By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Gone
Last summer, Tiffany Thiele, a young rock climber from Reno, Nevada, took her life after posting a Facebook message claiming she’d been raped by a ski patroller. She left behind an unsolvable mystery about what really happened, along with urgent questions about whether more could have been done to heal her feelings of pain and distrust.
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If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free from anywhere in the United States at 1-800-273-8255, or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit rainn.org for a live chat.
Tiffany Thiele was planning to climb the East Buttress of Yosemite’s El Capitan, a stout 5.10b route with nine pitches that rise 1,500 feet above the Valley floor, the longest multi-pitch line she’d ever attempted. An elementary school teacher with sun-drenched blond hair, blue eyes, a silver-studded nose piercing, and a strong, vivacious personality, Thiele told friends how excited she was about the challenge.
She intended to attempt the route with a climber from Portland, Oregon, named Chris Alexander. The two met last summer, through a Facebook group. They had climbed together once during that time, in the mountains on the California side of Lake Tahoe, ending the 12-hour day with beers on the tailgate. The new plan was for Alexander to fly to Reno, Nevada, where Thiele lived, during the first week of October. From there, they’d drive to Yosemite together.
On Saturday, September 18, Thiele celebrated her 38th birthday by climbing and going out to dinner. That day, she texted a friend about planning a climbing trip to Red Rock, outside Las Vegas. Thiele had just bought a guidebook, and the two swapped ideas about which routes they wanted to try.
According to Thiele’s close acquaintances, she seemed happy and optimistic at the time. She talked about big hopes for the future: she dreamed of snowboarding in Japan someday, she’d found plane tickets to Greece for $300, and she was itching to go to Moab, the climbing and mountain-biking hub in Utah.
On Monday night, September 20, she and Alexander texted back and forth about Yosemite, working on logistics. He says he didn’t notice anything wrong. Her responses were a little slow, but otherwise everything seemed normal. “Can’t wait,” she wrote. “I led some 11s in the gym a couple of days ago.”