American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Weather—High Winds, Fall on to Rocks, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001

WEATHER-HIGH WINDS, FALL ON TO ROCKS

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

On February 7, Craig Dreher (30) and Gene Williamson (30) decided to abort their winter attempt of the Keyhole Route due to high winds. As they were retreating from the Boulder Field, a gust of westerly wind estimated at 150 mph knocked over Williamson and picked up Dreher (who weighs 170 pounds) free of the ground. Dreher was tossed into a pile of rocks, impacting on his right ankle, resulting in a fracture of the fibula.

Analysis

Although this accident occurred on non-technical terrain, Dreher and Williamson requested that this be brought to the readers’ attention as an example of the high wind hazard prevalent on winter climbs of Longs Peak. Winds have been twice measured on the Longs Peak summit at 220 mph. It should also be mentioned that Dreher was wearing a 70-pound pack when picked up by the wind! Dreher and Williamson showed good judgment in aborting their summit attempt in these conditions. (Source: Jim Detterline and Mark Magnuson, NPS Rangers, RMNP)

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