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Steamboat Magazine

Nick Would

03/18/2024 01:37PM ● By Matt Tredway
(Photo: Nick Simon climbs Half Dome at Yosemite National Park in 2022. Courtesy of Nick Would Foundation.)

Steamboat Springs, CO - The ice fractured in a moment and with no warning. The blue chunk only dropped a foot or so before it collided into my thigh. My tool was already gone as a result of the fracture and with my foot sheared off the ice, I was down to two points of contact. Like hinges on a door, my body began to swing. With a hasty adrenaline-charged readjustment, my free tool found purchase again. I was secure, but rattled.
“It's not going to be a cakewalk!” l shouted down to my partner as l placed another screw and attached my rope.

Writer/climber Matt Tredway ascends “Nick Would.” Courtesy of Matt Tredway.

When it comes down to it, nothing worth doing is a cakewalk. Adventure comes with a bit of insecurity. Steamboat Springs’ Nick Simon knew this well and set the pattern for us to follow. As a 6th grade student in my class, l taught him fractions, and he taught the rest of the room, including me, how to be human. He was a calming presence, and everyone gravitated to him.  Bright eyed and enthused, he made space for everyone. Nick literally made everyone around him better, and had that quality that made everybody think of him as their best friend.

In 2022 in New Zealand, Nick died in a car accident, after living a too-brief but full life. He was intellectual, he was an artist and he embraced the natural world. An adventurer in body and spirit, he knew that in life, everything we want is on the other side of fear. He was willing to take the extra step and take the road less traveled.
This spirit is how I ended up on an ice flow with my partner that day, Jeff Buffetti. We were hiking in the Flat Tops Wilderness when we saw the ribbon of ice falling off the cliff band. Jeff had located the flow during a scouting trip in the fall. It was a three mile walk to the base, laden with packs and butterflies in our stomachs. We stood at the base and marveled.
“I don’t think anyone has ever climbed this,” I said. “There should be crampon marks on these rocks.” But there were no telltale signs.

Nick and his father, Dan Simon, on a river trip on Gates of Lodore in 2021. Courtesy of Nick Would Foundation.

We started up the first pitch. 140 feet of steep climbing later, we both had war wounds from the ice but we had reached the second pitch. 100 feet up the second pitch, we realized that it was not built up to the point where it could hold body weight. We decided not to expose ourselves to the danger of the final pillars. Our phrase when we got spooked: live to climb another day.
The exit was spicy. There were no anchors left from previous climbers and we had to resort to a V-thread. This is achieved by putting in an ice screw at an angle, then removing it. Then, it’s repeated on the other side, creating holes that match up, creating a V-shaped tunnel through the ice. We threaded our rope through the V and tossed the ends down, rappelling our way to the bottom.
I am sure it was a first ascent. Along with the bragging rights, first ascenders get naming rights and we chose “Nick Would” in memory of Nick Simon, his adventurous spirit and love of life.
Shortly after his death, Nick’s family created the Nick Would Foundation. The foundation is a Donor Advised Fund of the Yampa Valley Community Foundation. This means the fund advisors make recommendations to Yampa Valley Community Foundation for where the funds will be distributed. Grants from the fund will be made to qualified charitable organizations and targeted around expanding access to outdoor pursuits, wildland exploration, and artistic development to those who otherwise could not experience these activities for physical, cognitive, or economic reasons. Nick was passionate about each of these activities, and it’s the fund’s intention to help spread these experiences to honor Nick’s legacy. Nick loved to share his excitement (“share the stoke,” he would say) with anyone who joined in these pursuits, and with this foundation, his “stoke” will be spread for future generations.

Nick with his mother, Sarah Simon, at a camp site on the middle fork of the Salmon River in 2009. Courtesy of Nick Would Foundation.

In the first 12 months since the Foundation's launch, it's already made donations to Stars, Friends of the Yampa, the summer concert series, SSWSC, Windansea Surf Club and the Integrated Newcomer Ski Program. 2024 will see a doubling of donations with fundraisers in Steamboat and a surf contest/fundraiser in San Diego this summer.

“The future goal is to raise over one million dollars, give away $100,000 annually, and impact at least 1,000 people each year,” Nick’s father, Dan Simon, says. ”To create opportunities for all people to excel, break paradigms, and open new horizons; to leverage the experience of an outdoor pursuit, wildland exploration, or development of an artistic talent into learning we are all capable of more. More kindness, more love, more gratitude, more humility, more fun, and yes, a more enriched life.”

Nick, his mother, and his sister, Natalie, take in the sunset at Little Point Beach in La Jolla, California, in the summer of 2018. Courtesy of Nick Would Foundation.