Some people say when they’re in the mountains they sense the presence of loved ones who’ve passed.
After the deaths of Chris Onufer and Steve Romeo from an avalanche Wednesday on Ranger Peak in Grand Teton National Park, members of the community are finding befitting and therapeutic ways to celebrate their lives.
I ran into some of Onufer’s close friends on Teton pass Friday. In memory of Onufer, they skied one of the last runs he’d done on the pass and then later that day they braved the bulletproof snow in Corbet’s Couloir in Onufer’s honor. Michelle Smith was one of the people skiing for Chris that day and she stretched the memorial into the weekend.
“Over the weekend a couple of my friends and I went to Lander to rock climb because all winter long Chris couldn’t stop talking about getting a group of people together and going rock climbing since he wanted to get away from the sketchy snowpack,” Smith explained. “So we completed a climb called Dreaming the Rasta Bus. Chris and I tried to do that climb last year and we got hung up on the fourth bolt; we couldn’t get past it. He just wanted to do that climb, and he said, ‘The next time we come back to Lander we’re going to get that climb.’”
Another group of people who were friends with the pair set out into the Tetons Friday to the area that claimed the lives of the two local mountaineers. Zahan Billimoria, a close friend and ski partner of Romeo’s, was a part of that group.
“It was kind of this coming together of lots of different people who Steve and Chris had worked with, and mostly skied with,” Billimoria said. “We all met in the dark and quietly shook hands by headlamp and then made our way out to Colter Bay. It was probably below-zero on the lake and there was this low hanging mist; it was just this really spectacular morning, and we were headed across the lake into Waterfall Canyon, where they perished. For a lot of people who skied up there with those guys, it was almost as if they were there.”
A memorial for Steve Romeo and Chris Onufur takes place 6 p.m., Tuesday, at the Village Commons. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Bridger Teton National Forest Avalanche Center, Teton County Search and Rescue and the Jenny Lake Rangers of Grand Teton National Park. - Robyn Vincent