American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Ice, Poor Position — Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1985

FALLING ICE, POOR POSITION

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park

On January 15, 1984, around 1345, Elizabeth Wheeler (24) was standing at the base of an ice fall watching two friends climb when a piece of ice weighing about 12 kilograms and falling about 20 meters struck Wheeler on the head. The ice had broken away when one of the climbers above was placing a tool. Wheeler was knocked unconscious for several minutes and experienced disorientation, spinal discomfort, and a severe headache after regaining consciousness. Park rangers responded, immobilized the spine and evacuated Wheeler to an ambulance by about 1900. (Source: Charlie Logan, Ranger, Rocky Mountain National Park)

Analysis

Wheeler was wearing a climbing helmet at the time which, no doubt, prevented a considerably more serious injury. Observers should stand clear of potential falling debris or equipment. The usual forewarnings from above are not always possible. (Source: Charlie Logan, Ranger, Rocky Mountain National Park)

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