Scott Corliss ID’d as Greeley man who died on Longs Peak
October 6, 2016
Scott Corliss was not afraid of an adventure.
He was once a doctor, but as he approached 60, he took classes at Aims Community College, and this year he planned to go to Colorado State University to become an aerospace engineer. He was a certified Level 3 "rocket man," as the kids who attended his talks at elementary schools called him. He loved attending lectures about space at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with his best friend and brother, Jim Corliss. The last trip was especially special a week ago because they went outside to watch the International Space Station fly overhead.
Scott lifted weights with his son Ben, who later became a personal trainer as a result. He played hockey with Ben and Luke, another son. He rode horses with his daughter, Kelsey, so he could bond with her. He brought them on 14ers and climbed many others with Jim. At least one of those trips was especially gnarly, on La Plata, a 14er near Leadville they scaled during a blizzard.
It seems strange to think a mountain could snuff out all that energy, especially one of his favorites, Longs Peak, one he had climbed many times. Most don't climb Longs Peak this late into the season because freezing overnight temperatures can make the route icy and treacherous in the early morning. But Scott was experienced, and he knew that, and he was ready, his brother said Monday. Besides, Scott relied on the mountains to work through severe depression after the darkest period in his life.
And yet, Scott apparently slipped on some of that ice on the Narrows, perhaps the most exposed section of Longs just before the summit on the immensely popular Keyhole route, and fell to his death Saturday. He was 61.
Scott was once a beloved family physician in Greeley and was voted as Family Physician of the Year by his fellow doctors. But he got wrapped up in a steroid ring, and despite his peripheral involvement — he just made referrals and was excited about the anti-aging possibilities of the drugs before getting suspicious and dropping out on his own — the feds made a visit to his office in 2006. He eventually pleaded guilty to a felony and received a year's probation and paid thousands in legal fees. He talked openly about it and took responsibility even though he also said he didn't know the substances were illegal at the time.
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The period was painful but it led to his work with a weight-loss company, and Scott was thrilled to make a difference by changing his clients' lifestyles, rather than putting what he called Band-Aids on their many problems, a frustration of his as a physician because he couldn't spend hours with them as one of Greeley's most popular doctors. Scott didn't let the frustration of what many considered to be a harsh sentence rule his life. In fact, his family still burns at the mark: Scott was such a stickler for the rules that he always obeyed the speed limit, almost to an annoying degree. But Scott always took responsibility for his actions and said his only regret was not listening to his gut.
"He was the most positive person I knew," his son Ben said.
Almost all of his former patients called him a great man who made a mistake and lamented the fact he no longer practiced medicine.
Scott was competitive, but he didn't do all those things to beat others, family members say. He did it because he wanted to conquer himself. He relished the challenge. He craved the adventure. He loved helping others, a trait that pushed him into medicine in the first place. In his algebra class at Aims, he didn't scoff at those who struggled in it, even though he already had a medical degree. He became so good at pushing them to pass, the teacher said he should have been the instructor.
His broken-hearted family on Monday loved talking about all his adventures and how he was the ultimate big brother. They never decided what slope they would ski down; they just followed his lead. Scott got a tearful Jim through his first day of Boy Scout camp when he was 11. Scott, of course, later became an Eagle Scout.
Scott was good at so many things, but perhaps most important, he wanted to be the best family man, as well. He doted on his chocolate lab, who he always took for walks, and never left any doubt how much he loved everyone.
"He always checked in on us," said Vi, his elderly mother who still lives in Greeley with his father, Bob. "He never went a day without doing that."
Scott was the one who always got the grandkids to sleep, even when Luke's son or Ben's daughter would fuss in their arms. When Peggy, his wife of 33 years, a nurse, was transferred to another shift five years ago, he left an encouraging note on her water bottle. She told him, jokingly, he would have to do that every day. So he did.
"He was so thoughtful," Peggy said. "He was just the best."
The last time Scott and Jim spoke, last Wednesday, the two were looking up at the space station and the stars, a place Scott hoped would contain his next career. He talked about the upcoming climb and how he'd have to be careful. And then Scott pulled out his smart phone.
Scott had a ton of pictures on it. The phone, like him, was bursting with life. He just had to show Jim this photo he got of a hawk, one that was just starting to take flight.