Columbia Falls Climber Dies in Fall on Yosemite’s El Capitan

By Beacon Staff

A well-known Columbia Falls native died Sunday from injuries suffered in a 230-foot fall while attempting to summit El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, according to park officials.

An experienced climber, Mason Robison was leading the 27th pitch of the 3,000-foot granite wall at about 9 a.m., when a large rock flake holding a piece of safety gear broke loose. The rock gave way while Robison, 38, was climbing at 2,300 feet above the monolith’s base, and severed a rope that was fastening him to a belay station manned by his climbing partner. He fell past the station before a haul rope caught him and seized the fall, but the injuries were fatal.

Climbers use a haul rope to hoist overnight gear when embarking on a multi-day climb.

Park officials believe Robison’s weight pulled the rock loose and caused additional rock fall, though no one else was injured.

Kari Cobb, a park ranger, said nearby climbers heard the rock fall and notified dispatch. When search and rescue crews surveyed the area they heard Robison’s partner’s calls for help, and a helicopter ferried them to the summit of El Capitan. They rappelled down to the uninjured climbing partner and further down to Robison, she said.

“At that point he was pronounced dead,” Cobb said.

His body was flown to the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office for autopsy.

Cobb said Robison’s death is the second accidental fatality of the year, and that injuries and fatalities are common due to El Capitan’s immense appeal among the big-wall climbing community.

“This is one of the climbing meccas of the world and thousands of people come here every year, so unfortunately we do have a fair number of climbing-related injuries and fatalities,” she said.

In 1998, Robison’s brother, Mark, who was also an experienced climber, died while attempting to summit Rainbow Peak in Glacier National Park. Also killed in that accident was Chris Foster, of Whitefish. The climbers were several hundred feet from the summit, climbing a snow-covered chimney when they fell to their death.

The Robisons graduated from Columbia Falls High School.