American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Fatigue, Late Start, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Hallett Peak

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1996

FALL ON ROCK, FATIGUE, LATE START

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Hallett Peak

On July 15, at 1030, Robert Gould (53) and Kenneth Brenneman (55) left Bear Lake trailhead to do an ascent of the Northcutt-Carter Route on Hallett Peak. Upon arrival at the base of the North Face, they realized that their start was too late. So at noon, they began to climb the Hallett Chimney (III 5.6, A2) because they thought that this would be a fast and easy route. The chimney was wet and had patches of snow in parts, causing the climbers to move slowly and resort to aid at one point. At 1845, about 300 feet from the top of the route, Gould took a 35 foot fall on wet and muddy rock, becoming unconscious and unresponsive. Brenneman lowered Gould to the side of a snow field, tied off Gould at two points on his harness, placed all extra clothing on Gould, and rappelled ten 70-foot rope lengths to the base of the face. He then reported the accident to Rocky Mountain National Park SAR team. The rescue effort, which was initiated at 2230 upon Brenneman s report, took until 1245 on the following day. Gould was wearing a helmet, and this probably contributed to his survival of the head injuries. The intensive care unit at St. Anthony’s Central Hospital in Denver, CO, said that Gould did not sustain any fractures from the accident but that he may take six months to a year to recover from the neurological injuries. He was able to recognize his wife and daughter within three days after the accident.

Analysis

According to the investigating ranger, Phil Akers, the following factors might have contributed to the accident. It was a poor route selection for a summer ascent. The route was wet with patches of snow. According to the Climbers Guide Book to Rocky Mountain National Park, the Hallett Chimney is “wet and dirty in the summer... usually ascended as an ice climb in the winter.” According to Brenneman, Gould was becoming fatigued prior to the fall, and the two climbers started climbing late in the day (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Supervisory Climbing Ranger, Rocky Mountain National Park)

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