FALL ON ROCK, EXCEEDING ABILITIES
Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Petit Grepon
On July 6, 1991, at 1200, Mike Dobry (24) took a lead fall on the 5.8 crux of the South Face of Petit Grepon in Rocky Mountain National Park. He sustained an open fracture of his right ankle. His partner/belayer, Jon Stewart (22) was unable to lower him back to the belay ledge due to the long length of rope already paid out this far on this pitch. Rangers Keith Hayse and Scott Wanek, who had just completed the route and were rappelling off the backside of the formation, heard the calls for help and responded to Dobry’s position. Hayse and Wanek did a solo rope rescue of Dobry, lowering him to be belay ledge and stabilizing his injuries.
Rocky Mountain National Park’s rescue team was flown to Sky Pond by helicopter. They lowered Dobry by tragsitz 600 feet to the base of the formation, and continued another 1,000 feet with scree evacuation maneuvers utilizing a stokes litter. At 1946, the patient was picked up at the Sky Pond helispot by Flight for Life air ambulance, which flew him to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado.
The South Face of Petit Grepon, immortalized in Steck and Roper’s Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, has become one of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most popular alpine climbing routes. Unfortunately, it attracts many climbers who are not quite ready for its challenges. One must keep in mind that this is an alpine route, at altitude, where the rating may seem much more difficult than a similar 5.8 route on a small, low elevation cliff. Also, the route finding is demanding and inclement weather may complicate matters. It is interesting to note that in 1991, the Petit Grepon witnessed six technical climbing rescue incidents, second only to the 13 on Longs Peak, in Rocky Mountain National Park. (Source: Jim Detterline, Ranger, RMNP)