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Fall on Rock, Nut Pulled Out, No Hard Hat, New Mexico, Sandia Mountains


New Mexico, Sandia Mountains

On September 16, Jim Ladd (40) and John Wright (39 had underestimated the time for approaching the South West Ridge route on the Needle (they had left the car at 1100) as they were having a difficult time locating the beginning of the route, elected to start up a gully on the formation to get some climbing in, though they didn’t expect to be able to top out. On leading the first pitch, Ladd encountered what he estimated as a 5.5 mantle onto a ledge. Just as he completed the move, both hands “popped” off the ledge and he fell 12 meters on sloping ground and was held by his belay and a Lowe Tricam. He hit his hip half way down, fracturing it, and sustained other injuries, including a blow to the head, which made his “head spin” for a few minutes after the fall. His companion climbed to his position and then lowered him to a more substantial ledge. After stabilizing Ladd and leaving spare clothes, Wright went for help about 1600. A friend of Ladd’s, Colin Messer, arrived at dusk with food, water, spare clothes and a blanket. Personnel from Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council, Sandia Search and Rescue and the 1550th Combat Air Crew Rescue School, who had been involved in another rescue that afternoon, began arriving at 1700 with a sleeping bag and medical gear. Rescuers arrived throughout the night with more technical rescue gear. At first light, Ladd was placed in a pair of MAST pants to stabilize his pelvis and loaded into a litter. He was lowered on steep sloping terrain to a site where he was winched into a hovering helicopter from Kirtland Air Force Base and flown to a hospital. (Source: Steven Patchett, Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council)


Ladd stated that he should have protected the move better. Protection closer than three meters away could have prevented the injuries. He also felt that they should have carried more gear for a forced bivy, though that did not contribute to his injuries. Finally, he was very lucky to have suffered only a “spinning” sensation after his head contacted the rock during the fall. A hard hat would have minimized his chances of a serious or fatal head injury.

Ladd was given a prescription pain killer by Messer when he arrived on the scene. Utmost caution should be administered in administering such a drug to a subject with possible head injuries. The dangers of pain killers in such cases outweigh their usefulness and should only be used by medical personnel trained in their use. (Source: Steven Patchett, Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council)