News

Stanford grad student dies in Yosemite fall Friday afternoon

Chris Chan plunges 400 feet off rock wall while free soloing

Stanford University student and climbing enthusiast Christina "Chris" Chan died Friday afternoon after falling from the north face of Eichorn Peak in Yosemite during a "free soloing" climb about 400 feet up sheer rock wall.

Chan, a fourth-year graduate student in political science, was 2008 co-president of the Stanford Alpine Club, through which Chan shared her passion for climbing with others, according to the club's website.

Her climbing partner, Jim Castelaz, also of Stanford, saw her falling and quickly descended, hoping against all odds that she was still alive, according to a posting he made on Chan's memorial Facebook page.

He said he saw her falling: "I was in shock and horrified and helpless."

Free soloing means climbing without a rope or safety protection, and is usually practiced only by the most skilled of climbers.

Chan often spent weekends teaching beginning climbing, anchors, lead climbing and self-rescue.

"There is no existence that I love more than the moments spent on steep granite faces. Multipitch trad (traditional) and big walls in Yosemite are my favorite," Chan wrote on her Stanford website.

Chan's climbing accomplishments included soloing the Zodiac route of El Capitan in Yosemite (see images) and soloing the Prow and the Skull Queen routes of Washington Column in Yosemite.

In his Facebook entry, Castelaz wrote: "It was windy and I was a bit cold, so then we decided to climb down. She led the way.

"She was about 10 feet above where she would move onto the ledge that leads off the climb and I was maybe 20 feet above her when I heard something. I turned around and saw that she had come off the rock.

"I don't know what happened or why she came off. I saw her falling. I was in shock and horrified and helpless."

Chan's academic interests included environmental policy and politics in China. As an undergraduate at Harvard University she studied biochemical sciences. She later received a master's degree from Stanford in civil and environmental engineering. She recently was working toward a Ph.D. in political science, according to her Stanford website.

Memorial services are pending.

Comments

Posted by sean, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 13, 2010 at 7:03 pm

sad. beautiful, young, not to smart though.im suprised the death rate for this type of accident is not higher, chacha.com says "On average there are nine rock climbing fatalities per year in the United States. Thanks for asking ChaCha"

r.i.p im sure there are a ton of people who will mourn for a very long time.


Posted by ricky, a resident of Castro City
on Jul 13, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Climbing up 400ft without rope must be the story here. All that education doesn't make one invincible, nor lead to common sense. BTW, is this the MV Voice or Stanford Campus News?


Posted by sean, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 13, 2010 at 11:54 pm

yeah i agree, i guess im wondering if climbing without support (a rope) is done for excitement, or does it make the climb that much better? or both? why would someone do this, when you could use a teather? and was she a "most skilled of climbers?" my friend adam holton was killed from a similar injury about 12 years ago (google it) and when i found out i thought he made a stupid decision.why do this?


why the hell would you want to climb a rock?
why the hell would you want to climb a rock?
why the hell would you want to climb a rock?
why the hell would you want to climb a rock?
why the hell would you want to climb a rock?


Posted by Sane Person, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 14, 2010 at 9:34 am

It either doesn't occur to these 'climbers' the ubiquitousness of gravity poisoning or they have so much hubris and are so 'into' climbing.

If it is one thing I can't stand is some overachiever who likes sticking their 'accomplishments' in the face of us lessers. At the rate this country is going at least she avoids the guillotine unlike the rest of the elites.


Posted by doc, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:22 am

'why the hell would you want to climb a rock?'
i don't want to be glib...but it is a kind of psychosis.


Posted by jim, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:26 am

ever occurred to you she might have done it intentionally? she was different!


Posted by Turner Woodruff, a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:35 am

Christina was a brilliant, extraordinary individual who excelled intellectually, physically, and musically in the most rarefied environments, yet her HUMBLE, KIND, UNASSUMING nature belied her numerous impressive accomplishments. She was loved and admired by everyone who knew her. Her loss is raw, excruciatingly painful, and monumentally tragic. Her trajectory was boundless as is the depth of this loss.

To the persons who felt it necessary to question her mental capacity and her "fitness": Next time consider your audience. Is a memorial article an appropriate forum for airing your criticisms of elitists or overachievers without common sense? To those who knew her, the idea of comparing her to either is laughable--if we could bare to summon a laugh. Christina knew what she was doing. And, we all make mistakes. Tragically, this one was fatal.

In life, she was a hero. In death, she was human. As we all are.


Posted by professor, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:40 am

a 'tragic abnormality' in the brain for high-risk behavior that is highly addictive and life-shortening. has nothing to do with smarts.


Posted by hiker, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:47 am

'Christina was a brilliant, extraordinary individual who excelled intellectually, physically, and musically in the most rarefied environments...'
yeah, but why not just hike and enjoy nature?


Posted by sean, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:59 am

To the persons who felt it necessary to question her mental capacity and her "fitness": Next time consider your audience

you should consider where you are (internet forum), people (like myself) are just wondering why? she was at the peak of her life and to gamble everything for recreation doesnt make sense to me, does it to you?


Posted by The Eye, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2010 at 11:33 am

Proof positive that advanced education and common sense do not always occur in the same individual. Sad, but true. Whenever I read a story like this, I can't help but think: "Intelligent, but stupid." Call it what you want, but this is just Darwin's Law at work, whether you like it or not. Go ahead and flame me...It won't change the facts...or bring her back.


Posted by eliot, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2010 at 12:07 pm

that is called a 'fatal flaw' for risky behavior... you see it all the time in politicians, too. case in point: eliot spitzer.


Posted by mourn, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 14, 2010 at 2:09 pm

You people are ridiculous. A young woman just lost her life and you are questioning her for climbing a rock? How about show some sorrow and/or keep your smart-a** comments for your fb page? Get off your soapbox.


Posted by JLS, a resident of The Crossings
on Jul 14, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Thank you, mourn, yours is the first sensible comment. Imagine her parents, siblings or other loved ones reading these comments. They don't need this kind of crap at a time like this.


Posted by le dude, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I disagree with the last two posters. People should question the stupidity or whatever you want to call it. Of course everyone feels sorry for the parents. But that's not the glaring point of this article when you read it. As for her so-called friends who would not step forward and put an end to such supremely risky behavior, shame on you all. At what point did this woman owe a sense of responsibility to the very same society that enabled her to reach the heights of educational opportunity? This accident was 100% avoidable. Such climbing should be outlawed on State and Federal land.


Posted by John the Man, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2010 at 10:00 am

John the Man is a registered user.

Ropes are a good idea when you're 300 feet above the ground. Anyone who willingly goes without one is just acting stupid.


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