American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Fall on Rock (2), No Hard Hat, California, Joshua Tree National Park, Hidden Valley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2010


California, Joshua Tree National Park, Hidden Valley

About 4:00 p.m. on March 15, Curtis “Woody” Stark (67) and Alfred Kuok (44) were climbing in an area near the Hidden Valley nature trail. The trail is a popular destination for both day hikers and rock climbers. Stark was the lead climber on the Great Burrito formation and was being followed by Kuok. Stark experienced some difficulty with his climb and began to descend. During the descent, he lost his grip and fell. As he fell, Stark struck Kuok, causing him to fall as well. Kuok’s protection held, arresting his fall, but Stark continued to fall, suffering fatal head injuries when he struck the ground. It’s estimated that he fell about 100 feet.

Two other rock climbers immediately responded and rendered assistance to Kuok, helping lower him from the cliff face. Rangers received word of the accident at 4:40 p.m. and responded along with members of the Joshua Tree Search and Rescue (JOSAR) team. Kuok was treated by emergency personnel for back pain, rib injuries, and other possible internal injuries. (Source: From a Report by Joe Zarki, Public Information Officer, NPS Morning Report and from a posting on SuperTopo)

(Editor’s Note: We do not get reports from JTNP on a regular basis. Thousands of climbers visit this famous climbing mecca every year. Fatalities have been rare. Accidents resulting in injuries are usually managed by the climbers on their own, as most falls are on one-pitch or less routes.)

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