American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rappel Anchor Pulled Out, Inadequate Belay, Inexperience, Colorado, Eldorado Springs

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


Colorado, Eldorado Springs

On May 8,1986, a novice female climber (23) was on the west wall of Redgarden Wall in Eldorado Springs State Park when her male climbing partner rappelled to the ground. The woman then adjusted the rappel anchor, backed off to rappel, and the anchor came out. She fell approximately 30 meters to the ground.

When members of the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group and A-l Ambulance arrived at the scene, the victim was moaning and barely conscious. Her pulse was 136, and two intravenous lines were started on her. Medical anti-shock trousers and oxygen were also applied, and a belayed scree style evacuation took place, with the victim in a stokes style litter.

When the oxygen ran out from the bottle on the litter, the victim’s drive to breathe reduced alarmingly. A full tank arrived soon after it was requested, and the victim resumed her previous breathing rate.

Injuries sustained included two fractured shoulder blades, a compression fracture of the fourth thoracic vertebra, a right pneumothorax, a ruptured spleen, and a badly fractured pelvis. (Source: Tom Mullen, Rocky Mountain Rescue Group)


It is common practice to belay rappellers, especially novices. It is also common practice to have a back-up to a single point rappel anchor when possible. (Source: J. Williamson)

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