North Palisade Accident


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Trad climber
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 5, 2012 - 11:58pm PT
I heard from a friend that a climber fell to his death from the North Palisade vicinity on or about Aug. 29. Has anyone heard the details?

Visalia, Ca.
Sep 6, 2012 - 05:21pm PT
Sadly, I was camping in Palisade Basin on Saturday, Sept 1. I was just setting up camp when a fellow man came up to me asking if I had any emergency communication device. I said no, and asked him the nature of the emergency and what could I do to help. He said there is nothing his friend had just fallen from a reletively easy part of the climb up north palisade (I've never climbed the route, so I can't really say where the accident occurred. From what I was told, their party of three had crossed the catwalk(?) and they were heading up. Apparently, the man who died was the best climber of the three and he was traveling on fairly easy 5. terrain when his boot slipped. He fell 200 feet and died instantly. I think the man was unroped. The other two in the party were brothers belaying each other. One saw the entire fall and the belayer was around a corner out of sight. Amazingly, the brothers ( I thought they were all bros. but maybe not) hauled the deceased up, back across the catwalk and 2/3 the way down the chute. The younger of the two brothers immediately set out bishop pass hoping to find someone with a radio, the other bro is the man I met at my camp.

For my part, all I could do was try to console, comfort, and pray with a greatly, tired and distraught man. He had told me that they were having a great time and the day turned into the worst day of their lives.

On Sunday, I watched as a sar team and helicopter extracted the body.

That is what I was able to gather. I only know the first name of the man I spoke with and hesitate to give it. I have been searching the news trying to find out their names. I would be very interested in finding out if any one knows. All I know is that the helicopter was bright yellow.

My hats off to the incredible effort of these two men and my deepest condolances.


p.s. Rick from the parking lot and up in palisade basin (another party doing the same route sunday) I'm the guy you visited with in the parking lot the day we set out for the basin... I would like to get in touch with you.

Thanks... first time ever posting


As I have reflected back at the tragic loss that occurred a week ago today, as I think of the words that I posted and read other's accounts of that day, I have learned an important life lesson, That is: we all see in part and each account/story adds to bring some clarity as to what happened on that day. I appreciated reading each post. In telling my story of that day, I have recognized that I inadvertantly ommitted an important detail and may have unintentionally disrespected a couple of fellow climbers; Ric and Badwater Jack. At the end of my brief encounter, these two men approached us. They had been scoping out their route for the next day. They asked the brother many questions as to what happened and where this accident might have occurred. Being unfamiliar with North Pal, I just listened and tried to piece together what happened. Most importantly to note was these two men's concern for the brother we were with. Badwater Jack asked several times if there was any assisstance or help they could offer. Jack, in particular, was concerned that about the man's current state both physically and emotionally, that the tradgedy might easily be compounded due to fatigue mixed with shock and grief.

My point in sharing this is not to detract from such a terrible loss from the family involved, but rather simply to apologize (both personally and publicly) to Rich and Badwater for my ommission of their part in the day's events.

My utmost respect to all the folks involved that day and again most importantly, my continued prayers and condolences the two surviving brothers and their families.

Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Sep 6, 2012 - 05:34pm PT
Sorry to hear about it. I was in the area on the 1st and 2nd. Met two parties on the 1st as they hiked in to attempt some climbs in Palisades. This year has been rough for many people.
Dave Johnson

Mountain climber
Sacramento, CA
Sep 6, 2012 - 06:47pm PT
I heard that the trio were all brothers. Either way, it's a sad and tragic event. My condolences to their family and friends.

Trad climber
Los Angeles, Ca
Sep 7, 2012 - 12:25am PT
Hey Vick,
This is Rick's climbing partner from last weekend...Was looking for anything on this early this week and nothing.Out of respect will not pass judgement! In the few questions I asked the brother with you you and Rick late Saturday afternoon I came up with a slightley different picture in where they accident occured...Though the rest of your post is very accurite in regards to what brother stated to me.So did you go over and climb Sill or did you stay in camp and see the yellow and white copter come in for multiple passes. After helicopter made retrival they came up and visited us 300-400 feet from top...The pilot was nice enough to stay 100-150 yards away...A WIERD FELLING! SIMPLY HELD ROPE UP I WAS COILING
BTW...Sorry I left so quick...I,We offered help and he declined...Needed to sort through my emotions, and cryed and prayed for these men and there families.Again will not pass judgement...Although a few reservations in regards to what transpired up there
I'm not a blogger so let me know how I can put you in contact with Rick ?

Social climber
So Cal
Sep 7, 2012 - 12:34am PT
It's been ten years or so,but as I remember, just after the catwalk you cross a few feet of a bit loose terrain with the exposure of a big chute underneath. From the description that sounds likely where it happened.

Getting around the chockstones involved a couple of moves about 5.8 or so. We did find an easier route on the way down, but still made a short rap.

I think you'd need a snow pack like the year before last to keep that section 4th in late season, but a 200 ft fall in that location is probably not possible.

Had a similar helicopter experience when we did Starlight from that side a couple of years later. That was when the guy that was studying frogs in the basin disappeared off Abbot.

Condolences to all involved.

Sport climber
Incline Village, NV
Sep 7, 2012 - 01:48am PT
I was also in the area and spoke with the one brother as he headed out from Palisade to get help.
I was at the unnamed pass in between Agassiz and Palisade, behind or on the west side.

Our group of 6 backpacked in to Dusy Basin Friday Auguest 31st and set up camp. On Saturday, Sept. 1st we hiked up to the unnamed pass where we were having lunch. This being our first time on the back side of these peaks, I did not realize there would be so many climbers back there and that the pass was like a highway for the area.

At approximately 2-3pm a man that turned out to be one of the brothers was hiking very quickly across the talus from the south toward us and the unnamed pass. From a distance he yelled, asking if we had a phone, which we did not. We were immediately alarmed. En route to the pass he popped in and out of the rocks and we watched anxiously as he approached. Just below the pass he appeared again and stopped in a buckled over position to catch his breath. We yelled asking if he was ok to which he responded - my brother is dead!

We were instantly shocked with almost disbelief but clearly this was no joke. He arrived at the pass and explained what had happened - that they were three brothers and one had fallen to his death off Palisade - and his intent to continue north to Bishop's Pass and down to the South Lake trailhead and in to town to alert the authorities.

He said the accident occurred at 8am. He claimed to have enough water and food to make it to the trailhead. We were concerned about his condition and asserted that a member of our party would go instead; that we would head toward the South Lake trailhead to catch some speed hikers that had left the pass about a half hour ago. Our member prepared to leave by noting the brother's name and the location of the incident for the authorities.

At that moment two climbers approached the pass from the north and we immediately inquired if they had cell or radio service to which one climber responded that he had a ham radio. We explained what was going on and he explained that he is a guide in the area and knows it very well. He fired up the radio with an emergency call but there was no response. It was such a solemn and terrifying time waiting for a response. He asked his climbing partner if he minded canceling their climbing trip so that they could head back in to town to alert the authorities.

He explained that being on the west side of the crest that the NPS would likely be the ones to recover the body, but that Inyo Sheriff's office may be involved, this would need to be sorted out, but in either case the recovery would not occur until the following day. It would be best for the brother to head back to camp for the night since he had adequate supplies since the recovery team would not take them or their camp out, only recover the body.

The brother described to us that he and his two other brothers had been out for a while and that they had endeavored to climb all of the 14er's! It sounded like for at least some in their party that this was a new undertaking. He said they were at the U Notch (?) and that they had set out on an easy route 5.4, 5.5, 5.6-ish. They had 3-14er's to go. He said that they tried to stay on route but that he was sure they were off route because it seemed more like a 5.9. He said someone got cold and that they started to rush. Next thing his brother fell off the rock, and plummeted by him. He said it was unbelievably horrifying and gruesome.

He said that they brought the body down to the bottom of the rock and that it took them a very long time. He said that his other (living) brother was back at camp with the body. The guide mentioned that normally the body shouldn't be moved but that was neither here nor there at this point.

I was holding back tears the entire time.

The guide took the brother's information in detail. The brother said that their family was from Sacramento, Vacaville and Rocklin.

After about 45 minutes on the pass the brother hiked back south to his camp where he claimed they had plenty of food and water. The guide headed north to Bishop's Pass.

We stood in the pass, stunned. It all happened so quickly. We wanted to help but found it hard to know what to do. I am proud of our group that we were willing to head out and seek help and also thankful that the experienced guide jumped in to assist. My only regret is that the brother headed out back to his camp so quickly that we didn't take the time to think through the fact that he probably needed an escort back to camp. As much as we were in shock, he must have been, and if I had it to do over I would have gone with him to ensure he made it safely.

On Saturday the 2nd we heard several helicopter trips in and out of the Palisade basin from our camp at Dusy Basin. That day we broke camp and headed toward South Lake. As we hiked out of Dusy up to Bishop's Pass we saw what seemed like the 3rd helicopter trip over the pass where we had intercepted the brother.

Several hours later and about an hour away from the South Lake trailhead both brothers came from behind and passed us. We recognized the one brother from the pass the day before, but just as quickly as things happened the day before they disappeared, quickly hiking off, before I could get out any words of inquiry or condolences.... :(

This was my third time in the area and each time have encountered an incident...
Man fell off Whitney mountaineers route one December while I was hiking the regular trail; friends got off route descending Mt. Sill in the dark and nearly died (I was at base camp because I turned around early); and this death on Palisade. 3 for 3. Be safe out there everyone!

And to the family of the three brothers: My condolences for your loss and this tragic accident. I am so sorry...
I lost my brother a year ago to suicide. I imagine the brother who died, was loving this trip, this great adventure. I surely wish that I had lost my brother to something he loved, although I know that is no consolation to you right now. <3
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Sep 7, 2012 - 07:33am PT
I heard that the trio were all brothers.


Sport climber
Incline Village, NV
Sep 10, 2012 - 04:14pm PT
Has anyone been able to find this in the media? Thanks
Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
Sep 10, 2012 - 05:50pm PT
i checked the inyo register website--didn't say a thing. it'd be nice to have an obit--some here may know these fellows personally.

Sport climber
Sep 10, 2012 - 06:16pm PT
Condolences :(
book girl

Sep 10, 2012 - 09:07pm PT
I am a long term friend of the man who died. I appreciate these details as it's been so sad and awful that none of my close circle (friends of the climber for about 20 years) wants to press the brothers for details. Please know that your thoughts, prayers and help were hugely important and the surviving brothers made it out safely, though devastated at losing their older brother. He was a kind, intelligent, and careful man, and this horrible accident was a fluke. The three of them had been working on climbing the 14ers in California over the last few years and loved their time together. Blessings to all who love these mountains.

PS: It was reported in the NPS bulletin without names, and without his widow's permission, I'll skip the names too.

Social climber
Monza by the streetlight
Sep 10, 2012 - 09:19pm PT
He was a kind, intelligent, and careful man, and this horrible accident was a fluke.

book girl, these things happen even to the most careful and the best of us. My condolences to you, his friends and family. It must be a terrible loss.
corniss chopper

breaking the speed of gravity
Sep 10, 2012 - 09:38pm PT


Many of us have been there.
Felt that the transition goes way to fast: from safe enclosed couloir then stepping out onto the Leconte Route Traverse. The view has more air than rock.

Credit: corniss chopper


Trad climber
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 11, 2012 - 12:35am PT
It's hard to imagine the grief the family must be feeling. Friends, as well. It's a hard sport, we pursue. Errors are dealt with so harshly.
Stephen Giroux

Boulder climber
Vacaville, Ca
Feb 12, 2013 - 12:02am PT
Hello. My name is Stephen Giroux. I am the youngest of the three brothers that set out to climb all the 14ers some 20 years ago. In 2009 we climbed Thunderbolt and Polemonium. In 2010 I had back problems and my 2 brothers Joe and Ed decided to climb Temple Crags instead of the last 2 14ers and had to rappel in the dark. In 2011 we only needed N. Pal and Starlight and my brother Joseph who had just turned 60 wanted to use his new ice pick so we ascended the East side of N. Pal, took on the bergschand only to reach the U-notch about 2:30 and turn around. On Aug. 31st 2012 we made it to the U-notch and went straight up the crack at the base of the U-notch only to be pummelled by heavy hail, thunder and then lightning after one 80ft pitch. We retreated and then planned the next fateful day. Up at 3:00 AM we passed the catwalk at 6 and started up. We found ourselves on the right side of the mountain on a 45% incline with no memorable cracks to tie in to.My oldest brother Joseph, the leader and best climber crawled on his belly up this steep incline probably about 60 feet while I waited tied in on a ledge below. Joe was trying to get a rope to Ed who was on the left side of an arete, not visible but we could hear him. I remember this surface being rather smooth and if there were any cracks they would be resembling something you might observe in a driveway. There was a rounded wall at the top approximately 4 and a half feet tall. I don't know what is on the other side of this wall but Joe did not want to just fling himself over the side. I'm assuming a possible deep drop on the other side of this wall. As he lifted his left leg up he tried on at least 3 occassions to place his body on the top of this wall. His last attempt his left foot slipped. As his weight came down on his right foot it slipped as well and caused him to start sliding downward on his butt and back, picking up speed until he collided with a rock approximately 6o feet later. It probably killed him instanly. His lifeless body spun around and catapulted over me 40 feet in the air. I watched my beloved brother crash to his death. Fortunately he was a rag doll and was unconscious if not deceased while falling. Joseph Martin Giroux was an avid outdoorsman, a poster child for nature and the wilderness and a wonderful human being. Not a day goes by when he's not in my thoughts. I am writing a book about our life, the 14ers and his death. My brother Ed and I are destined to finish off the dream my brother Joe started. Joseph has a memorial website at
I am not very familiar with this mountain but I would stay away from the right side. Steve
David Wilson

Feb 12, 2013 - 12:12am PT
I'm very sorry for your loss Stephen. Your brother Joseph sounds like a special individual and I'm sure he'll be sorely missed. Best wishes

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Feb 12, 2013 - 02:09am PT
My sincere condolences to you and your family.

Dapper Dan

Trad climber
Menlo Park
Feb 12, 2013 - 10:57am PT
From one stranger to another , my condolences for your brother .

May you find some peace in the mountains.

Feb 12, 2013 - 12:49pm PT
Stephen, sorry man! My father died in a fall, not climbing, but I know the pain and the memories that last forever. Find peace in the mountains and love him every day! I hope the best for you!
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