American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Failed to Follow Route, Exceeding Abilities, Placed Inadequate Protection, Protection Pulled Out, New Mexico, Sandia Mountains, Muralla Grande

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


New Mexico, Sandia Mountains, Muralla Grande

Dave Kilgore (36), Don McIntyre (44), and Steven Patchett (39) were climbing the La Selva route (5.7) on Muralla Grande in the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Patchett had taken the second lead and gotten off route at the end of the pitch. Kilgore took the third lead and elected to traverse across to the route, rather than downclimbing the easier ground below, to regain the line. The ascending traverse became increasingly difficult, but he continued, thinking the difficulties would ease up, and that some of the moves would be hard to reverse. When he fell, around 1300, a group of three steel nuts, about two meters behind him, all pulled (he knew they were questionable) but a piece six meters below held and he stopped after falling 12 meters, hitting a couple of ledges on the way. Kilgore was lowered to a ledge a meter below, and was then joined by McIntyre and Patchett who downclimbed to his position. Kilgore suffered severe contusions to his buttocks, elbow and wrist, and was quite shocky and incapacitated by his injuries. The two climbing ropes were tied together and Patchett lowered Kilgore, with McIntyre alongside, 90 meters down the vertical, sometimes overhanging terrain below. Patchett rappelled the route to rejoin the two, after which McIntyre went for help. More than 40 members of Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council, Sandia Search and Rescue and the 1550th Combat Air Crew Rescue School responded, pulling Kilgore up the steep terrain of Chimney Canyon to Sandia Crest, where Kilgore was loaded into an ambulance at 1630 the day after the accident. (Source: Steven Patchett, Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council)


Kilgore was off route on much more difficult terrain than the normal route. He was climbing at the top of his ability and with questionable protection behind him. We all do it. Most of the time, we get away with it, and come away pumped with another great story. He didn’t get away with it this time.

All the individuals involved are active members of Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council and experienced mountaineers. They had the equipment and knowledge to quickly evacuate the injured man to the base of the climb. Pick your climbing partners well!

One might consider one of the benefits of membership in a Search and Rescue organization. No one turns down a call when it’s “one of our own”—probably for the chance to “rib” the subject during the evacuation! (Source: Steven Patchett, Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council)

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