This story first appeared in The Outsider, the premium outdoor newsletter by Jason Blevins. Become a Newsletters+ Member to get The Outsider at coloradosun.com/join. (Existing members, click here to learn how to upgrade)
GRAND JUNCTION — Seth Anderson was 16 years old when his older brother Dirk led him up his first 14er.
As the fall weather switched from sun to rain to sleet to sun, the brothers dug into their packs, switching jackets and hats. Dirk, then 25, told his brother, “there’s got to be a better way.”
“What if people could have less and do more,” Seth remembered Dirk saying as they vowed to climb all of Colorado’s 14ers. “Let’s think outside the box and help ourselves and help other people. We want to think about solving the world’s problems, not our clothing. Let’s do better.”
“That day with Dirk,” said Seth, “Sept. 19, 1990, it changed my life.”
The Anderson brothers birthed Loki Outdoor Gear that night, sewing a hat that switched to a gaiter with a pull. They would come up with all kinds of innovations in the following years, integrating mittens and gaiters into technical jackets and building one of Colorado’s most revered outdoor apparel makers.
On Aug. 24 this year, Dirk led Seth up his final of the state’s 58 14ers. They took their time. Dirk had finished his last 14er a year earlier, but he wanted his brother to savor the moment.
“It was the greatest day of my life,” said Seth, remembering the brotherly banter with his idol, the man who put him on a path he treads today. “At the end of the day I turned to him and said ‘Thank you. You gave my life meaning and purpose. So thank you brother.’”
A week later, Dirk, age 54, was dead. He was riding his high-performance KTM motorbike — he called it his scooter — in the Bangs Canyon stretch of the Tabeguache Trail near his home in Grand Junction when he hit a crack and flew off a canyon wall. Broken from a nearly 80-foot fall, he crawled in between two pinons and tried to call his brother.
“He took his helmet off. He took his jacket off. He dug his feet into the dirt. He tried to activate Siri to call me. He never touched his phone,” Seth said.
Instead the phone in his pocket took a video.
“We heard his last words,” Seth said. “I would have called him first, too. That’s the way it was for me at least, when stuff was really good or really bad, that’s when I called my brother.”
Several hundred people packed a middle school gymnasium Saturday to celebrate the life of Dirk Anderson.
He and his wife, Theresa, whom he met when she was 15 and married when she was 19, raised two girls, Acadia and Cierra. They were celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. They had a granddaughter and another grandchild on the way.
In addition to founding Loki Gear with his brother, Dirk spent 30 years at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, climbing from X-ray technician to managing the hospital’s diagnostic department and building a network that enabled hospitals to quickly share diagnostic medical records.
He met his best friend, Dr. Tony Bullard, at St. Mary’s. Bullard told the crowd gathered for Dirk’s memorial that his friend’s decades of adventuring had yielded several stories of him saving his companion’s lives.
Bullard said Dirk had “a halo of invincibility.”
“You pretty much assumed that when you were with Dirk, you are going to make it out,” Bullard said. “You were going to be safe. And you would have some stories.”
Bullard said his friend was always reading. He had read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica by the time he was 8. He was gifted with both intelligence and athleticism, excelling at just about everything he tried, Bullard said.
But you’d never guess it, he said.
“He lived life fully with a confident humility,” Bullard said. “When you were around Dirk, you were better. And everything was just better. He made you want to take adventures and live a better life.”
Oh those adventures. Seth remembers each one well, reciting the exact dates of their epics on North America’s highest peaks. Like Jan. 17, 1997, when Seth dove and grabbed Dirk’s glove before it blew off the top of the peak, sparking their idea to sew stowable mittens into the sleeve of a jacket.
“He said ‘Seth, we are stupid and we are going to forget our gloves. Let’s help people have better lives by making something so they can do more with less,’” Seth said.
Dirk loved the challenge he found in the mountains, Seth said. But more, he loved sharing those wild places with his friends and family.
“He had this saying, ‘When stuff is hard, we go,’” Seth said. “He had this emphasis with his hands when he said it and you just felt it, this feeling that it wasn’t us going against the mountains, but us going with the mountains. We were together and we were going to make it happen.”
Last year, Dirk and Seth lost their brother Jared, who had Down syndrome. Jared was liberal with his hugs. Seth called him “our love bug.”
“I don’t think people get many lessons from their siblings like I had,” Seth said. “I’m lucky. I have this glow of gratitude. My heart just glows right now with pure gratitude. I just can’t help it. My time with Dirk was a blessing. If I have any regret, it’s when I heard his voice, I wanted to reach down and pull him out of that canyon the way he reached down and pulled me up when I was 16. But I couldn’t do that. But he’s still with me and it’s my mission in life to share Dirk with everyone and share this gratitude.”
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