Remembering Maroon Bells fall victim | AspenTimes.com

Remembering Maroon Bells fall victim

Randy Wyrick
Vail Daily

A celebration of the life of Jarod Wetherell took place last Thursday at Mountain Standard in Vail. Friends honored his spirit, smiles and stories. Wetherell, 37, of Avon, died a little over a week ago after falling while descending North Maroon Peak near Aspen. His climbing partner, David Richardson, 32, of Vail, was rescued Friday after two nights in the wilderness. Wetherell, left, and Richardson took this photo before descending North Maroon Peak.

VAIL — We'll start with the finish.

Hundreds gathered Thursday at Mountain Standard in Vail to celebrate the short and adventurous life of Jarod Wetherell.

As a slide show wound down — and everyone in the crowd wished it would not end, because when it did, Jarod's death would become real — there was a short video, the last look at Jarod's last adventure. He and David Richardson had summited North Maroon Peak. And that moment summed up his life.

Jarod Wetherell was on top of the world.

The last slide said:

"Jarod S. Wetherell, you will be missed."

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You knew the celebration of Jarod Wetherell's life was really going to be a celebration when they held it in a bar and the beer and wine were free.

Somewhere, Jarod was having the last laugh. He quit drinking a few years back and imbibed nothing stronger than root beer. He worked in the Mountain Standard kitchen, cooking wonderful stuff. Happy patrons would occasionally buy a round for the restaurant's kitchen staff, and the Mountain Standard folks always made sure Jarod's was root beer.

As the party and the stories got rolling, a few of his friends — and they are a legion — raised a glass of root beer in toast. They raised every other kind of glass, as well. It was a celebration, after all.

'DON'T NOT LIVE'

Jarod died last week while descending from the summit of the Maroon Bells near Aspen. And that's the thing. He had summited, as he always did in everything he tried. He was on his way to his next adventure.

With the summit comes the smile, that huge kid-like smile that you cannot help smiling back at. You meet his dad, Bob, his brother Gerek and sister Chelsea and there's that smile.

Big smiles. Big hearts. Big adventures.

"Life was his employer, and he put in the hours," said Bobby L'Heureux, one of Jarod's best friends.

"Don't not live. Don't not do something for some weak reason," Bobby said.

Jarod knew Bobby on their native East Coast. Bobby and a friend moved to Vail a couple years ago. Jarod followed last year. One of the family friends watched him build a trailer that he hauled to Colorado. They built it in two days and he couldn't believe it would make it. It did.

"You guys are family," Gerek said to Thursday's crowd. "I learned from my brother that when you meet someone they become your family. I came here to meet Jarod's friends and I got a huge new family."

David was rescued and spent a few days in the Aspen hospital. He got out in time for Thursday's event. He leaned on his crutches as he addressed the crowd.

"Jarod went out on top. As we were going up, every conversation was about going higher, about being a better person, a better friend," he said.

Jenny Tucker put together the slide show. She put the word out that she was looking for pictures and was flooded by both love and photos.

There they were in Guatemala on a service trip to help underprivileged kids. Along with the labors of love, they managed to work in a couple adventures.

They were running down a volcano they had hiked up: hot, dirty, exhausted, laughing and living. They'd never felt better.

"We were filthy and we kept saying, 'Mother Nature is a dirty bitch, and I love her,'" Bobby said.

Others remembered his handshake. "He had the biggest hands I've ever seen," a friend said.

There's a picture of Jarod drinking out of a championship trophy. There he is in a dog suit in a yoga class.

There's his job description, "Life is my employer!" and his favorite admonition, "Who's awesome? You're awesome!"

Eventually, most people in the standing-room only crowd cried, at least a little because, well … you have to. Usually it passed quickly and laughter rang through the room.

Jarod would want them to be happy, Gerek said. Jarod would want them to live. He sure did.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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