OVERDUE, WEATHER, EXHAUSTION, EXCEEDING ABILITIES
Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak
On October 21, RMNP dispatch received a missing/overdue climbing party report concerning John McBroom (47) and Terrance Ford (42) on Kiener’s Route (III AI), Longs Peak. They were to have returned home on October 20. Searchers were dispatched to the mountain, and they located McBroom and Ford exhausted but otherwise uninjured.
McBroom and Ford were the third party within two weeks to have endured an unplanned bivouac on Kiener’s Route, resulting in a 40-hour climb and descent of the peak. Similar incidents also have commonly occurred here at this time of the season in other years, resulting in cold injuries and even death. We present this case in the interest of preventing future episodes. Each overdue party underestimated the increased difficulty of the route caused by early winter conditions. Under summer conditions Kiener’s Route is a mountaineering classic of easy 5th class climbing and 40- to 50-degree snow and ice. Early winter snows had covered the route with up to 20 inches of poorly-bonded snow resulting in climbing difficulties well beyond those of summer. Also, many groups experience route-finding difficulties due to winter conditions and inexperience. An off-season Kiener’s climb requires a conservative attitude. (Source: Jim Detterline and Mark Magnuson, NPS Rangers, RMNP)
(Editor’s Note: Tim Ashwood asked us to print a clarification of a few details regarding his accident on Longs Peak reported last year on page 56 of ANAM.
“Here is what happened. The last night we spent on the Diamond we were about 200 feet from the top of the Diamond. The game plan was to finish the Diamond then go the last 200 feet to the top of the mountain, get back down, clean the gear off the Diamond, and get to the boulder field before the afternoon storms. That night I got sick from some bad food and spent the night throwing up several times. By the next day I had no more food or water in my system and my throat felt like needles sticking it. The quickest way off the Diamond and back down at that time was to go the last 200 feet up, since we already had ropes strung to the top of The Diamond. We had been cleaning up the gear as we went up so we didn’t have any gear set up below us. Since I was so sick, we didn’t go to the top of the mountain, just the Diamond, then headed straight down to our base camp at Chasm View. We spent the night at Chasm View since it started to storm, then headed down to the boulder field the next morning to meet the Ranger and the horse. I tried to drink a little water, but would just throw it back up; my system would not hold even water down for very long.
I spent about six weeks training in Estes Park, Colorado, before the Diamond push. My cerebral palsy improved so much, I was doing things at the end of the summer I couldn’t do at the beginning of the summer. This was my third attempt. The first two were turned back because of weather and time. The third time we allotted 10 days to do the climb in hopes of finding the correct weather window, so there was ‘no attitude to summit at all costs’ as stated.
Also, there was no ambulance involved. A friend took me to the hospital, where I was treated for food poisoning, which is what caused the low energy levels, nausea, and dehydration, not my cerebral palsy or the inability of my partners and me. When I got back down to the trailhead, my voice was almost gone so I wasn’t able to give much detail on what happened to Jim Detterline.”)