American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Colorado, Boulder, Amphitheater

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

Colorado, Boulder, Amphitheater—On November 20, Michael Finnegan (19) and Barbara Reinecke (17) were climbing in the Amphitheater. The weather was mild and warm with sun on the rock. Their clothing was adequate and climbing conditions were good. The rock was free of ice or snow. The leader, Finnegan, had climbed to a ledge about 40 feet from the ground, carrying his rope with him. He then had Barbara Reinecke follow him up the rock face. She proceeded unroped to a point about 30 feet from the ground when she stopped because of difficulty in climbing a slight overhang or bulge. She started to move to one side of the obstruction and apparently leaned out from the rock to see where she was putting her feet. She lost her balance and fell backwards from the rock, nearly vertically, though she slid across the rock face and occasionally struck the rock in falling (it was not quite vertical). She fell into an L-shaped chimney, but this did not slow her fall.

She hit the ground a few feet from a Rocky Mountain Rescue Group member who was looking the other way, directing a rock evacuation practice that was being started on the opposite face of the Amphitheater. Rescue Group members immediately gave first aid for a head laceration and prevented her from moving. She had landed face first, and back and neck injuries were suspected as well as skull fracture.

She was transferred to a Stokes litter and taken to the road, which was close. The Rescue Group had meanwhile called the State Patrol by portable radio, and an ambulance was waiting at the road.

She received a skull fracture, cheekbone fracture and slight concussion. It was felt that the prompt first aid may have saved her life, because (1) she was prevented from falling farther down the steep dirt slope on which she landed; (2) immediate stoppage of severe bleeding kept shock to a minimum; (3) other first aid for shock, together with removal to hospital within 30 minutes, helped recovery.

Source: Ed Anderson; Harold Walton.

Analysis: A leader can never be too careful with inexperienced pupils on the rocks. In this instance the second should have had the benefit of a belay from above.

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