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Stranded, Rappel Rope Jammed, Weather, Exceeding Abilities, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Hallett Peak


Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Hallett Peak

On July 3, 1993, Tor Anderson (20) and Brandon Latham (21) became stranded on the Northcutt-Carter Route III 5.7 on the North Face of Hallett Peak, as they attempted to rappel the route in retreat. One of the ropes pulled clear of the rappel setup but the other rope became jammed in a crack. Bad weather and icy rock contributed to the difficulty in retrieving the ropes. Park Service rescuers climbed two technical pitches to reach Anderson and Latham, and lowered them 200 feet to the base of the route. Latham was suffering from probable hypothermia.


This incident was the second stranding in 1993 on the Northcutt-Carter Route and one of about six incidents that the Park Service responded to for overdue parties on Hallett North Face. The Northcutt-Carter Route, featured in Roper and Steck's Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, requires more route-finding abilities than those possessed by the average 5.7 leader. Also, since it is an alpine face, running into ice at any time of year may be expected. The storm which turned Anderson and Latham back was predicted. In rappelling the face, parties need to add sufficient slings and occasionally sacrifice carabiners in the interest of a smooth rope retrieval. Ropes should be pulled carefully to avoid jams. Shorter rappels may be in order when obstacles are present. Even after taking all precautions, the rope may still jam. In that case, one may have to self-belay up the jammed rope in order to free it or cut off the available portion of rope in order to continue the retreat.

This was Anderson’s fourth and Latham s second rescue incident at Rocky Mountain National Park. (See previous issues of ANAM.) (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Supervisory Climbing Ranger, Rocky Mountain National Park)