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Falling Rock, Not Following Instincts, Colorado, Ophir Wall


Colorado, Ophir Wall

On May 27, 1989, Katie Kemble (34), former owner and Chief Guide of Leavenworth Alpine Guides, Inc., and Ric Hatch were climbing on the Ophir Wall when this accident occurred. Katie sent in the following narrative:

We had been climbing and decided to finish up at a practice slab that supposedly offered full face climbing. Katie was finished and Ric was six meters up a 12 meter slab. Katie was sitting at the base of the cliff belaying Ric when a rockfall was heard. Katie was hit by a rock ricocheting off the wall. It amputated her left lower leg, almost at the knee, leaving only two to three fingers of flesh attaching it. Katie felt there was no time for a rescue and asked Ric to carry her out, while she carried her leg. She was driven to the Telluride Emergency Clinic and then helicopterd to Grand Junction. (Source: Katie Kemble)


The only way to have avoided this accident would’ve been to follow my inclination and not go climbing that day. I really had strong feelings that day and discarded them. I should have gone mountain biking....

I think climbers should have Mountain Rescue self-evacuation techniques and advanced first aid, or better, training. My background as a nurse probably saved my life and hopefully my leg. I ran my own rescue and care until I was helicoptered out. I told them what IVs to start, where to start them and how to care for my leg. (Source: Katie Kemble)

(Editor’s Note: This is the second description of self-help in acute injury situations in this year’s report. This one is, obviously, understated. Katie's ability to direct staff at the Telluride Clinic, let alone to stay alert and somehow avoid going into shock, should emphasize the value of good training. Without her medical knowledge and strong will, the result surely would have been different.)