Fresh out of college, Mason Stansfield already had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do next in life.
He met up with San Juan Mountain Guides co-owner Nate Disser for breakfast and lobbed a host of questions at him about being a guide. Disser hired him and was immediately impressed — a mature young man who was professional and easy to get along with. He progressed quickly in his skill set. He even put down roots in the San Juans, buying a cabin on Hastings Mesa between Ridgway and Telluride.
“Wow, this kid is just on a good track,” Disser recalled thinking.
Stansfield and another skier were on a multi-day trip through Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday when Stansfield fell into a glacier crevasse and died. He was 28.
“Mason was a treasured member of our community and our team. And everybody loved him. It’s just a total tragedy. Everyone is in shock,” Disser said in an interview Tuesday.
Park mountaineering rangers received a message from a satellite communication device at 3:30 p.m. Monday that a skier, later identified as Stansfield, had fallen into a crevasse on a spur of Eldridge Glacier, according to a statement from the National Park Service.
A park spokeswoman told the Anchorage Daily News Stansfield and another skier were flown to the glacier on Saturday and planned to spend 10 days camping, ski touring and exploring spurs off the main glacier. The spokeswoman said the two were skinning up the glacier on Monday afternoon, and that winter snow had hidden the crevasse.
The woman skiing with Stansfield could not see or communicate with Stansfield after he fell into the crevasse, according to the park service statement.
A high altitude helicopter carrying two mountaineering rangers left the Talkeetna State Airport within 30 minutes of the call for help. The accident occurred about 20 miles east of the Denali summit at about 8,000 feet elevation.
One of the mountaineering rangers was lowered into the crevasse and found Stansfield dead about 100 feet down. Stansfield’s partner, who was not injured, was taken back to the airport. Stansfield’s body was recovered later that evening, according to the park service statement.
Stansfield had recently worked with another guiding company, Mountain Trip, and was taking a personal trip before starting a season of guiding in Denali National Park.
Ouray resident Andrea Iuppenlatz posted on Facebook that she joked with Stansfield that he was her third son. She and her husband, Mark, own Red Mountain Alpine Lodge, and Mark is co-owner of San Juan Mountain Guides.
“You would always come into the lodge with the biggest smile, hug me and ask what you could do to help us. Most of the time you just jumped in and started doing things — washing dishes, stoking the fire, helping at the bar, engaging in conversation with your clients and our guests. All seemingly effortless,” she wrote.
“Mason, we are all better humans for knowing you. Mark and I talked at length about how you are one of the few people we know that only positive things were said about you — 100 percent of the time. You set the bar high our friend. If in our lifetime we can be a sliver of the young man you were we should be so lucky.”
Disser said Stansfield had obtained his American Mountain Guides Association certification and was on track to obtain his International Federation of Mountain Guides Association license.
“He was just really, really great at what he did. He loved being a guide,” Disser said.
Courtesy of the Ouray County Plaindealer