Death on Little Bear Peak

, , , | UltraRob | Friday, June 18th, 2010 at 8:33 am

Little Bear Hourglass

A young man died from a fall on 14,037 foot Little Bear Peak in southern Colorado on Tuesday. It has brought up many emotions in me. Obviously it’s a sad accident but it also brings up memories of pushing my limits when I was young.

18 year old Kevin Hayne and his friend, 17 year old Travis, were climbing Little Bear Peak, which is one of the toughest fourteeners in Colorado. In fact the 14ers route page, says “This loose, dangerous route is probably the most difficult standard 14er route.” I did a few of the 14ers by non-standard, technical routes but of the standard routes I was on, I’d agree it was the toughest. (I finished climbing the 14ers in 1995, Little Bear was my 51st)

They were near the summit at a section called the Hourglass. Travis wrote on that “The hourglass was completely iced over and was unpassible, we decided to take a ledge on the left side of the hourglass and decided to wait and see if the sun would help melt anything out. 30 seconds after this decision was made, Kevin’s hand/foothold (i could not see all of him) broke lose and he fell several hundred yards down the mountain.”

Travis climbed down to Kevin. It appeared both arms were broken, he was breathing heavily and wasn’t responsive. Travis couldn’t get either of their Spot GPS Tracker to send an emergency signal. After 30 minutes, he made the correct decision and headed down the mountain to alert Search and Rescue.

Rescuers started in on foot. Meanwhile a military helicopter flew in and located Kevin. It’s not clear exactly what happened but it seems it may have it it’s tail rotor into the mountain and crash landed 2,000 feet lower. Fortunately no one in the helicopter as injured and some rescuers climbed to Kevin but it was too late.

My prayers are with his family and friends. I really feel for Travis. I can’t imagine how he feels after seeing it happen.

Last year Kevin had a close call on the Maroon Bells when he and a different friend got caught in a thunderstorm. They tried going down a couloir and Kevin slipped. They didn’t have ice axes which would be a necessity to go down a frozen couloir. His friend went back and Kevin was rescued after using his Spot GPS Tracker. They made a video that tells the chilling story in detail. The thread on mentions he also had another close call 2 weeks after the Maroon Bell one.

It appears Kevin had summited 33 of the 53 fourteeners. By the standard route, none of the fourteeners require technical rock climbing but some like Little Bear are rated Class 4 which is considered rock scrambling. Some people do use rope on Class 4 fourteeners because of long distance you can fall.

After watching the video about the Maroon Bells rescue, I have my doubts that he had the training and the skills to be climbing the toughest fourteeners at least with snow on them. On Maroon Bells he wasn’t carrying an ice axe. I nearly always took an ice axe except on easy peaks late in the summer.

I climbed Little Bear on the July 4th weekend and found the Hourglass tricky even with an ice axe and almost wished I had crampons with me. Photos from a trip report from the day before show slightly more snow than when I was on it.

Of course carrying an ice axe doesn’t do any good if you don’t know how to use it. My brother and I spent a day with a local guide on Pikes Peak doing roped climbing in snow and ice and also did another day of roped rock climbing training. We also did a day of training on a glacier in Alaska with a guide. My brother was 6 years older than me and also made me practice ice axe self arrests when we were on snow were we wouldn’t go too far if we didn’t get right.

If it wasn’t for my brother, I probably would have been out climbing mountains without any special training. I even thought that if I did fall on snow and ice I wouldn’t remember what to do.

I ended up falling from a rock pinnacle trying to reach the summit of a peak in Alaska. I don’t think the fall was much over 10 feet but was onto steep, frozen snow.

I want to encourage people to get out and enjoy the mountains. If you have any doubts though that your skills aren’t good enough to do something, don’t do it. Ask you local outdoor shop about guides or groups that offer classes and training so that you’re safe on your adventures.


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2 responses to “Death on Little Bear Peak”

  1. Jared says:

    Definitely read the reviews of SPOT units and PLBs on this site, This guy is on the board that decides PLB requirements and does some impressive testing of PLBs and SPOTs. Conclusions are very telling. ACR and McMurdo put out quality units and the prices have dropped dramatically, not to mention no subscription fees.

    Also, since the SPOT satellites are in low orbit, their field of view is much more limited than to the higher U.S. government satellites. The PLBs put out a much stronger signal to reach those satellites and for getting through tree canopy.

  2. Murray says:

    Thanks for posting this. Kevin’s tragic death is lesson for us all.

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