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Fall on Snow, Climbing Unroped, Failure to Self-Arrest, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Chaos Canyon

FALL ON SNOW, CLIMBING UNROPED, FAILURE TO SELF-ARREST

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Chaos Canyon

On August 16, 1991, Wolfgang Schoch and Thorstein Hoh (18) were climbing a 45- degree snowfield in Chaos Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park. Hoh lost his footing and slid 150 to 200 feet, struck rock, and slid another 50 feet. Hoh suffered deep lacerations to the right posterior thigh and buttocks, and was unable to walk. Schoch hiked out to report the incident to park rangers, who responded with a four man technical climbing rescue team. The rescuers raised Hoh up 300 feet of technical terrain to the Continental Divide, where they were met by the air ambulance helicopter.

Analysis

Hoh, although equipped with an ice ax, was unskilled in the techniques of self-arrest. Without proficiency in this technique, even an uncontrolled slide on an easy to moderate angled slope may result in injury or death. In climbing with beginners on snow routes, it is important to belay them until they have gained sufficient experience and proficiency with the climbing and safety (including self-belay) techniques. (Source: Jim Detterline, Ranger, RMNP)