By Amy Fendley
Last November Ryan Gregory Robertson was killed while descending the Matier Glacier on Slalok Mountain near Joffre Lakes in Pemberton.
Robertson was 23. He had been a seasonal worker for the past four summers in Whistler doing construction for Amako. Last summer he endured 6 a.m. Creekside gondola rides while working on the Roundhouse Lodge.
He was a fourth year student in human kinetics at UBC. A good student and good at everything he did. An intelligent guy hoping to become an athletic trainer, on first impression he seemed shy. But he was a friend and icon to many.
A few summers ago, living with roommate Scott Harnett out of a tent and Robertson’s blue Honda Civic in the Day Skier Lot 1, the two were constantly harassed by bylaw officers. Three summers later, Robertson and Harnett returned to Lot 1, but this year Harnett had a new GMC Safari van. No need for a tent.
Last summer, Jonathon Silcock convinced the guys to share a house.
Robertson and Silcock played Frisbee in the Whistler Ultimate League. They rock climbed around Whistler and almost every weekend participated in a bike race.
They travel from Seattle to Kelowna to Mt. Washington, where Robertson won his first downhill race. They competed in the Sea2Sky race and the 12 Hours of Adrenaline, the latter of which was an experience Silcock feels best exemplified Robertson’s friendship.
"We were always super competitive, but never to the point where we would abandon one another. We tried to ride every race together and help each other out," said Silcock. "We did the race solo this year, he came in eighth, I came in ninth, but we essentially rode the whole thing together. He got a few flats and I had to go to first aid, but he waited. He was faster going up the last hill, but he waited. That was the type of person Ryan was."
Silcock met Robertson, who was working as a first aid attendant, in ’95 while working on the Whistler Public Safety Building and the GLC sites. Silcock says Robertson became the best friend he ever had and that it was because of him, that he got into mountain biking.
"He got me into racing," said Silcock. "We always used to ride. He modelled for Sugoi. We joined WORCA, started travelling to races and bought new bikes. In the last year we rode the Sea2Sky and took part in races around the province. We also made several backcountry and mountaineering trips including a summit on Lizzie Peak."
Confident, competitive, always there when you needed him. Outdoor enthusiast, hiker, biker and climber, that was Robertson.
Silcock says their ultimate goal was to get an EcoChallenge group together in four years.
On Monday, Nov. 9, Robertson’s life ended. He fell on the Matier Glacier ice and slid approximately 500 feet into a bergshrund. He had been climbing with his current roommate Stephan Harreman-Gerrais, 24. Whistler and Pemberton Search and Rescue teams located him at 5:30 p.m. that day. His body was found in the crevasse, buried under six feet of snow that fell on top of him after the fall.
The incident occurred just three days before Michel Trudeau was killed by an avalanche while traversing the Kokanee Glacier in the Kootenays. Trudeau’s death received national coverage.
"They were up for the weekend and stayed at my place," says Silcock. "They were expected back on Monday, but when they didn’t show I didn’t worry because they said if the weather was good they would stay another day. He was skilled enough to do this sort of climbing, descending a snow field, it’s nothing technical. He had done it lots of times through school, took relevant courses, had equipment and was definitely qualified."
Silcock is trying to establish a scholarship in his friend’s name and is working with Sea2Sky race co-ordinators to create a trophy for next year’s race in his name for the best sportsman of the race.
"The UBC Racing Team is going to change our jerseys to bare Ryan’s name in the Ride for Ryan next year. I think I’m going to ride for Ryan for the rest of my life."