Beloved Backcountry Experience employee dies in climbing accident

Tom Zajicek, a dedicates sales associate at the Durango outdoor specialty retailer, was known for his deep passion for customer service.
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Tom Zajicek was known for his intense desire to match his customers with the right gear for them.

Tom Zajicek was known for his intense desire to match his customers with the right gear for them.

Tom Zajicek, a beloved employee of Durango's Backcountry Experience died on Sunday in a tragic climbing accident on Starlight Peak, in California.

Zajicek, an experienced climber, reportedly summited the 14,200-foot peak at 2 p.m. with Laura Scull, an associate professor of mathematics at Fort Lewis College.

Click the below video to watch Zajicek talk earnestly with Tom Barney about his job at Backcountry Experience during Barney's Retail Immersion Project at the shop.

Zajicek's co-workers at Backcountry Experience speculate that his late summit time caused him to take a more direct descent, rappelling down the face of the mountain. Something went awry with the rappel system, causing, Zajicek to fall. According to the Durango Herald, his rope became entangled, and he was left dangling from the face.

His partner survived without serious injury and was able to descend to a ledge, where she waited for 26 hours before being rescued by a Yosemite Search and Rescue chopper.

Tom Barney worked side-by-side with Zajicek during Barney's Retail Immersion Project last December, and says he will miss him immensely. "Tom was an authentic, dedicated and good-natured lover of the outdoors and a real outdoor retail pro," says Barney. "Rather than follow a classic retirement Tom chose to work the specialty retail floor at Backcountry Experience and still get after it in the outdoors. Tom loved apparel and footwear but especially gear. He was a student of technology around hard goods and loved clinics and training. I remember Tom lighting up with every opportunity to serve a customer and match needs with gear. Tom was a great retail mentor to me and the BCX staff. I hope he’s still climbing and reaching for the summit."

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