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


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)


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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