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Rock Climber Dies after Fall from The Giant Burrito

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Climbing around the Hidden Valley campground in Joshua Tree National Park | Photo by Caveman 92223 via Flickr

Climbing around the Hidden Valley campground in Joshua Tree National Park | Photo by Caveman 92223 via Flickr
A Riverside man died yesterday when he plunged 100 feet to the ground in Joshua Tree National Park. Reportedly an experienced climber, Curtis Woodrow Stark II, 67, became dehydrated while climbing The Giant Burrito, a rock formation near the Hidden Valley Nature Trail, when he fell. His equipment did not hold and his fall knocked his partner Alfred Kuok, 44, of Claremont, down too. Luckily for Kuok, his equipment held, but he suffered back pain, rib injuries, and other possible internal injuries. Two climbers nearby, who happened to be firemen, assisted Kuok and called park rangers to the scene.

An estimated 100,000 people a year do "technical climbing" in the park, but deaths are few and far between at Joshua Tree. "We have years where we have two or three fatalities a year and we have periods of two or three years where nothing happens," explained Joe Zarki, Public Information Officer. An April 2004 visitor use survey found that the most common activity--at 33% of those surveyed--in the park was "bouldering" with "technical climbing" at 10%. About 1.3 million people visit a year with April being the busiest month when over a quarter of million take on the near 800,000 acres of desert.

Joshua Tree is about 120 miles, or 2 hours, away from Los Angeles.

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Related: The Autry Museum in Griffith Park will open a new show called Granite Frontiers: A Century of Yosemite Climbing in June. It will feature photographs, artifacts, history and some interactive features of the West’s last truly wild experiences (Portaledge demonstration!). Check out a dizzying photo below the jump.


"Pete on Sunkist" | Photo by Greg Epperson