NOLS director killed by rock trundled by hiker

11:30 a.m. on August 16, 2007 (EDT)
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It always amazes me that so many hikers think it fun to roll and toss rocks over the side for any reason, and almost always without checking to see where it will go. This is a major tragedy. I hope there is a way to hold the hikers responsible. This is not an accident - the rock was rolled down deliberately.

http://www.alpinist.com/doc/_print/ALP20/newswire-absolon-dead-rockfall

NOLS DIRECTOR KILLED BY TRUNDLED ROCK
August 14, 2007

Chris Zajchowski
Peter Absolon (47), who was killed by rockfall on Saturday, August 11, while climbing with friend and fellow NOLS instructor, Steve Herlihy in Wyoming's Wind River Range. Phil Powers, Absolon's friend and Executive Director of the American Alpine Club (AAC), declared that the rock was trundled purposefully by a hiker, who had no knowledge of the climbers below.

On Saturday, August 11, Peter Absolon (47) was killed instantly when a falling rock struck him from approximately 300 feet above while climbing a new route in Leg Lake Cirque, southern Wind River Range, Wyoming. Phil Powers, Absolon's friend and Executive Director of the American Alpine Club (AAC), declared that the rock was trundled purposefully by a hiker, who had no knowledge of the climbers below.

Absolon was climbing with friend and fellow NOLS instructor, Steve Herlihy. The pair had just completed a pitch and were anchored 800 feet above the base of the climb. The rock hit Absolon in the back of his head; though he was wearing a helmet, he was killed instantly. Powers said that after throwing the rock, the hiker looked over the edge, and, upon seeing the rock hit Absolon, dialed 911.

According to the Casper-Star Tribune, Herlihy found a solo recovery too difficult; the body was abandoned overnight as Herlihy returned to notify authorities of the accident. The next day a rescue helicopter and a seven-person team of climbing rangers from Grand Teton National Park, led by Renny Jackson, began the recovery effort, which lasted six hours.

Powers and the Fremont County Sheriff's Office stated that the investigation into Absolon's death remains open. Informed by a third-party source, Powers reported that the hikers had no idea climbers were below them and were deeply anguished by the news of Absolon's death.

Absolon began climbing on the East Coast at Carderock, Maryland, then guided for a number of years at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. After traveling west, Absolon climbed extensively throughout Wyoming in Sinks Canyon, the Wind River Range and the Tetons. A former board member of the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA), Absolon became a field instructor at NOLS, where his work ethic helped him move through the ranks to eventually become Director of the Rocky Mountain School.

Absolon is survived by his wife, Molly, and six-year old daughter, Avery. Friends and family of the Absolons are requested to post stories, reflections and condolences to a thread on SuperTopo.

Absolon's memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, August 19 at CWC/Sinks Canyon Center (SCC), just outside Lander, Wyoming. Guests are requested to bring a main dish, salad, dessert or flowers. Quotations and photographs can be emailed to jen_lamb@nols.edu, and will be displayed at the service.

12:47 p.m. on August 16, 2007 (EDT)
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Quote:

It always amazes me that so many hikers think it fun to roll and toss rocks over the side for any reason, and almost always without checking to see where it will go. This is a major tragedy. I hope there is a way to hold the hikers responsible. This is not an accident - the rock was rolled down deliberately.

 


Bill S. From what I read, this was an accident. The person (an Iraq vet twice over) didnt know that he was in a climbng area and didnt know that climbers were 300 feet below him. I hear that this person is devastated by what happened and he himself made the 911 call when he realized what happened. There are some comments from people form NOLS on supertopo...........Frank

12:54 p.m. on August 16, 2007 (EDT)
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1:13 p.m. on August 16, 2007 (EDT)
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FMD, the reports stated that the rock was intentionally rolled down the slope, and that the hikers "did not know" it was a climbing area. This means they did not check. It was "an accident" only in that the hiker did not "intend" to hit the climbers.

Rocks and other things should NEVER be rolled or thrown over cliffs, trail edges, or anywhere because (1) there may well be people or animals below that can be harmed and (2) this is destruction of nature. Rockfall and slides do occur naturally, but there is absolutely no reason or justification for people to carry out such acts.

1:28 p.m. on August 16, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill S. wrote: "I hope there is a way to hold the hikers responsible"


And what type of retrubutions are you suggesting? Fines or incarceration? If we start incarcerating people for ingnorances, we better start building a lot more prisons. There was no intent, no malice, just ignorance.


ig·no·rance

–noun the state or fact of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, learning, information, etc.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Origin: 1175–1225; ME < L ignōrantia. See ignore, -ance]

1:36 p.m. on August 16, 2007 (EDT)
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First and foremost this was a tragic accident, and a tremendous loss for Absolon's family, friends, and colleagues. I didn't know Pete, but from what I've read, he was an exemplary climber, outdoorsman, and human being. My thoughts go out especially to his young daughter.

It's one thing to fall victim to objective hazards such as rockfall or avalanche, quite another when the negligent actions of another person are involved. I'm sure the question of legal culpability will eventually play out in court, but Bill has it right: there is no reason and no excuse for anyone to be rolling rocks or other objects off a cliff.

2:27 p.m. on August 16, 2007 (EDT)
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I VERY strongly agree with BillS, rolling or throwing rocks into places you cannot see in mountain terrain is irresponsible and dangerous; it can also damage rare palnt communities and cause problems for birthing fauna, among other unwarranted problems.

Yes, this WAS an accident and a very sad one for all concerned, however, practicing "walking softly" in all outdoor ventures is, IMHO, a very sound concept and I try to do this consistently. I will not drive a vehicle on old logging roads in spring, leave NOTHING in ANY outdoor area, even fresh logging clearcuts and never harvest any wildlife/plants or geological products such as soil, that I am not going to eat or use and never when doing so will compromise a given ecosystem........WE can ALL make a REAL difference.

2:44 p.m. on August 16, 2007 (EDT)
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Quote:

Yes, this WAS an accident and a very sad one for all concerned, however, practicing "walking softly" in all outdoor ventures is, IMHO, a very sound concept and I try to do this consistently. I will not drive a vehicle on old logging roads in spring, leave NOTHING in ANY outdoor area, even fresh logging clearcuts and never harvest any wildlife/plants or geological products such as soil, that I am not going to eat or use and never when doing so will compromise a given ecosystem........WE can ALL make a REAL difference.


Here in lays the arguement. Did this fella have any idea of throwing a rock off a cliff was going to hurt someone. One can argue its common sense, but for those of us that has backpacked, climbed, took NOLS classes, LNT classes etc, it is a "no brainer" common sense approch. But for quite a few people out there, they really dont know. Hence ignorance. How many of us can say that they never had a object tossed down towards them while they were climbing? I know that I have. A vast majority of people are visiting the outdoors now and these people has little to no training at all on how to conduct themselfs while in the outdoors. Criminal? I dont think so, just plain ole ignorance. This is IMHO of course and just looking at the other side of the coin.

Just out of curiosity, does anyone think this lad should be incarcerated for what he did?

4:24 p.m. on August 16, 2007 (EDT)
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I suspect that regardless of any legal proceedings, the individual who rolled the rock will punish himself for the rest of his life. I'm sure that the guilt he will carry will be worse than any sentence the law can deliver. Because of this, I can't think of any benefit that society would gain from him being incarcerated. I suspect that he will, however, face a lawsuit and wind up in civil court and will ultimately have to bear a financial judgement.

5:57 p.m. on August 16, 2007 (EDT)
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The legal term for what he did is "negligence". If the courts decide he was legally negligent, then there are legal penalties prescribed by law. If someone has an automobile accident that results in someone else's death, they can be found guilty of manslaughter or 2nd degree homicide, depending on the exact circumstances (and the jury). If I recall, FMD, you are in California, and thus surely aware of a number of cases recently where the person involved was extremely remorseful, but still found guilty of manslaughter or negligent homicide and sentenced to a period in prison. A couple of these cases involved parents whose negligence resulted in the death of their children.

Yes, I know, a large number of those heading into the outdoors fall into your characterization -
"...for quite a few people out there, they really dont know. Hence ignorance. How many of us can say that they never had a object tossed down towards them while they were climbing? I know that I have. A vast majority of people are visiting the outdoors now and these people has little to no training at all on how to conduct themselfs while in the outdoors. Criminal? I dont think so, just plain ole ignorance."

The legal system has decided in many cases that this is indeed criminal, whether you call it ignorance or negligence. Maybe the benefit to society, if society remembers the incident beyond the few minutes of coverage on the evening news at all, is that some of that vast majority to which you refer will become aware that you don't throw or roll rocks down the mountain or over a cliff under any circumstances.

Should he be incarcerated? Well, do you think the parents whose negligence resulted in the deaths of their children should be incarcerated? Do you think that the young woman whose moment of inattention while searching for a CD to put in her pickup's player resulted in the deaths of 3 bicyclists should be incarcerated? Gee, I'm sorry I ran over your child when he ran into the street, but I was busy making a call on my cellphone. Gee, I'm sorry your wife was killed when I was shooting my rifle for target practice in my backyard. Same principle - if damages result from your negligence (whether death, physical injury, or property damage), you pay, and as the old saying goes, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Ok, FMD, I do indeed recall that you want to argue for the sake of argument. I think the principle is clear. If it were my negligence, I would personally feel very bad, but I would acknowledge that I would have to pay the price for that negligence. So rant and troll on - I've said my say.

10:25 p.m. on August 16, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill S. I am no where near the Pacific coast, so I dont really know what case you're talking about.

I dont believe that we ever met, but I am feeling the love.

Sounds like I hit a nerve or you perhaps you had a bad day?

As I stated in a earlier post, I was looking at the other side of the coin.

It will be interesting to see if charges are brought against this young man.


Rant and trolling..........LOL.............

12:04 a.m. on August 17, 2007 (EDT)
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I do live in CA and I believe Bill is correct on the issue of liability. There will a question of "assumption of the risk" and whether or not rockfall would be considered a natural hazard of the sport. I don't know the answer to that one. I would think that being pelted by rocks thrown by hikers would fall outside of assumption of the risk, but it may be a novel question, which we may see raised in the future at some point.

The issue really isn't whether or not the hiker "feels badly" about what he did; the issue is whether or not he is liable to the survivors of the person he killed. Of course money damages or jail time won't bring back the victim, but those are the only recourse we have when things like this happen.

7:06 a.m. on August 17, 2007 (EDT)
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Just some thoughts. I am not a attorney nor I am looking for an arguement. Just that intent does go a ways in the criminal court system. I would venture to say that if the family elected to go to civil court, that there would be some culpability.

 


A less scholarly but more manageable definition is one that breaks a crime down into three basic requirements:
- A physical act,
- A mental state, and,
- A consequence (social harm).
This then will be the working definition of crime that will be utilized in this discussion.
Before discussing each of these three requirements separately, note that for most crimes all three requirements must be met. If one requirement is removed or altered, this changes the nature of the crime.
- Altering the Consequences
. Mental state - A forms the intent to throw a stone and hit B.
. Physical Act - A throws the stone at B.
. Consequence - ?
At this point, it is not known what crime has been committed because the consequence of A's mental state and physical act is not known.
It has been argued that A's crime, and possible punishment, should not be determined by factors which he cannot control; the argument being that once the rock left A's hand his moral fault was determined.

Altering the Mental State
. A intended to kill B - Possible premeditated murder
. A intended to seriously harm but not kill B - Possible 2nd degree murder
. A intended to inflict a minor wound on B - Possible involuntary manslaughter
. A threw the stone in jest and did not intend to hit B - Negligent homicide; possibly no crime.
The physical act required for a crime must be a willed action as distinguished from an unconscious act, such as one performed by a sleepwalker or a person in epileptic seizure. There are also situations where a failure to act can constitute a crime (the omission of performance of a duty imposed by law, such as a mother failing to feed her children). However, for the most part, the criminal law requires an affirmative physical act which fits in one of the categories below:
- Evil thought
- Express thought
- Request
- Agreement
- Attempt
- Consummation

9:02 a.m. on August 17, 2007 (EDT)
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It was an accident normally when you are hiking you would not expect someone below you unless the trail was there. LNT also means not punching holes in sides of cliffs which loosens rock and does damage also which is done all the time by climbers.

10:19 a.m. on August 17, 2007 (EDT)
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That is a specious and tendentious arguement which is irrelevant to the situation here.

Most climbers actually use anchorpoints which are "chocks" that fit tightly into crevices to hold their protection ropes.

The erosion of cliffs is a geological process largely determined by substrate types, weather and other ambient conditions; the miniscule alterations made by a few climbers hardly causes damage sufficient to cause danger to hikers.

LNT can be and oftimes is an excuse for fanaticism and those who scream loudest about it are those who drive on roads into "designated wilderness" ignoring the damage caused by building these roads while complaining about natural campfires which humans have been building for eons.

Your point simply is not valid, this incident COULD and SHOULOD have been prevented by a little caution.

11:59 a.m. on August 17, 2007 (EDT)
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"It was an accident normally when you are hiking you would not expect someone below you unless the trail was there."

Sorry friend, but that's like not checking downrange before firing a weapon. "Normally" there shouldn't be anyone downrange, but if you shoot that fella who went to retrieve his target, it's your fault.

"LNT also means not punching holes in sides of cliffs which loosens rock and does damage also which is done all the time by climbers."

LNT also includes not tossing rocks over cliffs - "no trace" means exactly that - relocating rocks is leaving a trace.

In addition, you're trying to justify the taking of a human life to prevent someone from "punching holes in the sides of cliffs"? Sorry pal, I don't buy it.

When thoughtless acts lead to harm those responsible for the harm must face the legal and ethical consequences. When you take the life of another human being, be it by design or by accident, you are legally responsible for that act. I'm sure the fella who lobbed the rock feels bad about what happened, but part of living in a civilized society is the law, in fact that's what keeps it civil.

2:06 p.m. on August 17, 2007 (EDT)
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I am an attorney.

Generally, one does not automatically face civil liability for injury that is caused by accident. However, one is liable for injury that is caused by one's negligence.

Negligence has a specific definition and comprises four elements: duty, breach, causation, and injury,

Here, there is little dispute regarding the last two elements: causation and injury. A rock, aparently thrown by a hiker, struck and killed a climber.

Resolution of this issue centers on the first two elements: did the hiker have a duty and did the hiker breach that duty? If a jury answers "yes" to these questions, the hiker will be liable for the damages caused by his actions.

Did the hiker have a duty? Every one has the duty to act reasonably under the circumstances. Did the hiker act reasonably? If it was reasonably foreseeable that someone could be injured by the act of throwing a stone over the side, then the hiker did not act reasonably, he breached his duty, and he caused injury.

There is also the question of criminal negligence, which generally requires a higher level of culpability.

Not a simple question, despite the understandably strong desire to punish an act that results in the death of another.

7:15 p.m. on August 17, 2007 (EDT)
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Let's please keep the discussion on-topic and civil. Also keep in mind that this accident is a tragedy that will be felt deeply for years by all involved.

7:47 p.m. on August 17, 2007 (EDT)
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Rexim: I'm sorry, I was not targeting you; as an attorney, you are certainly entitled to an expert opinion. I guess I was put off a bit by some of the Monday morning quarterbacking.

9:39 p.m. on August 17, 2007 (EDT)
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I think Pika said it well:
"I suspect that regardless of any legal proceedings, the individual who rolled the rock will punish himself for the rest of his life. I'm sure that the guilt he will carry will be worse than any sentence the law can deliver. Because of this, I can't think of any benefit that society would gain from him being incarcerated."

I am not minimizing the tragedy for family, friends, etc. - my heart goes out to them.

Our society tends to take the view that there should always someone to take the blame/responsibility. If we could sue nature for hurricanes, etc. we probably would.

At the same time life is an amazing unknown process where things happen. Sometimes it is OK to leave it at that. I believe our world would be a much better place with more understanding/compassion and less blame, retribution, & punishment.

11:21 p.m. on August 17, 2007 (EDT)
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Pika, I did not feel targeted by your post and I agree with most of what you wrote. I was trying to point out some of the factors to consider when assigning blame or culpability or liability or whatever we want to call it.

That said, I think this is as good a place as any to raise the issue: is throwing a rock over a cliff always negligent? Is it reasonably foreseeable that someone will be injured, or killed, by such conduct? The answer likely varies in different situations. Certainly, if you are aware that there are climbers in the area, it becomes easier to assign blame. However, if you are not aware of climbers, the question then becomes: do you have a duty to look for climbers before you throw the rock?

Ridgehiker made a good point: sometimes stuff just happens, and although someone is responsible for causing an injury, he may not be liable for the injury.

I would hate to live in a worls where it is always wrong to throw a rock. As far as the LNT doctrine goes, if we take it to the logical conclusion, skipping stones across a lake, one of life's little pleasures, becomes a violation. I know skipping stones is not likely to injure anyone, but what if you throw a large rock into a lake and injure a swimmer or diver you could not see?

2:44 p.m. on August 30, 2007 (EDT)
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Fremont County Attorney Ed Newell said today no charges would be filed in connection with the death of a climber killed by a rock thrown by a person walking above him.

Pete Absolon died on Aug. 11 when he was struck by the rock while climbing near Leg Lake in the Wind River Mountains above Lander.

An investigation by the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office revealed that the rock had been thrown by a man who was unaware that Absolon was climbing the rock face below.

Newell said that while the incident could have triggered criminal charges, the rock thrower acted without intent to cause harm, that he had no previous criminal record, that no drugs or alcohol were involved, that he was recently returned from military service in Iraq, that he immediately took responsibility for his actions, and that he was extremely remorseful.

Newell said his decision not to prosecute was made after consulting Absolon’s, wife Molly.

"Molly has suffered the devastating loss of a loving husband and father to her only child. Her primary concern now is healing for herself and her daughter, Avery," Newell said in a press release. "She may pursue a civil case to recover damages that would assist in Avery’s support and education."

3:33 p.m. on August 30, 2007 (EDT)
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This story appeared in the New York Times yesterday, if I remember right.

3:47 p.m. on August 30, 2007 (EDT)
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Here’s the link: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Climber-Death.html (membership might be required)

It's such a senseless tragedy all around, obviously the most for the family and friends of Pete Absolon, who leaves behind a wife and young child. I don’t think it’s possible to truly imagine what anyone involved in this incident is going through, unless you’re one of them.

I do have sympathy for the man responsible though. I’m sure he would do anything to take back throwing that rock, but he’ll have to live the rest of his life knowing he can’t. I’m not absolving him of his mistake (and I hope it serves as a warning for others), but I think it’s between him and the family and it sounds like he is doing what he can to take responsibility now, for what that’s worth. Everyone does something stupid at some point in his/her life, but most of us are lucky enough to not cause a tragedy like this.

It’s a very sad situation for all involved.

3:48 p.m. on August 30, 2007 (EDT)
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This was the story yesterday:

 

August 29, 2007

CASPER, Wyo. --Tears in his eyes, an Iraq war veteran recounted for the first time publicly the desperate remorse he felt after tossing a large rock off a cliff that killed a climber below.

"I'd do anything to change it," 23-year-old Luke Rodolph said Tuesday.

On Aug. 11, Rodolph was sitting on the rim of a canyon with three others when he picked up a 15- to 20-pound rock the size of a bowling ball and looked over the edge. He said he didn't see anyone below.

"I picked up a rock and threw it off," he said. "Looked over just a little further to watch it fall, see where it was going to hit, you know, kinda leaned out further than what I was comfortable with normally, and watched it hit Pete Absolon."

There was no time for a warning, Rodolph said. He said he didn't see Absolon, 47, until the rock struck him in the head.

The group called 911 on a cell phone, then rushed down to Leg Lake Basin. Steve Herlihy, a National Outdoor Leadership School instructor, had been climbing with Absolon, the school's Rocky Mountain director, and asked Rodolph and his group what had happened.

"Luke looked him dead in the eye and said, 'I threw it,'" said his brother, Aaron Rodolph, who was with him. "I'll never forget, as long as I live, that Steve looked Luke dead back in the eyes and said, 'I forgive you for that.'"

Absolon, who had a wife and daughter, had been climbing with Herlihy along a new route up the cliff face of Leg Lake Cirque in the Wind River Mountains near Lander.

"It's unbearable for them to have to go through this. It's my fault," Luke Rodolph said.

He stayed with Herlihy and Absolon's body in the basin overnight while the rest of the group went back to their campsite.

"Steve and I just talked for a while, sat around the campfire," Rodolph said. "I told him I'd go into town with him and talk with the sheriff and give him a statement, and whatever happens, happens."

The morning after Absolon's death, Rodolph and Herlihy hiked out of the area to Lander. Later that day, Rodolph spoke with Fremont County Attorney Ed Newell and an investigator before returning to his home in Casper.

Absolon's body was recovered the same day.

Eleven days later, Newell announced that Rodolph would not be charged. He cited several factors in his decision, including the fact that Rodolph took responsibility for his actions, was extremely remorseful, didn't intend to cause harm, had no criminal history and served in Iraq.

In an e-mail to the Casper Star-Tribune, Absolon's widow, Molly, said she didn't have a comment on Newell's decision not to charge Rodolph.

Gary Wilmot, an instructor at the National Outdoor Leadership School, said that while he feels compassion for Rodolph, throwing a rock from a cliff is irresponsible.

"We recognize that he is hurting, but we are also working on filling a big void in our community and a family here in Lander," Wilmot said.

12:53 a.m. on August 31, 2007 (EDT)

I have just learned of this story today and can not stop thinking about it. I grew up across the street from Luke and his family and knew them very well. Yes this was a completely senseless act. I don't know of anyone who doens't throw a rock when they come to a cliff. If you know that it is a frequented spot for rock climbers than the last thing in the world you should do is toss anything over the edge. Heaven sakes, though, he is not a criminal just a boy, doing what boys do. Whether or not he should be severely punished to set an example I don't think so. The example has hopefully been set. This has ruined quite a few lives. My prayers and thoughts go out to both families. What a horrible tragedy.

10:56 a.m. on August 31, 2007 (EDT)
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Returning to the earlier discussion, does the fact that it was a pretty large rock, "the size of a bowling ball," determine the nature of the conduct? In my view, it does. One does not normally "throw" a bowling ball, or any object weighing 15 to 20 pounds. I don't think I've ever seen anyone "throw" a rock that size from a cliff. Throwing a small stone or pebble might not be negligent, but dropping a bowling ball from a cliff almost certainly is.

I'm not advocating punishment, just trying to determine a standard of reasonable behavior.

11:51 a.m. on August 31, 2007 (EDT)
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This past weekend, at the American Alpine Club Sierra Nevada Section climb-in at Donner Pass, this incident was much discussed. One climber who spent a lot of time in Utah told us that the "custom" of "trundling" sizeable rocks off the summit is a very common one in the Utah-Wyoming-Idaho-Montana area.

I will have to disagree with Erica that 23-yr-old Luke was "just a boy." At 23 he is legally an adult, and he had served in the military in Iraq.

I know the lawyers will spend endless hours arguing about "intent", "negligence", and all sorts of legal fine points. But to me, the question is one of moral and ethical responsibility for one's actions and their consequences. As the articles quoted above note, this incident has left a widow with young children. Yes, friends and family may step in to help with the financial hardships and provide some measure of comfort. But the emotional damage is great for Peter's family, friends, and community (NOLS, the general climbing community, ...), and for the "trundler" himself and his companions. I would hope that Luke Rodolph would step up to the plate voluntarily and help at least with the financial side, even though the legal authorities have taken pity on him.

I would also hope that this incident would help educate people to the risks to life and limb, and to the environment, that trundling or indeed any throwing of rocks, tree limbs, or anything else over the edge entails. I strongly disagree that tossing or rolling things over a cliff or down a mountainside is "innocent fun", regardless of any legal fine points of intent, negligence, or "just an accident". However, given the apparent prevalence of this "custom", I expect more "accidents" of this type.

3:40 p.m. on August 31, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill S said this:

Quote:

I strongly disagree that tossing or rolling things
over a cliff or down a mountainside is "innocent fun",

Personally, I wouldn't call it "innocent fun" either. I'd call it "ignorant". And I honestly don't mean this in a demeaning way. I just mean that sometimes people do things because they just don't know any better.

I know not to do such things because my family went camping when I was a kid, and I was taught explicitly not to do things like that. As I think about it, I can almost hear my parents yelling at me for trying (when I was a little kid).

So, to many of us, as adults (probably most, if not all, readers of this forum) it just wouldn't make sense to throw something off a cliff. We've been educated on proper behavior in that environment.

However, ... I can imagine someone coming from a different background (e.g. someone who never made it outside city limits as a kid), where it just might not occur to them that someone might actually be climbing up the cliff below them. To such a person, throwing the rock over the cliff, to see where it landed, how it smashed into pieces, etc, might be "fun".

We tend to think of things through our own lense. We sometimes just "assume" everyone has the same values, knowledge, viewpoint, or understanding that we do ... and that's just not always the case. Unfortunately, in this case, the consequences were tragic.

As I read the original thread on this, and now this recent spurt of activity, what's going through my mind is just how easy it is for one mistake (which may even seem trivial at the time) to have an irreversible and profound impact not only on others, but on the rest of your own life. I've even thought about this thread while on hikes recently, and it's really reminded me to "tread carefully" (like when I was scrambling up to the summit of Mt Linn last weekend).

12:12 a.m. on September 28, 2007 (EDT)
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FMD, Tom D, Bill S

In California negligent homicide is often the charge levied on people whose un-premeditated actions killed someone. I remember a truck driver whose load of pallets fell onto a lady in a sports car on an LA freeway - manslaughter. I was struck by a rock in Yosemite that was pushed off (from a large bunch) by a hiker on the trail up to Yosemite Falls. Since I was about 300 feet below I can attest to the energy such a rock has. I felt it coming and plastered myself aginst the cliff and only got a small rock cut on my neck from a glancing blow. The climb was called "surprise" BTW ha ha. Anyway I consider being hit by rocks thrown by hikers to be part of my assumption of responsibility since only those of us who are climbers even think throwing rocks off could kill someone. People LOVE to throw rocks off cliffs - somehow its a natural that has to be trained to curb. Is the hiker the child of someone famous or will they be treated to normal law?
Jim S
P.S. Its gonna freeze this week here in Bend, oregon.

12:14 a.m. on September 28, 2007 (EDT)
67 reviewer rep
757 forum posts

I meant only climbers think that not throwing rocks is a good idea.

2:51 p.m. on September 28, 2007 (EDT)
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409 forum posts

Commonly done, this trundling thing, in this neck of the nape.

Was a guy killed on the NF of Granite Peak in Montana a few years back in a similar incident.

I'll have to admit, when I was a kid, prior to becoming a "technical climber", we used to go out for the sole purpose of trundling rocks. The higher, the bigger the drop, the bigger the rock, the more distance and damage, the better. Very commonly done at least where I'm from (Montana).

Mostly out of ignorance, I suppose, and, that seeing other folks around was never an issue.

Spent a fair amount of time this summer "cleaning" climbing routes on a big face (at Alta ski area). Can't imagine rockfall actually hitting a person. Tried to be super super careful. Some of the rocks were HUGE. One, the size of a large piece of luggage, didn't bust on the initial hit on a ledge, and sailed into space several hundred feet into the talus below. I'll have to say, I still track the crash with some guarded enthusiasm.

Hooo Leee Shhhh ITTT Or something to that effect.

Bowling ball size rocks? Easy money. Bet I tossed off a couple dozen that size this season. Carefully of course.

Mentioned to a friend that I'd been working on (and had completed) a new route on Devil's Castle, and, he instantly sequed into this Wind River accident. He's an Exum guide and it seems the whole of the Wyoming climbing community is especially hurtin' after this. Talk about hitting a raw nerve.

Not condoning this behavior at all. And, what that guy did, while inexcusable, was an accident. What were the odds of that? I can't imagine. And, I can't imagine being the one responsible for it.

Crazy stuff. The super topo thread on Peter's death is 439 posts long. One of the longer threads ever on that website. Very hard to read. His wife recently posted:

"This past weekend Michelle Escudero, Kathy Brown, my sister Ann and I hiked into Leg Lake and the base of the cliff where Pete was killed. It was a beautiful day—the aspens were gold and the willows red. When we set out the sky was clear and blue. We hiked the route that Pete and I always took (which it turns out is NOT the easiest, but that was typical for us...). The base of the climb is raw, new land. There is still old glacial ice just below a skim of jagged, loose rocks. But the climb itself looks beautiful. I found Pete's hat among the rubble there. It was comforting to find it...but sad too. We built a cairn and left three red roses, a prayer scarf, a sage bundle and a candle. The red roses are significant because Pete thought that the only kind of flowers you ever give were red roses....

The weather changed on our hike out and now today three days later when I look up at the Winds they are covered in snow. So our cairn is buried and the flowers frozen.

I hope Pete is okay wherever he may be. I hope he is the stars or the rainbows... But I wish he were here. The cliff is so vast it just seems impossible that he could have been hit by a single rock. I don't know what to make of that. But I know asking why doesn't help in the long run so I'm trying not to go there though it is hard.

Once more I thank you all for continuing to write or call. It helps more than you can know to feel that support.

Molly"

-Brian in SLC

February 22, 2020
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