I’ve been following the story of 24-year-old canyoneer, Matthew Pack, from San Juan Capistrano, CA, whose body was spotted hanging limply in the middle of 400-ft Mildred Falls on Friday. Hikers spotted Pack’s body in the falls after hearing screaming. They called 911 for rescue, but helicopter rescue efforts were delayed Friday by the dangers surrounding the heavy waterfall flow. The next day, a San Diego SAR team was able to recover Pack’s body at 1 p.m.
I have seen little in the forums regarding Pack’s trip plan, experience, or commentary on the accident, and I haven’t been to Mildred Falls, myself, so it’s difficult to speculate on what might have happened here. Seems like a rank beginner wouldn’t have the equipment or cojones to venture out to a canyon with a 400-ft drop on his own, though, so I’m guessing Pack had some experience under his belt. Why he went alone on such a big trip (500 feet of rope is a lot to carry on your own) with such strong water conditions (big flow, water temperature in the 30′s) poses some powerful questions. Mildred Falls is generally listed with a 4 A/B III rating, implying no flowing water; perhaps Pack did not anticipate the cold, raging torrent that greeted him at Mildred? At the same time, from the various site descriptions and photographs available on the web, it looks like you can see the falls pretty easily on the hike in.
Whatever the scenario, it is incredibly scary to imagine being entangled in your own ropes in the middle of that much cold water. Let us learn from his tragedy, that less stories like his happen within our community. Deepest sympathies to Pack’s family and friends, and to Pack, who died pursuing great adventure.
Here are a few links to related the limited available information: