I met Debbie when she joined the Annapurna IV 1996 Memory Climb in the fall of 1995 at an organizational meeting at my house with her son Zach. I was very impressed that this woman considered climbing mountains so important that she was willing to involve her child in the activity. We saw each other at least once a month from then on, on our training climbs. She inspired everyone with her coolness in tight situations, her helpfulness, and her ability to get along with all of us. She was a joy to have on this climb.
The last time I saw her alive was at Camp I on Annapurna IV, two days before she died. We were sharing a particularly beautiful sunset over Manaslu. She turned to me and said “This is why we climb, for moments like this.”
Debbie graduated in 1985 from Columbia University in Columbia, Missouri, with a degree in Wildlife Biology. She moved to Colorado in 1989 with her husband, Chuck. They had a son, Zachary, in 1995. She worked for the U.S. Forest Service, including the Trails and Maintenance Department and Timber Management Department. After the Annapurna IV climb was over, she was scheduled to finally work in the field she was trained in, doing wildlife management in Eagle. She was also a firefighter for the Forest Service and held the title of Wild Land Fighter, being called to work in the forest fires that happen every summer. She trained to be a crew leader for a firefighting unit. She was a volunteer firefighter for the city of Glenwood Springs. She was also a volunteer for the CMC, helping primarily with the newsletter.
Debbie loved to climb. Chuck supported her fully in this activity, even though he was not a climber himself. He told me not too long ago that “You’ve got to do what you love while you are in this life.” He, Debbie, and Zach spent a weekend at my house packing our food for this expedition. Chuck and Debbie were the most enthusiastic, performing this thankless task. They both had a deep reverence for the outdoors in general, sharing activities of fishing, hunting, backpacking, and skiing.
Debbie began her climbing career when she moved to Colorado by climbing the 14ers. She had completed over half of them this year, when she and Rich Davidson climbed San Luis Peak with Zach in her backpack. She progressed to the Mexican volcanoes, which she climbed twice, in 1990 and 1993. She summitted McKinley in 1992 via the West Buttress route. In 1993, she reached the summit of Aconcagua, climbing solo. She took time off to have Zach, and got back into climbing soon afterward, first joining the 1997 Firefighters on Everest Expedition and then deciding to do the Memory Climb instead. From the notes in her journal, we found she was already planning her next climb in Canada in 1998. She had recently become interested in ice climbing and rock climbing.
Debbie and Rich are buried in a beautiful location on a hilltop at the foot of Annapurna II, Annapurna III, and Annapurna IV. We will miss you, Debbie. You will be remembered.
Debbie Marshall-Rich Davidson
October 4, 1996 We love you
(Inscription etched onto an aluminum cook pot lid marking the graves of Debbie and Rich at Annapurna IV Base Camp.)