May 4, 2005: Jim Ratz, co-owner of Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and former executive director of the National Outdoor Leadership Institute, rappels off the end of his rope while scouting a route in Sinks Canyon near Lander.

July 23, 2016: Gary Falk, an accomplished mountain guide, falls 2,400 feet after a knot fails while he attempts to free a stuck belay device on the Grand Teton.

July 23, 2018: On the Guides’ Wall in Cascade Canyon, Marco Dees, an experienced climber, falls from a belay station. Investigators believe he clipped into only one strand of his rope and weighted it, pulling the rope and stranding his climbing partner.

Though the circumstances and the exact cause of each death differs, the scenarios are connected by one important detail: Each man died after making a mistake while descending a climb.

Competent rappelling is an integral skill; mistakes made while descending can have dire consequences, even on single-pitch routes. With that in mind, Brenton Reagan led a group of climbers Thursday at the Teton Boulder Park through techniques designed to keep them safe while rappelling.

The clinic sponsored by Exum Mountain Guides, Arc’teryx and Teton Mountaineering reviewed three main things: extending a belay device, tying an autoblock backup knot and pre-rigging at a rappel station. The clinic, Reagan’s brainchild, is part of a series that will continue all summer.

“It came from the idea of ‘How can I get the safety and technical skills to the community, to people that need them most?’” he said.

Read more about the clinic in Sports.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-5902 or

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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