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Sierra Club climb of North Palisade fatal for Brian Reynolds

Brian Reynolds dies in Sierra Nevada accident
Wilderness Travel Course leader was no amateur

By Beth Epstein
Sierra Club Newsletter

Angeles Chapter Wilderness Training Committee leader Brian Reynolds died in a climbing accident on Aug. 22. Brian fell while climbing the steeply exposed northeast face of Middle Palisade on a mountaineering trip sponsored by WTC and the Sierra Peaks Section.

Brian fell unexpectedly from a ledge during a rest stop as the climbing party approached the summit ridge. He had been climbing strongly, and those standing near him said he released the rock and fell back as they waited for a guided group with climbers on a short rope to descend past them. One of the leaders of Brian’s party, Patrick McKusky, wrote:

“We were about half way up the third-class section of the climb when we halted to let another group descend around us. Brian was standing on a ledge, about eight feet to my right. As the other group was moving past us, Brian fell backwards. He uttered no sound and he made no movement. He passed away instantly and he did not suffer. None of us know how or why he fell. Less than an hour earlier, I asked Brian how he was doing. He looked at me with his beautiful smile and said, ‘Everything is perfectly

The leaders descended to him and finding his body lifeless, called the Inyo County Sheriff. The Inyo Search and Rescue Team flew in on a Forest Service helicopter and remained with his body overnight until it could be evacuated the next day.

An avid outdoorsman, Brian took the Wilderness Travel Course in the San Gabriel Valley in 2000, and he graduated and became an assistant leader. His love of climbing and his skill as a climber grew and led to frequent trips to Joshua Tree and ascents of increasing difficulty in the Sierra. He was a gifted teacher, beloved by students.

Brian is survived by his mother, Jean, his father, Russ, his brother, Dave, his stepmother, Dee, and his stepbrother and stepsisters, Trevor and Hallie.


Please read our comments on this unfortunate accident:
The best led trips are not immune from fatal accidents. Beyond Risk, Conversations with Climbers, edited by Nicholas OConnell, makes the case that Risk is an integral part of mountaineering.

I did not know Brian Reynolds or any of the leaders and participants on the climb of the north face of Middle Palisade. I do know that Brian, a young attorney, was part of a  Sierra Club Angeles Chapter system designed to introduce folks to the experience of traditional mountaineering. Brian was a graduate and an Assistant Leader in the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter's Wilderness Travel Course and he was climbing with members of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter's Sierra Peaks Section (SPS).

Basic and Advanced Mountaineering training courses were conducted from the 1960s through the mid 1980s. The Basic Mountaineering Training Course (BMTC) was renamed the Wilderness Travel Course in about 1987 and the Advanced Mountaineering Training Course (AMTC) was dropped due to the rising costs of Club liability insurance. To learn more about this Club training system, start with the current WTC Newsletter . Warning, this is a very big PDF File and it is best accessed by broadband.
--Webmeister Speik

Note: In the mid 1980s, Robert Speik was Chair for three years of the Mountaineering Training Committee (MTC) of the Sierra Club's large Angeles Chapter in Southern California. The Committee was responsible for the training up to 1,000 people per year in Basic and Advanced Mountaineering Training with more than 250 volunteer Leaders in five geographical areas, qualified in several levels of technical competence and responsibility. Bob Speik edited a new MTC Staff Handbook in 1985, writing the chapter on technical Snow Climbing. Recently, he has conducted popular class room and field classes in several mountaineering subjects for Central Oregon Community College in Bend Oregon. --Margaret Thompson Speik





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