October 21, 2014

The Iron Messiah climb (not pictured here) is considered difficult, with a 5.10 rating.     Photo: Kelnkelp/Thinkstock

Climber Dies in Zion National Park

Unroped man fell 80 feet

A 47-year-old California man died from injuries sustained in a rock-climbing fall at Zion National Park on Sunday, according to a Park Service press release. Christopher Spencer had been climbing Iron Messiah, a challenging 5.10 route, with a partner.

The climbers were on an easy fifth-class approach when Spencer fell backwards approximately 80 feet down the slope. He was not roped in or wearing a helmet at the time of the fall. Spencer was evacuated by helicopter to a nearby hospital, where he died of his injuries.

Spencer’s fall was the fourth fatal accident in Zion National Park this year and the eighth fatal climbing accident there since 1983.


Vail plans to install zip lines in Game Creek Bowl for summer recreation.     Photo: Courtesy of Vail Resort

Forest Service Approves Vail's Summer Recreation Plan

Colorado mountain to add trails, zip lines, and ropes course

Vail Mountain has been cleared to construct zip lines, a ropes course, expanded trails, and interpretive kiosks intended to convert the ski area into an interactive children’s museum after the snow melts in 2016, according to the Denver Post. Following a two-year environmental study, the U.S. Forest Service has published a final decision indicating no clear problems with the proposed $25 million summer recreation plan at the Colorado mountain resort.

“We are grateful for our continued partnership with the U.S. Forest Service leading to this positive change that will benefit our economy and our mountains,” Vail Mountain COO Chris Jarnot said in a statement to the Post.

The decision comes three years after the passage of the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act, a bill introduced by Senator Mark Udall of Colorado as part of an effort to boost local economies around Vail during the warmer months. In 2012, Vail CEO Robert Katz responded with an enthusiastic proposal for investment at the company’s Vail, Breckenridge, and Lake Tahoe properties called Epic Discovery.

“We believe we can create an experience on our mountain resorts inside the National Forest that is more fun and more engaging with more educational opportunities than what you see in the National Park System,” Katz told the Post. “It’s almost like creating a huge interactive children’s museum, but up on the mountain.”

In an effort to buttress the plan’s scientific and educational aspects, Vail has recruited help from the Nature Conservancy, which has been promised one percent of ticket sales to fund the organization’s restoration work on National Forest lands.


Hikers found a trip wire rigged to an improvised firearm in Portland's Forest Park.     Photo: Mike Rohrig/Flickr

Hikers Find Firearm Trap on Portland Park Trail

Bomb squad removed improvised device

Police in Portland, Oregon, are investigating an improvised firearm trap found on a trail leading to popular Forest Park. Two hikers came across it last Thursday. Luckily, nobody was hurt.

According to the Oregonian, Mike and Jennifer Colbach were walking their dog when they came across a length of blue parachute cord stretched across the trail right before the entrance to the park. “I stepped over it,” Jennifer told Fox 12 Oregon. “I made a comment about it to my husband. He said, ‘Don’t step on it.’ And then of course my dog steps on it.”

The cord simply went slack. Jennifer Colbach saw something move in the woods to their right, but the couple went on their way.

Mike Colbach returned on Saturday to get a better look and found the trip wire attached to a beer bottle in a tree. Harmless enough, but below the bottle sat a three-quarter-inch pipe—open on one end, closed on the other, and aimed right at where a person who tripped the wire would be standing, according to KGW.com. When the cord was tripped, the bottle was supposed to swing down and hit a firing pin on the closed end of the pipe.

Colbach called a friend who works for the Metropolitan Explosives Disposal Unit. Bomb squad members investigated and found a 12-gauge shotgun shell in the pipe. The Colbachs could have been caught in a deadly trap, but the improvised gun apparently malfunctioned.

Colbach told the Oregonian that neighboring residents told him they heard unusual noises coming from the area two days before he found the device. When he walked into the park with his wife, they passed two suspicious men, who did not seem to be hikers, heading in the opposite direction. “It set off the hair on the back of my neck,” he told the Oregonian. “They stuck out like a sore thumb.”

Portland police spokesperson Sergeant Pete Simpson told the Oregonian that a park trail close to the suburbs is an unlikely place to come across an improvised firearm. “These kind of devices are more likely to be found in a rural area where someone is trying to protect something,” he said.

A bomb tech removed the device. The police are keeping it as evidence.

Although technically not in park boundaries, the police notified Portland Parks and Recreation officials, and the Portland Police Bureau’s Gun Task Force is investigating.

“I’m not going to the park for a while. I don’t want to trip the next one,” Mike Colbach told the Oregonian. “Why try to kill someone in broad daylight?”