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Handhold Came Off — Failure to Test Hold, Fall on Rock, Protection Pulled Out, Inattention, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Lumpy Ridge

HANDHOLD CAME OFF—FAILURE TO TEST HOLD, FALL ON ROCK, PROTECTION PULLED OUT, INATTENTION

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Lumpy Ridge

On March 2, Hayner Brooks (44) was climbing with Ken Miller on the route Three's Company (I, 5.7), pitches one and two, into the final (third) pitch of the Thunder

Buttress Route (II, 5.7+) on Thunder Buttress, Lumpy Ridge. On the third and final pitch, Brooks was swiftly leading lower fifth class rock near the top of the formation when a right handhold broke. Brooks plummeted 60 feet down the rock face, pulling one piece of protection—a #3 TriCam—and impacting four times. Miller's belay caught Brooks when he reached his next protection, a #1 Wild Country Friend. As a result of the impacts, Brooks fractured his pelvis on his left side. His chief complaint at the time of the injury was intense pain in the left leg from his buttocks to his toes, and a complete loss of mobility and motion with the left leg. Miller lowered Brooks back to the belay, anchored him, and went down to get RMNP rescue, returning with the team to assist his partner.

Analysis

Brooks and Miller were both experienced climbers. Brooks had been climbing for about ten years, and led rock consistently at the 5.10 to 5.11 level. He had extensive experience on Lumpy Ridge. Brooks blamed his accident on carelessness and inattention, and said that he was moving too fast on the easy rock with thoughts of topping out on the climb foremost in his mind. He did not test the failed handhold, but instead had instantly weighted it, causing him to lose balance when that hold broke loose.

Brooks was wearing a helmet, and attributed this to a lack of any kind of head injuries or loss of consciousness, despite striking his head during the fall. (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Supervisory Climbing Ranger)