American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Fall on Rock — Change of Plans, Wyoming, Devil's Tower National Monument

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1998


Wyoming, Devil’s Tower National Monument

On August 21 at 1450, the Visitor Center received a report from Lucas Bannister that a climber was calling for help on the Southwest Buttress. I notified Ranger Fontaine to organize the SAR team for a possible rescue and then responded to the Tower Trail with rangers Martin and Drane-Martin. We located the individual, and Drane-Martin, an EMT, and I climbed to his location on the Southwest Buttress. When we arrived we contacted Kenneth Pisichko (49) and two friends, Craig Spakowski and Ray Kenny. Pisichko said that they had registered to climb the Durrance Route (5.6), but there were other climbers on it, so they decided to do the first pitch of Direct Southwest (5.7). Pisichko slipped and fell about six feet, catching and breaking his right ankle on a ledge. Sam Shafer, a local climber and nurse/ paramedic, had already contacted Pisichko and splinted his right leg. Pisichko was alert, oriented x 3, and relatively comfortable. He had already taken four Tylenol 4's that he had with him. He had pulse distal to the fracture. He advised us that he was diabetic and that he had taken insulin earlier in the day. His vitals at 1545 were P/74, R/12. Four other climbers, Jim Bernard, Matt Lisenby, Jason Cushner, and Lynn Lee, were on the Tower and volunteered to assist with the rescue.

At 1615 the SAR team reached the top of the boulder field below the Southwest Buttress. Using one of the climber's ropes, we hauled up a 300 foot static line. That was anchored and used to bring up ranger Gallant with the litter. Pisichko was secured in the litter, his vitals were taken (P/102, R/20) and, accompanied by ranger Gallant, was lowered about 160 feet to the boulder field. The lower was completed at 1721. (Source: Jim Schlinkmann, Chief Ranger)


Here was a climber mentally prepared to do one route of a certain level of difficulty who then changed his route choice due to circumstances described. Being faced with a new objective and a degree of difficulty higher than anticipated has often contributed to the actual cause—in this case a fall—of an accident. (Source: Jed Williamson)

(Editor's Note: This was the only climbing accident recorded at Devil’s Tower this year.)

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