• Climber Killed in Simul-Rappelling Accident on the Goat Wall
  • Climber Dies in Fall From El Cap's East Ledges
  • Fatal Unroped Fall On Easy Terrain - Bear Creek Spire, California
  • Simul-Rappel Goes Tragically Wrong - Reed’s Pinnacle, Yosemite
  • Dropped Haulbag Strikes Climber in Yosemite
  • Rappel Knot Fails, Climber Falls to Death on the Goat Wall
  • Climber Loses Finger Tips in Crack
  • Climber Grabs Draw, Skins Finger
  • Gear Pulls, Climber Decks at Indian Creek
  • Climber Dropped at Instructional Clinic
  • Euro-Death Knot (Flat Figure-8) Mysteriously Fails
  • Mark Davis Dies in Tragic Rappelling Accident at Indian Creek
  • Climber Dies In Fall From Moonlight Buttress, Zion
  • Ice Climber Falls 100 Feet in Banff National Park
  • Ice Climber Falls 100 Feet on Screw and Climaxe
  • Diablo Canyon Climber Dies in 170-foot Fall
  • Climber Breaks Ankle and Back After Fall in the Palisades, California
  • Rockfall Knocks Out Belayer, She Never Lets Go
  • North Carolina Climber Dies in 50-foot Fall
  • Lightning Strikes Twice - Rockfall on the Cassin, Cima Piccolissima
  • Climber Dropped When Lowered in Autoblock Mode
  • Climber Dies in a Fall at Dishman Hills, Washington
  • Climber Falls 200 Feet on the Nose
  • Danger Zones: The Nose - Accidents On El Cap's Most Popular Route
  • Rappelling Accident Leaves Climber Shattered
  • Gunks Climber Raps Off End of Rope
  • Inattentive Spot Leads to Broken Arm
  • Man Survives Fifty-Foot Ground Fall
  • Bolt Breaks, Climber Falls to Death
  • Climber Falls to Death, Apparent Bolt Failure
  • Tragedy on Infinite Bliss - Rappelling Claims Climber
  • Gear Rips, Leading Climber Critical
  • Impaled by a Quickdraw
  • Two Carabiners Break on Leaning Tower
  • Climber Fined For Obstructing Rescue
  • Climber Triggers Rockfall, Kills Two on El Cap
  • Gear Pulls: Grounder at White Rock, New Mexico
  • Death on Capitol Peak
  • Respected Climber Falls 50 Feet and Dies at Cathedral Ledge
  • NPS Chops Bolts: Man Dies Descending Forbidden Peak
  • Not Again: Eldo Climber Raps Off End Of Rope
  • Flake Breaks, Leader Falls, Hits Belayer
  • BUNGLED!: Autoblock Belay Device Misused
  • Fatal Gym Accident
  • Solo Ice Climber Dies in Fall
  • Three Killed in Cairngorms
  • Ice Climber Killed
  • Despite Warnings, Three Injured in Mount Washington Avalanche
  • Four Dead in Scottish Highlands
  • Bolt Pulls Out in the New River Gorge
  • Belayer Drops Climber 70 Feet to Ground
  • Rope Cuts, Climber Dies in Eldorado
  • Belayer Pulls Leader Off Ice Climb
  • Fifty-Footer Rips Three Screws
  • Rope Chopped by Carabiner
  • Climber Falls 140 Feet and Lives
  • Todd Skinner Killed on Leaning Tower Rappel
  • Climbing's Insidious Danger: Rockfall
  • Top Rope Slips Off
  • Rappel Knot Fails, Climber Falls 300 Feet to Death
  • Ice Cave Collapses, Kills Hari Berger
  • Climber Unclips From Anchor, Falls to Death
  • Counterweight Rappel Failure
  • Back Cleaning Results in 150-foot Fall
  • Climber Dies When Rappels Off End of Rope
  • Mouse Attacks
  • Hold Breaks, 60-foot Fall
  • Avalanche Kills Six In Alps
  • Autoblock Belay Failure Causes Fall
  • Rappel Swing Goes Awry, Climber Injured and Rescued
  • Ice Climber Falls Entire Pitch, Dies
  • Climber Comes Unclipped, Falls 140 Feet at Red Rocks
  • Ice climber rides Vail's famous Fang 100 feet when the pillar collapses
  • Two Bolt Hangers Break, Climber Falls
  • Nose-hooked Carabiner Breaks, Causing Ground Fall
  • Bowline Comes Untied, Climber Falls to Ground
  • Rope Burns Through Lowering Sling, Climber Falls to Ground
  • Gear Rips, Leader Hits Ledge
  • 600-foot Ice Climbing Fall
  • Ice Climber Unropes, Slips, Falls 60 Feet
  • Ice Climber Dislodges Ice, Belayer Hit and Seriously Injured
  • Belayer Drops Leader Due to Miscommunication
  • Climber Rappels Off Rope, Dies
  • Leader Rips 10 Pieces on El Cap, Falls 80 Feet
  • Leader Falls, Gear Rips, Belay Fails
  • Video Spotlight
    Nick Bullock and Paul Ramsden Make First Ascent of Nyainqentangla South East
    Nick Bullock and Paul Ramsden Make First Ascent of Nyainqentangla South East
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: 60-Footer on Castleton Tower (Trad Fall)
    Weekend Whipper: 60-Footer on Castleton Tower (Trad Fall)
     



    Climber Killed in Simul-Rappelling Accident on the Goat Wall

    By

    The Goat Wall, near Mazama, Washington, with the classic 11-pitch <em>Prime Rib of Goat</em> (5.9-) highlighted in red. <em>Sisyphus</em> (5.11a ), the route on which the accident occurred, is to the right. Photo: Bryan Burdo.On May 29, 2017, at around 9 a.m., Shelby Withington fell 500 feet to his death after a simul-rappelling accident on the 1,300-foot Goat Wall near Mazama, Washington. The 20 year old from Seattle was a student at Western Washington University.

    Withington and three other climbers, ages 21, 22 and 27, were on the 10-pitch Sisyphus (5.11). They completed the route’s first seven pitches and decided to descend from there, before the route entered a series of third-class ledges and two more easy pitches to the top. According to mountainproject.com, “Many parties will opt to descend after the seventh pitch as [route] quality deteriorates.”

    It was Memorial Day weekend and “the team was going to do one more climb, then go home,” Rick Avery, the Search and Rescue Coordinator for Okanogan County, tells Rock and Ice.

    Likely in an effort to save time, the four climbers chose to simul-rappel the route in pairs, Avery says—a technique where one climber counterweights the other on opposite stands of the rope, allowing both to rappel at the same time. Withington and another climber went first. The other climber, whose name has not been released, got ahead of Withington, and reached the belay ledge at the top of the sixth pitch first. He un-weighted the system, breaking the counterbalance, and his strand of the rope slipped through his rappel device. They had not tied knots in the ends of the rope.

    “[Withington] probably fell around 300 feet before he impacted anything,” Avery says. “And then he kept going for another 200 feet or so.” According to Avery, the Navy, who sent a rescue helicopter, estimates that Withington fell over 500 feet in total to the base of the climb.

     

     

    “It was not rockfall or an equipment failure. It was climber error during the rappel process that resulted in the fall,” Okanogan County Coroner Dave Rodriguez told Methow Valley News. “[Withington] died on impact. The injuries were catastrophic.”

    According to Avery, one of the other climbers at the seventh-pitch anchor saw the rope whipping through the anchor and attempted to grab it with his hands, but he was unable to stop the rope and suffered severe rope burn to his hands. “The rope came down with the body,” Avery says.

    Another climbing party that was about to start up Sisyphus witnessed the accident and called 911. Aero Methow Rescue Service and the Okanogan County Sheriff’s search-and-rescue team arrived within an hour, according to Methow Valley News, and the rescue team was able to hike to the body. The Whidbey Island Naval Air Station also sent a helicopter search and rescue crew, who retrieved Withington’s body and flew him to the North Cascades Smokejumper Base.

    The rescue team and other climbers helped the three other climbers get down.

    Withington was the third fatality on the Goat Wall in the past eight years. In May 2016, Ryan Kautz, 26, died in a rappelling accident while descending Prime Rib of Goat, a popular 11-pitch 5.9. In September 2008, Ryan Triplett, 31, fell to his death while free soloing on the wall. Due to the increase in the number of rock climbers, and accidents, in the area, Okanogan County Search and Rescue is developing a high-angle rescue team.

     


    The risks of simul-rappelling—In July 2016, a climber was killed in a similar simul-rappelling accident on Reed’s Pinnacle in Yosemite. Like in Withington’s accident, the two climbers on Reed’s Pinnacle neglected to tie knots in the ends of the rope or back-up the system.

    “In my opinion the rewards of simul-rappelling rarely outweigh the risks,” Jeff Ward, an AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide, wrote in Ask the Master. “Oftentimes when I see people simul-rappelling they are rappelling so slow and carefully (which is a good idea) that they really aren't saving themselves that much time.”


     

    According to Withington’s Couch Surfing profile, after graduating from the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences, he took a gap year to: “[follow] my calling to travel the world and climb mountains everywhere I can! I want to get the most out of the life I've been given and fill it with new friends, new places and amazing experiences!”

    Under “One Amazing Thing I’ve Done”, he wrote: “Summited every 10,000+ foot volcano in Washington and Oregon.”

    On his Instagram feed, one photo of a smiling Whithington, holding up taped and bloodied hands in front of a sandstone wall, was captioned: “Look at this cool pic of me happy as crap after a good fight with a cool rock :).”

     

     

    A post shared by Shelby Withington (@projectshelb) on

     

    Related Articles

    Rappel Knot Fails, Climber Falls to Death on the Goat Wall

    Simul-Rappel Goes Tragically Wrong - Reed’s Pinnacle, Yosemite

    Climber Dies in Fall From El Cap's East Ledges

     


     
    FIND MORE ACCIDENT REPORTS HERE

    Reader's Commentary:

    Don't want to use Facebook, but still want to comment? We have you covered:

    Add Your Comments to this article:
     
     
     
    Hello