Tahoe avalanche victim was a ‘Great mountain spirit’
LAKE TAHOE ” Christopher Tretheway did almost everything with zeal and a fondness for the moment. Whether it was building custom homes, or skiing, or, for that matter, doing impersonations or telling jokes, friends remembered Tretheway as one who led the way and did so heartily.
The 39-year-old South Lake Tahoe man, who went into the backcountry alone to ski as he had done for years, didn’t come out; he was the victim of an avalanche in the Maggies Peaks area near Emerald Bay.
“Chris was one of those guys who you thought would never get touched. He was too good a person, and everyone around him knew it. His smile would disarm anybody and it happened all the time,” said longtime friend Jake Dore of South Lake Tahoe.
It was Dore, among others, who called out to the backcountry adventurist community to help in the search of their friend, who was found buried in several feet of snow.
Raised in Pennsylvania and educated at Penn State University where he earned an engineering degree, Tretheway’s passions were simple. He loved the outdoors, the high Sierra and the challenge both brought physically, spiritually and intellectually, said Chris Wolf, a childhood friend.
“He was the kind of person who would never go around telling people what he did. There wasn’t anything ego-based with him. That’s why the people who met him would always want to be his friend,” Wolf said.
A group of friends met Monday at the Cantina in South Lake Tahoe to reflect on Tretheway, whom they characterized as someone who lived without fear and who died doing what he most loved to do.
“He would ski the biggest and baddest. Every backcountry person in town knew him because of his reputation as one to push the limits,” said friend Toni Sopocko.
Outdoor adventurer, RSN host and creator of Tahoe Adventure Film Festival Todd Offenbacher was among friends who helped in the search and recovery.
“Chris was one of those guys who had that great mountain spirit,” Offenbacher said. “There was this moment during the search and recovery where I turned and I saw 20 of his friends there for him.
“As we moved into recovery, I thought, ‘this is a mountain man who loved the Sierra, knew it well and took a calculated risk,'” Offenbacher said. “I think he would have been proud knowing that there were people like him who knew the mountains, knew the spirit and were there for him.”
Dore, who worked construction with Tretheway, said his friend was always up for a challenge either with friends or going at it alone.
“If he wanted to climb alone, he would climb alone; if he wanted to ski alone, he did. It was part of his personality. He was larger than life and that’s why this is very hard for a lot of us,” Dore said.
Search teams scouring the area found Tretheway’s body on Monday west of Cascade Lake. The initial search began Sunday night after friends became concerned and didn’t hear from him. Tretheway’s vehicle was found at the trailhead.
Additional resources were committed to the area early Monday, and with the help of a search dog, Tretheway’s remains were located, said El Dorado County Sheriff’s Lt. Les Lovell. About 60 searchers were deployed, including Tretheway’s friends, about 20 of them from the local climbing and backcountry skiing community.
Tretheway was owner of Treth Built Construction, a contracting business. He helped build homes at Fallen Leaf Lake and helped with contracting following the 2007 Angora fire. He was divorced, but according to friends, remained good friends with his ex-wife, Kate.
Tretheway knew the risks of the backcountry, friends insist, and that he was highly skilled in getting out of danger.
“He had skied this area dozens of times before, probably under worse conditions,” Dore said.
The death of Tretheway, however, should leave many who venture into the backcountry some room for pause.
“If there’s one message I would say we need to be aware of the risk-taking and the complacency that we can find ourselves in,” Offenbacher said. “Now is the time for us to reflect on all the risks, and to remember it is always good to be on the cautious side.”
El Dorado County authorities issued a reminder that those who go into the backcountry should tell people where they are going and when they plan to return.
With the rain-and-snow mix, avalanche danger was high on both Saturday and Sunday, officials said.
A memorial is planned for Saturday, the time and place to be determined.
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