Seattle climber Lara-Karena Kellogg, 38, was killed in a rappelling accident while descending Mt. Wake in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge last Monday. Kellogg’s name was not been released until days later because her husband, Chad Kellogg, was climbing in China and could not be contacted immediately.
Kellogg was attempting the Northeast Buttress of Mt. Wake (ca. 9,100 feet) with Jed Brown from Fairbanks, Alaska. The two had turned back before the summit because of dangerous snow conditions, and they were descending with Kellogg rappelling a single strand of rope and then Brown downclimbing to join her at the anchor. Kellogg had traversed out of sight of Brown during one of these rappels when she apparently rappelled off the end of her rope and fell about 1,000 feet. Brown then downclimbed and rappelled to the glacier and discovered her body. Brown, one of Alaska’s most talented and experienced young alpinists, has posted a detailed account of the accident at his website: www.59a2.org. Two climbers died in a rappelling accident at nearly this exact same spot on Mt. Wake in 1994.
In his accident report, Brown wrote that Kellogg may have been distracted by her search for an anchor and not realized how close she was to the end of the rope; he added that fatigue may have played a role, and that their rappel system (a single 8.5mm rope and a Petzl Reverso) was “slippery.” Whatever the immediate cause of the accident, Brown wrote, “I am confident that a knot in the end of the rope would have made the difference. This has certainly caused me to rethink the value judgment that the added security is not worth the hassle of stuck ropes and extra time to tie and untie knots.”
Kellogg (née Bitenieks) was a fixture of the Seattle climbing scene. She had been climbing about 15 years, had worked as a climbing guide and Mt. Rainier climbing ranger, and had completed high-level mountaineering trips to several continents and throughout North America. She worked as a research scientist for the University of Washington’s Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory. At the time of the accident, her husband, Chad Kellogg, was attempting a new route on Mt. Siguniang in China with Joe Puryear, backed by one of the AAC’s new McNeill-Nott climbing grants.
Many photographs and memories of Lara Kellogg’s life have been posted at http://rememberlara.blogspot.com/.
Date of Accident: April 23, 2007