Camp4: Live To Climb

Back to Web Friendly Version

Home > News Archive > Colorado Climbers Fall to Their Deaths in YosemiteSubmit Your News

Colorado Climbers Fall to Their Deaths in Yosemite


by Unknown

July 18, 2001

Camp4 - Climbing News Archive

Monika Eldridge, 40, of Boulder and Tom Dunwiddie, 50, of Denver died on an 18-pitch route up DNB on Middle Cathedral Rock last week. Tom was leading when he slipped, pulling the belay and Monika down with him. Both climbers were very experienced, and authorities are still wondering exactly why the anchors failed. YOSAR members have speculated that the either the 4-piece anchor failed by the rock breaking or expanding flakes. Either way they were incredible people and will be missed very much. Our condolences go out to Tom and Monika's family and friends. Read more of the story in the Boulder Daily Camera.

I hope nobody minds, but I took the liberty of reposting an old trip report Tom submitted to rec.climbing newsgroup back in 1996. For people that didn't know Tom, this TR will give people a glimpse of his character and what a great guy he was.

Newsgroups: rec.climbing
Date: 1996/05/05

Dateline, Colorado:
Trad commandos pull down at Shelf Road./a guerrilla raid on rad territory

Well, it's been a good spring for climbing in Colorado, and since a couple of us trad rec.climbers (Greg Hill, Amelia, Monika and myself) were feeling pretty honed from some trivial successes in Eldorado, we decided to ignore the obvious risks and slip down to Shelf Road for some surreptitious sport climbing.

The first ominous sign of danger presented itself as we were tooling down 115 out of Colorado Springs - a big roadside sign pointing up a dirt road, reading "Trad shoot" (this part is true - we actually did see such a sign!). We knew that the sport climbers had pretty much taken over this part of the state, but hadn't realized that they had gone so far as to start executing trads. We thought our jig was up for sure when we were pulled over and searched a mile down the road by a tatooed, pierced, rad cop packing a monster Hilti in his holster. Luckily for us, however, we had left all our trad gear behind, and I'd picked up some brand new draws at the big REI sale the day before, so he mistook us for a bunch of gym gumbies out to pull some limestone at Shelf (the "No Fear" stickers plastered on our cars might have helped us pass as well). There were a few tense moments when he found Monika's nut tool, which she had foolishly left clipped to her harness, but when she explained it was "to open Coors cans, duuhde!" he let us off.

Six wrong turns later, we pulled up at Sand Gulch and made the arduous approach. We started trying to identify climbs that could be surmounted with our feeble trad abilities, confused immensely by the fact that Monika had actually been there before. Befuddled by this knowledge, we started out with a couple of fine 10s (Suburbia, Dune), and emboldened by our efforts, we managed to pick off a choice 11a (Miller Time). Feeling like real gonzo honemasters, we wandered down the wall a ways to where some other climbers were finishing up a nice shady wall.
"Hey, what's that line?" we asked.
"And that?"
"Miller Time."
"Duh..", we cleverly retorted.
We went back to the guidebook, looked at the pictures, and by golly, they were right. So, we hauled out the rope and prepared to climb Suburbia(2).

Now, the other climbers must have been tipped off to the fact that we were fellow rec.climbers by a couple of things. First, we didn't anchor the belayer at the bottom of the climb - second, we had the middle of our rope marked in two different ways - third, we were loaded with those "piece of %$%^ paper clip biners" - and fourth, having read the recent posts in rec.climbing, we had brought along the closest thing we had to the required white, male, 35 year old engineer. Monika is only 5'1", and as far as we know lacks the dreaded Y chromosome, but she *is* a bona fide, card-carrying 35 year old engineer. Anyway, they gave us the secret rec.climbing greeting - "Hi, you Tony Bubb," to which we of course replied, "You're a bunch of Tony Bubb's", followed by the chorus of "We're all Tony Bubbs!"

Having been introduced, we then proceeded to complete an astounding, single-afternoon, 3-person ascent of the grade VI (Colorado grade) sport climb, Suburbia(2). This was followed by similar stylish ascents of Prickly Dan (5.10, Grade V), Miller Time(2) (5.11, Grade VI), and some climb with a name having something to do with pork. Feeling that Greg had not been adequately challenged, we goaded him into trying the last climb without his chalkbag, then collapsed in giggles every time he helplessly waved at his ass trying to find the missing bag. Needless to say, he flashed it with style despite our better efforts.

Despite the fact that we were having a great time, the strain of passing as rads was finally getting to us. someone would forget and ask how many "pitches" we'd climbed. someone else slipped and mentioned having climbed "Rosy Crucifixion". another started laughing at how close some of the bolts were. we knew that it was just a matter of time before we were found out. Rather than risk detection, we packed up, hiked down, and headed back for the big city.

Tom Dunwiddie

For all of Tom and Monika's friends and acquaintences, you can visit his website at and see pictures of him and Monika climbing. Coincidentaly there is a photo of Monika climbing the DNB on Middle Cathedral Rock.

You are invited to the services being held for Monika Eldridge tomorrow, Saturday, July 21, 2001. Funeral services will be held at St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish at 14th St & Aurora at 2:00 p.m.

A memorial service will be held at the Amphitheater on the top of Flagstaff Mountain on Saturday evening to celebrate her life and honor her passing. The service will start promptly at 6 p.m. Bring a stone to place in the pyramid cairn we'll build for Monika at that service.

If you have stories to tell or photographs or objects to share, please bring them with you on Saturday evening. There will be a bowl for leaving remembrances with her family. We would also like to post stories and photos on Monika's Web site, - so send electronic copies to Marty Mapes at to be posted.

Rest in Peace.

This comes from: Camp4
Live To Climb