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California

Glendale man dies while rappelling down a cliff on a canyoneering trip in Death Valley

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A U.S. park ranger patrols Titus Canyon in Death Valley National Park in a 2002 photo. Titus Canyon is near where Matthew Yaussi died while canyoneering.
(Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)

A Glendale man was rappelling down a 380-foot cliff in Death Valley National Park when he fell to his death, the park confirmed Monday.

Matthew Yaussi, 41, and a companion were on a canyoneering trip Saturday and had hiked about 4,000 feet up a ridge before starting their descent of Bottomless Pit Canyon, the informal name of a canyon south of Titus Canyon in the Grapevine Mountains, according to the park.

The duo had planned to break the 380-foot rappel into stages by setting up an anchor on a ledge partway down.

Yaussi’s companion rappelled safely to the ground before Yaussi fell about 8:30 p.m.

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His companion activated an emergency locator beacon and was extracted that night by a U.S. Navy VX-31 helicopter, based at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.

Yaussi’s body was recovered the next day by an Inyo County sheriff’s deputy and a California Highway Patrol H-80 helicopter.

In canyoneering, a person explores a canyon from Point A to Point B using a range of techniques, including hiking, rappelling and climbing, according to the educational outdoors nonprofit Outward Bound.

Canyoneering has become increasingly popular in Death Valley, with about 200 documented routes.

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The route that Yaussi and his companion took involves 19 rappels down cliffs or dry waterfalls, according to an online description on ropewiki.com.

Bottomless Pit was first descended in 2012, and it is not a commonly done route, according to the park.


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