American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Climbing Alone and Unroped, Inadequate Clothing, Exceeding Abilities — New Mexico, Organ Mountains, Organ Needle

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

FALL ON ROCK, CLIMBING ALONE AND UNROPED, INADEQUATE CLOTHING, EXCEEDING ABILITIES

New Mexico, Organ Mountains, Organ Needle

On December 1 John Smith (name changed) was reported overdue from a solo climb of the 4th-class route up the Organ Needle (9,012 feet). Following a lengthy search, his body was found at the base of a 60-foot frozen waterfall on the east side of Dark Canyon, directly below the Organ Needle. The subject had apparently fallen while either attempting an unnamed fifth-class route from below the Dark Canyon Saddle to the summit of the Organ Needle, or traversing below the south side of the summit. He had apparently survived the initial fall but suffered a second fatal fall while attempting to down-climb the ice.

Analysis

Reports from friends and family indicated this man was experienced in this area; however, he was clearly exceeding his abilities. The subject was clothed in cotton jeans and a light cotton jacket. While unusually mild weather existed at low elevations, temperatures at summit elevation were regularly below freezing. The exact details of the accident will never be known, but the subject appeared to be attempting either an unroped solo climb or an unroped traverse. And, while he survived the initial fall, he was apparently disoriented, so in attempting to climb back down the mountain, chose the wrong route. It is unclear whether the subject would have survived the wait for rescue with the head injuries sustained in the initial fall. (Source: Tim Manning, Albuquerque Mountain Rescue)

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