Park officials said they believe Kalmbach, 24, fell while he and a second hiker were “scrambling” up the mountain’s southern flank at around 1 p.m. Tuesday, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported. A park spokeswoman told the News & Guide that both Kalmbach and the second hiker, a friend, were traveling across the country.
“He was driving to meet Morgan Fowler [’10] in Seattle, where they both were starting internships with a technology development company,” Kalmbach’s sister, Hilary Kalmbach ’04, said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.
“Eliot died in the mountains doing what he loved,” she added. “He was traveling with another experienced mountaineer, with whom he worked as a ranger on the Philmont Scout Ranch [in New Mexico].”
After Eliot Kalmbach fell, the second hiker confirmed that he “was not breathing and had no pulse” before calling 9-1-1 at 1:28 p.m., the News & Guide reported. Rangers got to the site of the accident at around 3:30 p.m. and encountered the “incredibly distraught” second hiker, who could not explain to the rangers what had happened.
More than 50 students, faculty members and administrators attended a memorial service on Wednesday evening in the Mathey Common Room.
Nikhil Pereira ’10, a close friend of Kalmbach’s who attended the tearful service, said that though Kalmbach was serious about academics and knowledgeable in a wide range of subjects, he will also be remembered for his jovial nature.
“The memorial service dinner was followed by scotch and cigars, which was one of Eliot’s favorite things in the world upstairs in T.I.” his friend Breanden Beneschott ’11 said, adding that Eliot Kalmbach could speak a number of languages including Russian, Turkish and French.
“He was a really fun kid. He liked to party and goof off on the dance floor,” Pereira said. “He has picked up and twirled 50 percent of the people he danced with.”
In his last text message to a friend while in Wyoming, Kalmbach wrote that the hike was the most exhilarating experience of his life, adding that he only “wished Wyoming had a gay techno station.”
His empathy and ability to recognize when a friend or younger student was struggling made him an “older brother” for many students, friends said.
A native of Downingtown, Pa., Kalmbach was a member of Mathey College, Tiger Inn and the Chi Phi fraternity. He withdrew in spring 2009 to take two semesters off and planned to re-enroll at the University this coming spring to finish his degree as a geosciences concentrator in the Class of 2010.
Geosciences professor Thomas Duffy, who was Kalmbach’s junior paper adviser, described Kalmbach as “ambitious and full of ideas.” His junior paper involved experiments using laser spectroscopy to study the properties of an oxide garnet crystal at extremely high pressures, Duffy said.
“Eliot did an impressive job in mastering sophisticated experimental techniques in a very short period of time, and his results were publication quality,” Duffy said. “Eliot was enthusiastic and full of ideas and quite ambitious. He was a talented and smart young person, and his loss is a great tragedy.”
His friend Cynthia Kanagui ’09 said she often ran into him in the Mathey dining room and enjoyed listening to his stories.
“I am going to miss his adventures and the many moments of laughter he brought to my life,” Kanagui said. “He was a fearless and captivating individual.”
Close friend Justin Williams ’10 said that Kalmbach provided him with confidence, adding that he had decided to ask Kalmbach to be his best man.
“There’ll never be a day that I won’t miss him,” Williams said.
Eliot was the son of two Princetonians, John Kalmbach ’73 and Cecilia Kalmbach ’74. His sisters Hilary and Whitney ’05 also attended the University.
His funeral service will be held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Glenmoore, Pa., on Sept. 28 at 10 a.m. preceded by visitation from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the church.