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Climbing Fatality in Zion

Discussion in 'Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group' started by Tom Jones, Oct 19, 2008.

  1. Tom Jones

    Tom Jones Guest

    > October 18, 2008 > For Immediate Release > Tom Haraden 435 772-0161 > Ron Terry 435 772-0160 > 08-20
    Climbing Fatality on Touchstone Route in Zion National Park
    James Martin Welton, 34, of Durango, CO, fell to his death while > climbing in Zion National Park on Friday, October 17, 2008. The fall was from a popular climbing route called "Touchstone." The cause of the incident is currently under investigation by the Washington County Sheriff's Office in cooperation with the National Park Service.

    At approximately 7:15 p.m. two climbers who were ascending a nearby > route stopped a Zion Canyon Shuttle Bus and reported that another climber had fallen. Rangers on scene determined that Welton had fallen approximately 300 feet and confirmed it was a fatality. His two climbing partners witnessed the fall. Eleven members of the Zion Search and Rescue Team responded and worked through the night removing the victim and investigating the fall.

    > Touchstone is one of the most popular big wall climbs in the park, located across the canyon from Angel's Landing. Over 1,000 feet high from river to rim, it is usually a two-day climb requiring an overnight stay on a "port-a-ledge," a cot-like device attached to the wall. Welton was considered a very experienced climber. He recently completed a climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
    This is the first fatality in the park for 2008, and the sixth > climbing fatality since 1983.
  2. Mark

    Mark Guest

    This is very sad news. I wonder what happened that he was off rope while on a big wall? He obviously knew how to climb big walls, having done El Cap recently according to the report. Maybe his partners will give details one day. RIP James.

    I nearly died on Touchstone Wall myself while climbing it with a friend in the early 1990's. Long story short, we had an unplanned bivy two thirds the way up and ran out of water. It was early June. The daytime temps were around 105 degrees. Touchstone is south-facing. Dumb. When we finally summited, we couldn't find the rappel route! Heat stroke is very serious, and I am only alive today because of my fitness at the time, my partner's assistance, and my will to live. Many lessons were learned. We also lost an entire rack of gear on the rappel. Just left it there on a ledge. I am sure the next ascent party was stoked to find it. I was just happy to escape with my life.
  3. Ron Graham

    Ron Graham Guest

    Tom, any more details on what happened? Ascent or descent? Rapped off the end?
  4. Tom Jones

    Tom Jones Guest

    --- In Yahoo Canyons Group, "Ron Graham" <dsrtfox@...> wrote:
    Tom, any more details on what happened? Ascent or descent? Rapped > off the end? >

    That's all the information the Park press release had:

  5. Malia

    Malia Guest

    I never had the pleasure of meeting James, but I did hear some great stories about him from my co-worker, Jamie, his girlfriend. Although James' main passion was climbing, he also dabbled in canyoneering. In fact, he took Jamie on her first canyoneering adventure this past August. Although she loved the stemming and climbing aspects of it, Jamie hated swimming and wading through the long, cold, stinky pools. She said she'd give it another chance though, as long as James would promise to pick a dry canyon. Now, with James' passing, and Jamie's decision to move, I fear we've lost two potentially great additions to our canyoneering community.

    Canyoneering and climbing are often so closely linked that we must treat the loss of a climber with the respect that we would for the loss of a canyoneer.

    I'm sure more information will be posted about the cause of James' fall soon, but in the mean time if you're concerned, check out some of the climbing forums.

    Be safe. Malia

    Jamie posted this over at (;):

    "Everyone, this is James's girlfriend Jamie. Forgive me, I haven't been near the internet in days - I've been in Zion with him. I have only read about one and a half posts to this thread, and I don't have the energy to do any more tonight. I want to assure everyone that no blatant mistakes were made by James or anyone else in the party, and what happened really was a horribly tragic accident. Trust me, I had a very intimate conversation with the park service and all of the people involved in the climbing and the investigation. I guess I don't have to say that I'm beyond broken up over this. James is the love of my life - he's amazing and wonderful and I can't begin to express how glad I am to have been with him. Please continue to post here, and I'd like to ask for help in collecting links to all of the other places that people are posting. For those who are interested, there will be a funeral in Iowa with his family toward the end of this week, and there will be a memorial service in Salt Lake toward the end of next. When there are details, I will share them. If you have a good story about James, or something about him you would like to share, I would really appreciate hearing them. Please post them to this thread, or, until my email box is overwhelmed, please email them to I'm sure that I know very few of the many, many, many people James touched in his life. I would like to know you all. Thank you for your kind words, and keep him and those of us mired in grief for his loss in your hearts."
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