Subscribe for 17¢ / day

CODY, Wyo. - A Laramie man died Friday afternoon while ice climbing in a remote part of the South Fork Valley, about 40 miles southwest of Cody.

Keith Spencer, 45, was climbing near the top of a 1,000-foot frozen waterfall when he was knocked off the ice by an avalanche and fell to his death, according to a statement released Monday by Park County Sheriff Scott Steward.

Spencer had been climbing with Mark Jenkins, 50, also from Laramie. Steward described both men as "very experienced" climbers.

Jenkins, who was higher on the ice, reported hearing Spencer call out warning of an avalanche before a wall of snow struck the lower climber.

The avalanche was the third the men had encountered Friday, a day when the area had received heavy snow, Steward said.

Jenkins climbed down to assist Spencer but determined that he was dead, and hiked to a nearby ranch to report the incident, Steward said.

The waterfall, known by climbers as The Main Vein, is one of dozens of popular climbs in the area, and lies in a rugged canyon not covered by cell phone service.

Park County Search and Rescue responded to the scene and determined that conditions were too risky late Friday to recover Spencer's body.

Three local climbers worked Saturday with Search and Rescue personnel to retrieve the body, completing the task by about 4 p.m., Steward said.

Steward commended Aaron Mulkey, Don Foote and Travis Hannon, the three climbers who assisted Search and Rescue, saying the men worked in extreme cold and under difficult conditions.

Steward said ice climbing in the South Fork Valley continues to grow in popularity.

"It's amazing the amount of people doing it. It's getting to be huge," he said, adding that more than a dozen vehicles were parked in the area over the weekend.

Contact Ruffin Prevost at rprevost@billingsgazette.com or 307-527-7250.

0
0
0
0
0