Lifestyle & Human Interest

Rock Climber Dies After Slipping Off Snowy Ledge and Falling 100 Feet Into Gully


On Saturday, two friends headed out to the popular West Slabs of Mount Olympus near Salt Lake City, Utah, to do some climbing. It’s early in the season, and snow is still present in the area, but the two were well-equipped.

As they prepared to climb at around 9:00 a.m., one of the two, 54-year-old James Roache, slipped on the snow and fell around 100 feet. A short while later, the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team was called out to assist.

“SLCOSAR were called out Saturday morning to help a pair of climbers on the approach to the West Slabs of Mount Olympus,” the agency posted on its Facebook page on Saturday.

“The two were near the base of the Slabs route when one of them slipped on steep snow. He slid a considerable distance before hitting rocks below and dropping into a narrow space between a wall of rock and deep snow which had melted away from the wall. The climber did not survive the fall.”

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The climbers had been in a tricky spot. The surviving friend was airlifted out, but Roache’s body had to be moved by the search and rescue team on the ground before it could be retrieved by air, due to its inaccessibility.

“Life Flight and the Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau assisted with the rescue and recovery,” the post continued. “We are grateful to the climbers and guides who were near the scene and helped or offered assistance.

“We express sincere condolences to the family and friends of the deceased climber.”

The two climbers had the appropriate gear, and Roache’s death appears to be a sad accident.

“Unfortunately, just slipped and fell,” Unified Police Detective Ken Hansen said, according to KTVX-TV. “The terrain is not forgiving up there and so what we do need to be is better prepared when we go up in Utah’s mountains.”

The search and rescue team, which is made up of volunteers, had just dealt with a deceased hiker the day before in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and they’ve been very busy in the past few weeks as adventurers set out into the mountains.

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Those who enjoy the thrill of the wild and pitting themselves against nature know the danger of their hobby — it’s part of the allure.

“The thing is that you could die in a car,” seasoned hiker Colleen Jemmett told KTVX.

“I mean it doesn’t matter what you do, you — there is always a risk you just have to do precautions you just have to make sure that you are not in hurry with climbing or hiking or anything else you do.”

“Getting to the top of a mountain, it’s such a rewarding feeling after working all day and then finally getting to the top and being able to see the beautiful view,” added another experienced hiker, Victoria Garaycochea.

“It’s always risky whatever endeavor you want to do whether it’s hiking or rock climbing, so you have to weigh the risks with the rewards and you also have to be smart about it too.”

In the wake of this sad loss, some have commented that in the current conditions, it’s invaluable for climbers to wear a helmet and bring an ice ax.

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