ICE COLLAPSED, FALL ON ICE, CLIMBING ALONE AND UNROPED
North Carolina, Blue Ridge Parkway, Doughton Park
The body of Ralph Fickle (59), an experienced climber and guide, was found on March 4 about 200 feet below the Blue Ridge Parkway, a half- mile south of the Bluffs Restaurant at Doughton Park. Apparently, Ralph was free-soloing Farmer’s Daughter. It seems that about 90 feet up and 10 feet from where the climb backs off and the lower angle ice tops out, the free hanging curtain of ice he was on completely fractured. Ralph had rigged a top anchored bail out line in case he felt the need to retreat. His ATC was clipped to the belay loop of his harness. Due to the large section of ice that broke, he did not have time to retrieve the line.
Ralph fell to the base of the climb and slid down slope. He suffered head trauma and did not pass instantly, but soon after coming to a stop, as evidenced by the fact that he had time to remove gloves and touch the wound, but not much after that.
Solo climbing and late season ice don’t mix, especially in the Southeast. (Source: Josh McMann, from a post on carolinaclimbers.org)