Late on the morning of Sunday, August 4, 33-year-old Ken Anderson was leading a 5.4 scrambly section on the traversing fourth-pitch of Parallel Passages, a 1,000-foot 5.10b/c on the Chief, Squamish. Ken, a Squamish local and a 5.13 trad climber, had free soloed this route before—including on his 33rd birthday, when he also soloed two other big routes on the Chief. On this day, though, he was out for a casual roped lap on Parallel Passages with his girlfriend, Gisely Ferraz.
Gisely told Rock and Ice that as Ken was partway up the pitch when a handhold broke, and he fell. He had not placed any protection on the previous section—it was easy climbing, and terrain he had previously soloed no less.
Ken tumbled 25 meters, hitting three different ledges. Gisely soloed up the pitch—roughly 5.10a climbing—to reach the spot where Ken had landed and waited with him.
He was not wearing a helmet, but his injuries were primarily to his torso and limbs.
Another climber on the Chief called the Squamish Royal Canadian Mounted Police to report the accident. Gisely was told to wait for help.
First responders arrived at the the Chief within 30 minutes of his fall. However, Ken and Gisely’s location—over 150 meters up the side of the cliff—required a complex rescue and they could not get to him immediately.
After several hours, Gisely and another woman—who had been climbing above and rappelled down to help—managed to lower Ken to a good ledge and take his weight off the rope. Four hours after the accident, he was long-lined out by helicopter, but it was too late.
“He died in my arms,” Gisely said,
Back in March and April of this year, Ken and Gisely traveled to Liming, China, a rural and off-the-beaten-path cornucopia of beautiful sandstone splitters. After climbing each day, with a crowd of fellow climbers they would crowd around a table in a dimly lit restaurant, a Lazy Susan likely spinning in the center loaded with delicious local dishes, and discuss—what else?!— climbing.
Ken was always “psyched to hear what everyone else was doing,” Gisely said. He was modest and never bragged. “You never would’ve guessed he was about to send The Firewall”—a 5.13d overhanging ringlock-sized sufferfest that is one of the two hardest trad climbs in both Liming and China as a whole. It had seen only several prior ascents.
[Ken Anderson Was Heavily Featured in a Liming Photo Essay in Gym Climber No. 3 — Check it Out Here]
“Ken was such a positive spirit—humble and stoked,” Gisely said. “If you go on his Instagram you will just see pictures of an average climber.” But—as his redpoint in just nine burns of The Firewall attests to—he was far, far from an average climber.
One of his other most astounding climbing accomplishments was his performance on Freerider on El Cap. He and Gisely climbed it over the course of six days, ground up, and Ken needed two burns to send just three pitches: the Boulder Problem, the Monster Offwidth and the Enduro Corner. He onsighted the rest of the 30-pitch route.
As mentioned above, on his 33rd birthday he soloed the Chief three times—and showed up late for his birthday party because of it!
And yet, as incredible of a climber as Ken was, his interests spread so much further.
This past week he was working on saving the Salmon in British Columbia’s Fraser River Basin. He wanted to save this endangered species from extinction.
As a day job, Ken had worked as a gym coach, then as a guide in Squamish, and more recently in rope access.
At one time, Ken and Gisely bought a sailboat and lived in it together for a year and a half. “He was a dirtbag from the heart,” Gisely said. “Living the dream.”
Many friends and acquaintances posted tributes to Ken on his Facebook, a Reddit thread and elsewhere.”This is a huge loss to Squamish,” one poster on Reddit wrote. “He was such an awesome guy, everyone who knew him loved his passion for climbing and for how friendly and humble he was.”
Another friend on Facebook wrote, “You blessed everyone’s lives with your contagious laugh, your boundless energy, your hunger for life and adventure, and your absolute selflessness.”