of the obsession with climbing seems to bring you to that point. You feel more lost the deeper you get into it, it seems. Chasing something bigger, harder, maybe more dangerous. But time and time again, does it really satisfy you? I mean really satisfy you? It does for those moments you realize you completed your goal only to have bigger ones sprout up. When you get down, you’ll have memories and pictures. And then you seem to just feel lost in the end. The fact that you may be a good climber means absolutely nothing in life. If you’re looking for constant happiness, this isn’t it.

With the death of a climbing partner, you’re brought back into reality, again, on the game we play. It can be a very cruel one. A deep passion that could take your life away. All those future memories with potential family, friends, experiences, adventure, could simply be taken away from one wrong small but big choice. A selfish pursuit chasing what you want and desire and risking it all for the sake of your passion. When you realize what you would be leaving behind, the hell you would bring to your family, it makes you think if this is really worth it?

I’m only 21 and I’ve lost 3 friends in 3 years. I don’t say that for anyone to feel sorry for me, don’t be. I don’t like being felt “sorry for.” There are plenty of other people facing way harder situations out there. I say it to state the reality of the dangers of climbing.

I know the risk. I simply choose to continue the legacy of my lost friends. It’s my destiny. Push on. Onwards. As safe and hard as I can.

So why not analyze the hell out of every accident that happens? So it won’t happen to you? I feel like others just do that to make them feel better that there closer to the “no risk” zone. There is no such thing in this world, especially in climbing. Sure there are some positives to learning from others but for the most part, the above is true.

We can either measure our risk with teaspoons, or go all out, as safely as possible, as we do just have one life.

It’s the game we play. We all try to ignore the bad side of it. But we face it again, and again.

Accept it and keep playing or ignore it and stop playing. Easy as that.

RIP Steve Gladbach
Thanks for your friendship, partnership, and mentorship. Thanks for helping me in some of the darker times in my life. Thanks for the encouragement and believing in me. Thanks for everything you did to make countless peoples lives for the better. For the times we shared the rope or a day in the mountains, thank you.


About Noah McKelvin

Never skip a day of living life
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