Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mount Rainier ranger killed in accident in Canadian Rockies

By Warren Cornwall
Seattle Times staff reporter

When Charlie Borgh went away to college, he left as a skinny, soccer-playing valedictorian.

A few years later, Mr. Borgh had transformed himself into a muscled and talented climber, skilled enough that he joined the elite ranks of Mount Rainier's climbing rangers in his early 20s.

The mountains became the focus of his life — he exercised at least two hours every day with an eye toward them, and he planned his life to revolve around climbing, said his father, John Borgh.
"He was in love with climbing. He wanted climbing to be his life until he died," he said. His son's strength was coupled with gentleness, he said.

Last Thursday, at 26, Mr. Borgh was killed in what Canadian authorities believe was an avalanche while he climbed high on the flank of Mount Deltaform in the Canadian Rockies.
Mr. Borgh grew up far from any mountains — in Minneapolis and Sioux City, Iowa.

He discovered rock climbing as a freshman at the University of Colorado in Boulder. That interest expanded into mountaineering and grew into a consuming passion after he transferred to Whitman College in Walla Walla, his father said.

He was drawn to the mountains by a sense of their purity, the physical pleasure, the challenge and the camaraderie, family members and a colleague said.

Mr. Borgh first volunteered to work at Mount Rainier in 2002, said Mike Gauthier, the supervisor of climbing rangers at Mount Rainier National Park. He quickly ascended the ranks and was named a lead climbing ranger for this year, Gauthier said.

He also served on the prestigious Yosemite Search and Rescue team in California's Yosemite Valley.

"I had so much faith in Charlie and trusted his ability that I was sending him up to Denali for a month just to get more experience," Gauthier said.

Mr. Borgh's climbing companion in Canada, a friend from college, survived the accident, John Borgh said.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police did not release the name of the friend but said he suffered broken limbs.

Mr. Borgh is survived by his father and mother, John and Mary Borgh, of Minneapolis; sister and brother-in-law Brynn and Nels Olsen, of Madison, Wis.; and fiancée Kristina Mustacich, of Washington state.

Warren Cornwall: 206-464-2311 or wcornwall@seattletimes.com


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