Everybody loves Lathrop Strang
FemaelstromBy Alison OsiusGlenwood Springs, CO ColoradoOver the phone, I took in the bare info: that friends had skied Mount Sopris that morning, that something had gone wrong. That Lathrop had taken a long fall.”Oh, not Lathrop!” Lathrop Strang, whose sweet face lit up with his hello. Lathrop, psyched for any adventure; Lathrop whom my husband, Mike, was supposed to climb with last Tuesday evening until the fire erupted, and Lathrop canceled to help his family on the ranch. Every time I saw Lathrop, we talked. We seemed simpatico, and I’d walk away with a little lift. Lathrop had fallen shortly after entering a couloir on the east summit. His companion Fletcher had finally reached him but had to leave him for help. My friend Lori told me that Lathrop remained up there alone. A helicopter had landed at Mount Sopris Ranch, poised but facing strong, buffeting winds. Two friends, Michael and Penn, were heading up with snowmobiles. I told my son Teddy to call his father; Mike would mobilize.The boys and I hurriedly trained a telescope on Sopris, and I strained to see: willing any movement, or the helicopter to appear.Lori was watching the mountain, too, and said she could almost feel the love and positive energy being pushed toward it. She said, “Everyone in this whole valley loves Lathrop.”Come on, Lathrop.Nothing slowed Lathrop down; Lathrop had more energy than anyone. He had a litany of broken bones from boyhood, but always bounced back, solid and unafraid. He was good at everything, just strong in the mountains: a former college and pro ski racer; a climber, paddler. Mike always said Lathrop was made of steel.The door opened; Mike walked in ashen, streaming-eyed, and I said, “Don’t tell me this.”Lathrop was in the middle of everything. Mike said, “I just talked to him yesterday. He asked me to come along.”It’s what everyone says. “But I just talked to him,” we protest, as if it could do any good. We argue, “He was so nice.” Mike and Lathrop were supposed to climb this next Tuesday evening. Lathrop was supposed to climb with Jeff on Friday evening after skiing Sopris, and also Saturday.Out at the crags, Jeff wondered why Lathrop hadn’t shown. As he walked down the trail, his young friend Patrick wondered, “So is Lathrop mainly a skier or climber?”Jeff thought, and then said, “He’s a papa.”Lathrop was nuts about his 7-year-old daughter, Jesse, always driving to bring her here, his home valley, after she moved with her mother to Boulder following the divorce. In most of our conversations, Lathrop talked about Jesse. Once he had just accompanied her to her first day of school, where there were tables with nametags for all the other children. “And,” he said mock heavily, “there wasn’t one for Jesse.” He confessed wryly, “I was fightin’ back the tears.” (The oversight was quickly resolved.)Another friend, Andy, was supposed to go on a hut trip with Lathrop on Sunday. When my stricken son Teddy, to whom Lathrop had always been kind, was picked up for a babysitting job, the father – another Mike – said, “I just skied with Lathrop last Thursday!”Ask Lathrop to do something, and he, a self-employed architect (he once told me he sometimes did nothing but work), would say, “I’m in!”Last time Lathrop and Mike skied Chair Mountain, Lathrop broke trail the whole day. With some, that might have been annoying, but not Lathrop; he just loved it. Climbing with him, I’ve flailed on routes he then did, but I didn’t feel bad. The only vibe you got from Lathrop was that, as Jeff said, “He took pleasure at others’ successes.”Rewinding my images, I see Lathrop in a T-shirt, his hair every which way, face amusingly unshaven. In every image, he is smiling.Saturday evening, when we sat down at the table, Mike, who could barely speak that day, said, “I’m thankful I knew Lathrop.”Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at email@example.com.
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