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Handhold Came Off — Failure to Test Hold, Fall on Rock, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

HANDHOLD CAME OFF—FAILURE TO TEST HOLD, FALL ON ROCK

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

On August 19, prior to 0900, Steve Mestdagh (39) was leading the North Chimney (II, 5.6) on the East Face of Longs Peak when he dislodged a large rock which he was using for a handhold. The rock gave way as he pulled it. It fell on his foot. Mestdagh sustained severe crushing injuries, including numerous fractures, to his foot. He was able to belay himself off the route to the Mills Glacier, where other climbers assisted him until rescue personnel arrived.

Analysis

The North Chimney is notorious for loose rock problems. When climbing loose rock, one should tap holds to listen for sounds of less-than-solid connections to the rock face, and then gradually weight holds. Another technique useful for survival on rotten rock is to consciously spread out weight over multiple points of contact, pushing in instead of pulling, as is efficiently demonstrated by stemming maneuvers. Also, it's a good idea to budget more time for climbing rotten rock carefully. (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Supervisory Climbing Ranger)