FALLING ROCK – DISLODGED BY CLIMBER, FAILURE TO TEST HOLDS
Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Little Twin Owls
On August 7 at 1900, Bryan Pollack (36) was ascending the Descent Route (I, 5.2) on Little Twin Owls formation to place a top rope set up on the Finger Crack. Approximately ten feet above a ledge, Pollack pulled out a block of rock weighing about 40 pounds. Pollack stepped down to the ledge, but the rock struck him in the left leg, crushing it against another rock. Pollack sustained a fractured left femur and injuries to his knee and lower leg. He was able to move himself to a position of comfort atop a rock fin while his partner went to get park rescue assistance.
The descent route on Little Twin Owls is both ascended and descended by countless numbers of climbers every year and is as clean and solid as any route gets. This accident emphasizes the need to test holds as a matter of routine procedure before weighting them, even though it doesn’t guarantee that you won’t dislodge a loose rock. Mr. Pollack is to be commended for executing the evasive maneuver back to the ledge that probably saved his life, although it is unfortunate that he still sustained serious injuries.
Questions may be raised regarding the appropriateness of climbing unroped on this easy route. The answers are not so definitive. A rope may have allowed Mr. Pollack to jump safely away, but possibly it would also have kept him in the direct line of the falling rock, allowed for leader fall injuries, allowed for the rope to be struck and broken, and/or potentially have placed a belayer in grave danger. (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Ranger)