CARMEL — When looking at photographs solo mountaineer Rich Gebert took of the towering peaks in the Canadian Rockies he climbed, the narrow summit ridges he walked, and the smile on his face while conquering them, it’s easy to see he loved it.

“This is the good life,” Gebert posted on Facebook with a picture of him bivouacked on the side of a snowcovered mountain.

He bested hundreds of peaks in his 60 years, but in August Gebert lost his life on Mount Redoubt — a seldom-climbed 10,200-foot monstrosity that lies in the Canadian Rockies near the border of British Columbia and Alberta.

Gebert, who started technical climbing with ropes in 1970 and was on his tenth trip to the Rockies in Canada, was rappelling on the mountain he had first crested two years before when local national park rangers believe his anchor failed.

“It was the very last day of his vacation,” his wife, Carmel resident Mary Gebert, recalled recently. “Every two years Rich would go out to the Canadian Rockies to mountaineer and solo climb.

“The mountaineer rescuer who was on the rescue said he’s pretty sure Rich had a rope around a rock for an anchor,” she said. “He said he believes he probably pulled to get it unhooked, and he pendulumed and was knocked out. It was a 1,000-foot fall.”

Rich Gebert used a satellite phone to call home every night, his widow said. When he didn’t call on Aug. 14, Mary Gebert said she started to get concerned but thought maybe his phone battery died. When he didn’t call the next day, she called Jasper National Park rangers, who started ground and air searches for him.

They found his vehicle at the Astoria trail head, near Mount Edith Cavell, and inside were maps and detailed route descriptions for mountains all over North America, according to an article in the Fitzhugh newspaper in Jasper.

Later on Aug. 15, Rupert Wedgwood, visitor safety specialist for Jasper National Park, was in a helicopter and spotted Gebert’s rope on the west side of the mountain, the Canadian newspaper reported. Rescue teams soon found Gebert’s body still hanging from his safety rope.

“They’ve all said he had every business being there,” Mary Gebert said. “It really was just one of those accidents.“

“Redoubt Mountain is a fortress-like mountain rising to the south of Boulder Pass and Ptarmigan Lake,” fellow Bivouac.com writer, Mitch Sulkers of Whistler, British Columbia, said about the mountain that lies along the Rampart Range. “Although surrounded by impregnable cliffs and buttresses, the mountain can be scaled by a scrambling route on its northwestern aspect.”

In 1927 the mountain claimed the lives of the first two people recorded to have reached its summit, according to the Bivouac website, for which Gebert was a contributing writer. The bodies of photographer Frank H. Slark and his guide F. Rutishauser were never found, but their summit record was found on top of Mount Redoubt the next summer.

“I am driven to climb the biggest and best routes within my ability,” Gebert wrote in 2005 when he created his climbing resume page for Bivouac. It ends with him saying, “I have a high success level and much unfinished business … in the Canadian Rockies.”

He met fellow outdoor enthusiast and technical climber Chip Getchell, who now lives in China, Maine, during 1981 while playing keyboard with the band Crybaby. Gebert also met his wife of 27 years playing with the band. After they met, “We started climbing together every weekend, mostly rock and ice climbing,” Getchell said recently. He estimates they did at least 500 technical climbs together.

Getchell, who did lights and sound for Crybaby, was working at the Maine Department of Transportation, a post he still holds, and encouraged his friend to apply for a job there.

“We got married, had a baby and had another one on the way” when he got the DOT job, Mary Gebert recalled. “He said it was time to have a real paying job with some insurance. That was his grown-up job. [The] one thing he loved about his job with DOT is he was outside all the time. He would have hated a desk job.”

Hiking was a family affair for the Geberts and their pets, and Mary Gebert said whenever her husband said, “it’s just around the corner” she knew there still was a lot of hiking left to be done. He is survived by their three children, Richard, 28, Sarah, 26, and Cody, 19.

Gebert worked for the Maine DOT for 27 years, working up from maintenance, to project development to bridge construction inspector, according to Ted Talbot, DOT spokesman. He was a key player in the identification of rust problems with the Waldo-Hancock Bridge and was the chief inspector on its replacement, the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory.

“Richard was a hardworking, soft-spoken person who was dedicated to his important work here at MaineDOT,” Commissioner David Bernhardt said in an email. “It is easy for me to say how he was greatly appreciated and is sorely missed. Richard simply defined MaineDOT’s core values of integrity, competence and service.”


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