“It was 850 feet down to the river, I think his rope was only 360 feet.”
That doesn’t sound like the start of a great adventure, let alone a treasure hunt for millions in gold coins, gold nuggets, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and rare ancient artifacts. Yet that’s part of the report on the rescue of a man who illegally rappelled into the Grand Canyon and nearly became the latest victim in the search for the infamous Fenn treasure hidden by eccentric millionaire Forrest Fenn in 2010. Was the fall worth it?
“I had to do this. The story has to end. Too many people are getting hurt and killed.”
In the mind of 55-year-old Dave Christensen, it was … but not in the way you might think. The Powell Tribune reports that on January 6, Christensen went on a noble quest to find the Fenn treasure – not just for its riches but to end the deadly hunt that has claimed at least four lives and may potentially destroy the park when it opens up to off-road vehicles.
“I am not a quack, nor have blind lust for hidden treasures. I’m sending this so you can analyze the information, hopefully understand its validity, and thus, potentially circumvent a ‘Mad Mad World’ or ‘Rat Race’ of searchers in the near future, or spring when Yellowstone opens to wheeled vehicles.”
In an interview with the Powell Tribune, Christensen explains he was well-suited to rappel down the steep canyon wall in winter snow and freezing conditions because he received the Bronze Star for his service in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm, and he had climbing tools, 1,000 feet of climbing rope, bear spray, a Garmin transceiver in case of an avalanche … and a cellphone to take a picture of the small but heavy (42 pounds) treasure chest when he found it.
“I knew it would be too hard to carry it out. I had my cellphone and I was going to take a picture to prove it was there and then move it.”
Had he read any of the clues Forrest Fenn has left for treasure hunters, he would have known that Fenn warns: ”It is not necessary to move large rocks or climb up or down a steep precipice.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly how Christensen began – and ended – his hunt. Despite the rescue report that his rope was too short, Christensen claimed he dropped his backpack, intentionally went off-rope to retrieve it and then slid down the canyon wall to the river, where he phoned a friend to throw down a rope. When that didn’t happen, he spent two hours attempting to climb out before asking the rangers, who had been yelling at him to come up, to rescue him. He also claimed he heard a bear and that caused him to give up the hunt.
The rangers and other witnesses had a slightly different account. Here’s Gary Fales, owner of Gary Fales Outfitting and Snowmobile Tours which had rented a sled to Christensen.
“He was like a turtle on his back in that heavy snow. This guy was lucky he didn’t die.”
That would have made him the fifth victim of the Fenn treasure hunt. Instead, Christensen received a different, non-fatal kind of notoriety. A team of rangers and 11 search-and-rescue experts needed four hours and an experienced climber to save Christensen in snowy and freezing conditions. He’s now facing charges of creating a hazardous condition and off trail travel in a closed area and could be sentenced to months in jail and heavy fines.
So, Christensen didn’t find the infamous Fenn treasure. Did he at least accomplish his noble goal of stopping the hunt before it kills again?
The value of the treasures is now over 2 million. What do you think?