Two Climbers Fell

October 19, 2003
Tahquitz Rock

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Our sincerest condolences go out to the family and friends of David Kellogg and Kelly Tufo. The two climbers died climbing "The Step" on Tahquitz rock Sunday, October 19, 2003. The team was called out around 3:00 pm and was told that two climbers had fallen and one was hanging by a rope. Eighteen team members responded to Humber Park in Idyllwild. We found out that the helicopter that responded was called out by the fire department. The Sheriffs helicopter wasn't in the air that day. While we were gearing up we were told that they might both be deceased. Right before the first team left, we found out that there wasn't a Dr. present and that they may be alive. We started up the climbers' trail to the base of "Fools Rush". Once there we traversed to the right and had to climb 3rd. class rock to a ledge. We found David first. Our team doctor checked David's vitals and pronounced him deceased. Next we sent our doctor over the edge down to Kelly to check on his condition. Unfortunately his medical condition was the same. We were able to do the scene survey before darkness fell. We lowered Kelly first with a team member. Then once everyone below was out of the fall line, we untied their climbing rope from a boulder and proceeded to move David back from the edge of the ledge. While we were doing this we checked to see what gear was on the rope. Coiling the rope we discovered that there wasn't any gear on the rope. The only gear that was on or near the ledge was two Camelots, a carabiner, and a prussik attached to a cordalette. David was then lowered with another team member to the base of the rock. We placed both climbers in litters and prepared to carry them out when we learned that the Sheriff's helicopter would be available at first light. Leaving two members with the climbers the rest of us hiked out. We were back in basecamp around 11pm. The Sheriff's helicopter airlifted the two out at 7:30 am the next morning while our team members hiked out.

There has been much speculation as to what happened. We went back to Tahquitz rock to see if we could find any clues as to the cause of the accident. Hiking to the top of the rock, we lowered team members down the face and examined the climbing route and others near by. We covered a large area and didn't discover any broken flakes. Yet, we did find the first impact sight which was about 60 feet from the top. A team member then lined himself up with the fall line down to the first impact site. There we found what looked like skid marks in the lichen and they lined up perfectly with the first impact site. We believe that the climbers finished the "Step" and traverse over to the top of the "White Maiden". Since the last section is easy we think they may have been walking up to the top when one slipped and fell taking the other one with him. The reasons are:

    1. The skid marks near the top and the first impact sight below them.
    2. There was no pro on the rope of any kind.
    3. The only damaged pro was one cam of a small Camelot.
        It looked as though it had been twisted and the one cam didn't work
        correctly. We wonder if it may have been damaged in the fall?
    4. We found one Camalot on the ledge without a carabiner on it and
        wonder if it was being carried and was being reracked as they were
        walking to the top?
    5. We did not find any carabiners or slings that were damaged in any
    6. We did not find any signs of flakes recently pulled off or any scars
        on the rocks for pro pulling out of any cracks.

We also interviewed several witnesses that either heard the fall or were first on scene, to help us evaluate what we found the evening of the accident.

Again this is what we believe may have happened but the two that really know are no longer with us. Our prayers are with them and their families.