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Fall on Ice, Falling Object, Inadequate Protection, Colorado San Juan Mountains


Colorado, San Juan Mountains

On December 31, 1989, Kevin Kelley (28) was being top-roped on an ice climb near County Road 361 when he fell a little over a meter and dislodged a log (15 cm diameter by 30 cm long) which had a sling and carabiner attached for directional protection. The log slid down the rope and hit Kelley directly on his helmeted (Edelrid Ultralight) head. The helmet was torn open on impact, but protected the climber from a more serious injury. He was taken to town by his climbing party and was treated for lacerations and a concussion. (Source: Nick Leva, Captain, Ouray County Mountain Rescue)


The log should have been buried in snow (used as a “deadman”), if used at all, or an ice screw placement made. (Source: Nick Leva, Captain, Ouray Mountain Rescue)

(Editor’s Note: Rocky Mountain National Park also reported 24 “overdue” parties, of which six were climbing—as opposed to hiking—groups. These are not in the data as no injuries or problems were reported. There were five reports from Eldorado Canyon State Park, all involving falls by people with little or no experience. One person fell 30 meters because he was climbing before he was told he was on belay. With no hard hat, he sustained severe skull injuries. The reporting from Colorado has improved greatly. We need a volunteer to coordinate and assemble data from the entire state.)