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Family of hiker who died in fall seeks meaning by clearing trail

Discussion in 'Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group' started by adkramoo, Sep 24, 2006.

  1. adkramoo

    adkramoo Guest

    Nate was a member of our community and a friend to many of us.

    Family of hiker who died in fall seeks meaning by clearing trail

    It may be impossible, really, to understand how a 20-year-old so full of life and love can leave this world so suddenly. But the family of Nathan J. Wallace, who died last summer in an accident on the trail home from one of the Wasatch Mountains' most treacherous hikes, hopes some trail clearing might help them make some sense of it. Nate's mother, Rebecca, and father, David, have organized friends to help them clear some of a faint and overgrown trail that their son crossed the night of July 30, shortly before he slipped on slick granite and tumbled 60 feet down a waterfall to his death. Had he recognized it as a trail, he might have taken it to safety. "Our goal is to make the trail a lot more obvious," said Robert Jennings, a climbing enthusiast and family friend. The trail-improvement effort, which will be facilitated by the U.S. Forest Service, has been postponed for two weeks. Last week's rough weather left the rugged wilderness area wet, snowy and too hazardous to do the work safely. In the meantime, the family is left with the more grueling chore of sorting out the accident that claimed Nate. More experience definitely would have helped, Nate's family agrees. Then again, the brown-haired, brown-eyed outdoorsman had been hiking since he learned to walk. Recently, he had caught the climbing bug. He already had done more than 70 climbs listed in his Wasatch guidebook. He set his sights on Lone Peak, one of the range's toughest, after seeing an article titled, "Bagging Lone Peak: Then and Now" in a local sports magazine. Had Nate mentioned his plan, David Wallace could have told him how tough it was to scale 6,000 feet of rock scree and woody brush to reach the 11,253-foot summit. It is the hardest hike the father, who teaches public health and occupational safety at Utah State University, ever recalled doing. The father wondered if he could have taught his son better about avoiding risk. "These mountains are very dangerous, and people don't understand it," he said. Searchers looked for a day and a half before finding Nate's body in a pool at the bottom of the waterfall. Veteran climbers describe the area as one of the most confounding in the Wasatch. It's steep, rocky, often wet and the "exposed" trails are barely visible footpaths. Nate's guidebook warns "NO!" about the one he and his climbing companion used that day. There are other factors, too. Nate left for Lone Peak later than he had planned. He lost his headlamp, according to Eric Monfrooy, who was with Nate the night of the accident. They headed back much later than expected, in part because Nate wanted to enjoyed the sunset from the mountaintop. Rebecca, a family nurse practitioner who lives in Salt Lake City, has hiked all over the Wasatch, but could not offer advice on Lone Peak because it is one of the few she has not hiked. Still, Nate made a practice of being safe in the outdoors. He skied the backcountry with an avalanche beacon and climbed with a helmet, Rebecca said. "All this stuff [about navigating unusual hazards in the backcountry] you learn about," she said. "At 20, you still have a steep learning curve ahead." Aaron Watt, 32, Nate's older brother and a longtime wilderness guide, noted that enjoying the backcountry has risks - risks that people encounter all the time and are usually lucky enough to survive. Nate's accident is a sad problem that defies a simple answer, he suggested. "There's a million things you can attribute it to." Rick Reese, a climbing ranger in the '60s and '70s in Mount Rainier and Grand Teton national parks, calls Lone Peak "serious climbing terrain." He first hiked to it at age 14 and has made his way all over the Wasatch, sometimes finding his way by headlamp in the night, like Nate planned to do that unfortunate night. Reese has seen many accidents in more than a half-century of wilderness adventures, and he has helped rescue many, too. He had no wisdom to offer about young Nate Wallace. "I'm always reluctant to second guess after an accident."
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