American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Oregon, Smith Rock State Park

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2008

FALL ON ROCK

Oregon, Smith Rock State Park

On Sunday morning, November 4, Jim Anglin (55) was descending into the Lower Gorge by a Fourth Class climbers’ way at the southeast end of Smith Rock State Park when he lost his footing and fell about 100 feet to his death. No one saw him slip. Anglin and his climbing companions had been heading down into the Lower Gorge to climb traditional routes in that area of the Park.

Analysis

Jim Anglin had been rock climbing at the highest level at Smith Rock since the 1980’s, and is credited with many first ascents. Recently, he had participated in replacing anchors on routes on Monkey Face.

The Fourth Class Climber’s Way they used on Sunday descends into the Gorge from a section of the volcanic Rim Rock located behind the Park Offices. This hard basaltic rock does not degrade into the slippery-gravel over sloping-rock base that is typical of Welded Tuff rock, according to Smith climber Ian Caldwell. Hiking trails elsewhere in Smith Rock State Park and climbs in other volcanic areas in Central Oregon, such as Three Fingered Jack, have this dangerous slippery-gravel condition.

Reportedly, his companions did not see what caused him to fall.

The Climber’s Way into the Lower Gorge is described as a Fourth Class descent slot by Alan Watts on page 234 of his “Climber’s Guide to Smith Rock.” Fourth Class climbing requires balance, care, and the use of hands and obviously may involve serious injury or death if a fall should occur. (Source: Robert Speik)

(Editor’s Note: We are reminded that sometimes in familiar and what might be considered benevolent terrain, even the best of climbers can experience an accident.

A final note regarding the February 2006 fatalities on Mount Hood reported in last year's ANAM. Jeff Sheetz sent forward the following: “As a direct consequence of this high profile search, the Oregon state legislature is proposing bills that mandate electronic signaling devices (such as Personal Locator Beacons, Mountain Locator Beacon, GPS receiver with cellphone, and two-way radios) for all climbs above 10,000 feet on Mount Hood. Most local rescue personal and climbers encourage the use of such equipment but do not believe its use should be required. For this particular accident, the stormy weather delayed reaching even known locations in the summit area, so electronic signaling would not likely have affected the outcome.

“Several organized searches were conducted during the summer of 2007. A very large equipment cache containing sleeping bags, bivy sacks, stoves, extra clothes, a shovel, a backpack, other equipment was found in the hut where the party stayed. Essentially, all of their survival equipment was left behind early on the approach. The upper sections of the Newton-Clark and Eliot glaciers were searched by air and ground teams, but no additional clues as to the fate of the two missing climbers were found.

“It should also be noted that the climbers left their vehicle on December 7, not December 6. This provides at least a partial explanation why they were late starting on the route—as further evidenced by the photos recovered. ”)

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