A letter too late

Dear Allison,

I met you almost a decade ago at the Ouray Ice Festival.

In a room full of fleece and Schoeller, you stood out in tight jeans, a halter top, and glitter. Lots of glitter.

While anti-social climbers jockeyed for position at the bar and avoided eye contact with girls, you owned the dance floor, your energy and excitement feeding the band, which played long after its scheduled set, just so you'd keep dancing.

I knew a little bit about you--you ran 100-mile races, you paddled huge rivers, you climbed three Black Canyon routes in a day, you were recently divorced--but nothing could have prepared me for your joyful, loving, warm presence.

You were unlike anyone else.

Years later at the Southern Sun, you'd just returned from a ski trip to Mongolia--Mongolia of all places--and you held court with tales of approaching peaks on horseback, sleeping in dung-fired yurts, and drinking yak butter tea.

Gross, I thought, in admiration of your healthy sense of adventure. As we drank beers and split cheese fries, you told me I should join you next year; you said you couldn't wait to go back. You thought it was paradise. I couldn't imagine such suffering.

You manifested strength and drive, but you were vulnerable, too, and sensitive. Life wasn't always easy for you --in fact, you faced and cleared plenty of obstacles. But you never seemed to dwell on them--you never let them stop you from seeing that even the most painful moments could be made better with a smile, a peek on the bright side, and a dash of sparkle.

Your wardrobe remains legendary for its feather-to-fabric ratio, its sparkle, its flair. In the first yoga class we took together, you turned heads in a miniskirt, sparkly hot pants, and a tube top. A tube top. A foot taller than everyone else in the room, you turned heads, too, because you were so incredibly beautiful, and you stretched into even the toughest poses like you were born to them.

One day, in the Wasatch backcountry, we got a little lost (you being brand new to the area and me with a worthless sense of direction). A storm was rolling in, limiting our visibility on the side of a peak facing a strange drainage.

I panicked (it's just what I do), but you pulled on a warm layer (hot pink, trimmed in fake fur) and said, "We'll get a better sense of where we are from the top. I'll break trail."

And off you went, setting a skin track steep enough to make the boys proud. I tried to keep up, alternating between being impressed and wanting you to slow the hell down.

You were right. We got a visual at the top, and, confident of our location, you dropped into the bowl arcing perfect turns, hooting gleefully.

Driving back down the canyon, I was starving, freezing, and exhausted. All I could think about was a hot shower and food and the couch.

You had other plans.

"I'm gonna take Dulce for a run, then go to yoga at 5:30. You in?"

Allison, I thought you were unstoppable.

It breaks my heart that you were stopped last week by an avalanche on Split Mountain. You were with your Kip, and I'm certain you were being safe; you fostered such a healthy respect for the mountains.

It was just one of those freak things no one could have predicted, but it seems so wrong; you weren't done--you were just getting started in this life.

I saw you for the last time in Boulder. We ran into each other by chance at Illegal Pete's. Johnny had just died, and we talked about how special he was, how, when he talked to you, he made you feel like the only person in the room.

That's just it, though, Allison -- you did, too.

Even through all this heartbreak and sadness--for you and for the myriad people who loved you--I have such gratitude. I'm grateful that I knew you, that I got to laugh with you, to follow in your joyful, glittery wake on mountain adventures.

Thank you for being a role model and a friend and a constant inspiration. Thank you for teaching me that you can always go on, that you're never too tired, that a smile transforms a room, that strong is beautiful, that you can always be friendly, that love is paramount, that glitter makes everything better.

I love you, Allison. RIP.

Your friend forever,

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