• 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
  • My Helmet Saved My Life - Short Story Series
  • Man Survives Fifty-Foot Ground Fall
  • Bolt Breaks, Climber Falls to Death
  • Earthquake, Avalanche, 21 Dead on Everest, Over 4,600 in Nepal
  • 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
  • Rock Climbing Accident: NPS Chops Bolts: Man Dies Descending Forbidden Peak

    07-Jul-2014
    By

    Tyler Barton's partner on the descent, just before Barton was killed by rockfall. Photo courtesy of the Tyler Barton Collection.On the afternoon of September 14, Tyler Barton, a 31-year-old from Seattle, was descending Forbidden Peak in the North Cascades of Washington. He’d just climbed the West Ridge (III 5.5) with a partner, and the two men had completed three of five (or six) rappels that would take them down a slab/runnels to the climber’s left of the West Ridge Couloir and eventually land them on the glacier near the start of the route. 

    The West Ridge is a popular climb, one of the Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, with easy climbing and grand views. Like many of the “fifty crowded classics,” the West Ridge sees a lot of traffic and on that beautiful autumn Saturday, Barton and his partner were one of up to five parties on the route. The two were among the first to summit and they were halfway down the descent when an accident occurred. While standing unroped, Barton was struck by a falling rock about the size of a football. The rock knocked him off his stance and he fell about 300 feet to his death.


    [ ANALYSIS ]

    The standard descent from the West Ridge involves rappelling from blocks tied off with “nests” of tat. Over the years, the descent has become littered with slings, creating a confusing situation for climbers simply trying to find the best way off. As of August 2012, there were approximately 18 separate anchors in and around the descent couloir. At that time, a Cascades guide, Kurt Hicks, established a bolted anchor at the top of what he determined was the safest from rockfall and least environmentally impactful descent. Hicks’ anchor directed climbers down a rock rib and allowed a “fall line descent” to another, older,  bolted anchor just above the glacier. For reasons that are still unclear, Hicks’ anchor was immediately chopped by North Cascades National Park (NCNP) climbing rangers, who also removed an the lower bolted anchor. The day Barton was killed, the descent—minus the bolted stations—was (and still is) loose, confusing, and exposed to rockfall. According to Barton’s partner, to reach one of these old anchors, the two were forced to unrope and traverse a narrow ledge. Barton was knocked from his stance while unroped. 

    According to Barton’s partner, the rockfall could have been initiated by pulling the rappel rope, or by the many climbers above them.


    [ PREVENTION ]

    On crowded and loose peaks, including just about any popular mountaineering objective in the Lower 48, avoid climbing or rappelling below other parties. This accident could have been prevented if Barton and his partner had descended the East Ridge, an alternate (but less popular) descent on the Northeast Face of Forbidden. It is troubling that NCNP rangers chopped a legally hand-drilled anchor established to direct climbers down a more solid and safer descent. If Hicks’ anchor had been in place, Barton and his partner could have used this station and remained clipped in at all times. For a full report about the chopped bolts and the NCNP’s recent moratorium on bolting see TNB: Death on Forbidden Peak.


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