American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Ice Column Collapse — Fall on Ice, Late Season, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

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  • Publication Year: 2011

ICE COLUMN COLLAPSE - FALL ON ICE, LATE SEASON

Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

On May 25, Mark Ehrich (28) and Michael Kellch (29) died when a frozen waterfall called Silver Cord Cascade collapsed while they were climbing it.

Steve Langlas, of the construction company Langlas and Associates, which employed both men, said Kellch and Ehrich were childhood friends in Casper and were living together in Bozeman. They were experienced ice climbers.

Analysis

Silver Cord Cascade is about three miles downstream of the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone. Joe Josephson of Livingston, who has climbed Silver Cord and has written a book about ice climbing in southern Montana and northern Wyoming, said climbers ski to the site from Artist’s Point, rappel down and then climb back up. Generally speaking, it’s not considered all that difficult a climb, he said, but “it’s quite spectacular.” He also stated, "... but ice conditions can change so quickly that it’s hard to say what the difficulty is from day to day.”

Silver Cord would be frozen nearly solid in midwinter, Josephson said, but from March on, the flow of water beneath the ice grows steadily and can make climbing conditions dangerous.

Hiking and climbing in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone are prohibited from the brink of the Upper Falls downriver to the Silver Cord Cascade drainage. Park rangers said climbers attempt Silver Cord Cascade maybe one to three times a year. (Source: Yellowstone National Park News Release)

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