This is Patrick Orton.
I didn’t know him very long. We met during a trip to Shasta during last year’s solar eclipse. We were a large group of skiers from throughout the west – Colorado, Utah, California, Idaho, and even Alaska. We converged to ski Shasta’s famous spring corn and to witness the solar eclipse in a place known as a spiritual epicenter. Patrick dove right into the “assignment” and bonded immediately with the group. He encouraged us to flip of bridges, be silly, work it for the camera – the kid was hilarious. His persistence payed off and he took the National Geographic Extreme photo of the week and had his photos published in a writeup on TGR.
Over the year, we stayed in touch via Facebook and email. I ran into Patrick at Outdoor Retailer in February and he invited me out with his friends. In April, I hooked him up with some European ski friends of mine and he spent days photographing them in Alaska.
As recently as a few weeks ago, I contacted him to let him know we’d be traveling through his hometown in Idaho and he offered me the “grand tour.” We ran out of time and never stopped there, but, it turns out I should have. Patrick died in an accident on July 20th and it has hit the people who knew him pretty hard. He was young, but a role model for many who exemplified following your dream and doing something that scared you every day. He was outgoing and career driven, but incredibly nice and the opposite of pretentious. I’m a better person for having known him.
I’ve been thinking a lot about injuries, death, extreme sports, and social media and I haven’t quite come to a conclusion on all their connections. I know that Patrick’s death was an accident, but I also know that we are members of a community where the norm is continual progression and the line between pushing your limits and death or permanent injury is sometimes blurry. So for now, I’m reassessing my risk tolerance and trying to find fun in less risky pursuits. I’m sure there is a line, but sometimes we have to step back to see it.