Falling Over a Cliff
Backpacker|May - June 2021
Courtney Henderson, 19, and Gavin Caruso, 23, fell 50 feet during a storm in June of 2020. Only one survived.
By Courtney Henderson

Gavin wasn’t moving. Lightning flashed again, neon-bright and way too close. The air buzzed, and I could feel the hairs on my arms lifting in the static. Blood dripped from my scalp into my hands. “Gavin?” I asked.

When my friend Gavin and I had started researching hikes near Boulder, Colorado, around noon that day, the sky was cloudless. We downloaded maps for South Boulder Peak; we’d been hiking in the area for a few days, and it seemed like a good challenge. Besides, it was our last afternoon to explore the Rockies. We wanted to make this hike count.

The first few miles rolled through green meadows and then up the winding stone steps of Shadow Canyon. Near the top of the canyon the path grew steep.

“Gavin, are you sure we’re on the trail?” I panted as he started up an arduous section of third-class terrain. He showed me the GPS app, which hadn’t steered us wrong before. Sure enough, there we were: a little arrow, right on the trail. We thought the terrain would ease up any second. Plus, we only had a mile left. But the exposed rocks made me antsy. I apologized for nagging. “I’m just scared,” I said.

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