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Originally published February 6, 2011 at 7:12 PM | Page modified February 8, 2011 at 9:21 AM

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Monika Johnson, experienced mountaineer, killed near Snoqualmie Pass

Monika Johnson, who died last week on a mountain peak near Snoqualmie Pass when a shelf of snow broke off beneath her feet, was not only a terrific backcountry skier and mountaineer, friends and family said, but also a generous, thoughtful friend and co-worker.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Monika Johnson, who died last week on a mountain peak near Snoqualmie Pass when a shelf of snow broke off beneath her feet, was not only an awesome backcountry skier and mountaineer, friends and family said, she was a generous, thoughtful friend and co-worker.

Ms. Johnson, 40, was killed when a cornice broke off on Red Mountain, dropping her hundreds of feet and burying her in snow.

"She was phenomenally strong, and an incredibly giving and loving individual," said Oyvind Henningsen, an experienced mountaineer. Not only was she capable and smart, she was humble and empathetic, he said.

The two became friends after meeting in the mountains about eight years ago while he was breaking trail through heavy new snow. "Someone came up from behind and passed me like I was standing still," recalled Henningsen, who is chairman of Everett Mountain Rescue.

Her older brother, Erik Peters, of Seattle, said his sister was well aware of dangers in the mountains. "She was not a novice," Peters said. "She was going out and doing what she loved. ... She had a strong desire to get the most out of life."

Peters noted the many comments from friends and acquaintances, who filled pages with remembrances on www.turns-all-year.com, a website for backcountry enthusiasts.

"She WAS a great athlete, gifted with a massive set of lungs with powerful legs that ran us all into the ground," wrote one. "Her strength and ability, however, was far surpassed by her kindness, generosity of spirit and the care and love that she lavished on those close to her."

A physical therapist at Virginia Mason Medical Center, Ms. Johnson connected with her patients at a "deep level," said her manager, Tricia Feeley. "That same passion that she had for the outdoors, she had that for her work and her patients," Feeley said. "She was selfless; she gave so much of herself to others."

Working with breast-cancer surgery patients, she was gentle yet firm, pushing them to regain movement. "You never saw her without that smile — it was so genuine. None of us can picture her any other way."

Some of her friends, including Henningsen, helped search for her last week after she did not return from a solo ski trip last Tuesday (Feb. 1). Saturday, a group of friends and a mountain rescue group called BARK (Backcountry Avalanche Rescue K9s) finally located her body.

Ms. Johnson is believed to have died Tuesday, when the overhanging shelf of snow, known as a cornice, collapsed. Kevin Huggett, the president of BARK, said her body was found buried under about a foot of snow. "That's why no one was able to find her for two days."

At the top of Red Mountain, "It's a very elusive location as to where the cornice might be," Huggett said. "She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

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Late Saturday, search and rescue teams coordinated by the King County Sheriff's Office brought her body out of the mountains.

In addition to her brother, Ms. Johnson is survived by her parents, Karl and Karen Peters, of Minneapolis, Minn.

Information on funeral arrangements will be posted at www.flintofts.com.

Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 or costrom@seattletimes.com

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