Beloved Alaskan Ice Climber Dies in Car Crash

After 20 years of ice climbing and snowboarding adventures, Alaskan athlete Travis McAlpine died from injuries he sustained in a Valdez car crash last week.

McAlpine, 44, was in a three-vehicle collision on Feb. 23 and later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

A native of Girdwood, Alaska, the well-known ice climber received many social media tributes celebrating his life of adventure in Alaska’s close-knit outdoor community.

“Two decades of wild adventures, and he died as a result of a car accident,” his sister Tracy Thrasher Spence wrote on Facebook. “He was wild, free, generous, brilliant, passionate, and fearless. His life was an example of how to live your best life. His death is a reminder that we don’t always have tomorrow. Get out there and LIVE.”

According to the Anchorage Daily News, one of the three vehicles involved in the crash was turning left off the highway when the wreck occurred. A Valdez city official told the newspaper that fresh snow and sleet coated the roads at the time.


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Una publicación compartida por Travis Mcalpine (@icegun1)


From skateboards to snowboards

McAlpine’s life was a classic story of falling in love with the outdoors, according to details from his sister.

He grew up a skateboarder in Mississippi who dropped out of college in his second semester and moved to Colorado, starting a life of “hardcore outdoor adventuring” at the age of 19, Spence said.

After also spending time in Wyoming, McAlpine eventually found his way to Alaska, where his sister said he was “totally devoted” to outdoor adventures and his food truck business.

McAlpine never had kids and was unmarried, though his dog and constant companion Max will live with his girlfriend, Spence said.

“His girlfriends were always also adventurers, and they didn’t last if they couldn’t (for the most part) keep up,” she added.

Once he found the icy pastimes of Alaska, McAlpine never looked back.

“When he moved West, he fell in love with snowboarding, and he kept chasing more and more snow and ice,” Spence said. “He started rock climbing and whitewater kayaking and mountain biking, but eventually, it was ice climbing that he was really passionate about.”

Remembering an Alaskan original

The loss of McAlpine represents a “terrible blow” to the Alaska ice climbing community, climber Clint Helander wrote on Instagram, recalling McAlpine’s contributions.

“Travis McAlpine welcomed anyone and everyone to the sport. He single-handedly revitalized the Knik Glacier as a climbing destination through his selflessness,” Helander wrote. “I wish I would have thanked him for his contribution to our tight-knit community.”

Even off the ice-covered walls, McAlpine was still the “life of the after-climbing party,” as Jayme Mack Fuller wrote on Facebook.

“I met Travis Mcalpine through the MCA Ice Fest and I solicited him as an instructor for the event,” Fuller wrote. “He was so passionate about climbing it was infectious. He was happy to help and share the sport with others.”


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Una publicación compartida por Travis Mcalpine (@icegun1)

Joda Hankins, a longtime climbing partner, said he was “at a loss for words.”

“I love you forever brother and am so so so happy, blessed, and fulfilled to have your influence in my life,” he wrote. “Your reach is far, wide, and forever felt.”

McAlpine’s Instagram account is filled with posts of his ice climbing exploits throughout Alaska and his passion for the sport.

Of an ice climb in Feb. 2021, McAlpine wrote simply: “So happy in my happy place.”

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.