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Mountain biker dies from fall off cliff

May 18, 2005

A White Salmon mountain biker died sometime Sunday or Monday when he fell approximately 200 feet from the Coyote Wall a few miles east of Bingen.

Jeffrey Allen Johnson, 49, was apparently descending the Upper Agony single track trail on Syncline off old Highway 8.

Authorities believe a sharp turn threw Johnson from his bike and over the 200-foot cliff which weaves within feet of the trail in several places.

The Klickitat County Sheriff's Office learned of the fatality at 11:30 Monday morning when two mountain bikers, who were riding the same trail called 911.

They had spotted a mountain bike off the trail with its rider nowhere in sight.

The mountain bikers crept to the edge of the cliff to peer down. They saw the body lying atop a 400-foot scree slope of basalt. They called for help.

"I've heard of people hitting deer, hitting trees. But I've never heard of anybody going over the edge of the wall," said Klickitat County Deputy Ken MacDonald.

Five agencies, including Hood River’s Crag Rats, responded to the call Monday.

"We waded through chest-high poison oak," said Crag Rat and emergency doctor Christopher Van Tilburg. "We scrambled 400 feet up a scree slope and brought him down to Locke Road."

Emergency officials cleared the area at 4:30 p.m.

There, the Klickitat County coroner declared Johnson dead, though Van Tilburg believes he had been dead for at least a day.

"He might have fallen on Sunday," Van Tilburg said. "He was by himself so nobody knows. But based on the condition of the body, I'd suspect he had fallen on Sunday."

The Upper Agony trail is part of a trail system on Syncline that brings mountain bikers within a few feet of the cliff's edge.

"Everybody thinks about it," Van Tilburg said. "They think, 'Boy. I'm riding on the edge of a cliff."

Many mountain bikers dismount and walk along the most exposed areas of trail.

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