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Teen falls at rocky butte


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It "wasn't immediately clear if he was rock climbing of if he simply fell". Seems clear to me when the phone call comes in 2 hours after darkness that he wasn't climbing, do folks really climb out there at night? I think that's past my bed time. I see people sitting at the top drinking with their buds on occasion, be a good time and a fair spot for that. In fact, haven't seen the Russians who down the Coronas and then smash the bottles onto the tops of the cliff for us to deal with the shards of glass in the fingertips out there lately. Haven't been out there a heck of a lot either. Maybe that 503-823-3333 police non-emergency line is getting used.


Wonder what really happened to this 16 year old. Must have been a jarring fall, hope the kid pulls out.




A 16-year-old boy fell 80 feet down the east side of Rocky Butte late Monday night, fire officials say.


Portland firefighters say the fall at Rocky Butte Park was reported at 10:15 p.m. Crews responded to the lower area of Rocky Butte around Northeast 92nd Avenue and Skidmore Street.


Firefighters found the 16-year-old boy unconscious at the bottom of a cliff. Paramedics and firefighters immediately gave medical attention to the boy, who suffered life-threatening injuries and was rushed to Legacy Emanuel Hospital.


It appears the boy accidentally fell more than 80 feet, firefighters say. It wasn't immediately clear whether he was rock climbing or if he simply fell.


The boy's injuries are considered life-threatening.


Portland Fire and Rescue spokesman Paul Corah says it's the third accident at Rocky Butte this year.


In May, an Austrian man who was in town to visit friends died while climbing at the park. The two other incidents have resulted in serious injuries."

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Unfortunately, this doesn't help improve the public's perception of climbers:



Portland fire fighters and police officers were back on Rocky Butte Wednesday night, called to rescue a night-time climber who got stuck on a cliff face where a 16-year-old boy fell to his death two nights earlier.


After a two-hour rescue, police lectured Daniel Martinek, 40, who, while climbing with his partner, left their five-year-old sons alone to play within yards of the volcanic cliff face where 16-year-old Austin Fisher fell to his death Monday night.


The two men told authorities they began rock climbing on Rocky Butte shortly before sunset at 8:15 p.m., geared with ropes, helmets and gloves but without cell phones, lights or safety equipment, said Paul Corah, spokesman for the Portland Fire Bureau.


While Martinek, of Southeast Portland, belayed halfway down the 80-foot face, the second man remained on top. Around 9 p.m., Martinek complained that he was tired and unable to climb back up or down, so he waited on a ledge while his climbing partner went for help from the Rocky Butte campus of City Bible Church. [/Quote]

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I see two problems here:


1) Because Rocky Butte is easy and convenient to access and the slopes leading to sheer drop offs are slippery and dangerous with no warning to the uneducated, there is a high probability that accidents by unskilled or careless people will continue to occur.

2) Accidents here are associated in the media with climbing in general and that hurts us all.


I know many climbers frown on RB because of the freeway noise and how the area is frequented and trashed by some non-climbers. The fact remains, though, that it is convenient to Portland and there are many good routes that have been developed over the years. I’d hate to see the area get shut down, but if the general trend continues I suspect eventually access will be restricted. A huge amount of work has been put into this area by those who have developed the routes and I’d hate to be denied the opportunity to enjoy the fruit of their efforts.


To address item #1 above - I would not be opposed to the state installing more fencing and perhaps an unlocked access gate with a sign warning of the danger of approaching cliffs without protection. It appears from the media reports that both of the accidents this week happened at the top of Flaky Old Man. I think most climbers approach this area only after clipping into a sling tied around the tree at the top first, but I’m guessing that many non-climbers do not, and that some would benefit with a warning. Perhaps the local climbing community can proactively make some suggestions to the state parks division and supply volunteer labor to implement something.


To address item #2, the media needs to get the message that there is a large group of educated and skilled climbers who climb here frequently without incident. All of the RB accidents that I am aware of involved people who were uneducated and untrained, or who were not vigilant about modern safety practices.


How do you educate the media? What can the local climbing community do to educate the public and prevent more unfortunate tragedies at this area?


Edited by pcg
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"The little 5-year-old boy was very concerned about his dad," said Corah. Police lectured both fathers about the foolhardiness of climbing at night without safety gear or cellphones, and for leaving two young boys atop a cliff, he added.


When you figure out how to outlaw stupidity let me know will ya. As a minimum, they should be charged with child endangerment and charged for this bullshit rescue too. IMO.

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It's unlikely, but I wouldn't be surprised if they closed the place down.
Always a pleasure to see your avatar around here again, C. I especially like the tushie ones... :)


Now, to the issue at hand...

When you figure out how to outlaw stupidity let me know will ya. As a minimum, they should be charged with child endangerment and charged for this bullshit rescue too. IMO.


the motion has been seconded

Amended the motion, and I second the amendment. I know that under RONR, I can't second my own amendment, but gimme a break this one time. You'll see why as you read below.


I agree that the two men should be charged with child endangerment, neglect of a child, or somesuch similar crime. Totally inept parenting and stupidity are in play here with these two "fathers." Yes, they are "fathers" in the procreative sense of the word, but by their example, they are definitley not "parents", IMHO. At least, not very intelligent ones...


Be that as it may, they should NOT be charged for their rescue. Anybody familiar with me or who has been on this board long enough knows why I take and hold this position. If you don't, then visit the MRA website and click on the orange box at lower left of their home page. Follow (and read) all of the links to the various articles and position papers, then make your own, INFORMED, decision on this topic. I have...


Pardon the macabre pun, but I believe charging for rescues is a slippery slope, from the edge of which we should stay well away.

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It would probably be a good idea for members of the climbing community (i.e. you) to reach out pro-actively to the local Sheriff's Office and explain the history of this climbing site and its importance to the local climbing community. The Sheriff is likely to be more level-headed and long-term minded than the local press, and will have a strong influence on local mandates and projects. Seeing climbers act responsibly and pro-actively, perhaps by putting up warning signage or even erecting a cable with warnings, would send a strong, positive message to the powers that be.


This is not a local thing so I can't participate, but engagement of the climbing community in a positive way could be valuable.


Good luck.

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It would probably be a good idea for members of the climbing community (i.e. you) to reach out pro-actively to the local Sheriff's Office and explain the history of this climbing site and its importance to the local climbing community.

I suspect that law enforcement personnel consider the whole enchilada a magnet that generates a large number of nuisance calls and they may not really care about the subject matter of those calls at this point. And as 'we' generate a percentage of the calls it may be difficult to substantively distinguish ourselves from the mix of what goes on out there. Probably still worth a reach out, but I wouldn't get my hopes to high.

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By the layman's definition, we are all crazy.


Remember, these climbers were noted as "experienced". That is probably because they owned a harness. To the media, anyone with gear or has ever been out one time before is experienced.


It is a sad fact that every action of avery climber affects all of us. Accidents, and in this case simply a retrieval, incite public hysteria to stop the carnage. The presence of children, the number of high profile incidents this year, and the easy access by the news media for their news crews ensure over-the-top response.


Any climber who thinks that they are only risking their own hide when climbing is kidding themselves. Accidents and rescues have shut down many climbing areas in the country. What you see happening in the East for decades - accidents causing cliffs to be closed - is now happening more frequently here.

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In thinking over what the media reported, I wasn't there and didn't hear this from anyone who was, but the scenario must have been something like this: Dude one, who has climbed at Video Bluff at Rocky Butte previously, invites his gym climbing buddy out. Buddy is suppose to be watching his kid while his wife is at work, but figures it's like the climbing gym except no one wants to charge him and entrance fee, so the kids free and he's safe to bring him along. He's thinking he'll be standing at the base with his kid next to him, just like in the gym.


They make the arduous (LOL) flat 30 step hike from the car and get to the top of Video Bluff, set up flakey old man, tell the lad(s) to not fall off the cliff and rap in. Dude 1, the experienced guy who had been there before, climbs the 30 foot 5.7 first and sends. Dude 2 trys, fails, and lowers. Dude 1 then climbs out, leaving dude 2 at the base. Maybe dude 2 trys and fails, lowers off. Probably is smart enough to learn not to trust dude one, as dude one is behind the anchors somewhere, might not even be tied in to an anchor at this point.


As they are both new to the place, and the realization now sets in that although they are on a nice huge wide flat spot at the base of the cliff, in reality, this ledge at what they perceive as the base is in fact actually located 1/2 way up the cliff. Neither realizes that there are 3 ways to get off if you can't top out.


1st) There is the hidden walk off 20 paces (not 100% safe really, but doable for beginners) to the West.


2nd) There is an easy 15-20' 5.0 climb 30 steps to the East that Dude 1 could walk over and toss the rope down so as to belay his buddy up something that even an elderly cripple paraplegic could get up.


3rd) Dude one could tie the line off to a tree if he knew how and dude 1 could rap a single line to the base and walk out.


Not knowing any of this, dude 2 stands there at the base while dude 1 frets at the top and the child starts to wail. Twilight falls and with the arrival of dusk comes fear and uncertainty. Neither has probably spent the night out alone with out a car, sleeping bag and tent before (even though this is as perfect as it gets for weather) like most of the rest of us have. So dude 1, instead of telling dude 2, "DUDE: I'll go home and get your sleeping bag, some food and water and lower it down": or just calls someone who would know what to do in this strange (to them) situation, calls for a rescue.


The part which always confuses new people, and is why they are unsafe out there, is that in the gyms, you are at the base where it is safe, and head up. They teach you how to be safe in that scenario as that is all the gyms care about. Out here at Rocky Butte, you start at the top of a cliff, where it is inherently unsafe, then head down. No one has trained or even explained to them for this reverse idea, and it screws with their mind. So they are there, no one is telling them how to do it, or even NOT to do it, so they are confused but proceed anyway and then stuff like this occurs.


There are hundreds, if not thousands of outdoor climbing enthusiasts who enjoy this area. For people who are siteing business's, outdoor recreation availability like this is one of the major draws to bring new companies to our city. Having an open and friendly environment is critical to that effort in the business community. Rocky Butte is a unique and awesome place to hang and climb, and lots of us do it safely on a regular basis. I've been climbing out there on and off for about 40 years now. With more people (especially untrained ones) comes more accidents. Almost all of the accidents are where the bolted climbs are too, as it where all of the beginners head when they step out of the gym and into the real rock.


I see more folks as a good thing. Where people can enjoy some awesome climbing right after work, and the more climbers that show up the cleaner the routes will stay and the tighter the climbing community (theoretically) can be.


Perhaps we might initiate some criteria that would qualify one to climb out there, like a gym card. Portland Rock Gym does something like that for Carver now, and I could see a future where volunteers or the Mazamas teach brief classes as it relates to the skill sets needed to be safe out there, and the graduates get gym cards to climb at the Butte. I would want to see it as an inclusive and a positive thing to upgrade the minimum skill levels needed, not as something that is elitist or reduces the amount of folks out there. If nothing else for call outs like this, I would think that a SAR call out, instead of full police and fire response, would be more appropriate.


If I wasn't so damn lazy, I'd probably be the dude to start in on this project. Anyone else?


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Perhaps we might initiate some criteria that would qualify one to climb out there, like a gym card. Portland Rock Gym does something like that for Carver now...
I don't have a dog in this (Rocky Butte) fight, but this proposal is yet another slippery slope from which we should stay well back, IMO, bill. Regulating climbing in a gym setting is one thing (reduces gym owner exposure to liability claims), regulating it in an outdoor, public setting is quite another. Even the rangers at MRNP won't tell someone that they can't climb there, even when it's painfully obvious that a particular individual shouldn't even consider starting up.
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I hate to see more places with membership cards. The whole "qualification" approach was widely used and turned upside down by the Vulgarians and rebel climbers, quite rightly.


The reporting party doesn't get to pick the responding party in rescue. Dispatch chose to hand off the call to Fire, and the tech teams in Portland really want to do these type of calls. It wouldn't be such a big deal, except for media interest and photographic opportunities provided.

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