A 54-year-old man fell to his death while canyoneering alone in Death Valley National Park, according to park services.
On Dec. 3, the man was found on the West Fork route in Mosaic Canyon. He was not reported missing, which means the search did not start in time to save his life, according to a park spokesperson.
“We recommend that anyone going into the backcountry lets someone know their plans. The park doesn’t track the 1.7 million people that visit each year,” said park spokesperson and avid canyoneer Abby Wines.
According to Death Valley, several clues led to the search for the man. A campground host reported a campsite with a tent still in it but no people.
Rangers left a note on the site and returned the following day to pack up the abandoned items and found climbing gear and a package with a name and address in the tent.
The rangers also recalled seeing a vehicle at Mosaic Canyon Trailhead late in the day a couple of days earlier. The rangers ran the plates after they saw the vehicle was still there later on.
The name in the registration matched the name and address on the package found in the tent.
The search and body recovery was conducted by National Park Service, Inyo County SAR, Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake’s VX-31 rescue helicopter, and California Highway Patrol’s H-82 helicopter.
Park rangers and SAR team members noticed that the man’s rope was not long enough to reach the ground on a long rappel. According to Death Valley, he tied a piece of webbing to the end of the rope but he appeared to have made a mistake when disconnecting his rappel device to pass the knot joining the rope and webbing.
Rangers estimate he fell about 30 feet, park services said.
Canyoneering is a sport that involves descending canyons by a combination of hiking, downclimbing, and rappelling. It is typically done as a group activity, due to the inherent risks. The West Fork route is not a commonly descended route, according to Death Valley National Park.