RIP John Galvin — Avalanche Accident Near Aspen Takes SAR Volunteer

Post by blogger | April 9, 2018      
Mountain Rescue Aspen

Mountain Rescue Aspen grieves for perished member John Galvin.

Lisa and I called him the Galvinator. Whether it was hiking, ski touring or snowmobiling John Galvin was quite possibly the most enthusiastic and nearly savant-like backcountry explorer we’ve ever known. His enthusiasm was contagious, exciting, indeed galvanizing, and when serving for Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA), Galvin helped save so many lives — as well as helping with closure for those lost — one could never reach a full count. Hundreds.

Yesterday, we learned John had perished in an avalanche near Aspen, Colorado. Lisa and I are grieving, devastated by the loss of such a fine man and friend, and feeling much concern about his family and Mountain Rescue colleagues. (In my recollection, over the years MRA has lost only three members in the mountains, an outstanding safety record, but of course meaningless in a personal sense.)

John Galvin (right) helping the Dawson family in 2007.

John Galvin (right) helping the Dawson family in 2007. Click images to enlarge.

I met Galvin years ago, when he first began volunteering for MRA (while Lisa and I were team members as well). The man took to our Colorado backcountry like he was born to it — even though he was a city boy from Chicago. The Galvinator had a mind like a bear trap when it came to memorizing routes, and with deductive talent rivaling Sherlock Holmes he’d often “guess” where a rescue subject was, nail it perfectly, or later we’d find he’d come closer than anyone else. Even years later, just a few months ago I was involved in a ground search in which Galvin was active. He didn’t find the guy, but yet again came closer than anyone (the subject self rescued after a night out, long story).

Then there was Sloan Peak — a big event in the Dawson family, just another day (or night) for Galvin. In 2007 our son Louie was a young teen, feeling the call of the wild. He liked elk hunting, and one day embarked on a big reconnaissance hike, solo. As one of his first serious treks alone, we made sure he’d be in cell phone range, and had a GPS. But despite modern technology the area he’d explore was still a fairly remote wilderness. As young squires are wont to do, the boy got focused on his goal and hiked until nightfall, then realized he knew not how to exit other than an enormous and thus clearly dangerous nighttime re-trace of his route. After failing to start a fire for a bivvy (lesson learned), he called in, and a night rescue ensued (with a fire, we would have let the bivouac run, but with snow on the ground and clear sky, the risks of frostbite or even hypothermia were nothing to trifle with). We identified the location using GPS chords Louie phoned in. Galvin knew the exact route to get us close on ATVs, ending with a short hike through the forest to retrieve the boy. Galvinated.

Just the other day, I’d locked myself out of my truck after an MRA meeting. Galvin and I had hung out chatting and were the last to leave (the man did like to talk!). Without missing a beat, he offered me a ride home — an extra 25 miles of driving. That’s the kind of guy he was. During that same conversation, Galvin shared that “back in Chicago, I loved playing baseball, being on a team… not much of that going on around here compared to the city so I joined up with MRA as a team, that’s what I love, the team.”

Thanks Galvinator, for all you did, all the people you helped, the lives you touched. You will be remembered by your team, and many many others.

Statement from Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and Mountain Rescue Aspen President Justin Hood (lightly edited)

Pitkin County, Colorado – Monday, April 9, 2018 – It is with great sadness that we identify 57-year-old John Galvin, a Roaring Fork Valley resident and 30-year veteran of MRA as the individual killed in the avalanche in the Maroon Bowl on Sunday, April 8, 2018. This same avalanche injured Galvin’s skiing partner, who was able to call for assistance and successfully self-rescued. Avalanche conditions on Sunday, April 8, 2018, prevented recovery crews from entering the avalanche zone in the Maroon Bowl. (Editor’s note: so far as we know, Galvin was NOT on any sort of official Mountain Rescue mission during his accident.)

Moving forward, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office has requested the assistance of professional snow safety personnel from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) to participate in the recovery mission. CAIC personnel will work with Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol this week to provide snow safety assessments which will be used to determine the best time and date to recover Galvin’s body. Due to current conditions there will be no attempts to recover Galvin’s body Monday, April 9, 2018.

“John was a dedicated and professional public safety volunteer, who unselfishly gave his time to our community over 30 years.” – Joe DiSalvo, Pitkin County Sheriff

As one can imagine, the members of both agencies, but specifically the all-volunteer rescuers from Mountain Rescue Aspen are particularly impacted by this loss…

“John helped save lives of hundreds of visitors and locals who were in need while injured or stranded in our mountains. John will be missed by all on our team and in our community.” – Justin Hood, MRA President

As is routine in search and rescue missions in Pitkin County, all media inquiries should be directed to Operations Commander Alex Burchetta with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.


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12 Responses to “RIP John Galvin — Avalanche Accident Near Aspen Takes SAR Volunteer”

  1. Kevin S April 9th, 2018 3:28 pm

    RIP John Galvin! Never met the man but know his type very well! Only used Search and Rescue once. Back in the mid-90s we needed to evac a severely injured skier off of the North Couliers of Torreys and those folks were special!

    A special breed of selfless person!!

  2. Lou Dawson 2 April 9th, 2018 3:32 pm

    Man oh man Kevin, truth. Lou

  3. Allan April 9th, 2018 4:13 pm

    RIP John Galvin! Lou, I’m sorry to learn about this accident and that you had to make this report. Thank God for all of the good and selfless SAR people around the world. Like Kevin above I’ve only had to call on SAR and in the Jackson area for one incident and she was very fortunate. I’m honored to have reciprocated in rescues and able to help others in need.

  4. See April 9th, 2018 7:46 pm

    “That’s what I love, the team.” Much respect and condolences.

  5. David J. Rothman April 9th, 2018 11:14 pm

    A terrible loss. Didn’t know the man but knew of him. I’m so sorry.

  6. Robin Waters April 9th, 2018 11:46 pm

    Beautifully written. You know that feeling when you love and grieve the loss of someone you never were lucky enough to meet. Then you love all of the people around them, and absorb each word as though a new life is created. There must be a world of tears now about this special man John Galvin. Your story, and others, give him eternal life. Galvinizing. He sounds magical. So sorry he left too soon.

  7. wtofd April 10th, 2018 6:58 am

    Beautiful tribute. Sorry for your loss.

  8. Halsted Morris April 10th, 2018 8:08 am

    I remember John, when I was doing the CAIC/MRA avalanche courses. He will be missed by many. RIP John.

  9. Lisa Dawson April 11th, 2018 6:30 am

    A sweet man and dear friend. Galvin, I will miss you.

  10. Lori Herrera April 12th, 2018 9:03 am

    What a beautiful tribute to my Uncle, thank you! He was such an amazing person, reading all these comments and tributes from so many people of the lives he touched is heartwarming. He will certainly be missed by so many. RIP uncle Johnny.

  11. Lou Dawson 2 April 12th, 2018 10:19 am

    Thanks for dropping by Lori, peace. Lou

  12. Mark W April 24th, 2018 10:44 am

    Truly a sad story, and to ponder how much risk SAR people expose themselves to is immense. Thank you for the story, and thank you John Galvin for all your selflessness.

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