American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection, Exceeding Abilities, Exhaustion, Colorado, Eldorado Canyon

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1987

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE PROTECTION, EXCEEDING ABILITIES, EXHAUSTION

Colorado, Eldorado Canyon

(On February 1,1986, Clayton Jackson [24] fell while lead climbing “Raggae” [5.8]. The following is his account of the accident.)

After failing miserably on one route, we decided to try a slightly easier one. As I began climbing, I felt a little shaky coming off a three-month lull because of cold weather.

My first mistake was placing all my vitally important equipment down low on the pitch, where the climbing still was relatively easy. So, when I reached the crux of the climb, I had no remaining equipment with which to protect the climb.

My partner realized I was in trouble when I started taking a long time. As he stuck out his head, he saw me slip and he exclaimed, “uh-oh” as I began to fall.

“I started to take in the rope and the force pulled me up about 30 centimeters,” he said.

Initial impact broke the talus bone in my left foot and also caused dislocation of my ankle. After initial impact, I cartwheeled backwards before coming to rest. My immediate reaction was to grab my left leg, which was in excruciating pain.

“My leg is broken,” was one of my first utterances. My foot was cocked about 45 degrees to the inside because of the dislocation, and my partner was wondering why I had not straightened out my leg.

I had him lower me about 30 meters to the base of the climb. As I was being lowered, my injured leg hit the rock a few times, sending a shiver of pain up my spine.

Upon reaching the cliff's base, I waited for my partner to retrieve what climbing gear he could.

A kind of paradox occurred as I was preparing to go back to the car—two climbers came up to my position and offered help, while another individual was helping himself to the climbing equipment I had left behind. This added insult to the injury. (Source: Article by Clayton Jackson in the Daily News Press, March 31, 1986)

Analysis

Most climbing accidents are caused by poor judgment. I realized I had been overtaxing my abilities so early in the season and should have placed more protection near the crux of the second pitch. (Source: Clayton Jackson)

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