Rock climber dies from fall in Big Cottonwood Canyon


Original Post
sfotex · · Sandy, UT · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 130

RIP Matt. 

Heard he fell from the anchors on a route in the Slips area while cleaning. 

http://www.ksl.com/?sid=45016649&nid=148&title=rock-climber-dies-from-fall-in-big-cottonwood-canyon

Benny Jackpot · · Ogden · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 0

R.I.P.

aja martin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 0

All the news articles said gear failure?? 

Kyle Butcher · · Athens, GA · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 0

Dang, that was one of my roommate's best friends. Anyone know what route it was?

Michelle Kim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 0

Hi everyone. I regret to say that I was unfortunately a witness when this completely and utterly tragic accident occurred. My intent with this post is to just be as informative as possible in the hope that this will never happen again. No one should ever have to experience this from any party. 

We were at the Salt Lake Slips, and I believe the climber was either on Forgotten Ambition (130 feet) or High Fructose Corn Syrup (115 feet). He was top roping. 

The climber was at the anchors when the belayer went off belay, as he believed that was the cue he had heard from the climber at the top. There must have been a significant miscommunication because the climber leaned back as if he was getting lowered, and then he fell. I know some articles have stated that it was gear failure, but I am not so sure that was the case. I should also note that he was not wearing a helmet. Update: In talking it out with my little sister, we just now realized he was not attached to the rope, so I don't think he was expecting to get lowered, I think he thought he was in the anchors in preparation to rappel when he actually was not. I think this was an error on behalf of the climber. 

I was just a few routes over (on Entre Nous) and luckily had only reached the first bolt when this happened, where I was then lowered back down to safety. I was with my boyfriend, little sister, and two other friends, and there was another group of three experienced climbers who fortunately were all CPR certified. With the climber was his girlfriend and two other guys (one being the belayer). My boyfriend, friend, and one of the guys from the other group all desperately assisted in trying to resuscitate him, but it was all said and done at the scene. 

It was a harsh reminder that this sport that brings so many of us life and joy can be so deadly if not conducted properly and to the highest extent of utmost safety. I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends, and his girlfriend. Much love to them all. 

Please wear a helmet, please always always always ensure you are hooked in at least a thousand times when at the anchors before proceeding to the next steps, please do extensive research, please over-communicate with your belayer, and please hug and kiss your loved ones a little tighter today. 

BrokenChairs · · Seattle · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 182

This is super sad.  Michelle thanks for the details I think for me the biggest take away is having a clear plan with your belayer whenever you're going up to clean the anchor; which is something I have really tried to focus on more this season after hearing of the exact same accident that happened last year in Rock Canyon. It's so easy to forget to have this communication before leaving the ground and often time (especially at a crowed crag by a river like The Slips) it's hard to hear and too late once at the top.  This type of accident is unfortunately too common and 100% preventable.  My heart goes out of his friends/family and to the unfortunate witnesses.  Hopefully everyone in the community can learn from this and something positive can come from this horrible accident.  I don't even know Matt but for some reason this one hurts; again condolences for any and all involved or affected in anyway by this accident.  

wonderwoman · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 64
Michelle Kim wrote:

It was a harsh reminder that this sport that brings so many of us life and joy can be so deadly if not conducted properly and to the highest extent of utmost safety. 

So true.  :(

I am so sorry that you had to witness this accident.  My condolences to the family / friends of the fallen climber and sending best wishes your way, too.

Jaren Watson · · Boise, Idaho · Joined May 2010 · Points: 1,195

So very tragic and sad. Positive thoughts and condolences to all involved.

Climbers, please, please weight the rope before unclipping your tether. Communication mistakes can and do happen. But this one simple step is so easy to do that it just doesn't make sense not to weight the rope before unclippping.

My heart is heavy for everyone hurting over this. Be safe everyone.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120
Michelle Kim wrote:

Hi everyone. I regret to say that I was unfortunately a witness when this completely and utterly tragic accident occurred. My intent with this post is to just be as informative as possible in the hope that this will never happen again. No one should ever have to experience this from any party. 

We were at the Salt Lake Slips, and I believe the climber was either on Forgotten Ambition (130 feet) or High Fructose Corn Syrup (115 feet). He was top roping. 

The climber was at the anchors when the belayer went off belay, as he believed that was the cue he had heard from the climber at the top. There must have been a significant miscommunication because the climber leaned back as if he was getting lowered, and then he fell. I know some articles have stated that it was gear failure, but I am not so sure that was the case. I should also note that he was not wearing a helmet. 

I was just a few routes over (on Entre Nous) and luckily had only reached the first bolt when this happened, where I was then lowered back down to safety. I was with my boyfriend, little sister, and two other friends, and there was another group of three experienced climbers who fortunately were all CPR certified. With the climber was his girlfriend and two other guys (one being the belayer). My boyfriend, friend, and one of the guys from the other group all desperately assisted in trying to resuscitate him, but it was all said and done at the scene. 

It was a harsh reminder that this sport that brings so many of us life and joy can be so deadly if not conducted properly and to the highest extent of utmost safety. I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends, and his girlfriend. Much love to them all. 

Please wear a helmet, please always always always ensure you are hooked in at least a thousand times when at the anchors before proceeding to the next steps, please do extensive research, please over-communicate with your belayer, and please hug and kiss your loved ones a little tighter today. 

Condolences to all of you. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

All I would add is, these things happen blazingly, astoundingly fast, and we are all vulnerable to the simplest of mistakes.

My thoughts go out to all of you, but the belayer especially. 

Best, Helen

Lena chita · · Cleveland, OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 240

My condolences to the family, and everyone involved. Always sad to hear of a fatal accident.

Guy Keesee · · Moorpark, CA · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 105

I offer my sincere condolences to the fallen climbers Family and Friends. 


Michelle....  thanks for posting. 

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120
Drew Sylvester wrote:

My condolences to friends and family.  I lost a friend last year to a similar incident. It's easy to get too comfortable and cavalier with safety checks. Most climbing accidents could be avoided if everyone tied knots in the rope ends on rap, weight-tested their setup before coming off the rope/anchor in cleaning scenarios, and clearly communicated their at-anchor plans (lower vs rap) before leaving the ground. Very sad.

I would just add, simply stay on belay, until the rap device is loaded and tested. The belayer can just keep feeding slack as you need it while you get set up.

A fall with a few arms of slack on the climbers side is still better than all the way to the deck.

Best, OLH

Eric Chabot · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 20
Old lady H wrote:

I would just add, simply stay on belay, until the rap device is loaded and tested. The belayer can just keep feeding slack as you need it while you get set up.

A fall with a few arms of slack on the climbers side is still better than all the way to the deck.

Best, OLH

Helen with all due respect what are you talking about? If you are rapping, you need the rope to go all the way to the ground. I don't understand what you are suggesting or how it could possibly help to stay on belay until you are ready to rappel.

All my condolences to the deceased, his family and friends and those who tried to assist him. 

Spencer Parkin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0
Eric Chabot wrote:

Helen with all due respect what are you talking about? If you are rapping, you need the rope to go all the way to the ground. I don't understand what you are suggesting or how it could possibly help to stay on belay until you are ready to rappel.

All my condolences to the deceased, his family and friends and those who tried to assist him. 

I'm afraid I have to agree.  Climbers need to be able to transition from one source of protection to another.  Order of operations and triple checks, and good communication can help prevent bad accidents.  And I might add: staying sober too.  There was a recent death involving alcohol and rock climbing.

My condolences as well.  I'm sorry this happened.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 438
Old lady H wrote:

I would just add, simply stay on belay, until the rap device is loaded and tested. The belayer can just keep feeding slack as you need it while you get set up.

A fall with a few arms of slack on the climbers side is still better than all the way to the deck.

Best, OLH

Sorry Helen but that just doesn't make sense. If you aren't tie into the rope anymore as you are threading it through the chains having a belay device on one strand isn't doing anything for you. 

I do FULLY weight my PA after calling for slack before a belayer takes me off. I also fully weight my rappel device before I unclip my PA.

John Butler · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 0

   

      :'-(

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 15
Old lady H wrote:

I would just add, simply stay on belay, until the rap device is loaded and tested. The belayer can just keep feeding slack as you need it while you get set up.

A fall with a few arms of slack on the climbers side is still better than all the way to the deck.

Best, OLH

Don't profess to be a newer climber in one thread and spew advice in another.  It reflects poorly on you. I would recommend you not give climbing advice until you've climbed a few hundred outdoor pitches.

AThomas · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 0

Yeah, this may be a good time for folks to revisit their systems -- or go out with a qualified guide for a refresher. Condolences to the climber's family and friends. Much love to those who rushed to his aid. 

H, if a rappel is necessitated, staying on belay, having your partner feed half the rope through their device and then rigging a rappel keeps you hanging on the side of a cliff way longer than necessary. This is why staying on belay, cleaning and then lowering through the fixed gear is advocated so often. But I don't know the local ethics or gear, so maybe a rappel is called for.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120

All, you are correct. I was thinking of something else, or most likely, not at all.

What I said is idiotic, my apologies.

H.

blue v · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2006 · Points: 0

Hi , Michelle thanks for your information. Did you or do you know if anyone=(SAR) went back up to the anchors to check the situation up there?

cyclestupor · · Woodland Park, Colorado · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 68

No.   Helen has a valid point.  

There have been more than a few accidents caused by miscommunication.   The climber gets to the top and shouts something like "In Direct" (a phrase that should never be uttered if you are wise).  The belayer thinks he/she hears "off belay".  Then the climber finishes cleaning the anchor unhooks their PAS and leans back... (yes I know you should always weight the rope before removing PAS,  but this stuff happens)

Or perhaps a different nearby climber yells "off belay" but your climber is actually still on lead.   You take him off thinking it was he who yelled. 

If you can't see you climber, can't hear him 100% clearly,  and haven't already established that the climber will rappel,  then it may be best to assume he will lower, and leave him on belay until you are absolutely sure he is pulling up rope for a rappel.  

Worse, imagine a situation where there is lots of noise,  other climbers near by,  lots of rope drag, low angled slab, and the climber is out of sight.  Your climber intends to lower,  but you can't hear a damn thing your climber says.  Some time goes by and the rope seems like it is being pulled up by the climber so you take him off.   Actually he is walking backwards down the low angle thinking he is being lowered.   You don't feel his weight on the rope,  because of the rope drag combined with the low angle (he's not putting his full weight on the rope).  Then he gets to the steeper section. You see where I am going w. this... 

Far fetched, and yes,  the climber should not lower in this situation, but not inconceivable.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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