Chopped bolts lead to death on Forbidden Peak


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McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 19, 2013 - 03:35pm PT
This does not sound good. Sounds like meddling to me.

Trad climber
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Nov 19, 2013 - 03:42pm PT
That's a very misleading thread title. The article is a discussion of the possibility, not an outright declaration of what lead to the climbers death.

Maybe add a question mark??

Trad climber
Nov 19, 2013 - 03:45pm PT

Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Nov 19, 2013 - 03:48pm PT
Not only is this a misleading thread title, but the RNI article is similarly hyperbolic and inflammatory.

Whether those bolts should have been there or not is one question...whether this rap route would have made any difference in this incident is another...this guy's choice to climb the route (given the rap route) is yet another...

Conflating all of this into one issue seems to have the same goal: gather eyeballs for your website.
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 19, 2013 - 03:50pm PT
You might be splitting hairs. Bolts were removed that made things safer.

Too many people have been hurt up there rapping off loose blocks.

I'm more than willing to add a question mark. How does one edit the title?
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 19, 2013 - 04:00pm PT
It's impossible to edit the thread titles here.

When I did the West Ridge of Forbidden with my dad in 1985,
I was shocked to see all the rappel slings on the ridge.
I removed every one of them.
We descended the East Ridge, no big deal.
Rocky IV

Social climber
Nov 19, 2013 - 04:03pm PT
You can't edit the title, I guess that you'll forever have to live with the guilt of starting a thread with a misleading title. Along the same lines as the blood on the hands of the bolt choppers...

In all seriousness this really sucks and condolences to the friends and family of the deceased.

The rap route should be reinstalled, that route ain't much of a wilderness experience anyway.
Slabby D

Trad climber
B'ham WA
Nov 19, 2013 - 04:15pm PT
Stupid title and thread, great article by Jeff Jackson!

North Cascades National Park behavior in regards to both this particular anchor and to their policy on bolting in general is, if not illegal, at least contradictory to NPS directives.

However no one that I'm aware of has been able to show any evidence that the lack of this particular anchor had anything to do with the fatality. Not sure if the accident was even in the same location.


Trad climber
'cross the great divide
Nov 19, 2013 - 04:15pm PT
If you think the descent on the W. Ridge is loose, check out the E. Ridge descent. It's not as bad as all the hype on internet forums, but the three raps that we did were off of blocks (not bolts). And then there is the several hundred feet of third class traversing on rock that is quite loose in places, to get back to the beginning of the E. Ridge.

I think I understand the issues here, but the thread title is over the top. As far as I can tell, rockfall caused the death and anything else is conjecture. That entire peak is a bit on the gnarly side, and while bolted rappels will make the descent more straightforward, they will not necessarily prevent a similar accident in the future.

Clint: you climbed the mountain twice? You rappelled the W. Ridge and removed the tat, and then descended the E. Ridge??
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 19, 2013 - 04:19pm PT
When I heard about his climber dying a few weeks ago or whenever it was I had a normal response to it. Seeing this article today changed that. People are attempting to make the descent safer up there and I'm a bit dumbfounded by the actions of the NPS.

Along the same lines of reasoning some have here, maybe we should ban guidebooks because they bring too many people around.....or we should make the roads narrower to slow access. Chopping those bolts was stupid behavior when you consider all of the forces that put people up there.

If the title needs a question mark so badly, maybe Chris can do that. I don't mind at all.
Bad Climber

Nov 19, 2013 - 04:25pm PT
Sad accident. Especially when bolts/chains lead to a cleaner route, they should be used. Tat is garbage, but a well placed, painted set of bolts/chains aren't too bad. Anyone who's spent time on the rocks knows this. The park service needs to chill. Set up a permit process as exists elsewhere and just get it done.


Nov 19, 2013 - 04:29pm PT
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Nov 19, 2013 - 04:30pm PT
A few decades back I climbed that route with my brother, and we finished the rap down the gully in the dark.

We bivouaced further down, but the rockfall that we stimualted in the gully continued well into the night. We could hear the cannonades of rockfall in the night and we could see the streams of sparks cascading down the cliff.

I don't remember any god damn bolts for rap anchor. WTF?

Climbing is dangerous. If you can't do it without bolting anchors all over the place, then go somewhere else that is more in line with your abilities and risk assessment. It is total B.S. to blame the NPS.

See all that scree and talus at the bottom? Where do you think it comes from? If you choose to play on that playground, then you alone are responsible for anything that happens to you.

It is sad when anyone dies, especially a bretheren mountaineer.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 19, 2013 - 04:50pm PT
you climbed the mountain twice? You rappelled the W. Ridge and removed the tat, and then descended the E. Ridge??
We removed the tat on the West Ridge as we climbed up it.
We climbed down the East Ridge without any rappels.
Me and my dad, who was age 59 at the time, climbing in mountain boots.

Some of the things in that article are a bit weird.
For example, it talks about Fred Beckey often placing necessary bolts.
I thought it was common knowledge that Fred was infamous for placing unnecessary bolts!
Like the one bolt on Slesse NE Buttress.
Or the bolt on the first pitch of Inner Sanctum at the Needles.

P.S. I realize that traversing Forbidden may not be the ideal descent for everyone.
The way we did it involved a lot of soloing.
I was surprised to see all those slings, though. They looked like litter on that dry summer day.
I think that loose gully where the guy died was mostly full of snow when we did the climb.
I'm not opposed to a good rappel route when there are good reasons for it.
I am not sure of the particulars on Forbidden.
I definitely used the rap routes on Snowpatch and South Howser.
I scoffed at the Royal Arches rappel route at first. Then I realized it was not such a bad idea (though it has risks). I've used it several times since.
I, I, I, ... must be getting old. :-)

fist clamp
Nov 19, 2013 - 05:48pm PT
Personally, I would feel very guilty if I were the one who removed the bolted rappel stations. The 'tat' nests are way more noticeable, more wasteful and more detrimental to the environment.

San Jose, CA
Nov 19, 2013 - 06:08pm PT
me too. Bolt chopping job- the last thing I would take
michael feldman

Mountain climber
millburn, nj
Nov 19, 2013 - 06:25pm PT
I do not think it is fair to say that the chopped bolts lead to the death. When the climber was descending, he knew that there were no bolts. It is not like someone chopped them while he was descending. That would have been murder. Rather, the questions are: (1) whether the route would have been more safe with the bolts? and (2) if so, should the bolts should have remained? I think everyone could agree that the answer to the first question is YES.

The second question poses more difficulty. In theory, if we allowed bolts (and not just for anchors) on all climbs in all areas, those climbs would be more safe (putting aside the fact that doing so may draw more climbers, which could counteract the safety gain). However, pure safety is not necessarily the primary goal here. If it was, the parks should require helmets, limit the number of climbers through a permit system, require climbing resumes (like they used to do for Denali climbs), and have everything bolted. Climbing is a dangerous sport. The climber in this case presumably was aware of the risks at that moment. Thus, I must conclude that chopping the bolts did not cause the death. It merely made that particular descent more dangerous at that particular moment (it's not like people were dying there every day).

All of this being said, chopping the bolts on this particular occasion may have not been the best move, nor the most thought-out move. Rather, it appears that it was more instinctual. In an ideal world, the Park Rangers and various Park authorities should be working together with those who use the Parks to develop sound strategy and a game plan that works for everyone. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world.

Trad climber
Nov 19, 2013 - 06:56pm PT
Sad for all involved.
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Nov 19, 2013 - 07:17pm PT
I can't think of any good reason to force people to descend a gully like that. What's the difference if the rockfall was caused by other climbers or a pulled rope? I'm not in favor of bolts in general but in this case I'd say rebolt it and let people have a safe way to descend.

Trad climber
Josh, CA
Nov 19, 2013 - 07:35pm PT

Please proceed to debate endlessly and bash the NPS at will.
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