Friendship, not climbing, was Christina "Chris" Chan's greatest strength, despite her being a highly accomplished climber, friends said Sunday at a memorial service at Stanford's Memorial Church.
About 200 friends and family members gathered to remember Chan, who died while climbing in Yosemite July 9. Chan fell 400 feet while descending Eichorn Pinnacle off Cathedral Peak while she was climbing without ropes, also known as free-solo climbing, a practice performed by only the most skilled climbers.
Chan's fall and free-solo climbing have generated extensive discussion and debate on the Internet, with some even suggesting that Yosemite regulate or ban such climbing.
"By far, climbing wasn't her greatest strength. Friendship was her greatest strength," Paul Csonka, Chan's friend, said of his highly accomplished mountaineering partner: Csonka said he learned from Chan to live his life as a "dream come true."
Others also spoke of Chan's playfulness, friendliness and devotion to friends.
"Chris never, ever worried about herself, but with her friends she was very, very protective," Jeremy Gaw, a friend of Chan's from her undergraduate time at Harvard University, said.
Chan, a Stanford Ph.D. student was studying environmental policy and politics of China.
Peter Chan, Chan's brother and an accomplished pianist, joined violinist Rosie Yoo in playing Charles Gounod's Ave Maria.
"For all of her life, Christina said she looked up to me as her older brother, but she was the true trail-blazer in life," he said.
Not all of those whose lives Chan touched could attend the memorial at Stanford. Yosemite Search and Rescue Team members lit a candle at the top of Eichorn Pinnacle the evening after Chan's death, Outward Bound instructor Caitlin Brown said.
Others have expressed memorial sentiments on Facebook: 705 people from Chan's extended community have signed onto her Facebook memorial page and left thoughts, stories and pictures about her life.
A second memorial is planned at Yosemite at the end of July.
Chan is survived by her parents, Cecil and Susie Chan of Atlanta, Ga., and her brother, Peter.