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January 30, 2015
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Mark Miller passed away on January 30, 2015, after a climbing accident in the Eureka Colorado area. He is survived by his wife Colette, his parents Donald & Diane, sisters Merry (Terry) & Marsha (Mathew), brother Matthew (Wendy), nieces Heather (Scott), Heidi (Brian), Bailey, Angie, nephew Michael, grandnieces Kira, Ivy, Cecilia, grandnephew Bradley, mother-in-law Barbara Moore, and countless friends and family. He was a loving husband, son, uncle, friend and teacher. He worked for San Juan Mountain Guides and Rigging for Rescue, and was an EMT-B on Ouray County EMS, and a member of the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team.
Mark was born in St. Cloud, MN in 1964, and graduated from Annandale High School in 1982. After high school, he joined the Navy for 6 years, stationed on the U.S.S. Long Beach, a guided nuclear cruiser as a nuclear machinist mate, attending to the various duties running the nuclear power plant. During a Navy schooling in Idaho, Mark and some friends tried rock climbing for the first time and he was hooked. Mark & Colette met January 25, 1985, in British Columbia, while he was stationed in Bremerton, WA. They were married November 29, 1986 and December 6, 1986. After finishing active duty, they took an extended road trip throughout the Western U.S. stopping in the Needles of South Dakota, Devils’ Tower, the Tetons, Squamish, Smith Rock, Yosemite and a few other glorious places. Those trips allowed him to refine the skills he had been learning, meet new people, and generally continue his climbing education.
After the awesome road trip that doubled as Mark and Colette’s delayed honeymoon, they returned to Mark’s home area in Minnesota. Mark worked for Northern State Power in Monticello for 5 years. Mark was having difficulty finding partners for his climbing adventures, so Mark and Colette started a climbing club. It was during this time that he realized that teaching climbing and sharing these experiences could be just as fun as, and sometimes even more rewarding than, the climbing itself. During those years back in Minnesota, he continued his own climbing education with many personal adventures, some more successful than others, and a week-long mountaineering course in Washington, where he was first introduced to ice climbing, the beginning of his first true addiction. Subsequent climbs up Mt. Rainier and Denali, an expedition to Tajikistan to climb peaks Lenin, Communisma and Korzhenevskaya (Mark was standing in Red Square when the tanks rolled in during the coup), a first American ascent in Nepal, a trip to Ecuador to give a couple friends their first altitude experience and many, many other rock and ice climbs, all contributed to Mark’s education in the vertical world. After five years in the Minnesota farm country, his need for more varied terrain became overpowering and with much support and some prompting from Colette, quit his job, they moved into the back of a pickup truck and headed west to become a climbing guide, eventually settling in Utah.
While on a road trip to Colorado, Wyoming and Canada to tackle lines in the Ouray Ice Park, the Ames Ice Hose, Bridalveil Falls, the Fang, Weeping Wall, Red Man Soars, Terminator, Replicant, and Sea of Vapors, Mark met the original owner of San Juan Mountain Guides, Mike O’Donnell who offered him a guiding position for the next season. Mark spent the next couple of years guiding ice in the winter in Ouray and having a “real” job in Utah the rest of the year. Mark got his AMGA Rock Guide certification and he and Colette moved to Ouray, CO, full time in 1999.
From helping to save an altitude-stricken climber on his Denali ascent, Mark found he loved being a part of the rescue crew (his second addiction) and joined Weber County Search & Rescue team in Utah and later Ouray Mountain Team in Ouray. As a part of Ouray’s team, Mark had the opportunity to take a Rigging for Rescue course. Mark’s passion for teaching and safety in the mountains eventually led to his becoming an instructor for Rigging for Rescue in 2002. Each year, he teaches many courses to volunteer rescue teams, fire departments, border patrols, national park rangers and U.S. and Canadian Special Forces. Guiding and Rigging for Rescue fueled Mark’s love of teaching (his third addiction for those keeping count), and being able to share what he has learned, sometimes the hard way.
Over the last two decades, Mark has accumulated thousands of hours of climbing and guiding any and all levels of students, from those with the most rudimentary of skills to those capable of the most aggressive lines, all the while sharpening his ability to clearly and concisely demonstrate and describe the keys to successful climbing. His passions are his family, climbing, being in the outdoors, teaching, motorcycling, and bicycling. He loved The Ouray County community, the climbing community, and all the great people he got to meet because of guiding and teaching for Rigging for Rescue.