A 34-year-old Colorado climber working on one of Zion National Park's more popular climbing routes has fallen an estimated 300 feet to his death
Park officials say James Martin Welton of Durango fell to his death Friday evening. Mr. Welton was on the “Touchstone” route at the time of his fall. The cause of the incident is currently under investigation by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in cooperation with the National Park Service.
According to rangers, at approximately 7:15 p.m. Friday two climbers who were ascending a nearby route stopped a Zion Canyon Shuttle Bus and reported that another climber had fallen. Rangers on scene determined that Mr. Welton fell approximately 300 feet to his death. His two climbing partners witnessed the fall.
Eleven members of the Zion Search and Rescue Team responded and worked through the night removing the victim and investigating the fall.
Touchstone is one of the most popular big wall climbs in the park, located across the canyon from Angel's Landing. Over 1,000 feet high from river to rim, it is usually a two-day climb requiring an overnight stay on a “port-a-ledge,” a cot-like device attached to the wall. Mr. Welton was considered a very experienced climber. He recently completed a climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
This is the first fatality in the park for 2008, and the sixth climbing fatality since 1983.