Remembering Bailee Mulholland

The 26-year-old died after a long fall while soloing Blitzen Ridge (5.4) in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Photo: Boulder Rock Club

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Boulder native Bailee Mulholland, 26, passed away after a fall in Rocky Mountain National Park on July 9. She and a partner were on Blitzen Ridge (5.4), a narrow, exposed ridge traverse to the summit of Ypsilon Mountain (13,520ft). The pair was moving through the Four Aces—four subpeaks along the ridgeline that represent the crux—when Mulholland slipped and fell 500 feet. Her partner, who wished to remain anonymous, was later airlifted off the ridge.


Mulholland’s friends and family painted a picture of a young woman with boundless joie de vivre, who never failed to uplift those around her. “I always looked forward to spending time with Bailee,” said Lynn Anderson, who met Mulholland at the Boulder Rock Club a year and a half ago and trained with her regularly. 

“I’m more of an introvert, sort of shy,” she added, “and [Mulholland] was this energetic, social butterfly. She loved to chat. She loved to share stories, text, talk about all sorts of things, share life. It was so special for me to find that in a friend. Bailee was one of the few people I felt I could tell almost anything to. That’s rare for me, even with good friends.”

Born in China’s Hunan Province, Mulholland was adopted at 10 months old—her younger sister Liana shortly after—and raised by Brent and Michelle Mulholland in Boulder. She ran cross country in high school, catalyzing a lifelong passion for running, and entered CU Boulder to study music.

Bailee Mulholland boulders in Colorado.
(Photo: Peter Beal)

Mulholland graduated in 2020 after switching from music to a double major in Chinese and Computer Science, beginning a career as a ​​computer software engineer not long after. After she was laid off from her software engineer role in last spring’s wave of tech layoffs, her severance allowed her to dive further into running and climbing as she looked for a new position.

Mulholland came to rock climbing through running and scrambling. After high school cross country, she dove further down the running rabbit hole, becoming particularly enamored with mountain running in college. “Bailee did a lot of objectives involving crazy amounts of stamina and endurance,” said Anderson. “She was very comfortable scrambling and moving fast in technical terrain.”

The Flatirons were a frequent playground for Mulholland. She still holds the women’s fastest known time (FKT) on the First Flatiron (41m 6s) which she set in November of last year, and also briefly held the round trip FKT on Mt. Sanitas. In June, she placed eighth (out of 111 women) in the Minotaur SkyRace, a rugged 20-miler through Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass. 

On the rock, Mulholland was specifically interested in hard sport, and her climbing, above all else, was marked by a fervent stoke to train hard and become stronger. “Sometimes she would honestly make me feel like a slacker,” Anderson joked. “Even just in the gym, she would try harder than I ever could. She would fight relentlessly, no matter what she was on. She was driven to get better, stronger, constantly. It was awesome being around that energy.”

Anderson said Mulholland’s fire led to two conversation topics coming up constantly. “One was, ‘Teach me how to climb harder!’ The other was how much she wanted to send 5.13.”

Breaking into the 5.13 range was an enormous goal for Mulholland for the last year, and it was one she completed. Mulholland clipped the chains on If and Only If (5.13a) at The Dungeon just a few weeks before her accident on Blitzen.

This achievement didn’t surprise Anderson in the slightest, nor Boulder fixture Peter Beal, another of Mulholland’s close friends and training partners. A well-known coach, Beal “noticed very quickly after meeting Bailee that she had the potential to become an extremely strong sport climber.”

“That’s another part of the tragedy,” he added. “Bailee was poised to go anywhere she wanted in climbing. I saw no reason she couldn’t have made it to 5.14 without too much work. It was clear to me that if she wanted to, she could take both climbing and ultrarunning to a very high level.”

Bailee in her element, on the Flatirons
(Photo: Peter Beal)

Echoing Anderson, Beal said Mulholland made even the most tedious training sessions enjoyable with her inquisitive, talkative presence. “She was just a very funny, lively person. She was constantly querying me, too. Not pestering, but questioning, ‘How do I improve this? What do you think about this?’ An extremely lively, creative mind.”

He added that Mulholland’s ambition never led her to downplay others and their own goals. “Bailee was free of the kind of ‘gossipy’ drama some climbers talk about other climbers,” he said. “She tended not to go there.”

Of course, there are many strong, driven, one-track-mind outdoor athletes in the world. But Mulholland kept her heart full with an assemblage of interests and passions beyond the outdoors, as evidenced by a heartfelt obituary published by her family.

She was a skilled pastry chef and baker. A talented hula dancer. A violinist for over 20 years. An avid reader, diving into “an impressive stack of books” each week at the public library as a child. Mulholland also loved hippos, collecting a vast trove of stuffed ones and donating to myriad causes supporting their conservation.

As a Girl Scout, she earned the Silver Award, one of the organization’s highest honors. Similar to the “Eagle Project,” in Scouting, this merit requires cadets to research an issue in their community, then make and implement a plan to address it.

Mulholland studied Mandarin Chinese, attending Chinese Camp for 16 years and serving as a counselor in subsequent years, ultimately graduating with a degree in Chinese. A violinist from age 5, she played in community orchestras throughout her youth and organized several quintets, including a few paid performances.

She was also a licensed and popular yoga instructor. Beal recalled how, out of the blue, one of his neighbors gave him her condolences, mentioning that Mulholland happened to be her favorite yoga teacher. “This is a random 65-plus-year-old woman who lives near me. Not a climber at all,” Beal said, chuckling, “and she knew Bailee, too, just through yoga. [Mulholland] connected with so many people.”

Mulholland is survived by her parents and sister, grandparents John Mulholland, Carolyn Mulholland, and Mary Little, as well as a wide circle of friends and extended family.

“The climbing community in Boulder has lost a vital, exciting, and vibrant person with a great future ahead of her, and not just in climbing,” Beal said. “She was not someone I’d expect this to happen to. Her technical ability, sense of who she was, how to climb, what she could handle.… All I can say is it’s a reminder to always watch your back. Climbing has the potential to be very dangerous, no matter where you are. Once you’re off the ground, anything can happen.”

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