American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded, Climbing Alone and Unroped, Arizona, Capitol Butte

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1989


On January 7, 1988, Richard Mullen (30s), visiting from Oregon where he lived, decided to climb, alone, the standard South Face Ducked Route of Capitol Butte. The climb is steep and over 1200 meters in vertical relief. The route follows numerous ledges over broken sandstone and is sometimes difficult to follow. By the time he had made the very strenuous climb, it was getting dark, which complicated matters. At the top now in falling temperatures, he decided to try and make his way down with no light. After some difficulty and a near fall on slippery rock to his inevitable death, he became stranded. Rescuers were called when “yells for help” were reported by locals.

A rescue team was assembled and started up the mountain at nightfall taking almost four hours to reach the summit with heavy packs. One paramedic fell and broke several ribs while descending. The victim was located with little problem and he was able to walk out under his own power. The rescue took the entire evening until morning. (Source: Reed Thorne, Captain—Technical Rescue, Sedona Fire Department)

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