American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Protection Pulled Out, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park

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


Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park

On June 1, 1988, about 1400, during a technical climbing patrol, two climbing rangers were attempting a new route on Checkerboard Rock, a small crag on Lumpy Ridge. The area they were in was just left of a route called Broken Wing. Ranger #1 had spent the morning working on the first ten meters and at that level he put in the first bolt (3/8 inch diameter x 1 1/2 inch shaft, Star-Dryven). He then lowered off the bolt to rest and Ranger #2 (22) decided to go up and work above the high point. He passed the bolt and continued approximately another three meters where he placed four more pieces of protection, claiming that each one individually was dubious, but that the four combined should be sufficient in supporting his weight while he drilled another bolt. He worked on the hole for approximately 20 minutes, during which the drill bit became repeatedly stuck and he would have to pull furiously on the bit to get it out of the hole. This certainly put further stress on the protection from which he was hanging.

He finished the drilling and was preparing to put in the bolt when suddenly the protection he was hanging from pulled and he began falling. At this point the first bolt was just below him and should have arrested his fall, but instead the bolt pulled out without even slowing him down. A knifeblade also pulled and he then impacted the rocks and continued into a nearby chimney where a marginal 3 1/2 Friend finally stopped his fall.

As soon as he was able to speak (30 seconds to a minute), he complained of pain in his pelvis as well as numbness in his left leg. At this juncture, it was established that he was alert and oriented times three. Ranger #1 moved to a small ledge just beneath the victim and directed the lowering of him onto the ledge. He positioned him as comfortably as possible, padded him and anchored him. Assessment of the victim continued until the rescue was completed. Radio contact was made within two minutes after the fall to park dispatch and he continued to relay medical information as well as receive information from Paul McLaughlin (Strike Team Leader), who was enroute during the assessment. Victim was stabilized, assessed, and vitals were taken three times by the time McLaughlin arrived and took over coordination of the rescue, which was completed by 1930. The victim suffered a fractured pelvis and elbow. (Source: Rocky Mountation National Park—various reports)

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