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Fall on Rock, Climbing Unroped, No Hard Hat, Inexperience, Bad Weather, Wisconsin, Devil's Lake State Park


Wisconsin, Devil’s Lake State Park

Fred Kolberg (18) arrived at Devil’s Lake about 9 a.m. April 9, 1980, on a school outing with the Wilderness Club, Arrowhead High School, Hartland, Wisconsin. The 20 students and one teacher planned to hike, rock climb and camp. The advisor, Dave Harrison, decided that the weather conditions precluded climbing and led the group to the quarry for general exploring. The group split up and Kolberg and Jim Dewey (16) began free climbing (no ropes or aids) up the sheer face of the quarry. They evidently reached a ledge about 40 feet up and were moving laterally along it when Kolberg stepped on a loose rock, lost his footing and fell head first. He hit the ledge after falling about 18 feet and continued falling about 22 feet more, landing where the climb began. No one, except Dewey, saw any of the fall.

After hearing Kolberg yell, the remainder of the group came to the scene. Harrison had to help Dewey climb down. They then carried Kolberg back to the group campground (about 1/4 mile). Harrison called the park office for help. Kolberg was unconscious for several minutes and did not fully respond throughout. The ambulance crew applied compresses to the obvious lacerations and placed an air splint on the left ankle. The scooper stretcher was used to place Kolberg in the ambulance. Harrison accompanied them to St. Clare Hsopital.

I went to the hospital about 4:15 p.m. Dr. Dianne Meyer and nurse Zersen informed me that Kolberg suffered lacerations of the forehead and back of the head, right forearm, and right shin; bruises to the lower back and right side; compression of the left talus bone, and that the right kneecap was in two pieces. (Source: Craig Karr, Superintendent, Devil’s Lake State Park)


This accident raises several questions, none of which can be answered here. One of the more obvious questions is: What were the students told when they split up to go exploring? (Source: J. Williamson)