American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Colorado, Clear Creek Canyon

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1961

Colorado, Clear Creek Canyon—On May 3, a party of five went to Clear Creek Canyon, west of Denver, to practice rock climbing. The party apparently climbed the face of a rock cliff using conventional methods. They then returned to the base of the cliff and reclimbed the route to recover their pitons. They were unroped on this second climb.

The following is a quotation from the newspaper source attributed to Jimmy Blake (22) who was reclimbing the face with Paul Wright (27). “I was about six feet away from him when he started around this bad outcropping of rock. I knew he was getting tense; he started trembling and he turned pale. I knew he was going to fall but I couldn’t help him. Then he let go—he didn’t say anything.” Wright fell about 40 feet in a free fall and then struck a ledge. From the ledge he fell another 15 feet free and then rolled about 35 feet down the slope before stopping. Wright suffered a broken leg and arm, rib fractures, and other internal injuries.

Source: Rocky Mountain News (William E. Davis, Safety Chairman, Colorado Mountaineering Club).

Analysis (Davis): This accident seems to have resulted from overconfidence and a resulting lack of elementary safety precautions. The cliff apparently was climbed safely with the use of rope and piton. The reasons why it was being reclimbed without these techniques are not clear.

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