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Fall on Rock, Placed Inadequate Protection, Exceeding Abilities

On July 11, at 1145, Shanna M. Ryan (26) was climbing Backflip (II 5.9), the first pitch on the Bookmark, when she took a 20 foot lead fall. She had been placing protection at the time of the fall, but suddenly slipped and yelled, “Falling.” When she swung into the view of belayer Tye Gribb, Ryan was upside down and unresponsive. Despite wearing a helmet, Ryan had sustained a head injury which included a laceration four inches from the base of the skull which was three to four inches long and to the bone, as well as a concussion. Ryan became responsive upon regaining consciousness one minute later, and was lowered to the ground at her request. A response by Rocky Mountain National Park rangers and Estes Park Medical Center crew effected a ground evacuation to Estes Park Medical Center.

Analysis

Investigating ranger Karl Pearson concluded that, “Ryan was prepared for the climb but either failed to protect it adequately or was climbing beyond her capabilities.” There was no further information on what type of helmet Ryan was wearing, but it is possible that the helmet spared her from even further injury. As a final consideration, climbers need to choose as comfortable a stance as possible when placing protection, as this moment can be one of the most vulnerable to falls due to the demands beyond mere physical climbing which are placed on the leader. (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Supervisory Climbing Ranger.)