Family say there is no better resting place for the Salem climber who fell on Mt Jefferson
Steve Van Pelt fell while descending Mount Jefferson on July 23. His family said he had achieved the life he dreamed of and the mountain was a suitable tombstone.
Steve Van Pelt and his wife, Katelyn, at Yosemite National Park. (Photo courtesy of Van Pelt’s family)
Steve Van Pelt’s family said there were many lessons to be learned from his apparent death, but avoiding risks and staying out of the mountains is not one of them.
Last week, Linn County Search and Rescue on July 29 called off the search for Van Pelt, 33, who fell while descending Mount Jefferson on Friday, July 23.
Relatives have described Van Pelt as an adventurous spirit who thrived in the great outdoors.
“Outdoors Steve found absolute peace and enjoyment. He never stopped being amazed by her beauty or looking for new ways to explore the world. He couldn’t understand why his friends and family preferred board games and cafes to hiking, rock climbing, swimming and more. Whatever the season, whatever the day, he wanted to be outside, âhis family said in response to questions from Salem Reporter.
His goal was to create more intimate friendships. During the pandemic, he and his wife, Katelyn, met two other young families at their climbing gym.
Families formed a pandemic social bubble and took climbs, hikes and camping trips together.
On July 23, Van Pelt was with one of his best friends when they climbed Mount Jefferson, Oregon’s second highest mountain at 10,495 feet.
The pair have climbed Mount Hood, Mount Adams and the Three-Toed Jack in recent years before making their way to Mount Jefferson.
Julie Medina, Van Pelt’s sister, said he was in seventh heaven that day over Jefferson.
âThey were going down when his friend saw Steve slip and fall hundreds of feet. From the way he fell, we know his end was immediate, âshe wrote on a GoFundMe page intended to raise money for his wife’s expenses.
Medina told Salem Reporter that both men were experienced athletes, but “as those who know the mountain know, accidents like this just happen.”
The Linn County Sheriff’s Office announced on July 29 that it had suspended the search for Van Pelt after calling mountain rescue teams from across the state to help them.
Linn County Sheriff Jim Yon said a significant amount of resources had been spent in locating Van Pelt and continuing to search for him would have put additional lives at risk.
“Resources, including six mountain rescue teams, have taken great risks in the search for Van Pelt over the past few days among the extreme mountainous terrain with glacial drifts, rockfall and debris,” Yon said. in a press release on July 29.
Van Pelt’s family said she grew up in rural Mendocino County. He and his beloved friends had fun jumping off the cliffs into the lake with their clothes on fire, electrically braking in our church parking lot, creating 50 foot ropes at the bottom of bridges, “experimenting” with dry ice, doing a lacquer flamethrower, wrestling in the mud and karting in the pastures after a good rain.
They said his interests have evolved and developed from skateboarding and snowboarding to surfing, kitesurfing, slacklining, highline, cross country skiing, rock climbing, hiking and mountaineering.
As he got older, they said he had become more careful while still retaining his childish mind.
âHe purchased the appropriate equipment and adopted several safety measures to reassure his wife and family. Despite his playful character, we were not worried. We trusted him, and we still do. He was the most competent person we knew, âhis family said.
Van Pelt began to overturn houses in Salem, remodeling two houses that were in complete disrepair. He and his wife lived on the rental income to be able to travel.
Katelyn Van Pelt said her best memories of her husband are the times they spent in Yosemite National Park, especially atop the North Dome, which faces the famous Half Dome.
âThe first time Steve and I hiked North Dome, we – but especially Steve – were overwhelmed by the beauty. We watched the sunset and sunrise, and Steve couldn’t help but to take pictures and videos of the view. He woke up in the middle of the night anxious to jump out of the tent and gaze at the stars. We came back for a spontaneous trip on his birthday and then again just a few months ago and then again last month on what would be our last trip together, âshe wrote to Salem Reporter.
His family said Van Pelt accomplished something few have.
âHe completely ignored social norms and expectations and built around himself the life he dreamed of, then enjoyed it to the fullest. His release came at a time when he was the happiest and healthiest – physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally – he had ever been in his entire life. He left this land in a way he would honestly find great, and we know he is resting in the most appropriate place, âhis family wrote.
On the GoFundMe page, Medina said her brother has always been a part of the mountain.
âIt is and always has been part of this rugged landscape. It is and always has been part of this desert. Well-maintained grounds could never hold it back. There is nowhere else he could rest. I do not understand. I don’t know how I’ll be okay again. But I know he wants me to be. I know he’s fine. He just left for his next adventure, âshe wrote.
Van Pelt is survived by his wife, parents, younger brother and sister, extended family and friends around the world.
There is a private celebration of life on August 14th.
Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [emailÂ protected]
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