Cal student dies in climbing accident at Cascade Falls


By Steven Bell, Westmorland Gazette

A former mountain rescue volunteer plunged 150 feet to his death Saturday at one of the world’s most popular climbing destinations in Lake Tahoe.

Outdoor loving Michael Machell, 23, fell at Cascade Falls after slipping while preparing for an ice-climbing trip with friends.

Greg Almos, El Dorado County deputy sheriff, said: “The way it was described to us, he was at the top preparing to set some anchors and slipped on ice.”

A spokesman for El Dorado County Search and Rescue said although there had not been significant snowfall in the region, there had been a lot of ice in rural areas like Cascade Falls.

Machell was an experienced climber who had helped save lives in the Lake District of England, completing 170 rescues with the Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team (LAMRT).

He graduated from the University of Cumbria last year with a first class honors degree in outdoor professional practice and was in the U.S. to study for a year at UC Berkeley.

LAMRT team leader and friend Nick Owen said Machell “absolutely lived for the mountains”.

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Comments (4)
  1. harbinger says - Posted: January 19, 2012

    Very sad, indeed. This follows the fatal fall of another ice climber in Colorado last Sunday. This is the first I’ve heard of this sport, which sounds extraordinarily dangerous. Is ice climbing something new?

  2. dumbfounded says - Posted: January 20, 2012

    Ice climbing is not new. IMHO, it is simply too warm here to ice climb safely in California. Of course, there are exceptions, but generally, it is too warm. Running water creates some very tempting ice, but also indicates too warm temperatures. God Bless this climber and his family.

  3. dogwoman says - Posted: January 20, 2012

    The first time I saw ice climbers was in 1980 in Colorado. There were lots of them there. I thought it looked crazy then too, but, whatever floats your boat.

  4. KnowBears says - Posted: January 20, 2012

    Our son used to do ice climbing, but now that he’s 40-something he’s decided it’s too dangerous. Like this latest victim, he too is a search and rescue/recovery mountain-man type. He used to snowboard over moving freight trains, so if he thinks ice climbing is too dangerous, you know it’s plenty dangerous. (Not that I ever needed convincing.)