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Monday, July 16, 2007

Another dreadful swept off case

This is the depressing headline one would not like to see on a bright Monday morning: “Rock climber swept off cliffs to his death.” It is from The Times. It's another dreadful swept off case.

He is the world’s leading free solo rock climber from California. According to The Times, free solo rock climbing is a sport where ropes and other safety equipment are not used. He had traveled the world seeking to climbe some of the most demanding cliff faces ever known. In his website he described himself as “Michael Reardon, Life Without Limits.” Last Friday he probably encountered the limit as he was in Ireland climbing on Atlantic sea cliffs on Valentia Island.

Her's the picture that's reporting and previewing the stage of his adventure:

Here’s what happened according to his friend, the photographer, Damon Corso, who was there at the time as reported in Climbing magazine:
"We had arrived on Valentia Island in a slight fog and drizzle. Mike took me around the bottom of Wireless Point to an inlet merely 15 feet above the roaring Atlantic, a situation we were now used to. We arrived at a spot he had climbed at alone two weeks prior. Mike up and downed two different climbs while I shot photos trying to combine him and the raw force of the waves crashing all around us. He finished the two climbs and was waiting, on an-algae covered platform, for the big swells to pass by so that he could walk back over to me on the opposite side of the inlet. A rouge wave came into the inlet and curved rightwards as it crashed into Mike. He tried to stabilize himself on the platform but the water was too powerful and sucked him in. The current pulled Mike out 150-plus meters in mere seconds. I ran up the hill to the Valentia Coast Guard station a mile away. Mike was still conscious in the water when I left him. The Coast Guard arrived on the scene no more than 15 minutes after the incident. Mike was nowhere to be seen at this point. Twelve volunteer rescue boats, the Coast Guard Lifeboat and Chopper were on the scene that evening."
Here’s the picture in Climbing magazine showing him celebrating after his successful climb probably right before the freaque wave swept him
Here's the word of another photographer with them, Valerie O'Sullivan, according to The Times:

"He was standing below a climb he had just completed and the photographer, Damon Corso, was about 30ft away taking pictures of him.

"Michael was on a real high after the climb. He was about 10ft above the sea and he let go and had his hands out, celebrating, to say he had completed the climb of his life. But then a rogue wave just came in.

The wave hit him on the knees and he lost his balance and slipped on the algae. He was shouting for help but there was nothing Damon could do.”

According to the Irish independent.ie:

Although described as a rogue wave, such waves are not infrequent against the high cliffs along the north face of Valentia island, particularly in winter. A number of people, including anglers, have lost their lives having been been swept out to sea from high ledges.

So it's no need to warn anyone about the danger of the place. Suffice to say that freaque waves are everywhere! Of all the expertise and daring courages of rock climbing Mr. Reardon demonstrated times and times again, freaque waves are probably the furtherest from his mind. That's when it happened!

Up to early Monday the rescue efforts have not been called off. The Times may have already drawn the conclusion. But his wife and 13 years old daughter are clinging to hope that he is still alive. Let’s all pray for a miracle!

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