I am still in shock

Over a cup of coffee this morning, I sat down to read the usual news. Paris Hilton is a changed woman, Conrad Black speachless of his conviction, natural resource stocks are climbing. Yah Yah yah. What ripped at my gut was the news of Michael Reardon, rockandice.com and climbing.com.

It was as shocking to me as the tragic death of Todd Skinner. I sincerely hope Mike will turn up safely. I hope with every fibre that he can fall into that “bubble” which he speaks of so pationately about his free soloing exploits and fight to stay on the surface. He is a master of overcoming fear and personal limits and I have hope.

Michael Reardon Missing in Ireland

Michael Reardon, 36, the accomplished free soloist based out of Oak Park, California, went missing off the southwestern coast of Ireland around 5 p.m. Friday. He had just completed a climb near the Valentia Marine Radio Station, on the small island of Valentia, when a rogue wave took him into the sea. He did not fall 70 feet from the cliff top, or while climbing, as earlier reports had indicated. This is a report from his friend, the photographer Damon Corso, who was there at the time:

“It was just another day of climbing on Atlantic sea cliffs in Ireland with Mike (Reardon). We had arrived on Valentia Island in a slight fog and drizzle. Mike took me around the bottom of Wireless Point to an inlet merely 15 feet above the roaring Atlantic, a situation we were now used to. We arrived at a spot he had climbed at alone two weeks prior. Mike up and downed two different climbs while I shot photos trying to combine him and the raw force of the waves crashing all around us. He finished the two climbs and was waiting, on an-algae covered platform, for the big swells to pass by so that he could walk back over to me on the opposite side of the inlet. A rouge wave came into the inlet and curved rightwards as it crashed into Mike. He tried to stabilize himself on the platform but the water was too powerful and sucked him in. The current pulled Mike out 150-plus meters in mere seconds. I ran up the hill to the Valentia Coast Guard station a mile away. Mike was still conscious in the water when I left him. The Coast Guard arrived on the scene no more than 15 minutes after the incident. Mike was nowhere to be seen at this point. Twelve volunteer rescue boats, the Coast Guard Lifeboat and Chopper were on the scene that evening.”

Rescue services worked until dark on Friday. And on Saturday, more Coast Guard boats and divers from the Naval Service combed the area, with searchers on foot looking along the shore. A helicopter with an infrared scanner searched on Friday and Saturday as well. Reardon had not been found as of Sunday, when it was reported that the search was scaling back.

  • Suzanne

    Many felt for him when this happened, many were shocked

    Sadly, a few factors were already against him when this happened:

    a. The Atlantic is seriously cold. I’ve first hand experience of it, it has very strong currents. As was Michael Reardon; I too am a very strong swimmer. I competed in Swimming during school years and during my RAF career. I have swam in the Atlantic on many an occasion, in Gibraltar, and mainly on the North Coast of Scotland where I lived for 4 years, all during my time in the Air Force; I have also dived in it when our club went to ‘Tongue’, which is the furthest tip of Scotland.

    Thirty minutes is all I could tolerate swimming; I tolerated even less when diving in it, not least as the deeper you dive the colder it gets. It was the only time in my 20 years diving experience I had ever given the ‘cold signal’ (meaning I wanted to get out and right now!, and that was after just 10 minutes, but the other diver wrongly assumed I’d be okay to dive a little longer). I also windsurfed alot in the past and completed an instructors course, which included understanding currents, tidal conditions, the weather; the knowledge gained through both those courses was valuable.

    b. The currents present always in the Sea. Never underestimate a current (cross currents, underwater currents can all occur together, and especially so in the Atlantic.

    In diving gear only, due to ‘BSAC’ training, I felt alot safer swimming in a current; than I did when not in diving gear; and believe me swimming against a current in diving gear deep down in the middle of the ocean, as I have been on the Equator, ‘Ascension island’; and while training at ‘Bovisand’ is hard work; alot of effort goes in with your legs but the speed is very slow and painful, it drags you backwards, as you fight to swim forwards, you move 10 inches, it pulls you back 5; and I have strong powerful legs with swimming as all pointed out to me in the RAF, when they’d see me winning, my races for my base or for RAF Strike command.

    For information: Bsac was the only company that all British miliatary personnel were allowed to train with, none other, not least as it is renowned for its worldwide knowledge on diving safety; and diving safely. For the most part we were trained to dive in currents and cold water (not tropical waters), mainly at

    ‘Fort Bovisand’ in Plymouth (which was a British Navy base). As a result I would be much less afraid with diving gear on when I’d end up in one; admittedly knowing the boat was nearby always ready to pick us up once we surfaced; but also having been in some strong currents in the past, while being trained to know how to deal with them; plus the buoyancy devices, weights, and utilizing self buoyancy were the major factors. There were not many days where the sea was not rough and we had to go diving. My worst experience was sea sickness on the boat, which disappeared once you were in the water.

    Swimming in it is another matter completely; I’d do it frequently in Scotland during my lunch hour as the sea was closer to me than the swimming pool on the base when I worked on one of the squadrons, I’d swim in a weak current right by the coast, as it gave me a good workout, those that observed me, later told me “only I would be mad enough to do that”, but I was always careful, and stayed within my limits.

    c. Hypothermia; will kill, if dehydration doesn’t first (via osmosis through your skin versus the concentration of salt in the sea); or the current itself will kill. Put all those factors together and the risk goes ever higher.

    So it doesn’t matter how strong a swimmer you are. You cannot fight or win against the sea with little protection on your body to begin with.

    When I read about Michael, I mostly felt for him, and for his family.