American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded, Darkness, Falled to Follow Directions, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1991

STRANDED, DARKNESS, FAILED TO FOLLOW DIRECTIONS

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

On August 26 at 2200, members of Rocky Mountain National Park’s Search and Rescue Team were involved in an evacuation at Longs Peak’s Boulderfield when they heard cries for help coming from the False Keyhole area. Volunteers Jim Disney and Brad McCullogh were sent to investigate. They found out that Nancy Richards and Sue W. were stranded in the dark on the False Keyhole, a cliffy ridge-like feature on the North side of Longs Peak. Disney and McCullogh directed the stranded climbers back to the west and out of hazard. (Source: Rocky Mountain National Park Rangers)

Analysis

Richards and her partner had just completed an ascent of the Diamond, the very technical big wall on Longs Peak. However, they did not know their descent route on the Keyhole, and became stranded despite their headlamps and technical equipment. Big wall rock climbers are not necessarily good route-finding alpinists. A little research concerning the descent route(s) might have averted this hazardous situation. Placing a guidebook, map, and compass in one’s rucksack can also help to prevent situations like this.

There were several other competent climbing parties who were unable to negotiate their descent routes due to a lack of knowledge in 1990 at Rocky Mountain National Park. Fortunately for the Richards party, the rescue team was in the area, and a potential tragedy or at least hardship was averted. (Source: Rocky Mountain National Park Rangers)

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