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Ryan’s extraordinary story of endurance and survival began with a weekend climbing trip, and ended in a fight against death.
Ryan texted Dave, his dad, to tell him he was going on a two-day climb of Pyramid Peak in the Elks Range near Aspen, Colorado. He told Dave his return time was 8 p.m. that Sunday – if he wasn’t back by then, something had gone wrong. By 7 that evening, Dave says, “I was starting to get a little concerned because he always comes back hours before that time he gives.” His roommates hadn’t heard from him either. “I got a sinking feeling in my stomach,” says Dave’s mother, LaShawn, “Because he is never late.”
The sheriff’s office said it was too dark to start a search that evening. The next day, search and rescue teams went out, “But they couldn’t send out a full-fledged team because this blizzard had come in.” LaShawn and Dave immediately headed to Aspen to be on hand when Ryan was found.
“By Tuesday morning, we were a wreck,” Dave says. At this point, Ryan had spent two nights out in the bitter cold, with temperatures around four degrees. “When I heard they had found the snow cave with his gear in it, I just lost it,” admits LaShawn. “It seemed to me he had to be dead.”
But Ryan had survived! Now he tells the story of his fight for life. He was traveling solo and knew a big storm was blowing in on Sunday afternoon, but “That’s why I was shooting for an early-morning summit, to avoid the big storm,” he says. He spent the night camping near the summit, then headed for the peak early that morning – he was 40 or 50 feet from the top.
“And then all of a sudden, it was all going to hell,” he says. Something collapsed beneath his feet and Ryan was plunging down among the steep drop-offs….