Well-known climber dies in N. Cascades

MARBELMOUNT -- A well-known Colorado mountain climber was killed and his partner injured Aug. 9 when ice fell from beneath them in North Cascades National Park.

Craig Luebben, 49, fell into an ice moat -- like a crevasse -- and died from his injuries.

With him was Willie Benegas, according to Mark Gunlogson of Seattle's Mountain Madness.

Benegas, too, works for Mountain Madness, a mountain-climbing guide service and mountaineering school in Seattle.

"It's one of those things, a hazard climbers confront in the North Cascades," Gunlogson said. "These were two incredibly experienced climbers."

The men were on Mount Torment near Marblemount, according to Kelly Bush, district ranger with North Cascades National Park search and rescue.

Bush said the climbers had crossed the upper part of the Taboo Glacier, with Luebben, who had a quarter-century's experience in rock and ice climbing, in the lead.

A chunk of ice fell beneath him and he fell about 40 feet into the moat, hanging from his rope and suffering massive trauma.

Luebben was alive when Benegas got to him. But he died before he could be rescued, Bush said.

Neither climber did anything wrong in their ascent, Bush said.

"This kind of thing is inherent in mountaineering," she said. "These men were highly skilled, on top of their game. Some of the elite of mountain climbing."

Luebben, who lived in Golden, Colo., was a well-known climber, writer, photographer and teacher, said Simon Fryer, sales and marketing manager for Colorado Mountain School, where Luebben was a guide.

"You could qualify Craig as an expert," said Mike Alkaitis, the school's general manager.

According to his Web site, Luebben climbed all over the world and made first ascents on rocks in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, West Virginia, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and other locations. He also wrote seven books on climbing.

"Craig was an incredible, generous individual with a huge heart," Fryer said. "He was a teacher at heart. He always went way out of his way to help people. Craig did it all. Anything in the mountains he loved."

Luebben also ran Desert Ice Mountain Guides, a one-man operation, according to his Web site.

He taught climbing through regularly scheduled courses, including climbing safety, rescue and rock technique.

Alkaitis said Luebben, an alumnus of Colorado State University --where he earned a bachelor's of science degree in mechanical engineering in 1984 -- opened more than 200 new rock and ice routes on five continents, and guided rock, ice and alpine climbs for several organizations.

Luebben is survived by his wife, Silvia, and a 5-year-old daughter, Giulia, Alkaitis said.