I Gave It All I Had, Man

In Public by Anna Debattiste

By Brian Chambliss, Plugged In Productions

In 2019, my father went missing.

He was climbing one of Colorado’s fourteen thousand foot peaks and he had gone silent. The Alpine Rescue Team (ART), an organization I had never heard of before, put on a search and rescue effort to find him. They had a group of 20 people and two helicopters searching for him for three days straight.

My father was an experienced climber. He started in 1998 and over the next 21 years, he would go on to summit peaks all over the world: Aconcagua, Denali and Cho Oyu just to name a few.

At the end of day three, the Alpine Rescue Team gathered my family and me to tell us they found my father but he was no longer alive. He had fallen 20 stories off the ridge he was climbing and died on impact.

Later that day, the hardest day of my life, I asked the ART members how much the rescue effort was going to cost. With so many people and helicopters in service over those three days I was expecting to receive a bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars. To my surprise, they told me it would cost us nothing. That we were not responsible to pay for any part of my late father’s recovery. We were left to grieve without the added worry of a staggering bill from the team.

Since my father’s death I have learned so much about ART. They conduct roughly 130 rescue missions per year. They are a nonprofit and 100% of their members are volunteers. And they never charge for rescue.

It says a lot about individuals who volunteer to get out of their warm beds in the middle of January at 2am to rescue someone they don’t know on top of a very cold mountain for what could be days at a time. This speaks to the caliber of people who volunteer for ART.

Since 2019, I have had the opportunity to interact with many of ART’s members and they are, in my opinion, some of the best people I’ve had the honor of meeting. I produce video content for a living and in 2020 I made a short film about the team. I submitted it to 30 film festivals. It was accepted and screened in 15 of them and even won the award for best documentary short at the Los Angles Reel Film Festival. If you care to watch the film, you can view it here.

I know we as human beings have a bias towards thinking nothing bad will ever happen to us, but if you find yourself lost or injured in the Colorado backcountry, seeing Alpine Rescue Team come up over a hill to rescue you would be the most beautiful sight you had ever seen. They are an amazing organization and I will support them until the day I inevitably pass.

Right before my father’s passing, he said something to me I will never forget. He told me, “I gave it all I had, man,” and he certainly did, in every aspect of his life. The Colorado outdoors are incredible and we should all spend more time in them, “giving it all we have,” so if you or any of your loved ones visit the Colorado backcountry, please support your local SAR group. You never know when you might need their help.

Editor’s note: In 2023, after giving significant pro bono time to Alpine Rescue Team, Brian began volunteering his time for CSAR projects also. We are currently working on a series of public education videos titled Trailblazers and Lifesavers. We’re grateful to Brian for his time and professional services!