A new scholarship aims to bridge the mentorship gap in memoriam of a teen who fell to his death in Boulder’s Flatirons.
One Sunday evening last August, Carter Christensen scrambled, unroped, up the First Flatiron, the northernmost peak of the iconic rock formations dominating Boulder’s skyline. Near the summit, the 17-year-old posted a selfie on Instagram. In it, he’s smiling; a ball cap, sunglasses, and headphones frame his face; the lichen-covered sandstone drops down below him.
But before the sun set, police would report the teenager’s body was found at the Flatiron’s base. The evidence showed that he fell to his death from at least 100 feet above.
“That’s not a new thing, unfortunately,” says Doug Maiwurm, Colorado Mountain Club’s (CMC) youth program manager. As rock climbing’s popularity has grown, he’s observed more people trying the sport, which, of course, not only requires specific technical knowledge, but also good decision-making skills—two elements commonly in short supply as teenagers approach new tasks.
To help fill the ballooning void that’s developed between experienced climbers and novices, Christensen’s parents approached CMC in early 2018 to create the Carter Christensen Climbing Scholarship. “They wanted something positive to come out of [their traumatic experience],” says Maiwurm.
Up and running this summer, the scholarship supports teenagers attending CMC’s rock climbing courses, which CMC hopes will foster mentor relationships. Once the summer courses end, meetups will continue throughout the academic year, extending mentorship opportunities as well as Christensen’s legacy.
“We want to promote good judgement, responsibility and decision-making in kids,” Maiwurm says. “There’s only going to be more of a need for that as the sport continues to grow.”