Lara Karena Kellogg, 04-23-07

Climber from Outside dies after Denali fall

By MEGAN HOLLAND, Anchorage Daily News

Published: April 24, 2007

A climber died Monday after falling 1,000-feet while rappelling on a mountain in Denali National Park and Preserve.

The climber has not been identified because the individual's spouse is out of the country and has not been contacted, park spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin said. McLaughlin would only say that the climber is not from Alaska.

The accident occurred on Mt. Wake at about 6 p.m. The climber was descending after a day climb up the 8,130-foot peak with a partner, and was below the partner and out of sight, when the fall occurred.

Park authorities said they do not know why the climber fell.

The climbing partner then descended to the body and confirmed the death. The partner sought help from another climbing group and was able to call authorities on a satellite phone.

The body was recovered early Tuesday morning.

Mt. Wake is a technical peak of mixed rock, snow and ice in the Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier. Less than half a dozen climbing teams attempt it a year, McLaughlin said.

Thirteen years ago, one day shy of yesterday’s accident, two climbers died while rappelling off the same peak.

Daily News reporter Megan Holland can be reached at or 257-4343.

Missing knot killed climber
DENALI PARK: Partner on Mount Wake says line ran out during descent. By MATIAS SAARI, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Published: April 28, 2007

A simple knot would have prevented 38-year-old Lara Karena Kellogg from rappelling off the end of her rope and falling to her death Monday on a technical mountain in Denali National Park and Preserve, her Fairbanks climbing partner said.

Jed Kallen-Brown, 23, was above Kellogg and out of her sight on Mount Wake when he heard her scream, followed by the sound of a person falling. Kallen-Brown, who arrived back in Fairbanks Wednesday night, has two theories about what happened.

"The most likely scenario is she was looking for gear, didn't realize how close to the end of the rope she was, and it just slipped through her hand," said Kallen-Brown, who met Kellogg more than a year ago and had climbed with her in California's Yosemite Park. Kellogg was from Seattle.

"The other possible scenario is that she knew she was close to the end of the rope, intended to only let a small amount of rope through, and due to the slippery belay rope combination, more rope than intended went through the device, and she went off the end of the rope that way," Kallen-Brown said.

Kellogg, a climber of 15 years who had been in the Alaska Range before, was rappelling on a single strand and was setting protective devices for Kallen-Brown to belay him down to her. A safety knot at the end of the rope would have prevented her 1,300-foot fall, Kallen-Brown said.

While tying such a knot is recommended in manuals, experienced climbers commonly don't do it, Kallen-Brown said.

Such knots can also be problematic because they are time-consuming and can get stuck in rock cracks, Kallen-Brown said.

However, the Fairbanks climber said he will begin using protective knots while rappelling.

"I've reassessed the value judgment, and I now feel that putting that knot in the end of the rope is worth it for safety matters," he said.

The accident occurred in a steep, rocky section of the rarely climbed 9,130-foot peak in The Great Gorge area of the Ruth Glacier, about 15 miles southeast of Mount McKinley. The pair set out on a day climb about 5 a.m. Monday and had been climbing mixed ice, snow and rock for more than 13 hours. They had ascended about 3,500 feet before turning back, 1,400 feet shy of the summit, due to unstable snow conditions and a large mushroom-shaped snow obstacle, Kallen-Brown said. Their route, the mountain's Northeast Ridge, had previously been summitted just once, he said.

The climbing fatality is the first in Denali National Park this season. Two climbers died rappelling down Mount Wake in 1994.

Kallen-Brown, who dangerously down-climbed alone for 50 minutes to reach his partner's body at the bottom of a steep gully and confirm her death, was visibly affected while discussing the accident. He believes she died on impact.

"It's really a kind of a shocking and raw experience. As much as you play the scenarios through your head, it's completely different when it actually happens, and I don't think you can actually be prepared for it," he said. He previously had experienced nothing worse than frost nip despite a handful of ambitious climbs that included last month's first winter ascent of the Alaska Range's Mount Huntington.

Word of Kellogg's death spread quickly through the Seattle climbing community. She was a research scientist for the Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory, which does research for the U.S. Forest Service. David Peterson leads the team Kellogg worked on and called her a dedicated and curious team player -- one of the lab's most valuable employees.

"She was so much brighter and so much more engaged than most other people, but yet she was very, very humble about that," Peterson said.

He said Kellogg spent every weekend skiing, climbing or hiking, and was equally passionate about science.

"A good model in some ways, for how to live your life, you know: Don't hold back, just go for it," he said

Kallen-Brown and Kellogg had been in the Ruth Glacier area for about a week before her death and intended staying there until May 4. Now Kallen-Brown will travel to Seattle today and spend about a week there before heading to Greenland for glaciology work.

Kallen-Brown will continue climbing and plans to attempt a 24,200-foot peak in Pakistan beginning in late August.

"It doesn't change my love for the mountains. It doesn't make a difference for me as far as stopping climbing," he said. "It does provide a different perspective on safety and the things that we kind of take for granted, the aspects of climbing where a mistake has dire consequences."

Kallen-Brown called Kellogg an impressive climber, a vibrant individual and a good scientist.

"We had a lot of things in common and really good dialogue," he said. "We were certainly disappointed to turn around up high because of the snow conditions, but it was really enjoyable climbing. Throughout the day she had a big smile on her face just enjoying the climbing ... right up until the end."