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#248532 - 09/24/03 08:17 AM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
goatboy Offline

Registered: 01/24/01
Posts: 1934
TRs: 33 Photos: 376
Loc: Waiting for high pressure

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#248533 - 09/24/03 08:23 AM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
erik Offline

Registered: 12/07/00
Posts: 9010
TRs: 1 Photos: 27


WWU student dies on popular climbing wall
09:17 PM PDT on Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Associated Press

LEAVENWORTH, Wash. - A Whatcom County man has died in a fall from Snow Creek Wall in the North Cascades, where crews - working by the light of head lamps - managed the harrowing rescue of his climbing partner.

"We don't really know for sure what went wrong," Deputy Gene Ellis of the Chelan County Sheriff's Office said of Monday's accident. "Maybe we never will."

William, 28, of Glacier, died of injuries suffered in the fall. Rescuers estimated he fell 300 to 400 feet. The Western Washington University grad student suffered multiple internal injuries due to blunt impact to the head and chest, Dr. Gina Fino, the Chelan County coroner, said Tuesday.

It was the first death at the site since 1983, when two British Columbia men died in a 300-foot fall.

His climbing partner - Matt Burns, 27, also a WWU grad student - told Ellis that he and William had been climbing together for about two months, and that William had about eight years of climbing experience.

Burns was "tired and shook up" but otherwise uninjured, Ellis said.

Burns and William set out on the wall early Monday. By noon, they were about halfway up a route called Outer Space on the nearly vertical cliff that rises nearly 800 feet above Snow Creek.

"It is the five-star rock-climbing route in Washington state," said Freeman Keller of Wenatchee, a member of Chelan County's Mountain Rescue Team. "It's difficult, but not too difficult. It's got good exposure and good rock."

Burns and William had completed the first three pitches or climbing sections, considered the hardest part of the seven-pitch route, Keller said. Burns then waited on a ledge about 350 feet up the rock face while William started toward the top.

Meanwhile, two other climbers - Jessica Campbell of Kirkland and Ben Shrope of Redmond - began ascending the wall. They noticed the top climber was taking a long time on the fourth pitch.

Suddenly, "There was a commotion, and we heard someone yelling 'Are you all right?"' Campbell said.

William, then about 50 feet above Burns, had fallen 15 to 20 feet, striking the wall and slightly injuring his shoulder, said rescue climber Tom Clausing of Leavenworth.

He decided to rappel back to the ledge with Burns, who disconnected himself from the rope so William could rig the rope for the rappel, Clausing and Keller said.

But William fell.

"It appears as if either his anchor failed or he got disconnected somehow from the anchor," Clausing said.

His fall dislodged loose rocks that sprayed Campbell and Shrope, then 150 feet up.

"I thought I was done for," Shrope said.

William struck a ledge just a couple of feet from Campbell, then fell to the base of the cliff, taking the rope with him and leaving Burns stuck on the ledge.

Shrope climbed up to the ledge where Campbell sat and called 911 on his cell phone. They waited several hours, talking to Burns as they waited for help.

Nick Runions, a medic for Cascade Ambulance and a member of the Mountain Rescue Team, was among the first to reach the scene. The Chelan County Sheriff's Office enlisted three rescue climbers from Kittitas County and six U.S. Forest Service firefighters from Leavenworth for the difficult rescue and body recovery.

i omitted victims last name.
there has got to be a god; the world could not have become so fucked up by chance alone -abbey

#248534 - 09/24/03 08:24 AM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
Raoul Offline

Registered: 08/31/02
Posts: 15
TRs: 3 Photos: 10
Loc: Olympia
Here's another link.
Press Here

#248535 - 09/24/03 08:36 AM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
scot'teryx Offline
old hand

Registered: 01/30/01
Posts: 1159
TRs: 11 Photos: 136
My condolences go out to the family. This is so upsetting, and it makes me very, very, very sad.

Makes you think about things a little more than you did before. Family, friends, etc.

Our life can be so short here on earth, pause for a moment and reflect on the reasons why we are here and to pray for the family of the climber that passed away.

#248536 - 09/24/03 08:38 AM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
Muffy_The_Wanker_Sprayer Offline

Registered: 10/02/02
Posts: 9637
TRs: 0 Photos: 0
Loc: Muffingtown
I just sent a link to someone Iam teaching to climb. I think it is imparative as climbers that we are AWARE that we can die any moment because of what we choose to do. Reflection is part of the risk taking... is this worth it to you?

condolences to the family
"they will get over it or they will die freaked out"- Sunshine

#248537 - 09/24/03 08:46 AM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
matt_warfield Offline

Registered: 07/17/02
Posts: 1640
TRs: 8 Photos: 2
Loc: seattle
Well, if the reports are accurate, it appears that the lead climber fell, got shaken up physically and probably
mentally, and then made a mistake in setting up the rappel, which requires good judgment and a clear mind
especially in the middle of a pitch. A better solution would have been to double up pro near the high point and
then get lowered to the ledge. As has been noted previously, it is important that the climbing community
analyze accidents to better facilitate safety because gravity indeed is in charge out there.
My condolences to all affected.
I do what I want and take what I get

#248538 - 09/24/03 09:09 AM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
Freeman Offline

Registered: 05/16/01
Posts: 185
TRs: 2 Photos: 1
Loc: Wenatchee, WA
We have some theories about what might of happened but want to let the dust settle first. I would like to talk to Matt Burns when convenient - if anyone knows him could they ask him to call me.

I think it is safe to say that the reports are fairly accurate.

#248539 - 09/24/03 09:10 AM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
rbw1966 Offline

Registered: 10/30/00
Posts: 4919
TRs: 1 Photos: 19
Sad news. My condolences to the familes and friends. Many thanks to those who helped with the rescue and in protecting the privacy of those involved.

#248540 - 09/24/03 11:38 AM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
dkemp Offline
addicted to

Registered: 05/07/01
Posts: 555
TRs: 7 Photos: 4
Loc: Seattle WA
Sad indeed. Condolences to family and friends.
Get up early, go all day, come home tired.

#248541 - 09/24/03 02:36 PM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
Stefan Offline

Registered: 04/16/01
Posts: 2232
TRs: 7 Photos: 9
Loc: the circus
I am sorry this condolences to the family and friends.

I hate rappelling.
Namaste - Whatever your outer appearance, I see and greet the soul in you.

#248542 - 09/24/03 04:25 PM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
Cpt.Caveman Offline

Registered: 04/18/01
Posts: 9633
TRs: 5 Photos: 0

A better solution would have been to double up pro near the high point and
then get lowered to the ledge.

That doesnt always work. For instance if you are past more than half way on the rope. or maybe on a traverse or really winding pitch.. But it may have worked in this situation....

#248543 - 09/25/03 10:45 AM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
Freeman Offline

Registered: 05/16/01
Posts: 185
TRs: 2 Photos: 1
Loc: Wenatchee, WA
Forwarded to me by the reporter that wrote the article in the Wenatchee Paper:

Freeman, in case you didn't see this, here is a copy of the story
about the climber who died at Snow Creek Wall that was written today
in his hometown newspaper in Rhode Island ...

Rock climbing fall claims city native in Washington
JOSEPH B. NADEAU , Staff Writer 09/25/2003
WOONSOCKET -- As they remembered William M. Tharpe yesterday, it
helped his family to know the 28-year-old former city resident had
never feared living his life on the edge.
Tharpe was killed in a climbing accident in Washington state's
Northern Cascades on Monday. He lived for the challenges he found
outdoors, his parents said.
"He lived day to day and he lived life. Everything was always 200
percent, it was amazing," the climber's father, William H. Tharpe
said from his Jillson Avenue home as family and friends gathered to
remember his son Wednesday.
Tharpe fell from a rock face known as Snow Creek Wall while climbing
with a fellow graduate student, Matt Burns, 27, according to
published reports.
His family said Tharpe was reported to be climbing back to Burns to
help him begin a descent off a ledge in the wall. The accident
occurred as Tharpe unhitched the rope to prepare it for rappelling
and fell 300 to 400 feet down the rock wall.
"He had come back to him (Burns) and removed his harness from the
rope and as he was retying it, he slipped and fell down," his father
A mountain rescue team later plucked Burns from his precarious spot
and located Tharpe's body.
A "free spirit" who also seemed a throwback to the 60s, Tharpe had
many interests in his active live and most involved a degree of risk,
according to his family. It was a lifestyle that allowed him to pack
a lot of living into just 28 years.
"He surfed, ice climbed, mountain climbed," his father said. "He
snowboarded on Mount Rainier."
Somewhere in those pursuits, Tharpe, a 1993 graduate of Woonsocket
High School, also had a plan.
After earning a bachelors degree in Anthropology, Tharpe went to work
on a graduate degree at Western Washington University.
"He wanted to get a masters degree in outdoor education," Tharpe's
mother, Linda, said.
"He was going to try to teach in an outdoor program with kids," she said.
It was a natural goal for a young person with a passion for
snowboarding, skiing and mountaineering, according to his mother.
"You name it, he had done it," she said. Tharpe was an Eagle Scout
who had done his final scouting project on the deeply wooded Cole
Farm and Booth Pond area near his home on Jillson.
"He marked trails so people could hike them and not get lost," his mother said.
His passion for the outdoors included trips to Europe where he
climbed the Matterhorn in the Alps last winter, and also visits to
Peru and to Thailand to surf," his mother said.
As she grieved her son Wednesday, Tharpe said she kept thinking of
his love for the outdoors.
"I take comfort in the fact that if he had to die, at least he died
while doing something he loved the most," she said.
Tharpe's survivors also include a twin brother, Leigh, and a sister, Heather.

#248544 - 09/25/03 12:05 PM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
Dustin_B Offline
old hand

Registered: 10/16/02
Posts: 830
TRs: 2 Photos: 68
Loc: Seattle area
My condolences to the family and friends.

Does anyone know if the rope was in the climber's belay device when the body was recovered? The previous articles said the climber and rope fell together. But in the situation mentioned in the most recent article (both climbers on ledge, one fell), I don't see how the rope could have fallen too.

#248545 - 09/25/03 12:48 PM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
catbirdseat Offline
Elite Sprayforce Team

Registered: 10/09/02
Posts: 13217
TRs: 46 Photos: 144
Loc: Costa Mesa, CA
Indeed, the two accounts apear to conflict.
You don't do an encore if you just played Mahler.

#248546 - 09/25/03 01:24 PM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
Rad Offline

Registered: 08/11/03
Posts: 2461
TRs: 28 Photos: 760
Loc: The Emerald City
A sad day indeed.
In the article it says, the partner "disconnected himself from the rope so William could rig the rope for the rappel". That would explain how the rope could have fallen with the climber and not dragged the belayer over too.

I agree that we all need to remember that viligence is vital. Moreover, I think it is important to remember that most climbing is a team effort - between belayer and leader - if the leader gets into trouble he/she may not have the mental focus to avoid making mistakes. That appears to be the case here, though the actual steps that led to the accident are unclear.
I'd suggest that when possible, the belayer should lower the shaken/injured leader to the belay to assess the situation and recover. At that point the team might decide to go back up and try again, send the other person up to try, or pull the rope and leave gear and rappel from the anchor. Either way, it allows the team to make a joint decision rather than put all of the responsibility in the leader's hands.

Generally, it might be wise at times of stress to put more trust in our team members, even when they are neophytes, because at least they have not experienced the emotional and physical trauma of the leader fall, and thus may be more level-headed.
Hopefully that makes sense.
My condolences to those involved.

Earth and stone echo my bone.

#248547 - 09/25/03 01:47 PM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
Freeman Offline

Registered: 05/16/01
Posts: 185
TRs: 2 Photos: 1
Loc: Wenatchee, WA
Please be patient. We have a theory about what happened and we will publish it both here and in AINAM but we need a little more time to confirm details and get permission to make it public.

At this time, let me just say that we need to check and recheck every link in the rappel system every time we rap. I liken the rope in climbing to the seat belts in your car - they are there in case something bad happens, but rappelling is like the brakes, they have to be used correctly and nothing can be allowed to fail.

#248548 - 09/26/03 12:53 PM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
NotaClimber Offline

Registered: 09/26/03
Posts: 1
TRs: 0 Photos: 0
Here's a picture of Will Tharpe, the climber who was killed.

248852-Will42_L.jpg (522 downloads)

#248549 - 09/26/03 03:41 PM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
Dustin_B Offline
old hand

Registered: 10/16/02
Posts: 830
TRs: 2 Photos: 68
Loc: Seattle area
The following was forwarded to me through a chain of emails. I've withheld the author's name. I don't know how the author acquired this new info nor can I vouch for it's accuracy, obviously, so take this new info with a grain of salt. Maybe Freeman or someone else can verify it.


Here's some info as I understand it. There may be some inaccuracies.

Will and Matt had climbed the first three pitches. Matt was belaying at the tree above the 5.9 hand traverse and Will was leading P4. He took a 15 - 20ft leader fall near the top of P4 and injured his right arm/shoulder and thus they decided to retreat. He lowered down but, as he was near the top of the pitch when he fell and they were using a single rope, could not make it back to the belay station atop P3. So Matt untied from the rope. Will pulled up the remainder of the rope and set up a trad gear anchor part way up P4. From here the intention was to rap back to the top of P3 and then retreat together.

The exact type of rap failure is not and probably will not ever be known. However Will fell as he attempted to rap from his trad anchor part way up P4. The trad gear anchor did not fail and was found intact during the rescue of Matt. The rope fell with Will. The rope was not thru his belay device after the fall (but this is somewhat meaningless considering the length of the fall).

This is a tragic event and my condolences to friends and family but let's make sure we learn from it.

#248550 - 09/29/03 11:06 AM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
lI1|1! Offline

Registered: 09/17/01
Posts: 1855
TRs: 0 Photos: 22
Loc: the point of no return
i just received this over an email distribution list. author's name witheld.


I spoke with Matt last night who was Will's partner on outerspace when the
accident happened on Monday. Matt and Will took the WFR class with Jerry
and I last week. The four of us spent all day Thursday climbing together in
the Icicle as well. We spoke for a long time and he told me the entire
story. It turns out that the original report I received was inaccurate.
The accident occurred on the fourth pitch, which is the one just after the
crux. There was a mistake made when Will tried to rappel back down to Matt
due to an injury received during a lead fall. Will set up a gear anchor
mid-pitch, pulled the rope and prepared to rap back down to Matt. He fell
when he attempted to weight the rope. He landed on a ledge, reached for the
rope and continued to the deck with the rope in hand. It appears that he
ran the rope through his belay device, but didn't clip his locking biner to
the rope correctly. Matt was stuck at the top of the third pitch for over 7
hours while he waited for ropes to be lowered to him. There was nothing he
could do, as the accident was not his fault in any way. I'm sure this
version isn't entirely correct, but I just wanted to fill you in on the real
story so people don't hear incorrect details. Will was a great guy, very
funny, and had lots of positive energy. He'll be missed.

Bottom line, always check your device before rapping.

my condolences to friends and family on this tragic accident.

#248551 - 09/29/03 02:24 PM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
klenke Offline

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 3756
TRs: 28 Photos: 610
Loc: On the redactor tractor

C1: If Will had not clipped either rope strand through his locking biner once he pushed it through his rappel device, then it seems more likely the rope would have stayed connected to (ran through) the rappel anchor. Both rope strands would have come out of his device when he leaned back, thus parting him with the rope.

C2: If Will mistakenly only clipped one of the two strands through, then the rope would have gone with him as he fell. When he leaned back in such a way there was, in effect, no anchor since his weight was much greater than the other non-clipped strand of the rope. As he fell, the clipped strand would have gone down with him while the unclipped strand quickly ran through the anchor until out of rope. The friction of the unclipped strand going through the anchor could have pulled on the clipped strand as the distance between him and the anchor grew (double pulley mechanical system). Then, with aerodynamic drag on the rope as he fell, the remainder of the clipped strand could have pulled through his belay device/locking biner until, at some point farther down, the rope fully pulled out.

C3: If he had not ran the rope through the anchor correctly but did manage to clip the rope through his locking biner correctly, then it is still conceivable that both strands of rope paid out of the biner/belay device as he fell. However, the simultaneous aero-drag on each strand of the rope would seem to make the rope not pay through but keep it about even. Unless, for example, something (on the wall) caught one strand of the rope for a moment to initiate the pull out.

Again, the foregoing is just conjectural food for thought. My commiserations to Will's family and friends.
Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.

#248552 - 09/29/03 02:43 PM Re: Leavenworth Climbing Accident
matt_warfield Offline

Registered: 07/17/02
Posts: 1640
TRs: 8 Photos: 2
Loc: seattle
Dustin_B's relayed account clears up one issue at least. On that pitch, the belayer can't see the leader
(or hear them well either),
so if the leader falls and gets tweaked physically and mentally he is on his own and the pitch is too long
to lower from near the end. Also, that pitch has poor gear for the first half at least- although it doesn't sound like an anchor
failure. We'll see what the accident analysis concludes.

Also, many guides write that pitch up as a gimme, but the pillar dihedral near the top is probably 5.8 and
is no giveaway.

Edited by matt_warfield (09/29/03 02:45 PM)
I do what I want and take what I get

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