First published in the Anchorage Press.
On Sunday, January 18th, Alaska Pacific University student, Dasan Marshall fell to his death on the North Face of Mount Yukla. Marshall was scouting a section of a route in a couloir when he slipped and fell 1,000 feet down the face.
An avid climber and explorer from Portland, Oregon, Dasan Marshall had been living in Alaska since 2012. Marshall had been attending his last semester at Alaska Pacific University (APU) to complete his Bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Studies and working on his senior project that involved starting an alpine club for the student community at APU.
The following tribute to Dasan was written by APU student, Simon Frez-Albrecht, one of Dasan’s close friends and a frequent partner on his climbs.
by Simon Frez-Albrecht
I learned that Dasan was whooping with joy only a minute before he fell. I can hear it echo in my head. It was a common sound on any adventure with Dasan. Cheering and laughing. Always laughing. He would laugh as we crowded into the tent with the temperature sitting below zero, making a pot of dinner from instant mashed potatoes, Ramen noodles, and anything else we had. Dasan’s unique talent was filling the pot to the brim without spilling over. He led the next round of laughter as he stirred an entire stick of butter into the gruel.
Dasan is the biggest single reason I have spent the last three years dedicated to climbing. He was in my first course at Alaska Pacific University. We were taking Expedition Leadership, paddling canoes down the Yukon River from Eagle to the Dalton Highway Bridge. At the time I was a rock climbing neophyte and had never heard of ice climbing. Listening to Dasan’s stories of climbing on Mt. Hood in his native Oregon, describing things like ice axes and crampons and glaciers, I was captivated. His enthusiasm and love for mountain environments was obvious and infectious. A month or two later Dasan took me on my first ice climb – and then the next few dozen. I’m having flashbacks to those dark early morning drives. We would pass a big cup of gas station coffee back and forth and growl and howl to old punk music to pass away the hours going back and forth to Caribou Creek in the Matanuska Valley.
Climbing with Dasan was like being a young boy climbing a tree with a friend. We chatted as we went, stopping and going casually. We embraced the difficult sections with enthusiasm, growing more comfortable the higher we went. There was no ego, no pretense, no worries. On flat land – in the cafeteria, in someone’s living room, in the hallway between classes – Dasan carried the same comfort and enthusiasm to every interaction.
As dedicated to climbing as Dasan was, it was far from his only passion. Dasan loved creating. He made beautiful wood cuts, wood block prints, and eating utensils from branches. He wrote poems and prose, relating stories about the mountains and love and living. He drew and painted with whatever media fell into his hands. He gave generously of the things he created. Many of us around him have his artwork hanging on our walls.
He gave generously of his time as well. I can think of half a dozen people off the top of my head who now call themselves climbers thanks to Dasan. On many of his precious few days off of school, he would take less experienced peers out to show them the ropes, when he could just as easily have been on more challenging climbs with the strongest climbers of our tribe. Most recently he started the APU Alpine Club to give more back to his community. He wanted to use the club to bring even more people into the mountains and share his passion for wild places.
Every person Dasan has touched – no small number – will miss him dearly. We will keep his torch burning bright.