Free-Solo Climber Falls to Death Near Boulder

Popular climbing area is infamous for accidents

The formation features slabs of rock at less-than-vertical angles. It’s an easy ascent for many—but after topping out, climbers must then down-climb the backside, which is vertical. (b k / Flickr)

A climber’s body was found on a hiking trail near Boulder, Colorado, on September 27, the AP reports. Angus Moloney, 22, was reportedly free-solo climbing the Fifth Pinnacle above the Gregory Canyon Trail, which is part of Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP), and fell the day before his body was discovered.

“It’s easy to get onto some of these very challenging formations,” Phillip Yates, spokesperson for the OSMP, told Outside on Wednesday. “[Some climbers] don’t even know their limits when they access these areas, and that creates problems.”

Free soloing, the practice of climbing without rope or a harness, is common in the area, Malcolm Daly, an employee at Neptune Mountaineering, a specialty climbing shop in Boulder, told Outside. The formation features slabs of rock at less-than-vertical angles. It’s an easy ascent for many—someone once climbed the nearby Third Flatiron wearing clamp-on roller skates—but after topping out, climbers must then down-climb the backside, which is vertical.

“When they get to the top, it’s like, ‘Oh shit, now what do we do?’” Daly said. “That’s the scene of a lot of epic accidents.” 

Moloney’s mother, Jean Palmer-Moloney, told the Daily Star that her son was an experienced climber but wasn’t wearing a helmet at the time of his accident. 

“I think young men, especially in their 20s, feel invincible,” Palmer-Moloney said to the Star. “But they have to know that they need to be safe.” 

According to an obituary published in the Carteret County News-Times, a memorial service for Moloney is planned on October 24 in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.

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