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Fall on Rock, Placed No Protection, Hurrying, Weather, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Bookend


Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Bookend

On August 12, 1994, about noon, Bob Koppe (51) slipped on wet rock while leading the third pitch (5.8) of Melvin's Wheel III 5.8+ on the Bookend during a rainstorm. Koppe was hurrying due to the rain, and his foot slipped in the flaring, poorly-protected, but easy portion of this chimney pitch above the crux. Koppe inverted and fell head first about 30 feet down the chimney, eventually wedging by his buttocks. He sustained trauma to his pelvis. With the assistance of partner Roger Wiegand, Koppe was able to return to the belay ledge atop pitch one. However, the swelling caused by the trauma to the pelvis made it impossible to continue. Wiegand continued the descent and started the response by Rocky Mountain National Park SAR Team and Larimer County SAR Team.


Summer showers in the central Rockies come quickly and violently However, most daily storms occur around the same time as the previous day's storm, so climbers can easily plan their climb timing around this. This party did not even leave the trailhead until 0930. Also, if caught in a storm, even if familiar with the route like Koppe and Wiegand were, it is better just to rappel off. They still had an additional pitch to ascend above the one on which the accident occurred.

Koppe stated that he was comfortable with leading pitches up to 5.9 in difficulty. On wet rock, the difficulty goes up the scale, especially if the rock has any tripe or similar slimy fungi or lichen species on it. (Source: Jim Detterline, Long’s Peak Supervisory Climbing Ranger, based on original reports by Rangers Doug Ridley, David McKee and Karl Pearson)