American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Ice, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

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

FALLING ICE

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

On June 25, Jesse Woods (20) and Scott Kastengren were preparing to climb the third pitch of the Casual Route (IV 5.10) on the Diamond of Longs Peak when Woods was struck in the face by falling ice. He sustained lacerations to the forehead (requiring 22 sutures), a concussion, fractured nose, and hematomas surrounding both eyes. Kastengren lowered Woods back down to Broadway Ledge where they were assisted by two other climbers known as A1 and Craig. At Mills Glacier they were joined by park rescue for a helicopter evacuation.

Analysis

Late spring and early summer bring the highest incidence of falling ice with the advent of longer days and warmer temperatures. However, it is possible to encounter falling ice and falling rock (due to freeze/thaw cycles) at any other time of year on Longs Peak depending on conditions. While it is sometimes possible to gauge the hazard by inspecting the upper face with binoculars, there is no certain way to predict the risk of falling ice here.

Woods was wearing his helmet and was clipped into the belay anchors at the time of the accident, preventing more serious consequences. Woods and Kastengren, with the assistance of fellow climbers who kindly assisted in the spirit of true mountaineers, did an excellent job in evacuating from the Diamond and Lower East Face. (Source: Jim Detterline and Mark Magnuson, NPS Rangers, RMNP)

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