Climber dies at National Park after extending rope with a piece of webbing

Landscape at Death Valley National Park, USA
(Image credit: Getty)

A man has fallen and died while canyoneering at Death Valley National Park, having tried to extend his climbing rope by tying on a piece of webbing. Rescuers weren't alerted immediately, and by the time he was found, he had sadly passed away.

The man was found on December 3 after rangers noticed a tent still pitched in the park after the date when it was due to be taken down. There was a package in the tent with a name and address, and rangers left a note for the owner. They later spotted an abandoned vehicle, and after running the plates, found that it was registered to the same name and address that were on the package. 

Rangers then embarked on a recovery mission with help from the local Sheriff's Office. and Inyo County Search and Rescue. The operation also involved helicopters from Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, and California Highway Patrol.

Rappelling accident

"Park rangers and SAR team members observed that the man’s rope was not long enough to reach the ground on a long rappel," said the NPS in a statement. "He tied a piece of webbing to the end of the rope but appears to have made a mistake when disconnecting his rappel device to pass the knot joining the rope and webbing. Rangers estimate he fell about 30 feet."

"We recommend that anyone going into the backcountry lets someone know their plans. The park doesn’t track the 1.7 million people that visit each year," said Abby Wines, Death Valley National Park spokesperson and canyoneer.

"This man was not reported overdue, and the search did not start in time to save his life. A satellite communication device also could have been a lifesaver."

For more advice on staying safe during solo adventures, see our guide hiking alone: risks, benefits, and top tips.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.