Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Absolutely Ridiculous, Good Bye Craig Leubben

I'm re-posting this blog from which Stewart Green talks about Craig Leubben whom I didn't know personally, but had a great impact on my climbing safety and technical abilities through his books. Craig was competent enough a climber and a writer to keep me and my rope mates safe over the years.

Knots for Climbers, How To Ice Climb, and Climbing Anchors are a few that come to mind as being well worn, with Climbing Anchors probably being the most influential book on my shelf aside from Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills.

News of a highly skilled and competent climber being killed is always sobering, but we are lucky that Craig was a climber, teacher, writer, and photographer even if the end result was tragic. A lot of us learned through his books and articles, others learned first hand through his guiding. I'm certain Craig has had an immeasurable impact on climbing safety and the progression of novice climbers, he will be missed.

Details are emerging about the death of Craig Luebben, a well-known climbing guide and author from Colorado, who died yesterday in a freak climbing accident on the southeast face of 8,120-foot Mount Torment in North Cascades National Park.

Leubben and partner Guillermo “Willie” Benegas were climbing the Torment-Forbidden Traverse route, a mile-long Grade III rock and ice route that connects Mount Torment and Forbidden Peak. The long moderate route includes technical snow and ice up to 50 degrees, rock climbing, and scrambling on easier terrain.

As the pair neared the top of the Taboo Glacier below Mount Torment’s southeast face at about 6 a.m., they encountered a bergshrund or huge gap in the glacier. While leading, Craig climbed onto the upper part of the bergshrund when without warning an immense slab of ice broke away from the glacier. The chunk of ice, approximately 100 feet high, 20 feet wide, and ten feet thick, swept Leubben about 45 feet into an ice moat. Large pieces of ice hit and critically injured him, leaving him hanging on the rope. Apparently a cam he had placed kept him from falling further. Benegas immediately climbed down to Craig, pulled him onto a ledge, and called 911 on his cell phone. Luebben, however, died before rescuers arrived by helicopter. Rangers then rescued Benegas and removed Luebben’s remains.

Craig Luebben was not only a genuine person, but also an incredibly experienced and careful climber. He was the author of seven books about climbing, including Advanced Rock Climbingcoauthored with John Long, and Rock Climbing: Mastering Basic Skills, which won a 2004 National Outdoor Book Award. Craig, a fellow author for FalconGuides, knew all about climbing technique and safety, and taught lots of skill classes in setting up anchors, climbing safety, and self rescue techniques.

Last evening when I first heard the news about Craig, I was sitting on my front porch talking with my son Ian Green. We didn’t have any details about the accident but both agreed that it had to have been rockfall because Craig was just too smart and cautious and experienced climber to mess up.

Whenever we venture into the high mountains, there is always the possibility of stuff happening that is simply beyond our control. That was the case here. A terrible event happened to two extremely experienced and competent alpinists. There was nothing they could do. It was the mountain—taking Craig home.

Details on Craig Leubben's Tragic Climbing Accident by Stewart Green