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Fall on Snow, Unable to Self-Arrest, Inadequate Protection, Exceeding Abilites, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Long's Peak

FALL ON SNOW, UNABLE TO SELF-ARREST, INADEQUATE PROTECTION, EXCEEDING ABILITIES

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Long's Peak

On September 19, at 0930, Mike Riter (23) and partner Simeon Bateman (24) were ascending Lamb’s Slide on the east face of Long’s Peak with intentions of doing the Kiener’s Route to the summit. Both men were wearing crampons and using single mountaineering axes. They were roped together and were “simul-climbing” but without intermediate protection. Bateman, about one third of the way up Lamb’s Slide and in the lead, slipped on the hard-packed icy snow and failed to self-arrest. Bateman slid past Riter and pulled Riter with him. Riter was dragged for 100 feet or more and was then able to self-arrest. Bateman slid nearly 300 feet and was stopped by Riter’s self-arrest only 50 feet above the rocks at the edge of Mills Glacier. Bateman sustained a deep puncture wound to his right calf from being impaled by his own Black Diamond scissors style crampons. Riter injured both elbows and his right ankle.

Analysis

Bateman and Riter were both professional outdoor equipment salesmen, who had about five years’ climbing experience on rock. However, both were relatively inexperienced at snow and ice climbing. Bateman and Riter had climbed Kiener’s Route during Summer 1997, but snow conditions were friendlier at that time. An alternative strategy to climb Lamb’s Slide when either conditions or inexperience make self-arrest ineffective is to climb next to the rock wall on the right, either belaying protected pitches or “simul-climbing.” “Simul- climbing” is only truly executed when there are at least two or three points of protection at all times on the rope between the climbers. Lamb’s Slide has been the scene of various disasters, reenactments of Rev. Elkanah Lamb’s 1871 slide of about 1,000 feet. (Source: Jim Detterline, RMNP Ranger)