Pioneering climber killed in glacier fall

Posted: Sunday, August 15, 1999

ANCHORAGE - A pioneering climber known for his evangelical devotion to his sport was killed Friday when he fell while making a first ascent near Portage Glacier.

Stephen Garvey, 40, of Anchorage dropped 100 feet down a sheer rock face when a sharp rock sliced his safety rope during a fall, Alaska State Troopers said.

Rescue workers hiked 600 feet up rock at Middle Glacier and attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation without success. Garvey likely died on impact, trooper Barry Wilson said. His body was taken by helicopter to Anchorage.

Garvey, a North Slope oil-field worker who dedicated much of his free time to climbing, pioneered hundreds of routes and held a reputation as one of the best technical rock and ice climbers in the state.

``Someone could go out to the Seward Highway and do five climbs, and there's a good bet that at least one or two of them would have been established by Steve Garvey,'' fellow climber Jay Rowe said.

``He turned so many people on to the sport,'' Rowe said. ``He just got so much joy out of it. He's done that with scores of people.''

Garvey, raised in New Weymouth, Mass., had 25 years of experience, 22 of those in Alaska.

``Bar none, he was the guy who did the most climbing in Alaska ever,'' said Jim Sweeney, his climbing partner of 18 years. ``The way I explain it to people is he's ice-climbed more than everyone else put together.''

Garvey had completed a morning climb Friday with partner Matt Howard and was leading a second climb at noon when Howard noticed the safety rope had gone slack, Sweeney said. Howard turned and saw Garvey hit the rock outcrop on which he was standing and roll a few feet down a shale slope.

Troopers said the rock had cut his 10.5-millimeter nylon rope about a foot from his climbing harness.

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