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Free-climbing accident kills UNC alumna

Courtesy of Josie Strandberg

Courtesy of Josie Strandberg

But on Aug. 22, Strandberg fell to her death while rock climbing at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Strandberg and two friends, Catherine Nix and Rebecca Anderson, were climbing Teewinot Mountain when they veered off course while trying to find the route. Strandberg and Nix fell 200 feet. Anderson was caught on a ledge and survived.

The three were not using ropes because the route they intended to climb is rated as a class 4.0 climb, which, according to the National Park Service’s news release, “consists of exposed rock climbing” and “is frequently climbed without ropes.”

Colby Kirkpatrick, a UNC freshman and Strandberg’s former neighbor, said the UNC graduate lived a life full of adventure and laughs — and she always wanted to share it with those she loved.

“She started out hiking, cross-country skiing and just was always out there looking for the next way she could exercise and connect with nature,” Kirkpatrick said. “And rock climbing, from my understanding, was her most recent love.”

After receiving her undergraduate degree in psychology from UNC, Strandberg moved to Jackson, Wyoming where she worked at C-V Ranch. She helped at-risk youth with special needs, most of whom have behavioral and emotional problems, said Patty Talley, program director and principal at the ranch.

“Her life, although short, is a legacy to her students,” Talley said. “So many of them just want to push us away, and you just have to try and try and try again, and Tyler just never gave up on any of the kids.”

She said Strandberg, who was a residential counselor, often planned after-school and weekend outdoor activities with the young boys she worked with at the ranch.

“She was so close to this one little boy, and the day before she died, she took him from the ranch and took him fishing with her and her dog,” said Marie Noble, a UNC sophomore and Strandberg’s cousin.

Talley said a lot of the children Strandberg worked with are having difficulty coping with her death, since she worked hard to build strong relationships with them.

The ranch is collecting donations that will go to a future foundation for the children in Strandberg’s and Nix’s honor, since they were both employees of the ranch.

Clark Woodard, one of Strandberg’s college suitemates, said Strandberg’s passion for helping others was evident throughout college and continued into her career. Strandberg was part of UNC’s Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program, where she started to make her impact on the lives of at-risk children.

Although Strandberg made her home in Jackson, Wyoming, her family and friends said her years at UNC played a large role in shaping who she was.

“She loves Chapel Hill and is Carolina born and bred,” said Josie Strandberg, her sister and a current senior at N.C. State University.

“After graduation, she exuded the founding principles of the University: Lux and libertas — light and liberty — through her courageous, admirable and impactful life,” Woodard said.

Her family and friends agreed her positive attitude and laughter were some of her most defining characteristics.

“Her laugh was absolutely contagious and was so distinct; you could tell it was her laugh from a mile away,” the younger Strandberg said. “I think the main impact Tyler left on people and on myself is really how you need to be doing things in this life that you love to do and do it as much as you can, because that’s what she did.”

Kirkpatrick said Strandberg’s family wants people to continue to be touched by her life, rather than focus on the shock and sadness of her death.

“Even regarding what happened to her, she would never, ever deter anyone from following their dreams or pursuing an adventure,” Kirkpatrick said.

And Woodard said Strandberg would want to throw in one last “Beat Duke!”

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