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Fall on Rock, Rope Severed by Falling Rock — Alaska, Portage Glacier


Alaska, Portage Glacier

I am sorry to report the death of Steve Garvey (40) on August 13. He was well known, experienced, and a much-liked Alaskan climber. Garvey, as he was known by all, was a friend of AMRG, a close personal friend, an occasional climbing partner and a seven-year employee of my company.

Garvey had completed a morning climb Friday with partner Matt Howard and was leading a second climb at noon when Howard noticed the safety rope go slack. Howard turned and saw Garvey hit the rock outcrop on which he was standing and roll a few feet down a shale slope. Garvey died when his rope was cut during a short leader fall. He fell over 100 feet to the ground.

Garvey was wearing a helmet and was briefly conscious after the fall. When his partner arrived at his side only seconds later, Garvey whispered, “What happened?” His face then quickly blanched and he lost consciousness. CPR efforts were ineffective and did not revive him. It appears Garvey had a flail chest among other internal injuries that may have caused massive internal bleeding and loss of blood pressure.


Garvey was in the process of extending the upper limits of a route he had pioneered. His partner was familiar with the route he was climbing, and feels Garvey was possibly moving left horizontally six feet from an anchor to round a point on the route. A fall at this point would result in a short pendulum swing back below the previous anchor. Garvey’s rope was only three weeks old. But it was cut in half only a foot from his harness.

The rocks on the route were on the side of a glacier carved valley, and were known for being sharp. Another employee of ours had climbed with Garvey in this area and remembers doing a route several years ago that incorporated an otherwise easy layback section that was unclimbable because the sharp rock edges sliced his fingers open. (Source: Bill Laxson, Alaska Mountain Rescue Group)