JULIE CHENEY CULBERSON
One of America’s most loved and respected alpinists, teachers and guides was lost on August 9, 1993 when Julie Culberson was killed in a climbing accident in the Canadian Rockies. The loss to her husband Matt and to Julie’s family is the greatest of all but it is a tribute to her that many others have had such a hard time adjusting to her absence. Death is always hard to accept, but when it occurs to someone young, it contradicts what we understand about life’s natural process.
Julie’s premature death is all the more difficult because of the very particular person she was. She had abilities in many areas, from research and writing in the sciences to being a great teacher and an outstanding climber on all media. She was one of the most accomplished mountain guides and led a remarkable number of courses and climbs throughout North and South America. She led scores of high-altitude expeditions; many of these trips included new routes and first ascents. Every client she guided on Aconcagua and McKinley reached the summit and returned healthy and happy. All her mental and technical acumen was just part of the story of who she was. Beyond all that, she was kind to an unusual degree. She was sincerely interested in other people; she was happy with whom she was and didn’t have any need to promote her ideas on people.
Despite all that, she had a huge impact on those around her, and the wisdom and confidence about life that she exuded made people want to know her ideas and get her perpsective on things. Certainly, part of the attraction that all her clients and friends felt towards her was the enthusiasm and optimism that she brought to most all situations. She typically turned difficult times into challenge, adventure or at least irony and she turned normal times into blasts of fun and enthusiasm about life and the world. As much as she achieved as an individual, she was probably best loved and will long be remembered for what she brought out in the people around her. Patience, good will towards others and the ability to be enthused about and appreciative of the regular parts of life as well as the special ones. It is awful to lose her, but that we knew her is our great fortune that will last through our lives.
A scholarship fund has been established in her name with the American Mountain Guides Association (710 Tenth Street, Suite 101, Golden, Colorado 80401.) The Julie Cheney Culberson Scholarship Fund is being used to assist women climbers seeking to join women-driven expeditions or who want to enter or further develop their abilities in the profession of guiding.