A man died in a “mistake” fall in Death Valley National Park

A 54-year-old man died earlier this month after falling while hiking alone in California’s Death Valley National Park.

The National Park Service, which did not identify the man, said he was found in a search on Dec. 3.

The camp host said there was a tented camp after the date the site was paid for and no people there.

Park rangers posted a note at the site and returned the next day to pick up the abandoned property.


When they returned, they found a package with climbing equipment and a name and address in the tent.

The rangers recalled seeing the vehicle at the Mosaic Canyon Trailhead a few days earlier after they had finished retrieving an injured man.

The asphalt road passes through smooth white polished marble walls in Mosaic Canyon in Death Valley National Park, California.
((Photo credit: Sergio Pitamitz/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images))

The car was still there, so they checked the license plates and found that the car was registered to the person listed on the package in the tent.

The search and subsequent body recovery was handled by the National Park Service, Inyo County SAR, Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake’s VX-31 rescue helicopter and the California Highway Patrol’s H-82 helicopter.

The Inyo County Coroner’s Office will determine the man’s official cause of death.

Park rangers and search and rescue team members observed that the man’s ropes were not long enough to reach the ground on the long rappel.


Sign for Death Valley National Park in California

Sign for Death Valley National Park in California
((Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images))

He tied a piece of netting to the end of the rope, but the Park Service says he made a mistake by disconnecting the rappel device to pass the knot connecting the rope and netting.

Rangers believe the man fell about 30 feet on the West Fork Trail in Mosaic Canyon.

The Park Service notes that the route is not usually downhill and that there are more than 100 known canyoneering routes in the park.

The first known cannon landing on the route was in 2012.

Canyoning is usually done as a group activity because of the inherent dangers.

The sport involves descending canyons through a combination of hiking, climbing and rappelling.

The National Park Service reported that Death Valley National Park received more than 1.1 million annual visits in 2021.

Mosaic Canyon in Death Valley National Park

Mosaic Canyon in Death Valley National Park
((Photo credit: Sergio Pitamitz/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images))

Earlier this year, Death Valley National Park reported five separate deaths from various causes.

“We encourage anyone going into the backcountry to let someone know about their plans. The park doesn’t keep track of the 1.7 million people who visit each year,” said park spokeswoman and avid canyoneer Abby Wines. “This man was not notified that he had expired and the search was not initiated in time to save his life. A satellite communication device could have been a lifesaver.”

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