Inspirational trans forest ranger falls to her death while ice-climbing in Alaska

Image of trans forest ranger and climber Robbi Mecus

Robbi Mecus, a transgender forest ranger and mountain-rescue team member who has been described as a “pillar of strength”, has fallen to her death in Alaska at the age of 52. 

Mecus, who led search-and-rescue missions in New York state, reportedly died after falling 1,000ft in Denali National Park and Preserve on Thursday (25 April). 

According to a statement from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, where Mecus worked for 25 years, she died while climbing 8,400ft Mount Johnson, along a route known as the Escalator, which involves “navigating a mix of steep rock, ice and snow”. 

Another climber who was roped to Mecus reportedly sustained “serious traumatic injuries”. 

According to The New York Times, as well as working to rescue lost and injured climbers in the Adirondack mountains, Mecus also worked for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the climbing community. 

“When I first started climbing, I was not out… I wasn’t aware of anybody who was queer or trans when I first started climbing,” she told goEast in 2022. 

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“When I came out, several climbers also came out to me, so it’s always been there. I think the LGBTQ+ community is becoming a larger part. Whether it’s being afforded or not, they are sort of demanding it.”

Mecus was also known for helping to lead the New York ice-climbing festival Adirondack Queer Ice Fest, saying she wanted to show young transgender people they could do amazing things.

“The idea was born out of getting an LGBTQ+ beginners clinic into an existing ice festival. I hadn’t thought of queer people doing it on their own,” she told climbing website goEast.

“At one point, I said I wished we could just do this ourselves and somebody said: ‘Why can’t we?’ I woke up the next day and decided that was the way to do it.

“I think it helps when young trans people see other trans people accomplishing things. It lets them know that their life doesn’t have to be full of negativity and it can actually be really rad.”

Paying tribute to Mecus, Basil Seggos, the former commissioner of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, described her as a “pillar of strength”, who was “always there” for the most difficult rescues.

“I feel fortunate to have known her,” he said on Twitter/X. “Rest in peace, ranger.”

A GoFundMe page set up to raise money for Robbi Mecus’ family, including her 11-year-old daughter, has so far amassed more than $3,000 (£2,400).