American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Climbing Alone and Unroped, Inadequate Equipment, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1990


Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park

On September 24, 1989, John Ashby (38) was attempting an unroped solo ascent of thinly iced Alexander’s Chimney (5.5) on the East Face of Longs Peak. He was wearing Galibier Superguide (single leather) boots, but no crampons. Ashby slipped on an icy hold, fell about 45 meters vertically to a ledge, bounced into a bergschrund on the west side of Lamb’s Slide, dropped into a hole beneath the glacier, and popped back up on the surface of Lamb’s Slide through another hole about 45 meters distant. He was unconscious initially and sustained multiple skull fractures, fractured left wrist, and numerous minor injuries. Andrew Hautzinger (EMT) and Randall Streufert, who witnessed the accident from Stettner’s Ledges, lowered Ashby three ropelengths to the scree. Against Hautzinger’s advice, Ashby walked back to the trailhead and received a ride in a private vehicle. He also refused treatment from RMNP rangers, Estes Park Ambulance, and Boulder Community Hospital. (Source: David Essex, Chief Park Ranger, Rocky Mountain National Park)


Soloing without a self-belay rig considerably decreases the chances of surviving a fall. Ashby did wear a helmet (Bell) , and it probably did add much to his survival. Ashby realized that there was some ice on the route, but he did not wear crampons. (Source: David Essex, Chief Park Ranger, Rocky Mountain National Park)

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