A Climber We Lost: Cameron Maxwell, December 13

He was the kind of guy you want to be with in climbing: curious, patient, and focused, with a love for the outdoors.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

You can read the full tribute to Climbers We Lost in 2021 here.

Cameron Maxwell

28, December 13

Cam was the kind of guy you want to be with in climbing: curious, patient, and focused, with a love for the outdoors.

The day after Thanksgiving, 2021, Cameron Maxwell [last name omitted at the request of the family] led his first-ever route on a beautiful winter day in Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado, with friends. It was an admirable lead, smooth and clean, done with his usual quiet confidence. He was a natural, and was excited to test his skills on some tougher stuff. Over the week following that first confident lead, Cameron doubled down on his climbing focus. He used an early Christmas bonus to buy his own set of sport draws. He got his brother his first pair of climbing shoes, size 15 (no small feat). He spent that Friday, December 3, at a local crag, staying out after dark to put his brother on his first outdoor toprope. As winter moved in, Cameron intended to keep climbing through the season.

Cameron Maxwell. (Photo: Alex Myers)

The next day, December 4, Cameron returned to the same crag where he had gotten in his first lead, the week before, and sent a harder route. Again he performed well, with a graceful lead on a long moderate route. He was lowered to a round of high fives and settled into a sunny spot to bask in the glow of a job well done. This glowing moment is one that would have lived in memory even if the rest of the day had been uneventful, combining elements we hope for when we pack our bags and head to the crag: time spent with good friends, sun on skin, focus, flow, and accomplishment.

Moments after he finished this second-ever lead, a large block dislodged from a route above to strike Cameron directly on the head. He was wearing a helmet (as was everyone in his group), had been doing everything right, and happened to be in the wrong place by minutes and inches. He was instantly knocked unconscious and was rushed to the hospital, where he passed nine days later. This sudden tragedy has been felt by many, in and outside of the climbing community.

Cameron, of Loveland, was a woodworker, cabinet maker, and gardener, and was a talented musician and drummer. “He is just a kind, gentle kid,” said his friend Riley Wilson in a news report on “He’s one of the nicest kids I’ve ever met.”

Cam’s friend Chandra Engel, who worked and climbed with him, wrote that he played classical piano for an hour each morning before his work as a craftsman at a local cabinet shop. “He enjoyed using hand tools while woodworking and was an avid gardener, studying microbiology for a better understanding of the organisms that helped him compost,” she stated in a note for this account. “At first Cameron was concerned that climbing would be detrimental to his hands, but after a weekend of camping and climbing with his brother he returned to inform his friends that he was hooked.” He was a natural on any wall, she wrote, but loved climbing outside on real rock the most.

“Cameron climbed with skill and serenity, traits of his character that were highlighted as he easily made his way up any route,” she wrote, like Riley describing a “kind and gentle soul” who “left a warm impression on all who were blessed to have met him.”

Cam leaves behind a mother and brother with whom he had an incredible, close relationship. A fund has been set up to help alleviate some of their financial burden in the wake of the tragedy.