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Bad Rollover

8/14/00 Gibson Lake

The high country claimed the life of Mike Lane, a Morrison man, in a spectacular rollover accident. The Platte Canyon Fire Dept. was paged at about 5:00pm on Saturday, for a one car rollover at Gibson lake. Gibson lake is located near the continental divide about 2 miles from Hall Valley at about 13,000 ft. elevation. Crews searched until after 10:00 pm. Sunday a pair of Platte Canyon firefighters located the site and it was not until mid morning on Monday that Park County Search and Rescue teams were able to get to the scene. The vehicle was a 1982 Jeep CJ that was decked out with all the toys that could be added to a Jeep. The driver had made several attempts to climb the steep hillside and exhibited an impressive driving skill. The vehicle rolled for nearly 1/4 mile and was almost completely disintegrated.  Above photo was taken on 8/13/00. 


Five years ago, on August 12th, 2000, my neighbor Mike Lane lost his life 4 wheeling on the continental divide. As best as I can tell, he was riding on or near Whale Peak or Glacier Peak and went off trail to drive into a bowl somewhere above Gibson Lake. He was trying to drive up out of the bowl, but the ascent was too steep, and, after making several attempts to get the jeep to ascend the hill, the jeep cart wheeled off the face of the continental divide and "rolled for nearly 1/4 mile and was almost completely disintegrated". A hiker witnessed the event, but was unable to save him. Park County Search and Rescue had to string a 1200 foot rope to get him out. A local tree-hugger named Dick Reese initially trivialized Mike's death by claiming that "The scars left on the fragile mountain tundra may be there for decades". Fortunately, Dick was promptly and justly humiliated and castigated for for his heartless indifference to Mike's tragic demise.

It's odd going back and researching this tragic accident. Googling is almost useless in this case, as it occurred 5 years ago, and most of the links I found were broken. I have re-created broken links to the story using the Wayback Machine.

Mike is gone, but not forgotten. Rest in peace, Mike.

Update: I'm trying to determine exactly where Mike was when the accident occurred, and exactly what happened. By all accounts, he was an experienced off-road enthusiast, so I'd like to learn as much from this accident as possible, as I find myself riding on the same trails. If anyone has information about exactly where and how the accident occurred, please post comments. I've included a USGS topographical map of the general vicinity below. (Click on photo below to enlarge.)


Mike Lane's accident site

After talking to Park County Search and Rescue tonight, I think that the following happened:

Mike came up from the Middle Fork of the Swan River and drove South-West on a closed trail following the continental divide for a few hundred yards. He then drove down (off-trail) into a basin/bowl on the South side, but was unable to make it back up the divide. When he was turning around, he got cross-ways on the hill and it started rolling. (I photoshopped in the path I'm guestimating he took in a purple/pink color.)

I believe he was in a basin above Gibson Lake (below Whale Peak). However, you can't drive to Gibson Lake. It's a hiking trail. So, if he was truly above Gibson Lake, I'm not clear how the Gecko Jeep Club would have gotten his jeep out without a helicopter, as it's only a foot-path going up to the lake. Unless they winched it back up and across the divide?

I don't really give a rats @ss that he went "off trail". The soil up there isn't fertile enough to grow bushes, and I always see the most flowers on the sides of the trails anyway. So, please don't flame me for pointing out that he went "off trail". I think it's sad he's gone. I just wanted to point out, for the record, exactly how the accident occurred so that none of us will make the same mistakes Mike did. He was, by all accounts, an excellent driver.

I still plan to drive up to the top of the divide and look down to shoot some images of the bowl from above.

Posted by Peenie Wallie on August 24, 2005 at 09:40 PM



Below, Mike Lane enjoying what he liked most.





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