She had headed out with her dog to do a remote ice climb on Tuesday, March 30 and was reported missing by her roommate on Wednesday morning. The Ouray County Sheriff’s department confirmed on Friday morning that Kloos's body was found buried under 10 feet of snow on Thursday afternoon.
One of only a few female alpine guides certified by the American Mountain Guides Association, Kloos had guided extensively around the world, working for Durango-based Southwest Adventure Guides, Aspen Expeditions, Ophir-based Mountain Trip, and International Mountain Guides, among other guiding companies.
According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Kloos was alone when she headed out to do the remote ice climb. After friends reported her missing the next day, members of the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team were dispatched to the area. Kloos’s vehicle was located near a trailhead where she had accessed the area from private property.
Searchers on Wednesday afternoon found tracks leading into a large avalanche debris field measuring 150 by 80 meters. They also found Kloos’s backpack and climbing gear, including an avalanche beacon, just outside the slide area at the base of a cliff wall. Her dog was found alive in the same area.
According to CAIS, searchers presume that Kloos dropped her gear before heading up to assess the climb and en route was caught low in the path of the avalanche. According to the sheriff’s department, rescue personnel began a probe search but were unable to find any sign of Kloos on Wednesday. The search was suspended at 8 p.m. due to darkness, inclement weather and hazardous conditions at the site. The next day, with additional help from a canine avalanche team from Breckenridge, the search was resumed.
At approximately 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, after avalanche dogs helped rescuers narrow their search area, Kloos's body was found with probes, buried 10 feet below the surface. She was pronounced dead at the scene by Ouray County Coroner Gary Miller. An autopsy has been ordered to determine the exact cause of death.
According to Mountain Trip’s website, as a guide Kloos "could do it all," including guided rock, ice and big alpine routes. In 2008, she received the Denali National Park Service’s “Denali Pro Award” for her efforts in assisting the National Park with a difficult rescue there in 2007.
“She was one of the strongest, most consistently positive people I have ever met,” Mountain Trip co-owner Todd Rutledge said on Friday. Rutledge said he had the opportunity to guide Denali parallel with Kloos in 2007. “She blew me away, he said. “Anytime we had a trip that required someone who could get the job done but take really good care of people on a personal level, moment to moment, she was at the top of our list. She was our go-to guide for expeditions anywhere in the world.”
Kloos led guided trips in Antarctica and Argentina, as well. “She was going to Nepal next week,” Rutledge said, adding that she had done a trip with Telluride Adaptive Sports Program last year and had planned to lead another with the organization in Alaska this year.
During the two-day search, Rutledge said he had heard it was Kloos's truck parked near the incident but he continued to have hope that she would somehow survive.
“I could probably count on one hand the people who I have met in my life who would not surprise me that they could have somehow found some shelter and suffered and survived for a couple of days,” he said. “Heidi was one of them. It didn’t seem that far-fetched that she would survive. Now, we are all just dealing with acceptance. She was so special. She had the ability to be consistently professional yet allow herself to be accessible on a personal level.”
According to friend Christina Callicott, Kloos was a long time resident of the Western Slope of Colorado. Born in Aspen, she graduated from Hotchkiss High School, where she was very active in sports including basketball, volleyball and track, for which she won a state championship.
After high school, Kloos joined the Air Force for four years and was stationed primarily in the Philippines. After her discharge, she attended the University of Idaho where she received a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management and resources.
Kloos became involved with climbing while in the Air Force as a member of the search and recovery team. Later, while at the University of Idaho, she began working at the school’s indoor climbing wall, and by the time she graduated she was working as a professional climbing guide, mostly with other students, according to her mother.
After college, Kloos returned to Colorado and began working with kids at the indoor climbing wall in Grand Junction, soon moving to Aspen, where she worked as a ski instructor, landscaper, painter, ski patroller and eventually, full-time mountain guide. She also worked as an instructor with the Aspen Youth Experience, a nonprofit program that brings inner-city youth to Marble, Colo., for a ropes course, climbing and rappelling trip. Kloos managed the annual event, coordinating up to 40 volunteers every July.
In 1996, Kloos lost her brother to a kayaking accident. Then in 1999 her fiancé, Dave Bridges, was killed along with Alex Lowe in an avalanche in Tibet. Kloos’s father, a longtime ski patroller at Snowmass Mountain, died last January.
Kloos leaves behind her mother, Irene Kloos, her brother Andy Kloos, his wife, their two children, and a cadre of friends, climbing partners, clients, and pets.
A memorial fund in Kloos’s name has been set up by TASP to help fund a program for disabled athletes she helped organize in Alaska. The program brings participants to Denali National Park to camp, ski and climb amongst the glaciated peaks of the Alaska Range. Donations can be made to: Telluride Adaptive Sports Program for The Heidi Kloos Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 2254, Telluride, CO, 81435 or online at tellurideadaptivesports.org.