North Carolina man dies in climbing fall

Climber died Saturday when rope was cut on a rock on west Taku Tower

Posted: Wednesday, July 09, 2003

State troopers on Monday recovered the body of a North Carolina man who died Saturday in a climbing accident on the Juneau Icefield.

Troopers on Tuesday morning identified the deceased as Jeffrey Sutton, 29, an Army captain from Fayetteville, N.C., who was transferring to the U.S. Coast Guard. Officials at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville confirmed a Jeffrey Sutton was stationed there but provided no other information.

According to a trooper statement, Sutton and Army Capt. Arleigh William Dean, 29, of Juneau were climbing the west Taku Tower at 3:30 p.m. Saturday when Sutton's rope was cut on a rock as he was about a third of the way down. He fell to the tower base.

The Taku Towers are about 15 miles northeast of Mendenhall Lake.

Troopers said Dean rappelled to the tower base and found Sutton dead. Dean skied to a nearby camp, but couldn't locate the caretaker, and then skied back to his own camp and secured Sutton's body in a bag, troopers said. Dean then skied to the north branch of the Mendenhall Glacier and radioed for help.

A TEMSCO helicopter picked up Dean at 1:45 p.m. Monday, troopers said. At 7 p.m., troopers and Dean, using a North Star Helicopters craft, recovered Sutton's body. North Star referred all reporters' calls to the troopers.

The Taku Towers are mountain peaks not covered by ice, and they rise to an elevation of about 7,000 feet from the surrounding icefield, which is 5,000 to 5,400 feet in elevation.

Scott Fischer, a mountaineer who climbed the west tower in the early 1980s, said the towers are rarely climbed because of their remoteness. The climbs require technical mountaineering skills.

"The rock climbing, depending on the route of course, is technical and can be very difficult," he said. "Certainly, the west tower has no easy route up it. It's going to be a technical climb no matter how they got up it. It's an alpine environment - you're out in the wilderness, so you have to know how to be self-sufficient."

Eric Fry can be reached at

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