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Colorado, Cliff near Virginia Dale

Colorado, Cliff near Virginia Dale. On April 23, Charles Blackmon (26), Merle Ihne (18), and five other University of Wyoming students were participating in a practice rescue and rock evacuation exercise in a granite canyon near Virginia Dale. It was a pleasant, warm, sunny afternoon. A loaded litter was being lowered over an overhang by a fixed rope technique (described in Summit, October 1960) to a 5- to 10-ft. broken ledge, 50 ft. above the base of the canyon wall. This ledge was 30 or 40 ft. long and offered an easy traverse off the face of the cliff. Blackmon and Ihne had descended to the ledge with the litter, the “victim” had walked down the ledge and returned to the top of the cliff, and the litter had been pulled back up. Apparently Blackmon, an experienced mountaineer and rock climber, started an unroped climb of a jam-crack that led upward from the ledge. After climbing 15 or 20 ft., Blackmon found that the climbing became too difficult, and began to retreat. When he was approximately 15 ft. above the ledge, Blackmon either fell or jumped from the crack and landed on the ledge, where he was grabbed by Ihne. Blackmon fell on his left wrist, fracturing both bones of his forearm at the wrist. Outside of a few minor bruises, no other injuries were received. He walked 200 yards to the cars, where his wrist was splinted, and he was then driven to Laramie, Wyoming, where he received medical attention. His wrist has now healed properly.

Source: Dwight Deal.

Analysis: Blackmon was definitely an experienced mountaineer and should have needed no cautioning as to the foolishness of climbing unroped. Ihne prevented Blackmon from rolling off the ledge and sustaining serious injury in a fall to the base of the cliff.