American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded, Inadequate Equipment, Bad Advice, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

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

STRANDED, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT, BAD ADVICE

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Long’s Peak

On September 17, at 1140, two unidentified females (approximate ages 25) became stranded on the North Face of Longs Peak on the crack system adjacent to the south of the old Cables Route. They yelled for help, and Larry Solsvig (a technical climber without equipment) went to Chasm View to coach the stranded climbers. Solsvig sent a companion toward the Longs Peak Ranger Station to request assistance. Solsvig eventually caught the attention of a pair of technically equipped climbers who had just completed the Diamond and were descending the Cables Route. The Diamond climbers rappelled over to the two stranded climbers and lowered them down to Chasm View with rope.

Analysis

The two young women told Solsvig that they were both technical rock climbers from the Boulder area. They said that they had not brought equipment with them because a friend had recommended the Cables Route as an easy solo rock climb for them. Unfortunately, they ended up off route, unable to proceed due to ice on the face (and no ice equipment), and stranded on a small mossy ledge close to the upper edge of the Diamond.

There are several important points to ponder here. First, mountaineering routes (even the old “easy” ones) do generally require more route-finding ability than do most sport rock climbs. Second, the climbers failed to check conditions with park rangers or local guides, who would have informed them of the ice and snow hazard. Third, although solo climbing is not endorsed as a safe practice, there are methods to make it safer, such as roped solo belay techniques. At the very least, the wary and wise solo climbers will always want to have an option to back off (carry a rope and a few anchors) or won’t climb anything that is too difficult for the individual to down climb. Last, Larry Solsvig should be commended for handling the incident in a safe, controlled manner, with attempting several options for assistance. (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Supervisory Climbing Ranger, Rocky Mountain National Park)

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