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Colorado, Castle Rock

Colorado, Castle Rock. On 26 March Christofer Ray (21) and Larry Minze (26) set out to climb Jackson’s Wall, a 5.5 route on the good granite of Castle Rock. Ray had climbed the same route a few days before as part of his climbing school course. It had snowed during the night, but the sun had warmed and dried Jackson’s Wall. After completing the climb they began their descent by a third class route on the north side of the rock. To avoid snow on the descent route they got off route to the west and onto more difficult terrain. They decided to descend by means of two rappels. The second rappel was to the scree at the base of the rock. The anchor was a nubbin of rock. They realized that the rope had to be kept under load to avoid the possibility of its slipping off of the nubbin. Ray started the rappel which was 45 feet long. After descending about 15 feet he stopped to adjust the rope. As he did so the rope slipped off the anchor and he fell. After falling 15 feet he hit his head on a ledge and continued his fall another 15 feet to the scree. He died within minutes from his head injury.

Source: Rodman Smythe.

Analysis: 1. They could have used a piton anchor where they were, or they could have used trees on the normal route. 2. The use of a good hard hat with a chin strap would probably have saved Ray’s life. 3. Carrying a second rope. It could have been used to belay the first man down, or to have made a longer rappel from a good anchor.