Rappel/Lowering Failure—Rope End Passed Through Belay Device, Colorado, Eldorado State Park

Publication Year: 1999.


Colorado, Eldorado State Park

The route Washington Irving (5.6) is on the West Ridge and starts from a ledge 30 feet from the base of the rock that requires a fourth class scramble for access. On February 8, a belayer (female – 23) positioned herself on the ledge, thirty feet off the ground. She did not have a knot in her end of the rope, nor was it tied into her harness. Her partner (male 23) was an experienced climber, He had completed the first pitch of the climb, clipped the rope through fixed anchors, and was being lowered. As he descended towards the start of the climb on the ledge, the rope passed through the belay device and he fell past the ledge down the remaining 30 feet to the base, suffering a fracture in his left ankle and no other significant injuries. He was wearing a helmet at the time.


Tying a knot in the end of the rope or tying the end to the harness can prevent this kind of incident. Climbing partners are advised to double check each other’s gear before beginning. (Source: Steve Muelhauser, Park Manager, and Conrad Bieniulis, Seasonal Park Ranger)