He epitomized an evolution of self few ever will achieve. From Silent Bob to Chadderbox; fast food to organic; suit to carharts; Olympic luge prospect to Alpinist; Chad is the butterfly emerged, the Phoenix risen.

Most would barely survive his physical hardships, much less emotional. Yet he persevered to heal heart and body, to find again the beauty of partnership, the freedom of the alpine.

Many spent time with Chad on his journey. We have stories; funny, sad, incredulous. Share them, that we might remember Chad.

And, in these stories, may we come to know ourselves. To live our lives to their fullest.

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by Dan Sears
fragrant skin of flora, fauna vast
upon soil of upheaval, painful past
barren, craggy, verdant face (less) wall
imbued with weather-worn rugged grace
stuttering rows of ragged granite into schist
bathed in gauzy clouds forming damp mist
stone and clover, mossy blanket crest
delicate white ribbons draped abreast
i speak across time in rushes loudly
from my brow eyes gaze proudly
with verglassed ears kissing the sky
floating feathers gracefully airborne fly
my stormy breath, descending swirling mists
wild flower rainbow hues blanket my fists
whispering voices upon the wind forlornly I hear
in my wooded brambles playful are the deer
soaring eagle’s nest woven tightly
buzzing insects flit about brightly
the owl’s plaintive hoot emerges
my beards’ silent thicket surges
bark of elk, flitting of bee and hopping of hare
many man-made webs do ensnare
springs tumble forth from my windswept crown
all manner of real and mythical creature abound
roaming upon a broad shouldered slope
cob-webbed hair thick of dynamic rope
arms of meandering blue valleys, feet of deep chasm
traversing snow fields, crevasses slowly spasm
sky, water, rock of abundance
feather, fish, flora suckle of sustenance
ever changing yet resolute at dawns warm glow
soft dappled light fades ravagingly slow
conquerer, vanquisher are unwelcome here
for I will take you without shedding a tear
love, pure intention and energy matter
insight and awe, wonder, flowing spirit, water
a brief fog-shrouded vignette of the whole
the exposure of a tender, majestic soul
an ancient future I feel deep inside
a sentinel of the land and the living, his changing tide
Copyright © 2014 by Dan Sears. Used with permission of the author.
About This Poem 

“I received news of Chad’s passing while traveling in SE Asia, shortly after seeing him in Thailand. Earlier, I had been in New Zealand exploring big mountains on foot. On those daily forays I was struck by the duality of life and nature, how we impose ourselves on places that stir our wonder and awe. This poem is an expression of that duality interwoven with Chad’s essence (as I felt it). A reflection on an intense man of duality, of light and dark, of inspiration and perspiration and exasperation, bearing witness to his profound impact on those around him. We were fortunate to share experiences and to call him a friend. While his passing is only temporal for me, I miss him and see his spirit flying high in those mountains he so revered. This is the first poem I’ve written that I’ve ever shared.”

—Dan Sears, Feb 2014

I uploaded excerpts from an interview I did with Chad and Todd Warger for the film “The Mountain Runners.”

It might help some people understand his motivation and who he is a little better. I personally find videos of those who have passed an effective tool for closure and growth. Hopefully this will help others. 

Thank you Chad.
Dave and Todd.

My story about Chad involved a mellow Sunday night back in November 2012.  I had no plans that night so I wasn’t expecting a call.  I looked at my phone and the number that displayed on the screen had me puzzled.   It  was not a number that I recognized. Curiosity got the better of me and I answered the call with a hello to be greeted back with“Hi, it’s me  Chad!”  “Chad?”  With a distinct surprise in my voice this was followed  by “Are you okay?  Where are you?  Are you already back from China?”   Chad finally had enough of a pause  to answer  and let me know that he  was still in China calling me from his sat phone from the base camp of  this mountain he was on…….

That was Chad. Calling from half way  around the world, half way up a mountain, to check the weather and wind  speeds so he could make a solo summit.    For those of us who don’t do  much alpine climbing, we got a lot of excitement in our lives living  vicariously through Chad’s adventures and accomplishments.

But  it wasn’t only excitement that Chad brought into our lives.  His focus,  dedication, and passion inspired all of us to live our own lives to  their fullest.  He constantly reminded us to go after our dreams, don’t  waste the short time we have in this life, and appreciate the beauty of  the world around us.  We all learned so much from Chad in this way.

But I also wanted to talk about another way that Chad has taught us through his own example.  He had suffered through hardships in his life.   Things that would shake all of us to our core.  However instead of  giving up, or giving into anger, Chad turned his focus, dedication, and  passion towards a different kind of journey.  One that didn’t involve  summiting a remote mountain, but instead one that was an inward journey  into his own mind through mediation and introspection.

Through  this journey inward, we all witnessed Chad finding something else—inner peace and happiness.  Initially I thought it was just me noticing but  turns out others did too.  It is hard to describe but there was a new  lightness with Chad that previously had not existed. This is when I  realized that as hard as Chad worked on his physical fitness he also had put the same focus, effort, and determination towards meditation.

We all spend so much time searching for happiness and peace and in a way  that to me that is one of Chad’s greatest accomplishments.

I only knew Chad for a small portion of his life.  I first met him in the mid ‘90s, and we crossed paths just a few times before 2005 or so.  I really knew his wife Lara much better in the beginning, and in the last couple years of her life we started to hang out more.  After Lara died, I consciously tried to get closer to Chad at first to get closer to Lara, but I quickly perceived that he needed my friendship during a rough spell in his life, and that need persisted through the rest of his life.  We spent a lot of time together in the past 5 years, climbing, working, scheming, and being goofy.

Chad was a man with an incredibly strong body, but he had an even stronger mind.  He had very strong morals. But for all his good qualities, he also had a lot of demons.  I don’t know where he got them, but I got the impression they were there well before he met Lara.  He could get very angry and jealous, and not communicate, and hold his feelings inside, until they came bursting out with unpredictable effects.

During the period I knew him best, he endured a series of incredible hardships – illness, injury, deaths of friends and family.  Perhaps spurred by these hardships, or perhaps just in spite of them, Chad finally acknowledged his demons and embarked on a mission to tame them.

Chad lived a life of accomplishment.  His whole life, as I knew it, was about accomplishing things. When he identified a problem that he wanted to solve, I don’t think Chad really understood the meaning of the word “can’t”.  He planned, prioritized, persisted, and accomplished.  He attacked his demons with the very same strategy that he tackled climbing and construction problems, and it paid off.  Over the past five years, he steadily transformed his life in many ways.  He eliminated alcohol and meat from his diet.  He communicated better, he opened up to people, and he was true to his strong morals.   He was happy.  He found love.  And underlying this all was a much deeper understanding of himself and his place in the universe that he had cultivated through conscious thought and meditation.

And then he died.

Why did Chad die? 

Was it because he pulled a rope too hard when he was descending a mountain?  You gotta pay attention to those loose rocks…

Or was it because he was ready?  He had accomplished the most profound goal of his life, to tame his demons.

Or was it because we were ready?  We were ready to stop and look and listen and learn the lessons of his life.  That life is short and precious, that we could go at any time, and that we need to get our priorities straight and make every moment count.

Perhaps there are many other possible reasons, but the last one makes the most sense to me.

Goodbye, Chad.  I will learn your lessons.


On the summit of Bear Mountain


High on the Direct North Buttress of Bear Mountain


At Bear Mountain high camp


Traversing the summit ridge of Johannesburg


On the summit of Johannesburg


High on the NE Buttress of Johannesburg


Crop of a photo from Dylan Johnson of Chad in front of an improbable Christmas display in Chengdu, China

Chad, thanks for honoring us with your energy. You will travel in my heart until the end of the journey.






Chad on the summit of Lara Shan

Henry David Thoreau said, “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”  As I have gathered recently with friends to honor Chad, I’ve heard many stories of the person he has become in recent years; a time when he was very focused and I saw him only on occasion.  I knew Chad earlier in life when he was still struggling with his direction.  A buddhist concept with which I’m sure Chad would agree is that to discover oneself, there is nothing to add only things to pare away.  The person Chad is today has always been there beneath the surface.  To be certain, that light poured out often when he was younger and still seeking a direction in life later to become a beacon to so many.  I want to share one of those times with all of those who love Chad—a very personal note to Joe and me written the day after he learned of Lara’s death (we were in China at the time and Chad was headed back as quickly as possible while Joe and I would follow with all of the expedition gear).


(click on picture to enlarge)

Chad’s last sentence echoes loudly now….may we have the courage to face the hardships and challenges that are brought before us.  That challenge weighs heavy on me, but with the memory of Chad to help (as he so often did), that load is lighter.  I think it is fair to say that Chad loved us all as brothers and sisters.  Before Chad left base camp to receive the terrible news, I grasped him quickly, looked him in the eye and told him he would never know how much the expeditions meant to me.  That was my way of telling him I loved him.  Thank you, Chad, for helping me achieve my dreams and for leading the way as I, too, pare away the things obstructing my path.

In the summer of 2012, Chad and I climbed the northeast buttress of Mt. Slesse together.  I hadn’t done too much climbing with Chad until that peak but knowing his reputation, I knew everything would go smoothly.  This was going to be my last big climb in the PNW for awhile as I was moving to Salt Lake City in a couple days and I was psyched to connect with a motivated and competent climber for my last big PNW adventure.

I was scared traveling across the pocket glacier to get to the base of buttress.  It was so broken and the stories I had heard of the pocket glacier suddenly sliding off the rocks kept floating through my mind.  Chad said it reminded him of a mini-Kumba and he calmly navigated us through the jumbled maze.  If it wasn’t for my faith in his experience and his persistence I would have probably turned around.  Chad didn’t bring an ice axe and only once did he ask to borrow mine.

Once the rock climbing portion of the climb began, things became a lot more fun.  For having never really climbed much before, we were moving rather efficiently.  It is always rewarding to get on a route with someone and both people just know what to do without having to say any words.  That was the sort of experience we were having while climbing this beautiful peak.  We got off route at one point and our rope got stuck when we did a short rappel to get back on route.  This didn’t seem to bother Chad too much and he calmly helped me get us back on route.  Midway on the climb, Chad remarked, he hadn’t swung leads on an alpine climb with another female since Lara had died.  That comment made me smile in a nostalgic sort of way.  I never met Lara and only got to know Chad after she died.  I wish I had met her because she sounded pretty amazing.  Despite being this tough alpinist, Chad still had this sensitive side.  I only hope that Chad and Lara have somehow found each other again.  That thought helps to provide me with some sense of closure but still does not take away from the sadness that surrounds the death of two young and amazing individuals.

After we summited, we proceeded to make the rappels back to the ridgeline. Chad carefully inspected the anchors and added more gear if he wasn’t comfortable with them.  Once back to the ridgeline, we started motoring, as we knew we had get through some route-finding obstacles in the daylight. Chad literally started running and I couldn’t keep up.  When it started to get dark, he waited for me.  There were several times on the descent that I thought we were going to have to bivy.  I learned again that Chad is very persistent and very good at navigating across complicated terrain in the darkness.  We were tired, hungry and lost for a lot of the night but he remained calm and positive through all of it.  His demeanor, without really trying too, rubbed off on me and I found myself also feeling calm and positive.  At 4 am we finally got back to the trailhead and laid down for a couple hours nap.

Whenever I climb with others more experienced than myself, I always try to observe their strategies and techniques.  With alpine climbing, technique is only a small part of what contributes to success.  What I learned from Chad, is that persistence when compounded with skill and experience can be a very successful combination.  I also learned that faith and confidence in one’s past experience is also an integral component to success.  Thank you Chad for teaching me about persistence and confidence.  Your pure spirit will truly be missed.

Gone, but you’ll always be here.

I’ve tried to start this blog post a couple times now, I keep deleting the first paragraph. Ultimately, I’m left speechless at losing a friend to the mountains.
A week and a half ago my friend Chad was killed while descending Fitz Roy, in southern Patagonia. 
I won’t do the justice Chad deserves by trying to describe what an inspiration, friend, and mentor he was, so I’ll just show some pictures and share a few funny stories.
Chad was my big brother of the mountains. And, I’m really going to miss him…


One of Chad’s own photos of him and Dan from the tippy top of Mt. Russell, Sierra Nevada. 

imageProbably laughing at some horrendously dirty “your mom” joke on the top of Mt. Fairview. There was a wedding happening on the summit at the very same time. They probably didn’t appreciate our crass sense of humour. But we sure were having a good bunch of laughs.


Descending from Mt. Fairview I saw this stream of water suddenly appear from the granite. I called Dan over and asked him what was going on. Was water miraculously bubbling forth from the rock? Dan assured me that was NOT what was happening, but rather, I was witnessing for the first time the evidence that apparently Chad can pee while walking? I mean we were all having a conversation on the way down. Wow!


After climbing Mt. Fairview we all made a “love” stop and took some time to call our respective lovers. Here’s Chad on the phone with Mandy.

image We had to make a run for the cover of a boulder after encountering a little summer storm on an acclimatization hike in the High Sierra. That is a very smiley face in there Chad!


For someone who’s so darn fit, Chad sure knows how to laze about…


OK, time for a nap.


Like Colin, Chad travels everywhere with a fishing scale. He made me take a photo of the weight of his rope for future reference.

image Chad and Dan photo-bomb me from the summit of Mt. Russell. Hehehehe…

image Some smiley dudes we encountered on the summit.


Chad showing off his rad ankle burn after our intense car-to-car mission on Mt. Russell.


Stoked. Always.

image What a photo.


Dan and Chad getting stoked as they prepare for what will become a 21 hr. ascent of the Regular Route on Half Dome. 


Chad. So stoked!


Another smiley face just popped up out of nowhere?


Chad, what a great, great smile.


Hehehe, not stoked.

imageStoked. The team on Tenaya Peak. 


I’ll finish off with my favourite photo. Chad showing us where to go. When I joined him, Dan, and Steph on this trip, I was a little bit nervous about how I would measure up. He’d just been attempting the speed record on Mt. Everest, how on earth was I going to keep up to this person? But, in the most lovely way, Chad would just trot along at a speed no faster than the rest of us. He wasn’t racing at all, he was just having a good ol’ adventure in the mountains with some buddies. That was it. I learnt a lot from him on that trip, the secret of the CamelBak filled with fruit juice and protein powder, and a few really gross “your mom” jokes come to mind. But mostly I learned that Chad was the kindest soul.
I’m going to include a poem below that someone else already posted on Chad’s Facebook page. But, I think the words included within need to be shared again…

Death is nothing at all. It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.
Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1847-1918, Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral
I’ve known Chad for nearly 20 years and am devastated by his accident.  When I think of Chad - I embrace the sweet memories of his character and friendship - not his wild accomplishments, though they be profound.  I can still remember when we were both struggling to place cams - and he led the famous Yosemite nut cracker on nothing but nuts with a young inexperienced girl like me.  Nobody else had wanted to climb with me that day - not even my boyfriend and Chad said “lets go!”  Even way back then, when we were young dirtbag nobodies in yosemite, the strength of Chad’s kindness and great heart shone strong. 

Chad has grown so much year by year and I’ve cherished every precious moment together.  From climbing Ama Dablam back in 98, when he had a barbie doll as a mascot and stunned us all with his speed ascent.  To quick coffee visits amidst his 16 hour work days while training and saving money for his latest passion filled vision.   We once bailed on a party at 9pm to go for a trail run in squamish - with me only able to keep up with him since he’d already ran 15 miles that morning.  Chad the extreme athlete, buddha like and filled with passion and zest.  I miss you.

I am at a loss of words and filled with grief with Chad’s loss.  And yet, I am hopeful that he and Lara are somehow together again and this brings me my only sense of peace. 

Every time I have said goodbye to Chad these past years I have known it might be the last.  This spirit of living entirely in the moment with Chad was both necessary and also a gift. I cherish every single  moment  with him and hope all of you too can remember his passion for living with intensity, light and honor. 

Chad spent Christmas at our place in 2012.  He won the gift of the Deer ornament.  Instead of putting it on the tree he hung it around his neck with that huge smile. When I pass I hope to see  that huge smile again.  

Chad, you were a brother.  You were a force.  You were a true mountain breathing dragon, mountains oozed from your cells and you taught me so much about this. You followed your dream, no obstacles, just flight.  Your brothership was true.  Now I know you are an even greater force traveling well.  
Love You,  Matt Fioretti