A climb to remember: 1 woman's journey to site of plane crash that killed her children

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- It's been two and a half years since a plane crash killed four people near Payson.

The crash killed sisters Torrie and Skylar Falbe, 14 and 12, along with their father and stepmother. Cynthia Larmore lost her only children that day, and this past weekend for the first time Larmore made an arduous hike up the Mogollon Rim, in a pilgrimage to the spot where her girls perished.

One foot in front of the other: it's how Larmore survives.

"My first year, I just took every day and tackled it with as much strength as I could muster, and I had my tribe to help me do that," said Larmore.

A dozen close friends, family, and her husband Wade, who walked with her on a journey through unimaginable grief.

"It's no accident that God put these people in my life years ago. All of them years ago," said Larmore.

And they will pull her through once again, along the Arizona Trail to the rock formation that signals the hard right turn straight up the mountain.

"We're gonna make it," said Larmore. "But also the fact that I've been with all of you who love and support me are memorializing the girls once we get to the top."

It inspired them to be there, on this climb, this journey of healing. All the more painful, because it never should have happened.

Larmore's girls sent some haunting final messages to Larmore, as they departed Scottsdale on a trip to Telluride, Colorado. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that Larmore's ex-husband, who was piloting the plane, should not have flown that day. There were low hanging clouds, poor visibility, and snow that day, conditions that were far beyond the pilot's capabilities. It set the plane on a collision course with the Mogollon Rim.

Larmore's close friends, Rich Newman, Mike Doyle and Patrick Halloran climbed to the crash site twice before, in preparation for this day, marking trees along the way and completely off-trail, because GPS coordinates of the crash were imprecise, leaving the friends to comb the wilderness in rugged terrain over two Decembers, searching for the site.

It was a labor of love.

"Somebody had to go to make a presence. We had to make a mark," said Halloran.

"The day we found the site was tough. We were pretty emotional, Patrick and I," said Newman.

Large sections of wreckage were removed by the NTSB, but there was still debris scattered everywhere.

"The first trip, we were just more in awe. We did try to collect anything that we really didn't want to be found, or anything that's personal," said Halloran.

They erected a modest memorial at the site, with the hope that Larmore would make it there one day.

"Put something here, so that when she got here, it wasn't just scarred earth," said Doyle.

It's a 3.5-mile climb to the crash site, with the last third a climb straight up the face, sometimes on hands and knees, through shrubs, branches, rocks, and dead wood.

Finally, after two hours, Larmore reached the place.

"When I realized these limbs and trees and the things that I was holding onto for safety, when I realized that was part of the crash site, that's when the emotion really hit," said Larmore.

"I think she's the strongest one of any of us," said Newman. "I think everybody's been worried about her, but she's been stronger than each of us. In turn, she continues to amaze us."

Eventually, they gather in the clearing, amidst the sheared treetops and shattered branches from the plane's impact.

"This is the spot where my children died, where Toree and Skylar died and God called them home and they're in heaven, and I believe in my heart that they died immediately. They didn't know what was coming," said Larmore.

They write inscriptions on rocks, carve initials into the bench, and read letters from those who couldn't be here.

"Yeah, today is an important day for everyone," said Doyle. "I knew it would take some time before they would be ready to do it, but I'm very glad we're here today."

"Thank you, Lord. Thank you for Patrick and Mike and Rich for doing this for my babies, and for all these people right here who love me. I love you, babe. I love you all," said Larmore.

"It gives you a little peace, maybe a little closure to be so close to where they were called home," said Doyle.

On this sacred spot, surrounded by a magnificent view, they take communion. As Larmore clutches a piece of the shattered airplane that carried her girls here, she's comforted by the belief that one day, she will see them again.

"I just know that when I'm called home, I'll be back with them because right now, I'm just left behind," said Larmore.