Pete Absolon, 1960-2007

Publication Year: 2008.

Pete Absolon 1960–2007

On August 11, a hiker trundled a rock that killed Pete Abosolon, 47, as he was climbing a new route in Leg Lake Cirque in the Southern Wind River Mountains.

Though born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Pete spent his childhood in Texas and Maryland, and graduated with a BA from George Washington University in 1983. He promptly put his geology background to work, becoming a climbing guide at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. There he met his future wife, Molly Armbrecht, while climbing. Pete was known as “the first climbing guide” at Seneca Rocks. Pete established a number of difficult, bold routes at Seneca including The Viper (12b, PG), Projected Futures (12b), Icing on the Cake (11d, PG), and Terminal Atrocity (10c, X).

Molly and Pete married in 1988. They moved to Lander, Wyoming, in 1990 and began full-time work as National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) field instructors. The following decade was filled with journeys of all kinds. Pete climbed and traveled extensively: from Alaska to the Karakoram, the desert southwest to Yosemite, and across the Canadian and U.S. Rocky Mountains. There was hardly a place he didn’t explore with a rope, in a boat, on a bike, or on foot. Accompanying him on many of these trips was Molly, an accomplished writer, skier, climber, and mountaineer.

Pete helped shape wilderness education throughout his adult life, first as a mountain guide and climber and later as a NOLS instructor. His reach in outdoor education grew substantially when he took on broader, supervisory responsibilities; he was the director of NOLS Rocky Mountain when he died.

Pete was a dedicated and talented climber. He trained hard and climbed often. Needing a training facility in the small town of Lander, he convinced his local climbing partners to “invest” in his 20-foot high garage gym. Pete did the research and planning to give each of his adventures the best chance at delivering the most climbing for the time available, and he was generally the source of motivation in any partnership. He was safe and deeply experienced. When you climbed with Pete, you always climbed at your best. He bred confidence.

In September 2000, Pete and Molly embarked on their greatest adventure yet: parenthood. Avery Absolon, almost seven years old at Pete’s death, brought awe and joy to Pete’s life every day. Even as a toddler, Avery was an enthusiastic and skilled participant in the family outdoor pursuits. She loved skiing, climbing, fishing, hiking, and biking with her Dad. She also drew Pete into her own special world where he happily participated in elementary school activities, and put on his dancing shoes for special father-daughter dance recitals and practices. Daysat the crags now included entire worlds for the woodland fairies and Avery’s imagination. Having Avery did not slow down or alter the Absolons’ joyful, active lives. They continued to pursue their dreams and interests and simply expanded their incredible world to include this bright, energetic, and beautiful daughter. They became an ever-closer unit. The name Absolon conjured up not one face, but three, like a wonderful team.

In addition to Avery and Molly, Pete leaves behind his parents, Mary and Karel Absolon of Rockville, Maryland; sister Mary Absolon of Edina, Minn.; sister Martha Delahanty of Long Valley, New Jersey; and brother John Absolon of Rockville, Maryland; as well as an extended family who loved him very much. Pete was preceded in death by his brother, Fritz Absolon, of Rockville, Maryland.

Liz Tuohy, Aileen Brew, and Phil Powers