American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Colorado—Flatirons, Boulder

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1954

Colorado—Flatirons, Boulder: On 16 August 1953, Ann Blackenberg (20), Carlton Fraiser (23), and David Rose (22) set out to climb the face of the First Flatiron with the idea of exploring unknown routes. Rose had attempted to get over an overhang and rappelled off. While rappelling he noted a water course nearby which looked like a fairly easy friction climb at the bottom. The rope was therefore left through the piton in anticipation of this climb since the rappel piton was well placed. Fraiser with much less experience than Rose was anxious to lead and Rose, the leader, consented. Fraiser made the first 60 feet which were protected by the rappel piton easily and did another 50 feet with apparent ease. He announced he needed 10 to 20 feet to reach a belay stance. Rose moved up under the overhang taking a new belay position and Fraiser proceeded up 10 feet. Standing on an insecure foothold, he began to search for handholds, when his leg began to quiver and he started to retreat to a better foothold. At this point he slipped, and slid and rolled down the face about 100 feet. As the rope began to catch his weight, he struck a ledge feet first and crumpled onto his back. A preliminary examination of Fraiser was made, then Rose left Miss Blackenberg with Fraiser and rappelled 150 feet off the rock to summon help. The rescue was organized and executed by the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group. Fraiser suffered a partially fractured bone in

the left heel, sprain of the left ankle, abrasions of fingertips and arms, and shock.

Source: David Rose and Harry Waldrop, Rocky Mountain Group.

Analysis: This accident re-emphasizes the need for extreme caution in climbing on long steep friction routes where the climbing itself may be relatively easy, but good belay spots and piton cracks may be few and far between. Rose has stated certain precautions which he could have taken: (1) Forbidden Fraiser to climb any further than the piton above; (2) provided Fraiser with pitons and hammer (there was an adequate crack 15 feet below his point of fall) ; (3) stressed more thoroughly the danger of climbing too far above the piton and the advisability of retreat if the route ahead seemed at all beyond his capabilities; (4) led the pitch himself disregarding Fraiser’s desire to lead over unknown rock.

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