American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Running Alone, Colorado, Continental Divide

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1981

FALL ON ROCK, RUNNING ALONE

Colorado, Continental Divide

On August 4, 1980, John Link (43) and seasonal Park Rangers Chris Reveley and Robert Guthrie ran from the Wild Basin Ranger Station to Thunder Lake, 11 miles. (All three individuals were training for the upcoming Pikes Peak Marathon.) At Thunder Lake, Reveley and Guthrie returned to the Ranger Station, as they had to go to work. Link was going to continue from Thunder Lake, west to the Continental Divide via Boulder-Grand Pass, then south along the Divide to Isolation Peak before returning to the Wild Basin Ranger Station.

On August 5, just as rangers were completing an 1,800-foot scree evacuation of a seriously injured hiker from Mt. Meeker, notification was made by Steve Pomerance (area climber and friend of Link) that Link had not returned from his run the previous day. A check was made of the parking area at the Wild Basin Ranger Station where Link’s car was found. A helicopter was dispatched and picked up Reveley and Ranger Bob Seibert from the Mt. Meeker rescue. They then flew over Link’s intended route. At 3:15 p.m., Seibert reported that Link has been sighted about 400 feet below the north end of the rock formation known as the Cleaver. At 5:50 p.m., Rangers Seibert and Jim Bredar reached Link after being dropped off by helicopter some distance away and climbing up to him. They confirmed a fatality. Link’s body was airlifted from the scene. (Source: Larry Van Slyke, Rocky Mountain National Park)

Analysis

According to Seibert, “The trauma sustained by Link (cervical fracture) indicated that the fall probably did not originate from the top of the Continental Divide. It is the opinion of Rangers Bredar and Seibert that Link was in the process of descending from the Cleaver area along the Divide when the fall occurred. It is likely that Link reached the Cleaver, decided not to attempt to ascend that feature alone, then began to descend into the Box and Eagle Lakes drainage. The descent route appears rather gradual from the top but becomes very steep toward the bottom. Link was found at the bottom.”

While not a climbing accident, this report is presented because it is the first time such circumstances have become known to this editor. Many athletes, especially skiers and longdistance runners, train on mountain trails. Wearing light running clothing and footwear, they travel miles from the road into areas where a hiker would not ordinarily venture without spare clothing and food. There have been incidents of sprained ankles and twisted knees but no fatalities. Perhaps having a companion would not have made any difference in this case, but it is worth considering. As with any of us who have done this kind of training frequently, especially if we go alone, we tend not to think about telling a friend, “Here’s my route and if I’m not back by …” (Source: J. Williamson)

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