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Craig Luebben Killed in North Cascades

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Craig and Giulia Luebben. Courtesy of the Luebben Collection

Craig Luebben Killed in North Cascades

Craig Luebben, the well-known Colorado climber, guide, teacher, and author, was killed early Sunday morning when glacial ice collapsed on Mt. Torment in North Cascades National Park. Luebben, a certified rock guide and instructor with the American Mountain Guides Association, was training for an upcoming AMGA alpine-guide exam with Willie Benegas when the accident occurred. 

Luebben and Benegas were beginning the Torment-Forbidden Traverse, a long mixed rock and snow climb that is frequently used during AMGA alpine-guide training and exams. After climbing the small Taboo Glacier below Torment’s southeast face, Luebben led past a moat or bergschrund, climbing rock to the right of ice hanging above the moat. As he moved back onto the ice to complete the pitch, a block said to be at least the size of a car collapsed, and Luebben fell 30 to 40 feet toward the moat, where he was hit with chunks of ice and debris as he hung from his rope. 

Benegas, who suffered minor injuries to a leg, was able to reach Luebben and lower him to a ledge, treat his injuries, and call for a rescue. However, Luebben died from the trauma before he could be moved. Rescuers from North Cascades National Park flew the injured Benegas and Luebben’s body from the mountain that day. 

Though he rarely made the pages of Hot Flashes, Luebben, 49, influenced American climbers in ways almost too numerous to count. His hundreds of new routes are scattered throughout the Rocky Mountains. A prolific all-arounder, he was equally at home on steep ice and forbidding offwidths. Among many other achievements, Luebben completed the first one-day winter ascent of the Diamond on Longs Peak in Colorado, an onsight of the Lucille (5.13a) chimney at Vedauwoo, Wyoming, and a solo one-day link-up of three of Colorado’s most famous ice climbs: Bridalveil Falls, Ames Ice Hose, and the Rigid Designator. Luebben loved to travel, and his pioneering climbs and articles exposed many new climbing areas to North Americans, including the limestone of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Cayman Brac, and the ice of western China. 

Trained as an engineer, Luebben invented the Big Bro expandable tube chock and used his product-testing skills to field-test gear and write important reviews for Climbing and Rock & Ice. His tests of ice screw pull-out strength challenged the conventional wisdom on ice protection and changed recommendations for placing screws. 

Luebben also wrote and photographed numerous articles for climbing magazines; he was a Senior Contributing Editor for Climbing magazine at the time of his death. He parlayed his guiding skills and gear knowledge into a series of instructional books, including Rock Climbing: Mastering Basic Skills, Rock Climbing Anchors: A Comprehensive Guide, and Knots for Climbers.

As a teacher, he influenced many hundreds of climbers over the years, both as an AMGA rock guide instructor and as the leader of popular self-rescue classes that he taught in gyms and at crags around the country. 

Luebben, who lived in Golden, Colorado, leaves his wife, Silvia, and a daughter, Giulia.

Memorial and Celebration of Craig Luebben’s LifeMemorial Service(Reserved for Family and Friends of the Luebbens) To be held in the Foss Auditorium of the American Mountaineering Center Service begins @ 4:00 PM (doors will be open @ 3:00 PM)Seating is limited, so please register for the Memorial Service. Please bring your confirmation email for the service.

Public Reception(All are welcome, please register to attend) A reception and celebration of Craig’s life, including sharing memories, music, and beverages. To be held on the west lawn of the American Mountaineering Center 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM. Please feel free to bring a blanket and snacks. To attend, please register for the Public Reception.

ParkingAMC parking lot is located on the north side of the building. Additional parking is available at Coorstek located across the street on the east side of the AMC. Parking may be limited after 6PM due to other events in the area. Please, carpool or bike if possible.

Many people have inquired about how they can help at the moment. Rather than sending flowers, please consider making a donation. Any and all assistance is greatly appreciated and will be dedicated to helping his wife Silvia and 6 year old daughter Giulia. Please Donate to the Craig Luebben Memorial Fund

Thank you for your love and support of Craig and his family.

To submit photos for the slideshow in Craig’s memory, send them to Cameron Cross at Preferred max size: 1024×768 pixels in JPEG format. For general inquiries, contact Kira Riedel (, subject: “Craig’s Memorial.”

To donate to the Craig Luebben Memorial Fund, please visit:

Date of Accident: August 9, 2009,,,