American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow—Loss of Control—Voluntary Glissade, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

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

FALL ON SNOW—LOSS OF CONTROL—VOLUNTARY GLISSADE

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

On July 14, at 1045, Nathan Dick (51) lost control while glissading near the top of Lamb’s Slide on Longs Peak shortly after he had completed its ascent. He slid all the way (approximately 1,000 feet) down and out of control to impact the rocks at the base of Lamb’s Slide. Dick had attempted to self-arrest on the hard packed snow surface but was unsuccessful. Instead, he impaled himself in the neck with his ice ax, lacerating his right subclavian artery. Dick also sustained various injuries to left hip, right clavicle, right elbow, neck and ulnar nerve. His fall was witnessed by several climbers who immediately came to his aid and thus saved his life. Vladmir Farkash, in particular, was able to significantly slow the arterial bleeding with direct pressure until relieved by RMNP paramedic climbing ranger Mike Pratt. A Rocky Mountain Rescue volunteer found Dick’s cell phone in his pocket, and used it to immediately start the RMNP rescue team on a response.

Analysis

Since the epic 1871 uncontrolled descent of Lamb’s Slide by Rev. Elkannah Lamb, the accident has been repeated continually with results varying greatly from no injury to death. Nathan Dick has been very grateful to both climbers and park rescuers for preventing him from crossing that thin line to the latter category. Lamb’s Slide becomes hard-surfaced and then icy starting about mid-July every summer. The icy areas usually start about one third up this couloir and in midsummer may be limited to a short section. Thus it is instructive to observe conditions carefully while ascending so that you are aware of such hazards for the descent. Options to consider in lieu of glissading Lamb‘s Slide include: (1) down climbing Lamb’s Slide; (2) rappelling from rock walls on the right moat; (3) topping out to the left and descending the Loft; and (4) scrambling down Glacier Ridge. The evacuation of Nathan Dick to proper hospital care is noteworthy. An Aerostar medical helicopter was unable to reach Mills Glacier due to winds but did shuttle rescue personnel and supplies. Ranger Dan Ostrowski led a litter team through four 200 foot lowers, including three on ice and snow and one on scree. Ranger Scott

Hall ran up to Chasm Lake in approximately 45 minutes carrying a 65 pound raft on his back. Dick was floated across Chasm Lake by the “Long’s Peak Navy” to awaiting Aerostar. (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Supervisory Climbing Ranger)

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