American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Protection Pulled Out, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, The Book

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997

FALL ON ROCK, PROTECTION PULLED OUT

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, The Rook

On May 6, at 1900, Jorge Arias (40) was leading the final pitch of Cheap Date III, 5.10b, on The Book. Arias fell 20 feet from a point about 50 feet from the top of the climb and ten feet from the crux. As he fell, one piece of protection pulled out. Arias impacted the lateral aspect of his right thigh against the rock and sustained a fracture of the right femur. His partners, Chris Stewart and Mark Hammond, attempted to evacuate Arias by lowering him back to the belay ledge and then raising him to the top of the climb. Due to the obvious severity of the injury and the resultant pain, Stewart and Hammond aborted the remainder of their planned evacuation after three hours, leaving Arias comfortable at the top of the route while they descended the east gully in the dark. A park service rescue crew responded, stabilized Arias, and lowered him a total of 1,200 feet, including a 650 foot vertical litter lowering.

Analysis

Arias was an experienced rock climber with international climbs to his credit. The fall took him by surprise as he was not yet at the crux; hence the poor landing against the hip. More frequently climbers anticipate their falls, and are able to assume an injury- defensive position facing the cliff right side up, with feet impacting against the cliff with knees slightly bent to absorb some of the impact energy that would be totally borne by the ankles. Another recurrent theme in recent years with the popularity of bolt-protected routes is the failure of either mechanical or non-mechanical chocks. Thoroughly understand and practice using these devices before committing your life to them on a traditional lead!

Partners Stewart and Hammond put forth a very determined effort in their attempts to evacuate Arias. However, their decision to abort the evacuation when they realized the serious nature of Arias’ injuries was even more significant to Arias’ survival, as a fractured femur injury, if not stabilized, may become fatally complicated if loose bone internally shifts and ruptures major arteries. (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Supervisory Climbing Ranger)

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