• Forty-Foot Fall and Rescue on Eldorado Canyon's Bastille
  • Missed Clip, Fractured Skull
  • Errant Spot and a Shattered Leg in Bishop Highball Accident
  • Climber Killed in Simul-Rappelling Accident on the Goat Wall
  • Climber Dies in Fall From El Cap's East Ledges
  • Fatal Unroped Fall On Easy Terrain - Bear Creek Spire, California
  • Simul-Rappel Goes Tragically Wrong - Reed’s Pinnacle, Yosemite
  • Dropped Haulbag Strikes Climber in Yosemite
  • Rappel Knot Fails, Climber Falls to Death on the Goat Wall
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  • Climber Grabs Draw, Skins Finger
  • Gear Pulls, Climber Decks at Indian Creek
  • Climber Dropped at Instructional Clinic
  • Euro-Death Knot (Flat Figure-8) Mysteriously Fails
  • Mark Davis Dies in Tragic Rappelling Accident at Indian Creek
  • Climber Dies In Fall From Moonlight Buttress, Zion
  • Ice Climber Falls 100 Feet in Banff National Park
  • Ice Climber Falls 100 Feet on Screw and Climaxe
  • Diablo Canyon Climber Dies in 170-foot Fall
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  • Rockfall Knocks Out Belayer, She Never Lets Go
  • North Carolina Climber Dies in 50-foot Fall
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  • Climber Dropped When Lowered in Autoblock Mode
  • Climber Dies in a Fall at Dishman Hills, Washington
  • Climber Falls 200 Feet on the Nose
  • Danger Zones: The Nose - Accidents On El Cap's Most Popular Route
  • Rappelling Accident Leaves Climber Shattered
  • Gunks Climber Raps Off End of Rope
  • Inattentive Spot Leads to Broken Arm
  • Man Survives Fifty-Foot Ground Fall
  • Bolt Breaks, Climber Falls to Death
  • Climber Falls to Death, Apparent Bolt Failure
  • Tragedy on Infinite Bliss - Rappelling Claims Climber
  • Gear Rips, Leading Climber Critical
  • Impaled by a Quickdraw
  • Two Carabiners Break on Leaning Tower
  • Climber Fined For Obstructing Rescue
  • Climber Triggers Rockfall, Kills Two on El Cap
  • Gear Pulls: Grounder at White Rock, New Mexico
  • Death on Capitol Peak
  • Respected Climber Falls 50 Feet and Dies at Cathedral Ledge
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  • BUNGLED!: Autoblock Belay Device Misused
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  • Three Killed in Cairngorms
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  • Belayer Pulls Leader Off Ice Climb
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    Mark Davis Dies in Tragic Rappelling Accident at Indian Creek


    Mark Davis (front) and Alex Honnold above the headwall on the Salathé Wall, El Cap, Yosemite. Photo courtesy of Chris Noble. On Saturday, March 12, Mark Davis died in a rappelling accident at Indian Creek, Utah. Davis was an experienced climber, over 25 years, with successful ascents in Patagonia and of El Capitan in Yosemite, among other places. He was 50 years old.

    “His energy was contagious,” Doug VanWagoner, friend and climbing partner of Davis, told Rock and Ice. “I was always excited when he was going climbing with us. He always had such a fun energy.”

    Davis and VanWagoner, along with other climbers, were at the Rambo Wall on Saturday. At the end of the day, Davis led Way Rambo, a 5.12 hands-to-fingers crack and the namesake of the wall.

    “Some requests were given for a toprope and a fixed line for a photographer,” Jeremy Collins, who was also there that day, told Rock and Ice. “So in typical Mark fashion, he climbed the route again on toprope to swap out the ropes for others.”

    Davis pulled the rope through the anchors and prepared a double-strand rappel down the 100-foot route. He was rappelling with a tube-style belay device. Thirty feet to the ground, Davis suddenly fell, headfirst. He hit a rock outcropping, tumbled and then hit the ground again.

    According to Collins, within seconds of the accident two groups ran to the road for help while five others tended to Davis. They secured his head and spine, cleared his airway, wrapped his body in warm clothes and helped him to regain his breath.

    After five minutes, his breathing began to decline, Collins said. They attempted CPR but were unsuccessful. Davis had no external injuries or lacerations, Collins added. His cause of death is believed to be blunt force trauma to his head.

    Davis was not wearing a helmet.

    “Upon review, it seems Mark had seen one side of his rope go behind a pillar 20 feet off the ground and assumed it would reach,” said Collins. “His belay device revealed only one strand threaded and the entire rope was on the ground.”

    The rope ends did not have knots and it appears that Davis had rappelled off one side, one of the most common climbing accidents, even with experienced climbers.

    “It’s an easy mistake to make when the rope is not visible entirely from above,” Collins said. “If Mark had worn a helmet, tied a knot in the end of his rope, or used a prussik back-up, the situation may have been different.”


    When Davis wasn’t climbing, his other passion was film and he was a film teacher at Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City.

    “[Mark] has made quite an impact on many people's lives,” VanWagoner said. “I've been contacted by friends who said that their kids had taken his courses and loved him dearly. So much that they stayed in contact with him as much as possible.

    “The outpouring of support and condolences from [his] students is overwhelming. I think that says something about who he was as a person.”

    A scholarship fund, the Mark Davis Film Student Scholarship, has been established in Davis’ name at Salt Lake Community College.

    “He was well loved by his community in Salt Lake City and around the country,” said Collins.

    “Those of us on the rescue ask others to remember to slow down, double check your ropes, double check your rappel, double check your knots, wear a helmet, and back up your rap so you can climb again tomorrow.”


    In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts for the Mark Davis Film Student Scholarship can be sent to Salt Lake Community College Foundation, 4600 S Redwood Road, Salt Lake City UT, 84123 or online donations can be made here.


    Climbers We Lost in 2015




    Reader's Commentary:

    Don't want to use Facebook, but still want to comment? We have you covered:

    Add Your Comments to this article:
    Dancho Nichols commented on 10-Nov-2016 08:23 PM5 out of 5 stars
    To Owen's remark
    100% of the time I use knots (double barrel) in the end of my rap line, and I make sure everyone I climb with does the same. I also always double check the line hits the ground. It is the climber's responsibility, but if anybody around you cares about you at all, they will also check your lines as well as hold a fireman.
    Redundancy is the key. Autoblock(ie prussik) is always crucial to a rappel as well as a helmet.
    Its too bad that so many people just want to fit in or follow the crowd. If you're doing this you're climbing for the wrong reason, its for the safety, the critical thinking.

    Do what's safe no matter what the sheep are doing, be a leader, be redundant. Check and replace gear, tie rope ends, wear a helmet, use an autoblock, or be an example

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