American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rocks—Dislodged By Climber, Fall on Rock, Colorado, Boulder Canyon

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

FALLING ROCKS—DISLODGED BY CUMBER, FALL ON ROCK

Colorado, Boulder Canyon

On October 25, 1989, Farrell Ballenger (42) and Loren Trout (44) planned to climb from Castle Rock in Boulder Canyon West along a mostly buried aquaduct to Baker Reservoir in Nederland. Trout had done the route several times before and knew it well. At two or three places, a rock arête crosses the line of the aquaduct and the pipe itself tunnels through. The path that exists on top of the aquaduct at these points disappears and a hiker must traverse out onto the arête to rejoin the route.

Trout and Ballenger came to an arête and traversed out. The grade was perhaps 5.0. Ballenger followed, but at some point said he felt uncomfortable. Trout said he would proceed to “check it out” while Ballenger waited.

Trout completed the traverse and returned to say it was O.K. and easy the rest of the way. Ballenger said he would prefer to go an alternate route which traversed the arrete higher up. Ballenger did a rising traverse back in the direction they had come. Trout followed. They made it all the way off the arête to a grassy tree-filled broad gully crossed by rock bands and benches.

Ballenger passed the bottom of a rock band and touched a large rock outcrop to steady himself as he passed it. The outcrop was actually two approximately .5 square meter boulders weighing about 200 kilos each atop one another and on top of some loose dirt. As Ballenger passed, he may have slipped. His touch dislodged the rocks and they fell on him. The lower one knocked his legs from under him. Ballenger and the rocks tumbled together about 15 meters over a rock band until he got caught in some brush. The rocks rolled on, but had crushed his abodmen on the way. Trout climbed down to him, administered rescue breathing, and spoke to Ballenger. Ballenger answered, then went unconscious. Trout shouted to a passing cyclist for help. Nederland Fire Department and Rocky Mountain Rscue responded. Ballenger was pronounced dead after being evacuated to the road. He died of internal hemmorage. (Source: Bill Baker)

Analysis

Ballenger chose a more cautious route—choosing to err on the side of caution—and walked into a natural deadfall. Even 22 years of experience as a competent and safe climber does not always prepare one for such a situation. (Source: Bill Baker)

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