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Fall on Rock, Exceeding Abilities, Failure to Follow Route, Party Separated, Inadequate Equipment, Colorado, Long's Peak

FALL ON ROCK, EXCEEDING ABILITIES, FAILURE TO FOLLOW ROUTE, PARTY SEPARATED, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT Colorado, Longs Peak

Gary Quinn, an employee of the Tahusa Boy Scout Camp, was the designated “guide” of a group of scouts who were involved in a climb of Longs Peak via the Keyhole route. At the Keyhole, about 13,600 feet, four members decided not to continue to the summit (about ¾ mile from the Keyhole). At the bottom of Homestretch, two other scouts decided not to continue after seeing the difficulty that Robert Silver (16) was having on Homestretch just below the summit of Longs Peak. Due to the amount of snow on the normal route, Silver moved to the north of the normal route to get on dry rock. The rock that he moved onto, however, was at a much higher angle than the snow. After moving a short distance on the rock, Silver told Greene, who was at his level but horizontal to his position, that he (Silver) was stuck and could not continue. Quinn, who had made the summit with four scouts, was looking down on the situation and giving Silver instructions as to where to place his hands and feet. Silver was able to move a bit but got stuck again. Quinn then started to descend to assist Silver. Greene stated that Silver just got “antsy” and began to move before Quinn arrived. Silver slipped from the rock and fell about 300 feet. Jim Bast, one of the scouts who stopped at the base of Homestretch, was the first to reach Silver. He tried to find a pulse on Silver but found none. Quinn immediately descended to Silver’s location and also felt for a pulse but found none.

Quinn, Bast, and Greene stayed with the body while the rest of the group descended to the Longs Peak Ranger Station to report the accident. The body was airlifted from the scene. (Source: Larry Van Slyke, Rocky Mountain National Park)

Analysis

The Keyhole route is the normal summer hiking route to the summit of Longs Peak. When the route is dry, it is literally a walk-up. When snow and/or ice is still on the route, it can be something that will make an experienced, equipped mountaineer “stay on his toes.” After a winter of very heavy snowfall, the Keyhole route still had sufficient snow on it so that it was considered a technical climb by Ranger personnel. Numerous warnings as to the hazards of the route were posted at the Longs Peak Ranger Station where the scouts began their hike to the summit. Had they read and then given credence to the posted information concerning conditions on the peak, they surely would not have continued their trip.

People seem to have difficulty comprehending that conditions at 14,000 feet in June can be and often are much, much different than at lower elevations, including those found at the Longs Peak Ranger Station at 9,500 feet. Many people take a chance on those conditions and survive. Some people do not. (Source: Larry Van Slyke, Rocky Mountain National Park)

(Ed. Note: For the past several years, these non-mountaineering accidents have been included for illustrative purposes.)