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Fall on Snow, Unable to Self-Arrest, Lost Ice Ax, Colorado, Maroon Bells


Colorado, Maroon Bells

On July 26, 1986, Greg Mace (42) and three other Mountain Rescue-Aspen members departed on a scheduled training exercise to scout alternative evacuation routes and to locate helicopter landing zones, and generally to get acquainted with the Maroon Bells. They followed the standard route to the summit of North Maroon Bell, then over to the summit of South Maroon Bell. At the top of the long south couloir they sorted the gear and put on crampons. Greg, with the strap of his ice ax on his wrist, stepped out onto the snow to test it. Somehow he lost his footing and fell, either on his side or on his back. He rolled over to self-arrest, although he may not have been able to get his hand on top of the ice ax. While trying to arrest, Greg lost his ice ax and his wrist somehow came out of the strap.

Greg then slid approximately 225 meters down the snow and ice to a point where the couloir takes a turn, and went feet first into the rocks. His companions reached him quickly, but there was little they could do. One of them went for help, glissading the entire remaining length of the couloir and running out to the trailhead. The response from MRA was smooth, and a helicopter took off from Montrose almost immediately, but Greg succumbed to his injuries before outside help could arrive. He had dislocated his left shoulder, broken virtually all the ribs on his left side and punctured his left lung. (Source: Colorado Search and Rescue Board, Volume 20, Number 2, July 30, 1986)

(Editor’s Note: The victim was President of the Rocky Mountain Region of the MRA at the time of his death, and had been with the Mountain Rescue-Aspen for 15 years.)