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Stranded, Exceeding Abilities, Colorado, Flatirons

STRANDED, EXCEEDING ABILITIES

Colorado, Flatirons

Six members from the Colorado Rescue Dogs and Alpine Rescue Team (MRA), who were on a social climb, met the involved party at the start of the Eyebolt route (5.0- 5.4) of the Third Flatiron in suburban Boulder County. During the usual preclimb chatter, it became obvious that two members of the party had never seen a rope before, much less tied a knot or climbed a rock. The leader (20) did not appear significantly superior in skills. He was wearing a fine commercial harness, carried a rack of “better” carabiners and protection, and had two nearly new kernmantle ropes. After he had tied the other two into the waist loops only of their inadequate home-tied swami belts, we were able to suggest to him that a chased figure eight through the leg loops might be better than an unsaftied bowline. They led off before us.

We met them at the first belay point about 45 minutes later (150 feet of 4th class). The leader had led the second pitch; number two was still on the first belay anchor, and number one was stranded and panicking about 5 feet up. Her hard, smooth, crepe soled shoes could not grip the rock. The leader lowered her to the ledge and then we lowered her to the ground, having to instruct her on how to work the gate on her carabiner, etc., through our fixed rope. During this evacuation, one of her shoes broke completely in two. She finished the descent barefoot. (Source: Henry Ledyard, Alpine Rescue Team)

Analysis

The Eyebolt route of the Third Flatiron is perhaps the most popular sustained (6 pitch) climb in the Boulder area. It is accessible, solid, technically easy, protected with permanent anchors, long, high, and the site of many climbing tragedies. It is often a first climb for novices and more often than not is done unroped. Incidents such as the one described happen almost weekly with results that range from fright to fatality. As Pat Ament and Cleve McCarty say in High Over Boulder, “Have no doubt that the Third is potentially the most dangerous climb in the Boulder area.” This incident would not have been reported except to illustrate this point and to add that two days later the leader died from a fall on a one-pitch, A-l ceiling. (Source: Henry Ledyard, Alpine Rescue Team)