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Arizona, Superstition Mountains, Flat Iron

Arizona, Superstition Mountains, Flat Iron. On 13 February Larry Treiber (23), William Betcher, and Bruce Grubbs with a full complement of gear for a 6 Class ascent and gear for a one night bivouac attempted to climb the so-called Nose which had been unclimbed. Halfway up a prominent yellow band runs horizontally across the two faces that meet to form the Nose. On the southwest face the band forms a broken ledge that ends at the Nose.

The first lead involved tricky A3 nailing and easy free climbing. Grubbs led and noted that although the rock was hard it tended to form thin loose flakes which covered the faces and lined some of the cracks. Occasionally a pin would crack the rock as it was driven. Grubbs passed a small ledge and attempted some harder free climbing above. He was tired from the aid sections and almost fell off. He descended back to the ledge and fixed the rope so that Betcher could jumar the first pitch. Betcher found the second pitch exciting, as was judged from the noises he made. As Grubbs jumared up alongside the haul bag to keep it from jamming, he was glad to have an excuse not to free climb that pitch.

The second pitch ended at the ledge formed by the yellow band 250 feet up. It was apparent that they would have to bivouac, since it was late afternoon and they were only halfway up. To save time the next day, they decided to push the third pitch as far as possible and then rappel to the ledge for the night. Treiber began nailing up a rotten crack in a shallow groove about 50 feet to the right of the Nose. B etcher was belaying. The crack was extremely bad and Treiber had a hard time getting pins in. After several pins he got in a nut, then a cliff hanger and two more pins. At this point it was beginning to get dark. He needed one more move up to reach a good piton crack. He dropped a sling on a flake, clipped in his stirrup, and tested the flake by bouncing in the stirrup. He then began to move up using the flake as a hand-hold. The flake came loose as he pulled on it and he fell off backwards 30 to 35 feet to the ledge.

Betcher locked his belay as he heard Treiber come off. The top two pins ripped out but the nut held and Betcher felt the force of the fall as Treiber struck the ledge. He landed mostly on his left side and immediately began moaning in pain. Betcher tied off the rope. Grubbs went to Treiber and tried to determine the extent of his injuries. Treiber complained of a bad cut in his arm that was bleeding copiously. Grubbs being on the right side could not locate the injury. When Betcher arrived from the left he quickly located the badly cut up area around the left elbow. Treiber also felt that his left ankle was badly sprained. It was obvious that a rescue team was needed. Betcher administered first aid and Grubbs shouted to some hikers at the bottom. They responded they were leaving immediately and would notify the rescue group.

It was now dark. The three made themselves as comfortable as possible. By early morning (0230) the rescue team had assembled at the base of the Flatiron. A fixed line of 9 mm perlon was dropped to the ground. It was anchored to two bolts. The rope hung free most of the way. Three members of the rescue team jumared up to the ledge. A vertical stretcher lowering was decided upon. The lowering went very smoothly. It was then carried from the base over rough rock to a waiting helicopter. This carry took longer than had been expected. By 0800 he was aboard and off to hospital. The others cleared the gear from the ledge and rappelled down the ascent route.

At hospital Treiber was found to have a compound fracture of his left elbow and a badly bruised left foot. He has made a good recovery and is looking forward to climbing again.

Source: Bruce Grubbs in the Arizona Mountaineer, and Herbert M. North, AMC Rescue Team.