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Rock Climber Dies from Rappelling Accident in Alaska

A climber based in Fairbanks, Alaska, fell to his death while climbing near Igloo Canyon near Mile 37 in Denali National Park and Preserve.

The National Park Service said 26-year-old Evan Millsap died after a rappelling accident. Millsap fell over 20 metres from the top of a pitch. His partner climbed down and called for sought help from the host at Teklanika Campground.

Park rangers received word of the fall at 11:20 p.m and Rescue personnel reached the accident site at 1:15 am. Rangers pronounced Millsap dead at the scene. Rescue personnel transported his body to the park entrance.

Evan Millsap
Millsap had climbed a number of times in the Canadian Rockies and visited the area this spring. He spent much of his downtime climbing the peaks about his home in Fairbanks and recently said, “Left Fairbanks at 3 a.m. and did some solo mountaineering in the Alaska Range on a short peak. I climbed up a couloir and then did a pitch of rock climbing near the summit.

“Why go alone? Certainly not for some kind of bullshit Alex Honnold warrior ethos (that Free Solo movie people are talking about). Definitely, climbing with someone is inherently safer, and as you climb you develop a deep bond with a partner you can trust. A team has capabilities greater than the sum whole of its parts.

“But climbing by yourself is attractive for exactly the opposite reasons. You rely entirely on yourself, and you get to know yourself better than you otherwise could. There are no ropes, and you’re always on lead, on the sharp end. There’s no one to catch you. Self-arrest. Self-rescue. Self-sufficient. Self-exploration. I like it and I’m going to start doing it more.”

Millsap was a Ph.D. student in geoscience and a teaching assistant at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, according to a press release from the university. Pat Druckenmiller, a geology professor and director of the University of Alaska Museum of the North, said Millsap was “one of the brightest students I’ve had the opportunity to mentor. He was a real gem. The one year (Millsap) was here at UAF, he became a real vibrant member of our community. His loss will be felt wide through the geology department and the museum.”

Rappelling is dangerous and many climbers die every year during rappel accidents. At least two climbers have died in Canada this year as a result of rappelling accidents. Be safe out there. Our condolences to Millsap’s family and friends.