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Fall on Rock, Rappel Error—Rappelled Off End of Rope, No Auto-Block and No Knots in Ends of Rope

On October 7 about 2:30 p.m., Dennis Luther (40s), an experienced climber, fell about 200 feet to his death from an advanced rock-climbing route up Poke-O-Moonshine.

He was working on a bolted route and then rappelled, apparently with no autoblock, on a doubled rope that wasn’t knotted and rappelled off the end of his rope.

Adirondack rock-climbing guide Don Mellor, of Lake Placid, who climbed with Luther for over 20 years, was deeply saddened to learn of the accident Sunday.

“He’s a good guy, a good friend of all of ours,” Mellor said. “It’s a gigantic loss to all of us in the local community, which is really tight.” Luther earned great respect as a rock climber and was “very, very beloved by all his friends.”

Analysis

For the third year in a row, we have a report of a very experienced climber coming to a tragic end as a result of a basic rappel error. (Source: Jed Williamson)

Additional Notes: Poke-O-Moonshine is a national caliber rock-climbing area, known for clean geometric lines and steep pitch, which makes it popular with advanced technical climbers. There are nearly 150 established “trad” or traditional rock climbing routes up the cliffs of Poke-O- Moonshine reaching 450 feet at the highest point. It is not unusual on a sunny weekend day to see 15 or more groups working their way up the rock fractures.

Poke-O-Moonshine, called “Poke-O” by climbers, has been a popular climbing area since 1955 with famed routes with names like “Bloody Mary,” “The Cooler,” and “Land of Make Believe.”

One other fatal climbing accident occurred on Poke-O-Moonshine on Feb. 22, 2002, when a melting chunk of ice let go under Toronto ice climbing instructor Kevin Bailey. In all, five fatal climbing accidents have occurred in the Adirondacks, three on the loose rocks of Wallface at Indian Pass in the High Peaks, one on the cliffs at Chapel Pond in Keene Valley, plus the above on Poke-O-Moonshine. (Source: All information in narrative and notes from an article found on line at PressRepublican.com, and written by Kim Smith Dedam on October 8, 2007.)