FALL ON ROCK, FAILURE TO FOLLOW ROUTE, EXCEEDING ABILITIES
Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, The Book
On August 15, 1994, about 1500, Laura Grignon (29) slipped and fell on rock while leading what they believed to be the J Crack III 5.10a on The Book of Lumpy Ridge. She and her partner, Greg Langkamp, were actually several hundred feet to the left and above the J Crack on the Exit Wall area near Fang Ledge. Although they had already determined that they were off route, they continued to climb. Grignon was about ten feet above her last piece when she slipped and fell 20 feet. She sustained a compressed T-12 vertebrae, and was evacuated by technical litter lower by the Rocky Mountain National Park SAR Team.
Getting off route is a commonplace occurrence in rock climbing. Climbers schooled in the “connect-the-dots” arenas of the sport climbs are often ill-prepared in dealing with complex, traditional multi-pitch routes. Because any climber should expect at some time or another to be off route, s/he should have and follow a pre-planned procedure instead of just “wandering.” On multi-pitch climbs, a guidebook is a good idea for those not used to route finding. It is also good to understand the author's style before attempting to decipher it while hanging in slings. Also, one should pick a particular ability level encountered at which the decision to retreat instead of continue is made. (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Supervisory Ranger, based on original reports by Rangers S. Scot Bowen and Mitch Fong)
(Editor’s Note: Of the 79 SAR missions in Rocky Mountain National Park in 1994, 20 involved climbers. These include reports of overdue climbers, which often end up as unfounded. They cost time and money, but are not considered to be accidents.)