Crash victim was an adventurer

Posted: Sunday, August 29, 2010

Seth Holden's life was full of adventure. Whether it was climbing the highest mountain peaks, glacier hiking, or pack rafting, the 29-year-old Anchorage man was always pushing the limits.

Photo Courtesy Leslie Boyd
Photo Courtesy Leslie Boyd
This image is a photo Seth Holden took of himself reccently on a sheep hunt at the head of Tustumena Glacier.

Holden, a 1999 Skyview High School graduate who was raised in Soldotna, was identified Friday as one of the men killed in a plane crash last week near Mount Susitna, 25 miles northwest of Anchorage.

Authorities are still investigating the Tuesday night crash that also claimed the life of Brandon C. Reiley, 28, also of Anchorage.

According to Alaska State Troopers, Reiley's 1947 Piper PA-11 plane was found burning by an Alaska Air National Guard crew on a training mission near the Susitna River and the mountain after they heard an emergency signal and saw a plume of smoke coming from the aircraft.

"What his friends think is they were looking to see if there were any moose over there, thinking they might go back and hunt there for moose season," said Leslie Boyd, Holden's mother and Kenai resident.

Jon Cannon, a close friend of Holden's, said they are pretty sure that what happened was the two saw a moose while they were flying low at the tree line, got carried away and didn't watch the speed of the plane. The aircraft flew straight into the ground, he said.

"The good news is he didn't suffer," Cannon said. But, he said, it was a tough few days waiting for the positive identification of the bodies.

Roger Boyd, Holden's step-father, said Holden recently hiked to the top of Tustmena Glacier, shot a sheep and packed it out himself at the beginning of hunting season.

That sort of feat is something that describes Holden's personality.

"He was the type of person that was very methodical and strong," Roger said.

Holden had climbed Denali twice, his mother said, and received grants to scale unclimbed peaks in the Revelation Mountains, the furthest western part of the Alaska Range.

"He was a skier, climber, all that," she said. "He didn't live dangerously but he did a lot of dangerous things carefully."

Cannon said Holden had some wild times involving a bear encounter, an epic hike through untamed territory and other outdoor exploits.

"He was awesome at everything he did," he said. "An amazing athlete, amazing outdoorsman and amazing businessman."

Holden graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with degrees and finance and economics and went on to work at McKinley Capital Management. Most recently he was working as a baker at the downtown Anchorage restaurant Orso.

"He didn't like the desk life he liked to be active and he liked to be outside," Cannon said.

But perhaps the most telling anecdote about Holden's "hard as nails" mentality happened when an avalanche took out his base camp while hiking Ruth Gorge in Denali National Park, Roger said.

He said all Holden and his hiking partner had was their day-gear and even though it was 40 below all night long they found and followed ski tracks to another camp.

Holden was about "never, ever giving up and almost having a super human strength to survive and keep going," Roger said.

A memorial service will be held in Soldotna Wednesday afternoon.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at

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