American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded, Party Separated, Failed to Follow Route, Exceeding Abilities, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Notchtop

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

STRANDED, PARTY SEPARATED, FAILED TO FOLLOW ROUTE, EXCEEDING ABILITIES

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Notchtop

On August 21, Wes Oren (age unknown) had completed an ascent of the Spiral Route (III, 5.4) on Notchtop with two companions. At 2030, Oren separated from his companions while searching for the proper descent, a fourth class gully. Oren ended up stranded on a cliff band just below the North Face. He sustained minor abrasions and inflamed a pre-existing injury to his left wrist. Oren became benighted on the cliff band. He was rescued by rangers at 0633 on the following morning.

Analysis

The textbook Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills contains an excellent section on group dynamics which states that the leader is responsible for the safety and success of the climb or outing. In this case, the leader had difficulty finding the descent and then allowed an inexperienced climber to separate from and lose sight of the rest of the party. Instead of finding their missing companion, the two partners left the scene and reported it to rangers to complete what became an overnight search and rescue. To Oren’s credit, he had enough survival savvy to survive an uncomfortable night out. (Source: Jim Detterline, RMNP Ranger)

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