"We were in the process of setting up a short haul to put Luebben on a backboard and a litter. Just as we rigged the helicopter Willie phoned and said that Craig had died. He had been complaining of back pain and loss of sensation to the legs. We were all shocked because he had initially survived"
The quote above was from his climbing partner Willie BenegasA guy I crossed paths with briefly twenty some years ago died from falling ice last week. He was local to an area of Colorado roughly an hour away. Sounds as if he had some time to collect his thoughts I hope.
Photo by Craig Luebben
The circumstances where I crossed paths with Craig are kind of unusual and maybe that's why the name rang a bell after all the years. Craig took the photo above, it's of me, we came at best within 50 meters of each other. (I'm in yellow and blue, my partner Randy is in red)
Craig and his partner had a fairly big lead on us that day, we were on Yellow Wall and Craig was on Pervertical Sanctuary, both climbs on the Diamond Face of Longs peak. My partner, a fellow named Randy, and I were climbing very fast and in a few pitches we were almost level with Craig. It was then that he shouted across, took the photo above, and I got his name and the town he was from. From there it was pretty easy to track him down and get a copy of the slide. Remember at that time all photos were taken on this thing called film, there was no such thing as digital.
Craig was very excited to be climbing that day, probably he was happy to climb most days. He shouted of the great weather, the rock, our speed, and so on. A very happy fellow on a nice day in the mountains. After telling me he'd send a copy of the slides if they were any good we didn't see any more of him. I got cramps above in a hand crack pitch of Black Dagger (I think that's the name, memory you know)
It seemed unusual to be making conversation across a hundred and fifty feet of air that way, with thousands of feet of nothing below and above. The Diamond being a fairly flat wall gave the impression of a world turned ninety degrees on it's side. We saw no one else on that side of the mountain.
Craig had just developed a kind of expanding tube chock to protect wide cracks and was known around the inter mountain region. They are the lightest wide crack protection to this day. Craig wasn't simply a wide crack climber. He pretty much did it all. The Diamond tops out above 14,000 feet and is slightly overhanging for it's entire thousand feet. When combined with it's 600 foot of approach, east and slightly northern aspect and the technicality of it's climbing the Diamond gives committing free climbing in an alpine setting.
Craig if you're reading this from on high and you remember, I'll leave you with the same request I gave to Charlie on this blog. Save me a cold one I'll be right there. RIP