FALLING ROCK, POOR POSITION
Colorado, Ouray, Dexter Creek Slabs
On February 26, the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team was called out to rescue Carroll Robinson (36), who had been struck on the head by a large rock. He and his partners, Dan Mays and Steve House, were rappelling at the time, and Robinson was tied into a belay station mid-way down. Robinson and Mays were lowered to the base of the route by House, who then ran to the nearest phone to summon the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team.
As mission commander and the first member on the scene, it appeared to me that there was not a lot that we were going to be able to do for the victim. It was late in the day and Robinson s vital signs were very poor. He was suffering from major head trauma as a result of the rock strike, and although he was wearing a helmet, it was of no use in this case as the impact was so great that it broke a carabiner he was attached to the belay with.
After the rest of the rescue team arrived at the base of the gully, which is approximately 750 feet above the road, it was determined that Robinson needed immediate helicopter transport if he was going to have a chance. We proceeded to do a short haul operation to bring him down to the waiting Airlife chopper. Unfortunately, he was not able to be revived at the hospital and the plugs to his machinery were removed several days later. Robinson s wife did choose to donate many of his usable organs so some good came out of this tragedy.
Our area of mountains is considered one of the most dangerous in the United States. With the rapid change in weather here we have a high chance of avalanche and erosion goes on constantly. One minute it may be sunny and warm with a temperature of 70 and the next it may be windy, snowy and icy with a temperature of 20 or below depending on the wind chill. We have had accidents on our “fourteeners” in the middle of July when a storm blew in and some people were not prepared for the weather. We have people who come from sea level and climb the Sneffels Range and exhibit symptoms of high altitude sickness as well as hypothermia. Our rescue time is also greatly hindered by the terrain.
In the Carroll Robinson incident, however, the accident occurred in an area in which we had just trained the week before. Arrival time and evacuation were relatively fast compared to other areas which take a minimum travel time of one hour.
The only mistake in this case was a disregard for the conditions. The party was on a south facing route on an extremely warm afternoon, with temperatures in the 45° to 50° range. (Sources: Bill Whitt, Lieutenant, and Nancy Chiltar, Secretary, Ouray Mountain Rescue)