Peak bagging, when climbers ascend multiple routes or peaks in the same area, has grown increasingly popular with outdoor enthusiasts. Heavy backpacks can be left at a base camp, and the payoff is unparalleled views during each peak experience.
But when on these vertical slopes, an element of risk is always involved. Apparently, on Thursday, July 12, it was one misstep that caused Ryan Frendewey, 30, a physical therapist from Valencia, to fall 200 feet to his death while attempting to descend Center Peak (elevation 12,760 feet) in the southeastern-most section of Kings Canyon National Park.
At about 3:50 p.m., a hiker passing by on the adjacent John Muir Trail heard the Frendewey’s partner calling for help from another location on Center Peak. The JMT hiker was unable to contact the person who was calling for help but was successful in connecting with the National Park Service to report the emergency.
An NPS wilderness ranger responded on foot and a helicopter short-hauled another ranger to the 12,000-foot level of the peak. The victim’s partner, a 37-year-old male, was uninjured but stranded and couldn’t go up or down. He was safely evacuated; the fall victim nearby was confirmed deceased at 6:30 p.m.
Due to a storm system that parked overhead and delivered about seven hours of monsoonal moisture, a SAR team returned the next day and recovered the body of Frendewey using short-haul and long-line rescue techniques. He was transported to the Tulare County Coroner’s Office where it was confirmed that the cause of death was blunt force trauma suffered as a result of the fall.
Information collected at the scene suggests that Frendewey fell while he was attempting to re-ascend after reaching the summit and attempting to descend via a different route. The pair had been peak-bagging multiple area peaks that day without technical climbing equipment or helmets, the Park Service reported.
An investigation into the fatality is ongoing. It started raining after the fall occurred and operations were concurrent with four other SAR incidents while the parks’ phone and Internet systems were down.