Huntington Beach climbers who died on Tahquitz Peak brought out the best in people – Orange County Register

Those who knew the two Huntington Beach climbers who died in a fall at a prime crag near Idyllwild on Wednesday, September 28, said they brought out the best in those around them.

Climbers Gavin Escobar, 31, who last served as a Long Beach firefighter but also played with the Dallas Cowboys for three years, and Chelsea Walsh, 33, a camerawoman who worked for Roadtrip Nation, died while scaling the popular Tahquitz Peak Climber.

Ted Distel, also a mountaineer with experience glacier climbing Mt. Ranier, recently completed a film with Walsh. “Light” is a documentary about rock climbing and eating disorders, and Walsh’s main assignment was to interview professional rock climbers who had experience with anorexia and other disorders.

“When I worked with her, she was really alive; She had a wonderful love of life and was an incredible editor,” he said. “Her personality as an interviewer came through and really helped bring out the authenticity of her subjects. She really took on her role in this film.”

Mike Marriner, president of Roadtrip Nation, for whom Walsh worked for a decade, said Friday he was devastated by her loss. Since joining the company as an intern, Walsh has produced at least a dozen documentaries on subjects such as veterans’ rehabilitation, single mothers and disenfranchised youth.

“We’re all pretty devastated right now,” Marriner said. “You meet someone and you think, ‘That was a special person.’ She had this incredible depth and genuine empathy that led to authentic storytelling.”

For the veterans documentary, Walsh lived in a trailer with three veterans and they traveled across America visiting other soldiers and making their own journeys through life.

“She was a coach, guide and friend who cried with them,” Marriner said. “She was there to film, but she was also willing to help them. Whatever the subject, she had the ability to dive in, be the sponge and explore. She was incredibly honest and a fortune teller.”

“She may not have lived as long as we would have liked,” he added, “but she changed people so much.”

Like Walsh, Escobar, who is survived by his wife and two young children, had a magnetic quality that was noticed by others.

Before joining the NFL, he played basketball and football at Santa Margarita Catholic High School. Former coaches still remember him as a selfless, talented athlete who was naturally gifted and always cared about other players.

When Aaron Maldanado, who coached basketball at Rancho Santa Margarita School, first met Escobar as a freshman, he said he knew the teenager was special.

“He was low key but funny,” Maldanado said. “Everyone fell in love with him immediately. Growing up, he was probably the best athlete I’ve ever seen. He was 6ft 6 tall and could jump and run.

“He had many other passions,” Maldanado said. “He played football because he realized it was his meal ticket, but he played basketball because his friends played it. He was such a kid.”

Maldanado said Escobar never sought the limelight for himself but liked it when his friends did well. After training hours for both sports, he still went to weight training to help out his friends, who were also hoping for opportunities to play at the collegiate level.

Maldanado followed Escobar’s career while playing for San Diego State and then was so proud when Escobar was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round of the NFL draft.

“I’m a Cowboys fan and it was a really big deal,” Maldanado recalled, adding that when the Cowboys were playing the Chargers, he went to Escobar, then a tight end, playing. “He wasn’t much of a talker, but he was proud.”

Mike Moore, who works with Orange County athletes and has helped guide several to professional careers, said less than 1% of high school athletes make it to professional sports, but Escobar did. And like Maldanado, Moore emphasized Escobar’s concern for others. “He was a we player, not an I player,” he said.

After playing for the Cowboys, Escobar had brief stints with the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins, ending his football career in 2019 with the now-defunct Alliance of American Football.

According to their Mountain Project profiles, both Escobar and Walsh were experienced climbers. The site is self-reporting and relies on climbers to enter information about climbing history and the course of climbs. From the profiles it appears that Escobar was more experienced and had a lot of experience in traditional rock climbing, meaning he placed his own gear in rocks. He had alpine climbing experience and a lot of experience in Tahquitz. Walsh had less experience there, but had alpine climbing experience.

The area they climbed in the San Jacinto Mountain Range, also known as Lily Rock, is one of the better-known rock climbing destinations in North America. In fact, the system for rating the difficulty of climbs was developed in Tahquitz by members of the Sierra Club back in the 1950s.

“There are many routes of varying difficulty there, and the weather (including lightning strikes this week) can add another factor of difficulty in an already potentially dangerous sport,” said Christy Mohler, the American Alpine Club’s “Accidents in North American Rock Climbing” editor. “

Mohler said there was one other death this year on Tahquitz, a climber who was free solo (climbing alone and without ropes/protection).

Moore was already impressed by the young man making it to the NFL and said he was even more impressed later by Escobar’s success in life.

Moore recently said he met Escobar at a sports bar in the Belmont Shore neighborhood of Long Beach. Escobar had just joined the Long Beach Fire Department.

“I told him I was so proud of him,” Moore said. “A lot of guys get into trouble after football with no income. He wanted to do more.”

https://www.ocregister.com/2022/09/30/huntington-beach-climbers-who-died-at-tahquitz-peak-brought-out-the-best-in-people/ Huntington Beach climbers who died on Tahquitz Peak brought out the best in people – Orange County Register

Dais Johnston

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