Camping trip turns tragic with death of climber

By Adam Foxman - vcstar.com
Posted May 6, 2011 at 2:26 p.m.

What began as a camping trip along a scenic canyon north of Ojai turned tragic this week when two friends from Santa Barbara decided to scale a rock face and one of them slipped and fell about 80 feet to his death, authorities said.

Jasper Bowen, 31, died and his friend, Tyler Dobbs, 23, was severely injured Thursday when he was knocked from a ledge while trying to stop Bowen's fall, said Sgt. Frank Underlin, coordinator for the Ventura County sheriff's search-and-rescue teams.

"It's a tragic accident," Underlin said Friday. "He (Dobbs) risked his life trying to save his friend and then came close to paying the ultimate price himself."

The friends began their trip Wednesday, hiking about a half-mile in from Highway 33 on the Potrero John Trail, located about 20 miles north of Ojai in the Los Padres National Forest, Underlin said.

They made camp along a creek that runs through the canyon and went exploring the next day, Underlin said. The area includes prominent rock faces and has no cellphone reception.

The friends came upon one cliff face and decided to scale it Thursday afternoon without protective rock climbing gear, ropes or climbing shoes, Underlin said. He said that while the friends had done some climbing, their experience was limited.

After scrambling 40 or 50 feet up a concave area along the side of the cliff, the friends came to a steep, dirt-covered ledge at the bottom of a steeper rock slab, Underlin said. Bowen decided to continue climbing, and Dobbs opted to stay put and take photos.

After climbing another 30 or 40 feet, Bowen started to slide and then tumble down the rock face, which had sand and gravel on it and was not quite vertical, Underlin said. Dobbs told authorities he braced himself to stop his friend's fall, knowing Bowen would likely hit the ground if he went over the ledge, Underlin said.

Bowen tumbled into Dobbs so hard that Bowen's watch broke, knocking them both off the ledge and into a free fall to the rocky area below, Underlin said.


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