As we've reported, 2017 has been among the worst-ever years for climbing deaths in Colorado, with at least ten casualties on fourteeners in the state, and plenty of tragedies at other natural wonders, including the passing of Henry Gholz in Rocky Mountain National Park during late September. Now, another climbing fatality has occurred just weeks before year's end in Fremont County, with the victim identified as Andrew Biebuyck, a Virginia geologist.
Biebuyck's LinkedIn page suggests that at the time of the accident that took his life, he was near the beginning of what looked to be a promising career. He was a student at the University of Michigan from 2009 to 2013. Then, following a stint as a quality-control field technician for a material holdings business in the Michigan community of Farmington Hills, he was hired as a geological technician for the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.
About the latter gig, he wrote:
As part of the USGS STATEMAP grant, I planned, carried out and assisted with geologic bedrock mapping at the 1:24,000 scale. I was also responsible for the digital cartography in both ArcGIS and Adobe Illustrator, of deliverable maps.
I was in charge of running the sample preparation laboratory. This included cutting rocks for both thin section and whole analysis.
As a part of the USGS Data Preservation grant, I created a geodatabase of VDOT drill logs; inventories field notebooks, field maps, Open File Reports, Kodachrome slides and drill logs; and scanned countless items.
This past September, Biebuyck returned to the private sector, taking a job as a geologist at NAEVA Geophysics in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Mere months later, Biebuyck was in Colorado — and at about 12:20 p.m. on Saturday, December 16, deputies with the Fremont County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to the Banks Hiking Area near an attraction known as the Piggy Bank.
A MeetUp.com post by the group Rock Climbers of Colorado Springs notes that "the Piggy Bank has something for everyone. Plenty of climbs from 5.7 to 5.12."
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The latter digits pertain to the free-climbing rating scale. The MountainMadness.com site describes climbs in the Class 5 range as "where rock climbing begins in earnest. Climbing involves the use of a rope, belaying and protection (natural or artificial) to protect the leader from a long fall. Fifth class is further defined by a decimal and letter system — in increasing and difficulty." Climbs ranked between 5.10 and 5.15 are "the realm of true experts; demands much training and natural ability and, often, repeated working of a route."
According to the FCSO, the calls on the 16th were related to a rock climber, later identified as Biebuyck, who had fallen approximately sixty feet and wasn't breathing.
A slew of agencies assisted the sheriff's office in trying to save Biebuyck's life, including the Bureau of Land Management, Fremont Search and Rescue, the Fremont County Incident Management Team and more. However, he did not respond to treatment and was declared dead at the scene.
Services for Andrew Biebuyck are pending.