Renowned Climber Killed by Fall in Yosemite

Richard A. Lovett
for National Geographic News
October 26, 2006

Noted rock climber Todd Skinner died Monday, October 23, in California's Yosemite National Park, after falling 500 feet (152 meters) while pioneering a new climbing route near the park's Bridalveil Fall. (See a photo of Bridalveil Fall.)

Skinner, 47, of Lander, Wyoming, was one of the pioneers of "free climbing," in which mountaineers use ropes for protection and descents but eschew any form of artificial aid while ascending, even on the most difficult slopes.

(Read a Q&A with Skinner from 1999.)

Featured in several National Geographic and National Geographic Adventure magazine articles, the climber was a member of the National Geographic Society's Expeditions Council advisory board.

(National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)

He is survived by his wife, Amy; his son, Jake; and his daughters, Hannah and Sarah.

The Accident

Skinner fell while descending a fixed rope after he and a partner had completed the day's work on a new route near a 1,200-foot (365-meter) spire called the Leaning Tower.

"It was a rappelling accident," said his long-time friend and former climbing partner Steve Bechtel. "His equipment broke."

Skinner was a standout among a generation of talented climbers who proved that seemingly impossible ascents could be done using free-climbing methods.

"He was the first to do it when everybody else thought it was impossible," said his friend and agent Ann Krcik.

In the process Skinner proved that even the world's biggest, most intimidating walls could be free-climbed, as long as the climber was patient, talented, and meticulous.

Continued on Next Page >>


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