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Climbing Fatality on Touchstone Route in Zion National Park

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Date: October 18, 2008
Contact: Tom Haraden, 435 772-0161
Contact: Ron Terry, 435 772-0160

James Martin Welton, 34, of Durango, CO, fell to his death while climbing in Zion National Park on Friday, October 17, 2008.  The fall was from a popular climbing route called “Touchstone.” The cause of the incident is currently under investigation by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in cooperation with the National Park Service.   

At approximately 7:15 p.m. two climbers who were ascending a nearby route stopped a Zion Canyon Shuttle Bus and reported that another climber had fallen. Rangers on scene determined that Welton had fallen approximately 300 feet and confirmed it was a fatality. His two climbing partners witnessed the fall. Eleven members of the Zion Search and Rescue Team responded and worked through the night removing the victim and investigating the fall.

Touchstone is one of the most popular big wall climbs in the park, located across the canyon from Angels Landing.  Over 1,000 feet high from river to rim, it is usually a two-day climb requiring an overnight stay on a “port-a-ledge,” a cot-like device attached to the wall. Welton was considered a very experienced climber. He recently completed a climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

This is the first fatality in the park for 2008, and the sixth climbing fatality since 1983.

Did You Know?


During the summer or fall, you may see a tarantula crossing a road or trail in Zion National Park. But don’t be frightened-- tarantulas are actually amazing arachnids--gentle, basically harmless creatures that have suffered a bum rap. More...