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Climbing Guide Was Trying To Free Gear When He Fell To His Death At Grand Teton National Park


Exum guide Gary Falk died in a freak accident while leading clients down from the summit of Grand Teton/Exum Mountain Guides

The most unnerving moment of my climb to the summit of Grand Teton in its namesake national park in Wyoming came on the way down via the Owen-Spalding Route. We had come to the point where you have a free rappel of about 100-120 feet, and after the guide tied me into the rappel line and checked my harness and rappel device, I took a step back toward the brink of the cliff, only to have him shout, "Wait, wait," and then proceed to retie the gear.

"Ok, go ahead," he then said.

"Are you sure?" I replied.

He nodded, and I slowly worked my way over the lip of the cliff. Soon I was hanging in mid-air, marveling at the majestic panorama of snow-capped mountains about me.

It was at this point in the descent that things went terribly wrong Saturday for a group of four with a guide from Exum Mountain Guides. The first client had successfully made the rappel, untied from the line, and let the guide know it was OK to haul the line and device back up for the next in line.

Partway up, however, the device got wedged into the cliffside, prompting Exum Mountain Guides' Gary Falk to try to free it.

"Falk unclipped his tether from the anchor to reposition himself to better access the wedged rappel device," Grand Teton National Park officials said after interviewing members of the group. "It appears that Falk fell as he was trying to free the wedged rappel device."

What wasn't immediately clear was whether the guide had fixed another anchor before trying to unwedge the rope and device, and that anchor failed, or the guide had simply positioned himself closer to the edge to look down at the jam and lost his balance.

While the inital fall was about 100-120 feet, from there the 42-year-old guide fell another 2,000-2,300 feet into Valhalla Canyon near the Black Ice Couloir, park officials said. While rangers worked to recover his body, an Exum guide from another group of climbers on their way down helped Falk's clients continue down and off the mountain, park spokeswoman Denise Germann said Monday.

The freak accident killed a climber with broad international experience. According to his profile on Exum Mountain Guides' website, Falk had led "expeditions in Mexico and Ecuador guiding high-altitude volcanoes. Extensive climbing, skiing, and guiding in Western US, Alaska, Mexico, and South America. Lead guide on Mt, Rainier. Half day link up of ten Teton peaks – the Grand Traverse. Multiple big wall ascents in Yosemite and Zion, including a 14 hour ascent of The Nose on El Capitan. Ski descents of Ecuador’s Chimborazo 20,702′, Cotopoxi 19,347, and Cayambe 18,993."

Falk left behind a wife and two young sons.

Grand Teton climbing rangers investigating the accident expect to have a report completed within 30 days.


Rest in Peace and prayers to the family 

why would you be sharing a rappel device, when you don't have to, each climber should have had their own individual device.

I knew him,We climbed the Nose in the day and  a new ascent in a Liberty Cap.

that is so sad. Rest in peace Gary

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