American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Illness, Cold and Windy Weather, Colorado, Longs Peak

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1984

ILLNESS, COLD AND WINDY WEATHER

Colorado, Longs Peak

On January 1, 1983, Jimmy Shotten (44) and Randall Speck (24) left the Longs Peak trailhead in good weather for a six-day winter camping and climbing trip on Longs Peak. They spent that Saturday night at Jims Grove and, on Sunday, continued on up to the boulder field in fair weather. The weather deteriorated during the night, and high winds blew their tent apart. On Monday, Shotten and Speck climbed to the base of the North Face and found some existing snow caves where they spent the night. The weather continued to deteriorate, and, on Tuesday, Shotten and Speck attempted to descend Longs Peak, but could only reach Granite Pass, about three kilometers, much of it on their hands and knees, in severe winter conditions. They dug a very small snow cave and spent the night at Granite Pass. That night Shotten became ill, showing signs of bad “flu” and complaining of chest pains “across his shoulders.” On Wednesday Shotten’s condition worsened and he was unable to continue the descent. The weather also had not improved, so Speck dug a larger snow cave. They spent another night at Granite Pass.

On Wednesday, Shotten and Speck were to meet Harry Kent, a Colorado Mountain School (CMS) guide and close friend of Shotten, at Chasm Lake for ice climbing instruction. When Shotten and Speck did not arrive, Kent became concerned and that evening coordinated with the park to search for the party early Thursday. On Thursday, Kent and Aaron Walters (also a CMS guide) departed from the Longs Peak trailhead with a radio to search for Shotten and Speck. At 1130, Speck showed up at the trailhead and reported that Shotten was very ill, weak and unable to walk off the mountain. He also provided Shotten’s location, which was relayed to Kent. Kent and Walters, literally on their hands and knees in the extreme winds, found Shotten and reported him to be incoherent and hypothermic. Kent advised that a rescue was impossible, due to weather conditions and the late hour, but that Shotten was responding well to rewarming measures and nourishment. Kent and Walters spent Thursday night with Shotten while a ground evacuation was arranged for early the next day. On January 7, fourteen personnel evacuated Shotten to the trailhead by noon. It was later determined at the hospital that he had suffered a mild heart attack. (Source: Charlie Logan, Rocky Mountain National Park)

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