American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow, Inadequate Belay—Climbing Unroped, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1993

FALL ON SNOW, INADEQUATE BELAY—CLIMBING UNROPED

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

On August 9, 1992, at 0900, Andy Griffiths (36) was attempting to climb Lamb's Slide on the East face of Longs Peak. He slipped and slid 300 feet, sustaining injuries to his left elbow, hip, and ankle. Charlie McVey reached and assessed Griffiths, and then used his portable ham radio to contact Dan St. John in Fort Collins, Colorado. St. John then reported the incident to Rocky Mountain National Park Rangers, and continued to provide the rescue team with updates from the scene until reached by the rescue team and an air ambulance helicopter.

Analysis

Mr. Griffiths’ accident is one that has been repeated continuously through the years on Lamb s Slide. Some of these slides have resulted in fatalities. Once the icy conditions of mid-summer appear on Lamb's Slide, it is almost impossible to self-arrest. To prevent a really long fall, it is not very time consumptive to set up a tandem climbing situation by roping up and moving together while attached to placements generally on the right rock wall.

The unique aspect of this accident is the use of portable communications by the citizen in order to expedite the rescue effort. Park Rescue has been contacted via ham radio and cellular telephone an increasing number of times in recent years. Several of these contacts during cases of life-threatening injuries, such as two hikers struck by lightning at the Boulder Field on Longs Peak, resulted in quick medical responses that saved lives. (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Supervisory Climbing Ranger, Rocky Mountain National Park)

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