Jack and Marge Gladbach heard from their son Sunday morning, shortly before he went missing on a Colorado mountain.
Steve Gladbach’s message came from a device that sent location updates to his friends and family when he went on climbs. He wrote a little message to go with each update: “I’m out exploring God’s gifts.”
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The 52-year-old Overland Park native died in a fall after separating from his climbing partners Sunday as they journeyed down the Thunder Pyramid peak in Colorado. He was looking for a new way to get up the mountain the next time he ventured out.
“He said he was always closest to God when he was on top of a mountain,” said his father, Jack Gladbach of Roeland Park.
Steve Gladbach, the father of two teenage daughters in Pueblo, Colo., graduated from Bishop Miege High School and Rockhurst College, now Rockhurst University. He received a master’s degree from Kansas State University. He taught math at Miege before moving to Colorado in the mid 1980s.
Gladbach was one of nine children, three of whom ended up moving to Colorado. His mother instilled in them a love for mountain scenery on trips to the state when the kids were growing up. Gladbach’s parents and four of his siblings still live in the Kansas City area.
According to The Denver Post, his climbing companions reported him missing Sunday afternoon. Jack Gladbach said the family gathered information on the search from a message board on the climbing website 14ers.com, where they learned of his death.
The message board has hundreds of posts from other climbers sending condolences to Gladbach’s family and sharing some of their favorite memories of him.
Gladbach was an accomplished climber, reaching every 14,000-foot peak in Colorado at least four times, according to The Denver Post.
His parents said he shared his passion with his daughters, taking them hiking and skiing. He and his youngest daughter climbed several 14,000-foot peaks together.
“He was always helping people on the mountains he was climbing,” his father said. “One of them, he went all the way back to get somebody’s dog that was left on the mountain.”