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Smith Rock climber rescued after 70-foot slip and fall

Smith Rock 70-Foot Fall Survivor Thankful - But Without Insurance, Seeking Second 'Rescue'
KTVZ.COM News Sources
August 26, 2010, updated September 2, 2010

Brittanie Shepherd of Bend is recovering from injuries suffered in a 70-foot tumble at Smith Rock, but her love of the place - and of climbing - remain unbroken.

A Bend woman who fell 70 feet while climbing Smith Rock late last month said Thursday she's feeling better and offered thanks to her rescuers.

"I'd love to say thank you to the search and rescue crew," said Brittanie Shepherd, 24, who is recovering at her mother's home near Portland.

Deschutes County Sheriff's Search and Rescue, sheriff's deputies and Redmond Fire medics took nearly four hours to help Shepherd to safety after she fell 10 feet to a ledge -- then her backpack full of supplies pulled her off the ledge, to another 60-foot plunge.

She broke her ankle in eight places, broke two bones in her back and also suffered a skulled fracture in an incident she barely remembers.

"I mean, that's really blurry and really hazy for me, but I know they put in a tremendous amount of work in getting me out of there," Shepherd said.

In an earlier posting on KTVZ.COM's article about her fall and rescue, Shepherd said, "Smith Rock has become like a second home to me this last summer, and really is a beautiful, magic place."

Her love of the place -- and of climbing -- clearly remain unbroken.

"Rock climbing is a very safe sport," she wrote, "but we must remember that accidents can happen in any situation at any time -- even just walking to where we want to be."

As for "the SAR folks," she added, "I know my life was counting on every second of hard work to be alive."

Echoing another commenter, Shepherd said, "Yes, this will be a grand ol' story to tell the grandkids one day!"

And she signed her notes: "Grateful to be alive."

Grateful, but now in need of a different sort of help -- financial, as Shepherd is uninsured.

Her brother, Ash, has helped start a fund-raising effort to help pay for hospital, physical therapy and related bills, as well as rent while she's out of work.

A Website created at had 120 visits its first day, from three continents, he said. A Facebook page also has been created (search: The Britt Recovery Fund).

Deschutes County 911 got a call around 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 25 that a climber had fallen from a trail on the east side of Smith Rock State Park, said sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Shelton,

A climbing party had been traveling to a site in the area, directly behind the ranger’s quarters, when the accident occurred.

Shepherd had lost her footing on the trail, Shelton said. She first fell a short distance, about 10 feet, to a small ledge -- but the backpack she was carrying with climbing gear went over the ledge, pulling her over, he said.

Shepherd then fell another 50 to 60 feet before coming to rest on an outcropping, Shelton said. She was unconscious when others in the climbing party made their way to where she landed.

Redmond Fire, sheriff’s deputies and Sheriff’s Search and Rescue responded to the scene. The Redmond crew rappelled to Sheppard’s location and began treating her, Shelton said.

SAR responded with 18 personnel for the joint rescue operation, which involved 26 people and took about four hours from the initial call to complete, Shelton said.


Comments posted on

First of all I would like to say that I am happy to hear Brittanie is ok and on the road to recovery. As an avid outdoorsman that is into many high risk sports it is always relieving to see someone end up ok after a fall that very easily could have been fatal.

That said, I think it is worth pointing out that doing high risk activities without any form of health insurance is a bad idea. I realize that it is expensive and hard to afford (especially during tough times) but you really shouldn't be rock climbing or anything else that is high risk if you don't have some sort of accident coverage. I hope that others that are doing the same will recognize the financial hardship that your decisions have put you in. I do hope that the fundraising effort is successful and that you don't have to face a mountain of debt when you recover, but I also hope that your accident sends a message to others that they either need to be insured or stop climbing, skiing, biking, etc. until they can afford insurance.

From one climber to another I hope that you heal quickly and are back out at Smith Rock soon. However, please remember to get your insurance before you do.

I presume the former comment was made by someone who believes getting health insurance is as easy as ordering a Big Mac in this country! There are over 48 MILLION Americans in this country who do not have health insurance and the BBC just reported that there are now 1 in every 7 Americans that are living below the poverty line. I highly doubt everyone of them is sitting on the couch.......just playin' it safe.

Seen Michael Moore's, "Sicko" lately?

Ask someone to stop all activity while they are uninsured and you are asking 48 Million Americans to stop living.
-- Good point Brittanie!! Webmeister Speik

Contact Brittanie here:    and here:



The Rest of the Story

The literature of traditional mountaineering is filled with moments of great joy and great sorrow. We rejoice in sharing the summits and we share the sadness of injury, loss and death. We traditional mountaineers can learn from past events if we can know about them and can remember the details of what happened.

On Sunday morning, November 4, 2007, Jim Anglin, 55, of White Salmon, Washington, was descending into the Gorge by a Fourth Class climbers' way at the southeast end of Smith Rock State Park when he lost his footing and fell about 100 feet to his death. No one saw him slip. Anglin and his climbing companions had been heading down into the Gorge to climb traditional (unbolted) routes in that area of the Park.

Jim Anglin had been rock climbing at the highest level at Smith Rock since the 1980's, and is credited with many First Ascents. Recently, he had participated in replacing anchors on well known routes on Monkey Face.

Brittanie Shepherd tells us in an interview a few days ago, that she was thrown off balance and fell on this Fourth Class climbers way, just a few feet from where Jim fell to his death. She states that her day pack, filled with heavy trad climbing gear, shifted and pulled her off balance to a fall and then a 70 foot tumble on the hard Basaltic rock cliff, into the gorge.

Brittanie suffered a fractured vertebrae, a badly fractured ankle and a serious concussion. Immediately, her climbing partners, Mike Rowley and Jordan Nelson, stabilized Brittanie. Immediately, a cell phone call was made to 911 and the Redmond Fire Department responded. Soon, Deschutes County Sheriff's SAR unit arrived, trained and equipped for high angle rescues. It took about four hours to raise Brittanie to the top of the cliff behind the Park office. Brittanie was loaded into a waiting ambulance and taken to Redmond Hospital. (An on-call helicopter was declined due to the high cost, lack of insurance and the proximity of Redmond Hospital to Terrabonne and Smith Rock State Park).

Brittanie had medical expenses of about $50,000. Her brother created a web site and friends at Red Point Climbers Supply enabled donations to assist the fallen climber. About $5,000 was raised, for which she is grateful. She lost three months of work and is still faced with a very very large medical bill. She is enrolled at COCC and hopes to be accepted in their nursing program. She is rock climbing again with her brother and friends.

The climber's way into the Lower Gorge is described as a Fourth Class descent slot by Alan Watts on page 234 of his "Climber's Guide to Smith Rock". Fourth Class climbing requires balance, care, and the use of hands and may involve serious injury or death if a fall should occur.

We hope climbers learn from the death of Jim Anglin and the serious injuries to Brittanie Shepherd, to be highly respectful of this Fourth Class climbers' way down into the Lower Gorge.
--Robert Speik, August 2, 2012



See yonder height! 'Tis far away -- unbidden comes the word "Impossible!"

"Not so," says the mountaineer. "The way is long, I know; its difficult -- it may be dangerous."

"It's possible, I'm sure; I'll seek the way, take counsel of my brother mountaineers,
and find out how they have reached similar heights and learned to avoid the dangers."

He starts (all slumbering down below); the path is slippery - and may be dangerous too.
Caution and perseverance gain the day
-- the height is reached! and those beneath cry, "Incredible! 'Tis superhuman!"

This is a passage we found on page 161 of "Scrambles Amongst the Alps" by Edward Wymper,
first published in 1871 and reprinted 1981 by Ten Speed Press, Berkley, CA.



"To provide information and instruction about world-wide basic to advanced alpine mountain climbing safety skills and gear, on and off trail hiking, scrambling and light and fast Leave No Trace backpacking techniques based on the foundation of an appreciation for the Stewardship of the Land, all illustrated through photographs and accounts of actual shared mountaineering adventures."

TraditionalMountaineering is founded on the premise that "He who knows naught, knows not that he knows naught", that exploring the hills and summitting peaks have dangers that are hidden to the un-informed and that these inherent risks can be in part, identified and mitigated by mentoring: information, training, wonderful gear, and knowledge gained through the experiences of others.

The value of TraditionalMountaineering to our Friends and Subscribers is the selectivity of the information we provide, and its relevance to introducing folks to informed hiking on the trail, exploring off the trail, mountain travel and Leave-no-Trace light-weight bivy and backpacking, technical travel over steep snow, rock and ice, technical glacier travel and a little technical rock climbing on the way to the summit. Whatever your capabilities and interests, there is a place for everyone in traditional alpine mountaineering.




Mountain climbing has inherent dangers that can, only in part, be mitigated

Read more . . .
American Alpine Club
Oregon Section of the AAC
Accidents in North American Mountaineering

Smith Rock climber survives 40-foot fall, rescued by SAR
Smith Rock climber rescued after 70-foot sliding fall
Two climbers die in fall from Horsethief Butte Crags, WA
Smith Rock veteran slips from climber's trace and dies
AAC Report: Smith Rock Leader fall turns climber upside down
Three climbers, their MLU and a dog rescued on Mt. Hood
Three North Face climbers lost on Mt. Hood
Family of five and exhausted Great Dane dog rescued from South Sister Climber's Trail
Climbing the Snow Creek Route on Mt. San Jacinto, California
Cheating death on the Snow Creek Route on Mt San Jacinto, California
A climb of Three Fingered Jack in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness
Ten high altitude deaths on Everest confirmed for 2006 climbing season
On Being and Becoming a Mountaineer: an Essay
Climbing Mount Hood in April with Arlene Blum and friends
AAC Report - Accident on Mount Washington ends with helicopter rescue
AAC Report - Fatal fall from Three Finger Jack in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness
Three Finger Jack - OSU student falls on steep scree slope
Mount Huntington's West Face by Coley Gentzel ©2005 by AAI. All Rights Reserved
Solo climber falls from Cooper Spur on Mount Hood
Climber dies on the steep snow slopes of Mount McLaughlin
Climbers swept by avalanche while descending North Sister's Thayer Glacier Snowfield
Mt. Whitney's East Face Route is quicker!
Mt. Whitney's Mountaineer's Route requires skill and experience
Report: R.J. Secor seriously injured during a runaway glissade
    Mount Rainer . . . eventually, with R.J. Secor by Tracy Sutkin
Warning!! ** Belayer drops climber off the end of the top rope
Runaway glissade fatal for Mazama climber on Mt. Whitney
Sierra Club climb on Middle Palisade fatal for Brian Reynolds
Smith Rock - Fall on rock, protection pulled out
Mount Washington - Report to the American Alpine Club on a second accident in 2004
Mount Hood - Solo hiker drowns while crossing Mt. Hood's Sandy River
Mount Hood - Solo climber slides into the Bergschrund and is found the following day
Notable mountain climbing accidents analyzed 
Mount Washington - Report to the American Alpine Club on the recent fatal accident
Mount Washington - "Oregon tragedy claims two lives"
Mount Jefferson - two climbers rescued by military helicopter
North Sister - climbing with Allan Throop

Smith Rock - AAC: Climber injured in fall near Smith Rock, lowered in high angle rescue
Smith Rock - Climbers injured by Monkey Face swing stunt
Smith Rock - AAC: Climber survives 40-foot fall, rescued by SAR
Smith Rock - AAC: Climber rescued after 70-foot sliding fall
Smith Rock - AAC: Climbers become stranded on Monkey Face
Smith Rock - AAC: Warning!! - Climber falls trying to clip first bolt
Smith Rock - AAC: Experienced rock climber Jim Anglin dies
Smith Rock - Leader ground fall, witness reports in 2007
Smith Rock - AAC: Leader fall turns climber upside down
Smith Rock - AAC: Warning!! - Belayer drops climber off the end of the top rope
Smith Rock - AAC: Fall on rock - protection pulled out
Smith Rock - AAC: WARNING - Belayer drops climber off the end of the top rope
Smith Rock - AAC: Inadequate top rope belay
Smith Rock - AAC: Climber injured on the approach
Smith Rock - AAC: WARNING - Belayer drops climber off the end of the top rope
Smith Rock - AAC: Belay error - novice sport climber injured
Smith Rock - AAC: Fall on rock, protection pulled out
Smith Rock - AAC: Fall on rock - poor position, inadequate protection
Smith Rock - AAC: Pulled rock off - fall on rock, failure to test holds, exceeding abilities
Smith Rock - Eye witness report of a serious fall
Smith Rock - AAC: Belay error - fatal fall on rock
Smith Rock - Portland man hurt in fall in 1987

American Alpine Club's 2007 Annual Meeting in Bend Oregon
Smith Rock Detour Bouldering Contest and Reel Rock Tour
Redmond Fire Department rescues a senior hiker at Smith Rock
Smith Rock Spring Thing in 2006
Smith Rock Spring Thing 2006 volunteer's party at the Barn
HERA climb for life fundraiser at Smith Rock
HERA climb4life party at the Smith Rock Barn
American Alpine Club and Traditional Mountaineering build another rescue cache at Smith Rock
Smith Rock Spring Thing Improvements
Smith Rock Spring Thing 2004 Party!   
Smith Rock hiking in the spring
Smith Rock from above the Burma Road
Smith Rock rescue cache by AAC/ORS and TraditionalMountaineering
Smith Rock weekend
Smith Rock Monkey Face practice