Bellingham man lives off the grid in self-made "gypsy wagon"
A Bellingham man died Tuesday evening in an avalanche near White Pass Ski Area on U.S. Highway 12 south of Mount Rainier.
Adam Roberts, 31, was skiing out of bounds with a friend about 6 p.m. when he triggered an avalanche, said Kathleen Goyette, head of media relations for the ski area.
“We’ve known him since he was a little kid,” Goyette said. “He had an amazing passion for the outdoors. He will be missed.”
If I make my life sustainable and then live pretty simple, then I can have the free time and the means to ski and go anywhere that I want.
Goyette said Roberts was an experienced outdoors enthusiast and familiar with the backcountry. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office declined to provide details of the incident until after an autopsy and coroner’s report was complete, possibly Thursday, a deputy said.
But Goyette confirmed multiple social media posts about Roberts’ death and said his parents had been notified.
“He was skiing with a friend,” Goyette said. “They had made a similar run earlier in the day. They headed out one more time. His friend took a different line, skiing down and out with no problem. Adam triggered an avalanche.”
Goyette said she didn’t know details of the rescue attempt, but noted that members of the Ski Patrol found Roberts in five to six feet of snow. She didn’t know if resuscitation efforts were attempted.
Avalanche danger was high on Tuesday after more than two feet of snow fell across the Cascades from Monday, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center.
Roberts, who was originally from the mountain town of Randle west of White Pass, had been living in Bellingham and attended Fairhaven College at Western Washington University, according to his social media profile. WWU journalism students produced a video of him in 2014 explaining his dedication to the environment and the home he built on the bed of his Toyota pickup.
“I realize that if I make my life sustainable and then live pretty simple, then I can have the free time and the means to ski and go anywhere that I want,” Roberts said in the video “Gypsy Wagon.”
Friends began leaving messages of sorrow on his public Facebook page early Wednesday.
“His legacy of adventure and care for the Earth and passion for the authentic good in people and love of sunrises will live on in me and everyone he touched,” wrote Amanda Thiel, a teaching assistant in ethnobiology at Washington State University. “I will always remember him when I harvest nettles, as he taught me how to do so and even eat them (carefully!) raw, right there in the woods.”
Another friend, Jason Hummel, wrote of Roberts’ devotion to skiing.
“My friend Adam Roberts dreamed of snow. It was his index to life,” Hummel wrote. “He told me how he used to stand in the rain at five in the morning and hitchhike to Mount Baker, even on the worst of days. Imagine that. He did it day after day after day, nearly seven days a week.”
Goyette said Roberts was a skilled carpenter but mostly worked odd jobs that allowed him to follow his passion for skiing, adventure and the outdoors. Public photos on his Facebook page show him building a tiny house, climbing in the mountains, and backcountry skiing.
“There’s a bright shining light for his love of the outdoors,” Goyette said.