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Falling Ice, Poor Position, Miscommunication, Utah, Little Cottonwood Canyon


Utah, Little Cottonwood Canyon

On June 2, 1988, Michael Franklin (42) and Carl Wilmarth (36) were climbing “Great White Icicle” and were at the belay with one pitch to go.

While sorting out at the belay a solo and unroped climber, David Reed (32), came up to the belay. After a short conversation, Reed passed by, but instead of using the line to the left of the party, which was climbable and would not have endangered the Franklin party, he continued up above them. It is our (Franklin-Wilmarth) feeling that he was struggling and possibly climbing over his head.

About ten meters above us, he loosened a large block of ice and it fell directly down on us, striking Franklin on the left forearm, breaking the radius at mid-shaft. We were able to finish the route and descended on our own, Reed and Wilmarth assisting Franklin. (Source: Michael Franklin)


The Great White Icicle is a popular route and receives a lot of traffic. In general, if there is a party already on the route, one should wait until they are finished before starting up.

The lesson to be learned is obvious. I accept an equal share of the blame with Reed. We should not have let him pass us. The belay had fixed pins and slings at it. He should have waited there until we finished the pitch. Also, he could have passed us using a line well to the left of us, thus avoiding being above us. The ice there was in good shape and climbable. (Source: Michael Franklin)