• Climbing Beta: Rocktown, Georgia
  • Climbing Beta: El Potrero Chico, Mexico
  • The Hardest Bouldering in America ... and Maybe the World
  • Everest Deserves Respect: Why It's Hard, From Someone Who's Been There
  • The Epic of All Epics
  • Origin of Species: Fontainebleau
  • El Cap's Hardest: Wings of Steel
  • Cragging in the Bay Area
  • Superwuss (5.10), Black Canyon
  • Island of Opportunity: Exploring the Potential of Puerto Rico
  • Waimea (5.10d): Runmey, New Hampshire
  • Storming Castles: New Routing in the High Sierras
  • Pure Magic: Spellbound By the Boulders of Switzerland
  • Cliff Notes: Moe's Saved!
  • Arctic Gold
  • Where Worlds Collide
  • Tahoe Moderates
  • Not So Fast: Lessons From a Father-Son Trip to Patagonia
  • Red Dihedral (IV 5.10b)
  • Place of Happiness
  • High Exposure: A Fresh Perspective on the Gunks
  • Flying Buttress (5.10)
  • California's Big House
  • Jah Man (5.10) Sister Superior
  • Wild Wild West Virginia
  • Wild Chihuahua
  • Vintage Vantage
  • Tuff Love
  • True Believers
  • Tower of the Damned, Climbing the Crystal Tower
  • The Hidden
  • The Black is Beautiful
  • The Beast of the East
  • Souvenirs
  • Southern Idaho Secrets
  • Simon Yates' New Route on Mount Vancouver
  • Routes Less Traveled
  • Rock Climbing in India
  • Open Water Treading in Paradise
  • New Mexico
  • Never Mind The Dinosaurs
  • Mountain of Clark
  • Local Color
  • Limestone Harmony
  • King Air
  • The Stonemasters Climb at Pirates Cove
  • In the Land of Myths
  • Ice Climbing in Norway with WIll Gadd
  • Green Party
  • Generational Shift
  • Devil's Advocate
  • Deep Water Soloing in Mallorca
  • Conquistdors of the Useful
  • Classic Acts
  • Bouldering in Hampi India
  • Beyond the Fringe
  • Backwoods Bouldering
  • Attack of the Daks
  • Armenia Rock Climbing
  • Alex and Thomas Huber Climb in Queen Maud Land
  • Ain't it Grand
  • Age of Reason
  • America's Best Climbing Area: Red River Gorge
  • The Prophet
  • Sunshine (5.10) // Snowpatch Spire, Bugaboos
  • Shagged: Maine's Shag Crag Deals with Perma Draws
  • That Which Shall Not be Named
  • El Cajon Climbing Crag Bolts Chopped
  • Climbing Dark Star, a Sierra Classic
  • Rock Climbing and Bouldering in Mongolia
  • Destination Sinks Canyon Wyoming
  • Defying the Red Rock Bolt Ban
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison, The Diagonal Epic
  • Creatures of Feature
  • Seeking Life After Death
  • Hyalite Canyon Access in Danger
  • Free Will in Purgatory
  • WAR IN PATAGONIA!
  • Moonlight Rising
  • THE NORTH WIND AND THE SUN
  • Solar Eclipse
  • Shattered Glass
  • Black Sheep
  • Patz on the Back
  • Seeing Perfect Visionary
  • JAWS II
  • R' is for Rant
  • Cold War
  • TRAD-MIXED LIVES FREE
  • EVEREST 2008
  • Monster Jacks
  • Border Country
  • Wabi Sabi
  • ¡Prohibido Escalar!
  • Good Ice Hunting
  • Cochamó Madness
  • Suffer and Be Merry
  • Game On
  • Close But No Cigar
  •  
    Video Spotlight
    Stormbringer, No Retreat - Ice Climbing in Norway
    Stormbringer, No Retreat - Ice Climbing in Norway

    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.


    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