FALL ON ROCK, FALLING OBJECT (THE CLIMBER), CLIMBING UNROPED, PLACED NO PROTECTION, POOR POSITION, EXCEEDING ABILITIES
Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Hallett Peak
On June 25, 1994, at 1015, John Baise (21) was attempting to lead, unroped, a chimney section of West Gully (also known as Two Gullys Route) 15.3, on Hallett Peak. Baise decided that the line he was on was not possible, and began down climbing. When he was six feet above the ledge where his partners were huddled unroped, his foot slipped and a handhold broke, causing Baise to tumble into Scott Grunstein (24), who knocked over Steve Siceleve (20), who then knocked Amy Sweat (22) off the ledge. Sweat fell about 60 feet to the ledge of an even further drop-off, sustaining back injuries. Rocky Mountain National Park SAR Team responded to the report of the accident. The response was complicated by the poor directions concerning the location of the victim, failure of the remaining party on scene to flag the helicopter, and the crash of a rescue shuttle helicopter near the summit of Hallett Peak.
Grunstein was supposed to be the leader of this group. He stated that he had 15 years of technical experience, leads 5.6, follows 5.9, and climbs six times per year. He had previously done this route, but was no longer sure if he was on the route. He also had a previous history of attempting climbs beyond his abilities in the park, and failing. Other problems identified by the investigating ranger included no map, no helmets, no technical gear despite the desire to have beginners do a climb with a 5.3 move on it. The climbers could have been spaced out better beneath Baise to prevent the “domino” effect. As it was, they were all spotting him and probably saved his life. All four individuals were operating on three hours of sleep. They had an attitude that they were not really in the backcountry and that a rescue would be simple. The relative experience of the group was low. The route they were attempting was really dirty and full of bad rock. Fortunately, no one was injured in the helicopter crash, but during the following week on a rescue in Western Colorado, the experienced Flight for Life helicopter crew that ended up evacuating Sweat crashed and all members were killed. (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Supervisory Climbing Ranger—based on original reports by Ranger Mitch Fong)