American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Colorado, Ellingwood Arête, Crestone Needle

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1960

Colorado, Ellingwood Arête, Crestone Needle—On August 15, Charles Dotter (38) and his wife were climbing the Ellingwood Arête. Climbing conditions were good. They had proper equipment, including one rope (120 feet of 7/16 inch, nylon). They climbed to a ledge approximately 60 feet below the top of the vertical chimney which terminates the

Ellingwood Arête. Dotter climbed to the base of the short final pitch and attempted to bring his wife up. She had difficulty in negotiating a slight overhang and came off twice. He rappelled back down to her in order to put in a sling at the overhang. His rappel rope jammed despite the use of a nylon rappel sling and ordinary preventive precautions. Their ledge permitted vigorous efforts to free the rope but after an hour it became apparent that he would either have to climb without protection to recover the jammed rope or they would have to seek aid. The latter course was adopted. Since it was approaching late afternoon they elected to wait until the next morning before drawing attention to their situation, feeling that ill-advised hasty rescue efforts might otherwise be launched. The weather was clear (but cold) and no undue hardship was suffered. Next morning, he blew up a toy balloon, tied it on a rock and attracted the attention (by whistle) of people in the valley 2,500 feet below. Dr. Steven Romine who had led a party on the Ellington Arête the previous day had fortunately not yet left for his home in Boulder. He, his young son Michael, and three other climbers came up the regular route to the summit of the needle. He tossed Dotter a rope from the top of the chimney and with his belay they completed the climb, joined the others and walked down the regular route.

Source: Charles Dotter

Analysis (Dotter): Had we carried two ropes, the situation would not have occurred. Once it had developed, however, Dr. Romine's knowledge of the route allowed him to size up matters and take effective action.

(Ed. comment–This illustrates that a mature and intelligent assessment of the problem by a trained individual can result in a not too uncomfortable bivouac and safe result).

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