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Colorado, Long's Peak

Colorado, Long's Peak. On 27 January James Disney (28), Ken Paine (29), Ken Landis (40), and Richard Kezlan (32) were making a winter ascent of Kiener’s Route on the east face of Long’s Peak (for the purpose of making special interest news broadcasts over radio station KLOV in Loveland, Colorado, and on the NBC network). They had problems with mountain sickness and equipment all day, and were progressing very slowly. The party had planned to bivouac on Broadway, a ledge half-way up the route, and continue the climb the following day. At 8:30 p.m., Disney and Kezlan were nearing Broadway, with Landis and Paine several hundred feet below on Lamb Slide (a 45° snow slope extending up from Mills Glacier at the base of the face). At this point Landis collapsed from exhaustion. Disney and Kezlan immediately started descending, unroped, to the other climbers. During the descent, Kezlan slipped and fell 200+ feet into the rocks at the base of the Glacier. During the fall he lost his ice axe and was unable to self-arrest. Later inspection of equipment showed that one of his crampons had broken. Landis eventually recovered sufficiently to descend to Chasm Lake Shelter on his own. Kezlan suffered a skull fracture and scalp lacerations.

Source: Thomas W. Griffiths, Rocky Mountain.

Analysis: Several errors of judgment seem to have been made by the party. First of all, the leader should have kept the party together. Next, when Landis showed signs of extreme fatigue, the party should have returned to the Chasm Lake shelter for the night (1 mile distant). Perhaps the fact that the climb was being broadcast on radio caused the party to push the climb farther than they might have otherwise. No hard hats were worn. Kezlan’s G.I. crampons were broken at the rivets. This type of crampon is not adequate for mountaineers.