A Bay Area woman who had been studying in New Zealand died while rock climbing there this week.
New Zealand police on Friday identified her as Lauren “Kimi” Worrell, 28. She fell Sunday while preparing to descend a 400-foot rock face at Castle Rock, near Whitianga on New Zealand’s North Island, her family said in a statement issued through the police.
Worrell had just finished a master’s degree at the University of Auckland. A LinkedIn page indicates she had worked since 2014 as an environmental scientist for Panorama Environmental, a San Francisco company that “designs environmental and permitting strategies” for construction projects.
Worrell’s family said she was an avid outdoor enthusiast and rock climber. When she died, she was climbing with her boyfriend, Richard Graham.
“Kimi was one of a kind, a firecracker of positivity and enthusiasm who it was impossible not to smile around,” Graham wrote on Facebook. “I wish more than anything that I’d had the opportunity to spend more time with her, to see where life took us, but I’m so thankful for the time that we had.”
The family said Worrell had just received an A-plus for her thesis on sustainable transport policy, an area in which she planned to work.
The LinkedIn page indicates Worrell graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, based in Syracuse. She was the director and co-founder of an a cappella singing group at the school.
The family, who traveled to New Zealand from California after the accident, said the death was still being investigated but they wanted to highlight the problem of relying on equipment on the rock face. “This equipment will naturally be affected by UV rays and other elements of nature affecting its condition and reliability,” the family said.
At many sport-climbing areas around the world, anchors are permanently bolted to the rock. A climber clips her rope to these anchors as she ascends rather than inserting removable anchors into cracks in the walls. At some areas, ropes are left on the walls as well.
The climbing website Mountain Project says Castle Rock has 10 multipitch sport-climbing routes, with difficulty ratings of 5.9 to 5.10d. The descriptions of the routes do not warn of worn anchors, but they do mention the possibility of rope drag — friction that could damage a climber’s rope.
A crowdfunding page has been set up in Worrell’s name to raise money to replace fixed lines and hardware in climbing spots around New Zealand.
In the United States, the nonprofit American Safe Climbing Association has replaced thousands of unsafe anchors since its establishment 20 years ago.