The Rich Thompson Accident

The following article is from the interview with Steve Grossman:

Unfortunately Rich was killed in Tucson’s first climbing accident that I remember. He was not a particularly bold face climber, despite the fact that that’s most of the climbing that was here. The irony of that accident was that he had just finished a route called "Shanashee" which was a brilliant face climb up in the Reef of Rocks. Very, very run out, very committing. He put up basically the best route he ever did, as far as a first ascent. He finished that route and was climbing a route called "Block Buster Ballet" which was a 5.6 with his partner Tim Kelly. Tim Kelly had climbed up about 100’ and put in a belay. Rich was following and was trying to do some public service to clean up some loose blocks that were still on the route. He pulled on some of them. One of them, a fairly sizable one, fell across the rope and pulled on Tim’s belay. It had been put in quickly because they were thinking that they were just going to be getting out of there. He really wasn’t planning on holding any kind of a big fall on an easy climb like that and unfortunately the belay was pulled out. Rich fell to the ground with blocks on top of him. Tim Kelly was pulled a 100’ to the ground and survived. That really was an unfortunate end to his climbing career. He was otherwise a very safe climber. It just kind of goes to show you that if you put a belay in, you need to place it well. You never know what is going to happen. The shock and the loss were pretty big. His wife Rene at the time is now married to Dave Baker and has a family. It kind of made all of us stop and take a look at what we were doing very seriously. Then we realized that Rich, of course, wouldn’t have wanted us to quit climbing on his account so we all kind of went back at it, a little bit wiser for the experience.

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Copyright ©: 2001, RAHutchins and Steve Grossman
Revised: July 13, 2001